January 2013

Editor: Inia Pandian Vol. 23: No. 1
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Editorial: Tribute to the Tamil Martyrs of 1965

(by Inia Pandian )


1. What Happened in 1965?

2. IIT Entrance Examination Questions in Hindi (Language Politics in IIT-JEE)

(by K. Chezhian, Thanjai Nalankilli )

Ten Years Ago
Here is link to an article we published in December 2003
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Tribute to the Tamil Martyrs of 1965

TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2013 (ID. 2013-01-e-x)

The people of Tamil Nadu rose up against Hindi imposition in January 1965. Between January 25 and mid-February at least 63 unarmed Tamils were shot and killed by state, out-of-state and central police and soldiers. Many more were maimed or injured. In addition, 7 Tamil patriots poured petrol (gasoline) and burned themselves to death in protest against Hindi imposition. One patriot consumed poison and committed suicide.

May I ask our readers to observe a moment of silence in honor of these Tamil martyrs!

Inia Pandian, Editor

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What Happened in 1965?

TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2013 (ID. 2013-01-01x)


NCERT - National Council of Educational Research and Training


The 1965 Anti-Hindi Imposition Agitation in Tamil Nadu was a major social-political event in post-British Tamil Nadu. Although there were other anti-Hindi agitations before and after, the 1965 agitation stands above all others. It not only shook Tamilnadu, in the opinion of some, it shook the very core of India, and tremors were felt at the highest offices in New Delhi.

Though those who lived through those late January to the first half of February days would never forget those events, their children may not know the depth and extent of those events and the grandchildren and future generations may not know them at all. Indian government seems to have started a "disinformation campaign" about the 1965 anti-Hindi agitation through the history book NCERT has published for high school students.

The NCERT history book depicts the 1965 agitation as Tamil Nadu students going "on a rampage" but no mention is made of police and soldiers shooting and killing at least 63 unarmed Tamil people [Reference 1]. One of the events of 1965 was the self-immolation of seven Tamil martyrs against Hindi imposition. It was the first such self-sacrifice in Tamil Nadu, and only the second in the whole world - the first set of self-immolations was in Vietnam by Buddhist monks in 1963.. Although Indian history books always mention Gandhi-Nehru fasts against British rule, the NECERT history book does not say a word about Tamil self-immolations - a far more serious mode of protest. So it is important that Tamil students of today are told the truth as to what happened in 1965. (NCERT - National Council of Educational Research and Training)

Here we excerpt sections from two Tamil Tribune articles published in January 2003 and January 2004.

Part I: The Agitation

[These are excerpts from our January 2003 article "A Chronology of Anti-Hindi Agitations in Tamil Nadu and What the Future Holds" [Reference 2]. This article chronicles the agitations from the very beginning (1938) to 1968. We excerpt here only the sections covering 1965. Those interested in the history from 1938 to 1968 are referred to Reference 2.]

2. 1965: The Volcano Erupts

2.1 Black Flags over Tamil Nadu

Hindi was to become the sole official language of India on January 26, 1965. January 26 is the Republic Day of India, the day on which the Indian Constitution went into force (in 1950). DMK announced January 26 as a Day of Mourning and asked volunteers to raise black flags all over Tamil Nadu. Police took many DMK leaders into preventive custody the previous night. It would have been big news but for the Tamil Nadu Students Anti-Hindi Imposition Agitation on January 25 and January 26, 1965. We provide a brief discussion of the Students Agitation in Sections 2.3 to 2.5.

2.2 Self Immolation

Before we go into the Students' Agitation, we wish to discuss the ultimate sacrifice of some Tamil patriots who poured petrol (gasoline) over their bodies, lit there bodies with fire, and offered their lives and bodies to Tamil in protest against Hindi imposition (self immolation).

These were the first instances of self-immolation in Tamil Nadu. In fact, these were the first instances of self-immolation anywhere in the world except for Vietnam where, a few years before, some Buddhist monks did the same to protest the dictatorial rule there. These are the names of the brave Tamil patriots who offered themselves as burnt sacrifices (If I left out someone please write to TAMIL TRIBUNE so their names could be added to this Honour Role of Tamil Patriots.):

Ayyampalayam Veerappan
Kellapaluvur Chinnasamy
Keranoor Muthu
Kodambakkam Sivalingam
Mayavaram Sarangapani
Satyamangalam Muthu
Veerukkambakkam Aranganathan

More details about these martyrs may be found in Reference 1. Tamil Nationalist Poet Perunchiththiranar sang of them thus: "Have you anointed yourself with black oil (petrol) and showered in fire?" (kan-nei muzuki kanal kuliththanaiyo?).

