When Tamil Nationalism Turned Against Telugu Speakers Of Tamil Nadu


When Tamil Nationalism Turned Against Telugu Speakers Of Tamil Nadu

by Badri Seshadri

Jan 9, 2016

Tamil nationalist rabble-rousers are slowly training their guns on Telugu speaking castes of Tamil Nadu. A look at Tamil Nadu’s social landscape and the modus operandi of the Tamil nationalist fringe.

Tamil country has seen two major waves of immigration in the last 650 years. The first one happened at the end of the 14th century, as a result of Vijayanagara general Kumara Kampanna defeating Madurai Sultans. Much of South India was ravaged by two major raids engineered by Malik Kafur and Ulugh Khan in the early part of the 14th century.

While Malik Kafur was only interested in robbing gold and silver, Ulugh Khan (later to become Muhammad bin Tughluq) captured Madurai and established a Muslim rule there, which ran from 1335 to 1378. Kumara Kampanna, son of Bukka I, established the Vijayanagara rule in Madurai by defeating the Madurai Sultanate. Later, the Vijayanagara rule extended over most of the Tamil country. The Tamil country was ruled through governors known as Nayaks from Madurai, Thanjavur and Senji.

Right through the 15th century onwards a large number of Telugu-speaking people came and settled across Tamil Nadu. Some were there to help the Nayaks rule the kingdom. Others were traders and craftsmen. Some of the chieftains deployed by the Nayaks known as Palayakkarar (Polygar) were also Telugu.

When Tamil Nationalism Turned Against Telugu Speakers Of Tamil Nadu

After the Vijayanagara empire’s collapse, Nayaks of the Tamil country fought amongst themselves. Marathas moved into Thanjavur to establish their own rule. Hyderabad Nizam sent his troops to establish Nawab rule headquartered from Arcot. When the English East India Company wanted to trade in the Tamil country, they had to deal with the Nayaks, Marathas, Nawab and many assorted Polygars. They set out to defeat most of them and partnered with the rest and unified most of South India under the Madras Province.

The second wave of immigration happened under the East India company. Weavers and other artisans were brought over from Andhra country to be settled in Madras to supply the company with products to be sold in Britain. Later, students, educated professionals and artists from Telugu country were drawn to Madras.

Many castes in Tamil Nadu have Telugu as their mother tongue. Naidu, Naickar (Nayakkar), Reddiar, some Chettiar (Chetti) and some scheduled castes are some examples. These castes are spread right across the state.

Who should rule the Tamils?

Take a look at the Premiers or Chief Ministers of the unified Madras Presidency/Province over the years:

Subbarayalu Reddiar (1920-21)

Panaganti Ramarayaningar (1921-26)

P Subbarayan (1926-30)

B Munuswamy Naidu (1930-32)

Raja of Bobbili, Ramakirshna Ranga Rao (1932-37)

K Venkata Reddy Naidu (1937)

C Rajagopalachari (1937-39)

Governor’s rule (1939-46)

T Prakasam Pantulu (1946-47)

OP Ramasamy Reddiar (1947-49)

PS Kumaraswamy Raja (1949-52)

C Rajagopalachary (1952-54)

In 1953, Andhra was formed as a separate state. Between 1920 to 1954, there were only two premiers/chief ministers who were of Tamil origin: P Subbarayan, a Gounder and C Rajagopalachari, a Tamil Brahmin. All the others were native Telugu speakers, be from the Andhra region, or from Tamil Nadu.

What happened after 1953?

K Kamaraj (1954-63)

M Bhaktavatsalam (1963-67)

CN Annadurai (1967-69)

K Karunanidhi (1969-76, 1989-91, 1996-2001, 2006-11)

MG Ramachandran (1976-87)

Janaki Ramachandran (1988)

J Jayalalitha (1991-96, 2001, 2002-06, 2011-14, 2015-)

It would appear from the above list that all are Tamilians. Kamaraj, Bhaktavatsalam and Annadurai are from Tamil castes. Kamaraj is a Nadar while the other two are Mudaliars. MG Ramachandran’s father is a Malayali (Gopala Menon) and Ramachandran was born in Sri Lanka. Karunanidhi mounted an aggressive campaign against Ramachandran by calling him a Malayali, an outsider who should not be allowed to rule Tamil Nadu. Ramachandran shot back aggressively and questioned Karunanidhi’s own background.

