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Friday, April 12, 2024

South Indian leader wants separation from India

News Analysis |

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president M. K. Stalin on Friday said he would welcome demands for the southern States to come together for ‘Dravida Nadu’. The statement by the leader has raised the specter of Southern India secessionism in the minds of many northerners.

At a press conference addressed by Mr. Stalin in Erode, a journalist said an idea was gaining ground that the Southern States should come together to demand Dravida Nadu. To this, Mr. Stalin responded, “If it (such a situation) comes, it would be welcome. We hope that such a situation arises.”

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Earlier this month, the BJP came under fire for stoking violence and causing pandemonium in the state. A vitriolic post on BJP National Secretary ‘H Raja’s’ Facebook regarding Dravidian icon EVR Periyar’s statue was followed by acts of vandalism on Periyar’s statue. A Periyarist group retaliated by cutting of holy threads of a few Brahmins in Chennai.

Following the violence and protests, leaders in the state had condemned H Raja and the BJP. Many took to the streets to protest the saffron party’s politics in the state and called for the removal of H Raja from the party along with an apology from him.

The Tamil Nadu government was severely criticized for saying that no action need be taken on H Raja given that he had deleted the post. Following the uproar on social media, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister came up with a stronger condemnation of the events.

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Asked to comment on Mr. Stalin’s statement, K. Thirunavukkarasu, historian of the Dravidian movement, said, “Theoretically what Mr. Stalin said is possible. Dravida Nadu comprising the five southern States and Union Territory of Puducherry can be achieved. Mr. Stalin has only reiterated what has been said in rule-2 of the DMK (constitution).” Annadurai had suggested a Dravidian union within the Constitution. He wanted reshaping of the Constitution so that it became federal and full autonomy was achieved.

Dravida Nadu is the name of a hypothetical “sovereign state” demanded by Justice Party led by E. V. Ramasamy and the DMK led by C. N. Annadurai for the speakers of the Dravidian languages in South Asia.

Initially, the demand of Dravida Nadu proponents was limited to Tamil-speaking region, but later, it was expanded to include other Indian states with Dravidia-language speakers in the majority (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka). Some of the proponents also included parts of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Orissa and Maharashtra. Other names for the proposed sovereign state included “South India”, “Deccan Federation” and “Dakshinapath”.

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The movement for Dravida Nadu was at its height from the 1940s to 1960s, but due to fears of Tamil hegemony, it failed to find any support outside Tamil Nadu. The States Reorganization Act 1956, which created linguistic States, weakened the demand further. In 1960, the DMK leaders decided to delete the demand of Dravida Nadu from the party program at a meeting held in the absence of Annadurai. In 1963, the Government of India led by Jawaharlal Nehru, declared secessionism as an illegal act. As a consequence, Annadurai abandoned the “claim” for Dravida Nadu – now geographically limited to modern Tamil Nadu – completely in 1963.

However, owing to a large number of factors, the demand for a Dravida Nadu is still prevalent though the extent differs. Many mainstream political parties call for a union “within the constitution”, yet many grassroots movement call for a complete sovereign nation separate from India.

A major factor is the divide between the Dravidians and the Brahmin/Aryans. Historically the Dravidians are considered the true owners of the Gangetic plains (modern India) who were displaced by Aryan invaders from the North. Due to this reversal of fortunes, they were relegated the lowest positions in the Hindu caste system under the subjugation of the Aryanic Brahmins. That divide has still carried on today.

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There are factors falling in the economic and social categories as well. The GDP of the southern four states makes little more than two times of the rest of India (25 states). However, despite this, the states are allocated smaller budgets than the lesser economically progressive counterparts.

According to testimony, Southerners are disliked in the North for their conservative way of life and distinct culture. Despite the fact that a majority of Southerners are employed in MNCs like IBM, Microsoft, Infosys, HCL, Google etc, they are discriminated against by North Indians.

The economic and other discrimination has often promoted sub-nationalist and secessionist thoughts in Southern India.