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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 1, December 22, 2012 [Annual 2012]

Battle against Separatism

Thursday 3 January 2013, by K. Kamaraj


I have heard it said that it is a sad commentary on our national character that after 15 years of our independent and free existence we should still be discussing the question of national integration. I am inclined to agree with this statement. But mere expression of sorrow at a development is not enough. We have to face the facts of life, however unpleasant they may be or may seem. We cannot escape them, if we are to survive as a virile and vibrant nation.

What do we mean by the term “national integration”? We mean the fundamental unity and indivisibility of India, notwithstanding the variety it offers. We mean the emotional and cultural unity of the people of India, resulting from the knowledge that they belong to a common heritage and are bound together in joy and sorrow, in progress and the lack of it, in terms of modern politics and economic advancement.

Inverted Meaning

The biggest danger to this concept and the physical fact of India’s unity has come from the South. The biggest, however, is not necessarily the most formidable. It is all a matter of comparative expression. We mean that the challenge to India’s unity is articulate in our State. It comes from a political party that styles itself the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or Dravidian Progressive Federation. According to this party, “munnetram” (progress) lies not in unity but in disunity, not in coming together but in falling apart. The activities of this party are confined, fortunately, only to Madras State. In certain parts of the State the party is strong and has considerable following. In the recent elections, the party fared well, capturing 50 seats in the Assembly. In the non-parliamentary sphere also, the party makes a good deal of noise and professes to fight for Dravidastan.

And what is this Dravidastan, about which one hears so much? There is no precise answer or definition. Some people say it is the same as the old Madras Presidency, before the transfer of power to us from the British. Some others say that it consists of Andhra, Karnataka (Mysore) and Kerala, besides, of course, Tamil Nad, that is, the present Madras State. These are all loose and imprecise expressions.

Anyway, the DMK professes to speak not only for the people of Tamil Nad, but also for those of Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala—and perhaps for the people of certain areas of Maharashtra too! So in determining the strength of the DMK and the popular backing it has, one should take into account the DMK’s popularity not in Tamil Nad alone but in the other Southern States as well.

Useful Stick

In Tamil Nad, the DMK has a fairly big following. It has the strength of popular backing in certain districts. But it has no uniform strength or even strength born out of ideological affinity with the DMK’s cause. There are many in the State who have reason to be angry with the Congress. They find in the DMK a useful stick to beat the Congress with. Also, there are people who think on communal lines. The DMK’s strength, considerable as it is, is even more bloated by the support it receives from people who are angry and people who are communal in their outlook.
But even so, let us not forget that the DMK only sits in the Opposition and is not the ruling party. The DMK has emerged as the major Opposition party, but it has gained not so much at the cost of the Congress as at the cost of the conglomerate groups which were functioning previously in the Opposition. The point is that the DMK in Madras is in the Opposition just as the Communist Party is in the Opposition in Andhra and Kerala.

In Andhra, the DMK has no support at all. It is doubtful whether the people there know even of its existence. In Kerala, the DMK can never make any headway because the people there are trained to think and act in terms of politics based on economic ideologies and differences, and not on narrow, demagogic and chauvinistic considerations. That is to say, where the Left parties have sway and function as effective Opposition, there is no scope for a party like the DMK. What I have said applies to Mysore also.

Dangerous Prospect

It should be clear from this that the DMK, as it stands now, is not as formidable as it is sometimes made out to be by the people and Press of Upper India. Having said this, I do not, at the same time, want to minimise the dangerous potentialities of the DMK movement if it is allowed to persist in its Dravidastan campaign. Any movement for separa-tion is a reactionary movement and carries with it the dangerous prospect of foreign intervention.

So we have necessarily to tackle this problem at all levels. How can there be unlimited freedom to truncate and render meaningless the very concept of our national freedom? This is the problem that is staring us in the face. The stage has arrived when we have to answer the question one way or the other, without wobbling. Either you stand for unity or you are against it; there is no half-way house.

The National Integration Council, with its all-party complexion, is already seized of this problem. The Committee on Regionalism will be submitting its report shortly. We can expect some positive steps to emerge thereafter. These must relate to separatist slogans, by whomsoever they are raised. These are not particularly aimed at this or that political party. These have application in the wider context of the national scene. There can be no suppression of normal political activity. But by common consent we should exclude from this protective umbrella the politics based on a separatist ideology.

I cannot dwell at length on this aspect. The National Integration Council will have to deal with this problem in the democratic way.

I do not believe that the DMK has a mass base. Much of its strength is derived from the indirect and direct backing it receives from certain people who ought to know better. I am referring to Rajaji, for instance. I find him angry, more angry these days. He aligns himself with the DMK because he is angry with me and the Congress—what a pass Rajaji has come to! Rajaji’s party, in principle, is opposed to Dravidastan. Obviously neither Rajaji nor I would have scope for politics when the fundamental unity which we have jointly built up in the country over the years is destroyed. I only wish Rajaji realises his national stature and does not stoop so low as to lend support to separatist movements, even by accident.

We m,ay have made mistakes. I do not deny it. I do not defend the mistakes, either. All of us have made mistakes. Wisdom lies in our realising the common danger confronting the nation as a whole.

Leftist Parties

The DMK is essentially a menace. By no stretch of imagination can it be termed a mission. There is no virtue in fostering an evil force simply because it is effective against somebody you do not like. It is only a question of time before the evil force, fed on misplaced support, turns round and swallows its very help and guide.
As for the parties of the Left, I believe they have realised the danger of the DMK movement. The Communists had some doubt about their tactical line, but I am encouraged to find a new awareness among them about the danger of the DMK. The PSP, the Socialists, the Tamil Arasu Kazhagam and all others have realised the dange-rous portents of the Dravidastan doctrine.

League’s Role

One word about the Muslim League. It stands discredited before the people of India for its role in the pre-independence days. For such a party to foment further trouble by sligning with the forces of separatism will be viewed very seriously. I am not issuing any threat. Far from it. I am only telling my Muslim League friends: “Please keep off from politics that challenges the unity of the country.”
One word more. I do not want to be understood as favouring any ban on the DMK. It is a matter left to the National Government and to the wisdom of the National Integration Council. I would prefer a clean, prolonged and all-out battle with the DMK on the political front. It must be a many-fronted battle. All those parties and individuals who believe in the unity of India owe it to themselves and the country to fight in their own spheres or jointly this menace of separatism. We have no animus against individual leaders of the DMK. They are also sons of India, however misguided they may be. We have, however, perforce to fight the separatist ideology. It is a question of our survival as a nation with self-respect and commanding the respect of the world community.

(September 29, 1962)

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