When Tamil Nationalism Turned Against Telugu Speakers Of Tamil Nadu

MG Ramachandra, former CM, Tamil Nadu

According to MG Ramachandran, his own father came from a Tamil caste group called Manradiar who had migrated to Kerala and were known as Menons, while Karunanidhi’s forefathers were Telugu speakers from Andhra. It is not clear whether this is true; Karunanidhi’s stated caste is Isai Vellalar which is clearly a Tamil caste.

Janaki Ramachandran, wife of MG Ramachandran was briefly the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after her husband’s death. She was also from Kerala. Jayalalitha who took over the party of MG Ramachandran is from Karnataka but born to Tamil Brahmin parents.

The two most popular leaders after Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha are Vaiko (Vai. Gopalsamy) and Vijayakanth; both belong to Telugu speaking castes and for this, they both face a lot of flak from fringe groups which profess Tamil Nationalism. Take a look at the poster below (taken from social media) which directly targets Vijayakanth and asks him “to leave Tamil Nadu”.

When Tamil Nationalism Turned Against Telugu Speakers Of Tamil Nadu

In colloqial Telugu that is spoken in Tamil Nadu by the Telugu castes such as Naidu and Naickar written in Tamil script, it says “when Tamils in Andhra are quiet, why do you, a Telugu speaker, have leadership ambition? Eat and stay quiet”.

The baseline of the poster says “O Tamilian! Where have you gone? Immigrant wolfs are gobbling your motherland!” It is noteworthy that the poster has been put up by a supposedly Dalit group called “Paraiyar Peravai”.

Vaiko has not been attacked this directly, probably because of his strong pro-Tamil, pro-LTTE, pro-Ealam stand. However, he too will soon be under attack from these Tamil Nationalistic groups.

In an event not highlighted by the mainstream media, Seeman, a pro-Ealam, Tamil Nationalist rabble-rouser and head of a party known as “Naam Tamilar” (We, Tamils) attacked an iconic 17th century Nayak ruler Thirumalai Nayakkar) who ruled from Madurai. Calling his rule as one that enslaved the Tamils, Seeman said in a public meeting that the palace built by the Nayak King in Madurai called Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, a protected heritage monument under ASI as a monument of slavery.

An angered Naickar caste member called and confronted Seeman and recorded the phone conversation. Provoked by the caller, Seeman is heard uttering unprintable expletives. The caller is pleading with him not to attack Naickar (Telugu) icons but that is precisely what many Tamil Nationalists want. Associations of Telugu speaking castes in Tamil Nadu decided to picket Seeman but somehow that protest fizzled out, and no mainstream media bothered to take this matter up seriously.

In the worldview of Tamil Nationalists, “outsiders” (vantheri) can live peacefully in Tamil Nadu but cannot and should not rule over the Tamils. That is why, they have started attacking the word “Dravidian”, which encompasses Telugus, Kannadigas and Malayalis as well.

They feel that this is a one-way street. While the Tamilians talk about Dravidians, the neighbours show no interest in that word connotes or the political theory behind this concept. Justice Party mostly funded by Telugu landlords and Malayali TM Nair and later Periyar EV Ramasamy Naickar, of Kannada speaking caste propagated the idea of Dravidian ‘race’ against a Hindu, Brahminical, Sanskritic Aryan ‘race’ from North India as part of politics against Tamil and Telugu Brahminical control over Government jobs in British India and control of the Congress Party.

But according to Tamil Nationalists today, the word Dravidian is exploited by the Telugu speakers in Tamil Nadu to usurp and keep power to themselves to the exclusion of the native Tamils.

Thankfully, the people at large have not shown any interest in this kind of divisive politics. At least for now.Tags: 

  • editor’s pick
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Tamil nationalism
  • Telugu
  • vaiko


About editor 3017 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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