2.3 Student Protests: January 25

Since January 26 was a holiday, University of Madras students went on a one-day strike on January 25. (University of Madras has now been split into a number of universities to reflect the growth in colleges and student population. In 1965 there were only two universities in Tamil Nadu, namely, University of Madras and Annamalai University.)

Both university and school students mobilized in protest against Hindi imposition all over Tamil Nadu. Virtually all stores closed in support. This was the largest mass protest ever in the history of Tamil Nadu (with the possible exception of the protests held two days later on January 27). There was nothing like that before and there has been nothing like that since then with the possible exception of January 27.

There were protest marches in most towns and cities in Tamil Nadu. Over 50,000 people marched in Madras City (Chennai); this includes students as well as some general public who joined the march. The marches were peaceful. There were colorful placards and banners against Hindi imposition. There were slogans against Hindi imposition. In some cities students beat drums and blew bugles as they marched through the main streets. At least in one city (Coimbatore) "pall bearers" carried the "dead body" of Hindi demon, accompanied by "wailing" students, to signify the "death" of Hindi imposition in Tamil Nadu. The marches were colorful. The marches were noisy. The marches were huge. It was all peaceful. The students wanted it that way. The students did it that way.

The peaceful demonstrations turned bloody at the end in Madurai. Some members of a ruling party affiliated trade union attacked the students with small swords (arival). Tamil blood was spilled again in the protest against Hindi imposition. Many towns and cities in Tamil Nadu would be painted red with the blood of Tamil martyrs in the next two weeks.

2.4 Student Protests and first police shooting death

Annamalai University is located in Chidamparam (Chidhambaram or Chithamparam). Annamalai University students also demonstrated against Hindi imposition. There were banners, placards, slogan shouting, drums and bugles. Students marched towards the center of Chidhamparam. All was peaceful. Police asked the students to stop the march. Students refused. Police opened fire on the unarmed students. All that the students wanted was to show the world their opposition to Hindi imposition. But police fired on them. One student died (Rajendran) and another was wounded seriously (Nedumaran).

There were other student processions and demonstrations all over Tamil Nadu too. These are described in Section 2.5.

2.5 Killing Fields of Tamil Nadu: January 27 to February 13

Violence against students by pro-Government trade union members in Madurai and arrests of anti-Hindi imposition demonstrators angered the students all over Tamil Nadu. Massive protest rallies were held on January 27 all over TamilNadu. These rallies rivaled those of January 25. The public was with the students. Many stores closed in sympathy. People observed in silence as students marched through the streets. Tamil Nadu Students Anti-Hindi Agitation Committee announced an indefinite strike. There was public support for the strike. A rebellion was brewing in Tamil Nadu.

The mass participation in the Anti-Hindi Imposition Protests and the extent of public support to the students sent chills through the veins of Hindi politicians who dominated the Indian Parliament and thus the Indian Government. Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Home Minister Gulzarilal Nanda and the subservient Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Bhaktavatsalam (who also belonged to the same Congress Party) decided to put down the anti-Hindi protests with brute force. Indian Army soldiers, Central Reserve Police and out-of-state police were rushed into Tamil Nadu. Soldiers and police shot indiscriminately into crowds of unarmed demonstrators killing "uncounted number" of protesters, maiming many and otherwise wounding many more. Many towns and cities had the blood of Tamil martyrs spilled on their streets. This went on until February 13. Unable to stop the demonstrations, even with such brute force, Chief Minister Bhaktavatsalam and Indian Government Minister Subramaniam (from Tamilnadu) promised that they would work for the enactment of laws to prevent Hindi imposition. Students called off the strike. Student leaders announced the end of the agitation in the late hours of February 12 but there were demonstrations in a few places on February 13 because word did not reach those students. Indian Parliament passed a lukewarm Language Act on August 1, 1968. It did not meet the expectations of the Tamil people. Hindi imposition continued and continues  [Reference 2].

