Chronicles of DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) – A Historical Exploration


Today the DMK and AIADMK play an important part in the social and political life of the people of Tamil Nadu, both these political parties have held the political fortress of Tamil Nadu since 1967 and have come to attract nationwide attention.

we will delve into the extensive history, background, and origins of the prominent regional political parties in South India. This article explores the origins of the first political party formed in Southern India, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

Foundation, Ideology, and Motivation (1916-1967)

The advocacy for the advancement of the ‘Dravidians’ interests was initially initiated by the Thean Indiya Nala Urimai Sangam (South Indian Welfare Society or Party), established in 1916. This happened in the presence of P. Theagaraya Chetty, P. T. Rajan, T. M. Nair, Arcot Ramasamy Mudaliar, and a handful of others, the event took place at Victoria Public Hall in Madras Presidency.

The Society started running three daily newspapers, one in English called Justice, another in Tamil called Dravidan, and the third one in Telugu called Andera Prakashani. This Society was later popularly called the ‘Justice Party’ after the title of its English newspaper.

The Justice Party participated in the 1920 elections, establishing the first-ever Indian cabinet in Madras in 1921. 

It fielded candidates once more in the 1923 elections, forming a second cabinet the following year. However, in the 1926 elections, the Justice Party fell short of securing a majority in the State Legislature, ceding control to the Swarajya Party. 

Despite lingering on until 1936, the Justice Party never fully recovered from the setback in 1926. The decisive blow came in the 1936 general elections when no member from the party secured a seat in the State Legislature, marking the end of the Justice Party’s political influence. By 1940, the Justice Party ceased to exist as an organization.

1944: Formation of DK

Under the leadership of E V Ramasami Naicker (popularly known as Thanthai Periyar) in 1938, the Justice Party (1916) and the Self Respect Movement (1925) united. 

In 1944, this new outfit underwent a name change and became known as Dravidar Kazhagam (DK). The Dravidar Kazhagam held positions that were opposed to Brahmin influence, critical of the Congress party, and expressed anti-Aryan sentiments, particularly towards North Indians.Dravidar Kazhagam was an organization of ‘Dravidians’ that aimed towards the goal of ‘self-respect’ (suyamariyathai).

In 1938, when Rajagopalachari’s Congress ministry, imposed Hindi in the state, DK launched protests that became a movement for an independent Dravida nation. DK is today led by K Veeramani.

1949: Formation of DMK

DK under Periyar’s leadership, did not endorse Indian Independence and persisted in advocating for Dravida Nadu. Additionally, Periyar declined to participate in electoral contests.

In 1949, a split happened within the DK, with Periyar’s charismatic deputy, C. N. Annadurai, playing a prominent role. (popularly known as Aringar Anna), walked away with supporters to form the DMK. Though at that time Periyar, a man of 72, married a girl of 28 years, the followers of Anna had differences with Periyar on the marriage question, though the differences were more deep-rooted.

Differences in the Ideology and Motivation of DK and DMK:

The DMK, as an organization, diverged from the DK in its principles and goals. Initially, the DK, under the sole leadership of Periyar, lacked cohesion as an organized entity. In contrast, the DMK, right from its establishment, emphasized addressing the challenges it encountered as a unified organization.

Periyar never gave serious thought to the question of making DK a political party interested in capturing a place for itself in the political institutions of the country, while in contrast the DMK consistently engaged actively in the political arena. The DMK has consistently fielded candidates in municipal, state, and parliamentary elections.

Historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in his book ‘Makers of Modern India’, in states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, “it was Brahmins who took early advantage of British rule, learning English in order to serve the new rulers as teachers, lawyers, doctors, clerks, and civil servants”. They were also well-represented in the emerging Congress party and had enjoyed a high social status in society, traditionally.

“Whether by accident or design, the policies of the Raj made them dominant in an economic and political sense as well. It was the danger of Brahmin hegemony in all spheres of life that lay behind the activism of Jotirao Phule and B R Ambedkar. Their analog in south India was an equally remarkable thinker organizer named E V Ramaswami,” Guha wrote.

Periyar also propagated the positive identity of non-Brahmans as members of a ‘Dravidian nation’ entitled to sovereign independence from the Indian Union. It found expressions in the slogans such as, ‘Therku theikerathu, vadaku valarkerathu’, i e, the South is receding and the North is progressing, ‘Tamizhar Nadu Tamizharukkey’ (Tamilnad belongs to only Tamilians) and ‘Dravida Nadu Dravidarukke’ (the land of the Dravidians belongs only to Dravidians). The opposition to ‘Aryan’ domination is the common reason for the movement’s antipathy to the Brahmans and the North.

However, later on due to legal and constitutional compulsions, DMK gave up its demand for an independent ‘Dravida Nadu’, it has not lost faith in the ideal.

On the dominance of a few caste groups in society and linking them to the existence of religion itself, Periyar wrote in Kudiarasu in 1931, “the non-Brahmins and the untouchable castes, the poor and the working classes, if they desired equality and socialism, needed to destroy Hinduism first.”

One of his famous quotes was, “There is no god. He who created god is a fool. He who propagates god is a scoundrel. He who worships god is a barbarian.”

Meanwhile, C. N. Annadurai adopted a moderate position regarding religious matters. He expressed, “I have no intention of either demolishing the Ganesha idol or abstaining from making a religious offering with a coconut.”

Annadurai actively participated in the electoral process, aligning his politics with social democracy and Tamil cultural nationalism. Notably, he remained silent on the issue of Dravida Nadu. 

In 1967, the DMK emerged victorious in the elections, leading to Annadurai assuming the position of Chief Minister.

In the upcoming article, we will be delving into the history of DMK from 1967 to contemporary times, subscribe to us to know more.

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