2.6 Death Count

The exact number of people killed, maimed and wounded is not available. That is why we used the phrase "uncounted number" in the second paragraph of Section 2.5. Professor Alfred Stepan of Columbia University (USA) writes, "Police and army troops opened fire in twenty-one towns in the state, arrested over 10,000 people, and probably killed over 100 people". Thinathanthi (daily newspapers) added up the death counts published in that paper to 63. However, reading Thinathanthi, it is clear that these 63 were the ones who died at the shooting or in the hospital or on the way to hospital that day. It does not seem to include anyone who died in hospital after a day or more from the shooting. Because of the fast moving events and so many deaths occurring, newspapers did not seem to follow up the fate of the injured. Remember, over 55 of the 63 deaths were in just 5 days between February 8 and 12, 1965; thirty one deaths were reported on February 12 alone. Ages of those killed range from 13 to 50.

Usually newspapers publish the names and brief bio-information of the dead and injured when someone is killed or injured in police shooting. For example, when Rajendran was killed and Nedumaran was injured in Annamalai University (first shooting death and injury), newspapers published their names and brief bio-information. Because so many deaths were happening, not even the names of the dead were published in many instances between February 8 and 13; they just became a number; reports were like "ten people were killed in Kumarapalayam" (no names of the prople killed). So many were injured that newspapers did not publish the number of injured in many shootings but just said, "many were injured".

Part II: Self-Immolations

[These are excerpts from our January 2004 article "Self Immolation Against Hindi Imposition in Tamil Nadu (1965)" [Reference 3]. In addition to these excerpted parts, this article also provides brief biographic details of these seven Tamil martyrs. Interested readers are referred to Reference 3.]

1. Introduction

January 25-26, 1965 marks the beginning of some historical events in Tamilnadu. A mass protest against Indian Government's Hindi imposition started in these days and continued for over two weeks. 

Every one who was killed, maimed or injured in these days of uprising against Hindi imposition is a Tamil martyr.. We bow our heads in memory of them, in respect of them. Life history of every one of them should be written and preserved. This article limits itself to the few who dramatically, and most gruesomely, demonstrated their opposition to Hindi imposition by self-immolation [that is, pouring kerosene or petrol (gasoline) over their bodies and burning themselves to death].


3. Unparalleled Valour, Ultimate Sacrifice

These self immolations required great courage and love for Tamil beyond measure. To our knowledge this is the second time any people have committed self-immolation to right a political injustice. The first series of self immolations happened in South Vietnam just a few years before in 1963.  On June 16, 1963, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc immolated himself in Saigon, protesting religious persecution under the Diem regime of South Vietnam. A number of other monks immolated themselves in the months to come. Self immolations in Tamilnadu against Hindi imposition in 1965 are the second series of such acts.

While those committing self immolation in Vietnam were older, well-disciplined Buddhist monks with years of training in self-denial and self-sacrifice, those committing this supreme act against Hindi imposition in Tamil Nadu in 1965 were young men, ranging in age from 20 to 33, either workers or students, some single, some married, and some with young children. There is one thing in common: their love for Tamil and fear that Hindi becoming the official language of India would harm Tamil language and the future of the Tamil people.

4. Please, No More Self-Immolations

We stand in awe of the ultimate courage shown by these brave Tamil martyrs, and bow our heads in respect. But we urge that Tamil people should not commit any more self immolations against Hindi imposition. The supreme sacrifices of these martyrs have shown the whole world of our opposition to Hindi imposition and imperialism. Newspapers around the world, including influential ones like the New York Times of USA and the Times of UK, just to name two, reported the massive protest marches and demonstrations. We got world's attention but Hindi imposition still continues. The Diem government of South Vietnam fell within months of the self-immolations of Buddhist monks but, alas, the Indian government continues with Hindi imposition even after the extreme self sacrifice of the martyrs.

Threat to Tamil language and Tamil people because of Hindi being the official language of India is real.  Former Tamil Nadu State Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) General Secretary, late Mr. C. N. Annadurai put succinctly the impact of Hindi becoming the official language of India thus: 

"If Hindi were to become the official language of India, Hindi-speaking people will govern us. We will be treated like third rate citizens". (Anti-Hindi Imposition Rally, Chennai Marina (Madras Marina), April 29, 1963)

"Making a language (Hindi) that is the mother tongue of a region of India the official language for all the people of India is tyranny. We believe that it will give benefits and superiority to one region (the Hindi-speaking region).... This and future generations in non-Hindi areas will suffer immeasurable hardships... Making Hindi the official language of India would destroy the age old language and culture of Tamil Nadu". (Court Trial for burning the Constitution of India to show opposition to Hindi imposition, December 3, 1963)

So we have to put an end to Hindi imposition. But more self immolations are not necessary.

Last Words

We should forgive those responsible for the shootings but we shall not forget the sacrifices made by all thyose matyrs - those who who were killed and injured and all those who participated boldly in the Anti-Hindi Imposition Agitation. In spite of all those sacrifices and promises made by Indian government, Hindi imposition continues to this day.


1. Indian School Textbook from NCERT Distorts and Disparages 1965 Tamil Nadu Students Anti-Hindi Imposition Agitation (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, September 2012 (8 KB) (h, tn)

2. History: A Chronology of Anti-Hindi Agitations in Tamil Nadu and What the Future Holds (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2003 (33 KB) (h)

3. Self Immolation Against Hindi Imposition in Tamil Nadu (1965) (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2004 (20 KB) (h)

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Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Examination Questions in Hindi (Language Politics in IIT-JEE)

K. Chezhian, Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2013 (ID. 2013-01-02)
This article is archived at:

IIT - Indian Institute of Technology

JEE - Joint Entrance Examination

Tamil people have been asking Indian government funded/administered Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) to provide entrance examination question papers in Tamil also. The current system of English and Hindi questions benefits those whose mother tongue is Hindi. It was recently announced that question papers would also be issued in Gujarati in 2013. When enquired why only Gujarati was added but not the other languages, the examination authorities said that this special consideration was given to Gujarati because Gujarat State Government had agreed to accept Indian government's common entrance examination (joint entrance examination) for its state engineering colleges.

Tamil Nadu and some other states have refused to join Indian government's common entrance examination for their state engineering colleges in February 2012; it is the constitutional right of state governments to choose admission criteria that are suitable and appropriate for their college students. Indian government is using IIT joint entrance examinations (IIT-JEE) as a stick to force state governments to do what it wants although it has no jurisdiction over admissions to state colleges; this is highly immoral. Why should Hindi and Gujarati students have an advantage over Tamil students (as well as Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Telugu, ... students)?

Indian government wants to extract a price for holding IIT joint entrance examinations (IIT-JEE) in Tamil or Bengali or Kannada or Malayalam or Marathi or Telugu or other languages. If, a few years from now, you see Tamil question papers for IIT-JEE, it might be because Tamil Nadu gave up some of its constitutional rights. A sad situation, indeed. 

Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, as well as a few other states, do not want to accept the India-wide entrance examinations for their state engineering colleges because of valid reasons. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in September 2012 opposing the introduction common entrance examinations for dental colleges (similar to the IIT-JEE for engineering colleges). The letter clearly spells out why Tamil Nadu opposes such common entrance examinations. She wrote that an expert committee found that such common entrance examinations put rural and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds at a disadvantage. This is called "urban bias". Gujarat Education Minister Ramanlal Vora had also held the view that there is urban bias in IIT-JEE (This is reported in the News4Education website on December 9, 2012).


Procedures for admissions to state engineering colleges should be left to state governments. We want all our students - both urban and rural students -  both low-income students and high-income students get the same opportunities for education. We do not want India-wide entrance examinations that favour urban students over rural students, and higher-income students over lower-income students.


We urge that ITT-JEE be held in all languages listed in the Indian constitution without forcing states to hold India-wide common entrance examinations for state engineering colleges. Whether Hindi states accept common entrance examinations for their state colleges or not, Hindi students get question papers in their mother tongues. This favours Hindi state students in IIT admissions and puts non-Hindi students at a disadvantage. Why should Hindi students get an edge in much sought after admissions to IIT and other central government institutes of higher learning? IITs and other central government institutes of higher learning are not funded by just Hindi states but are funded by all states. Our students should get the same chance of joining Indian Institutes of Technology as Hindi students. Are Hindi students more equal than non-Hindi students in the eyes of the Indian government?


1. India, Tamil Nadu and Hindi Imposition

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