ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Contradictions within the Practices of a People’s Party

Rule of the Commoner: DMK and the Formations of the Political in Tamil Nadu, 1949–1967 by Rajan Kurai Krishnan, Ravindran Sriramachandran and V M S Subagunarajan, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022; pp xviii + 299, `895.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the growing popularity of Dravidian movement evoked a series of public responses, which still continue to find favour among a section of the population. The authors of this particular book are also a part of a generation that had witnessed the successes and failures of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in the electoral politics of Tamil Nadu. The seeds of this emotive aspect of Tamil nationalism had been sown in the decades between the 1920s and 1940s, when E V Ramaswamy Naicker, popularly referred to as Periyar, emphasised on the racial divide between Tamils and the Hindi-speaking people from the north. The difference between these two linguistic or social groups was couched in the terminology of Aryan and non-Aryan races. The ubiquitous spirit of non-Brahminism expressed through an alliance between the so-called non-Brahmin privileged castes and the underprivileged castes, actually coalesced to create a new
politico-cultural community. In course of nearly a century, debates on “Dravidianism” had hinged around several issues and possibilities, provoking debates on the intersectionalities of caste, class, gender, and nation.

The Tamil case has always remained an enigma because it resonates through a cultural renaissance that was represented through countless numbers of literary texts and through a zeal to combine the “real” and the “unreal” through films. Between 1949 and 1975, non-Brahmin scriptwriters like Karunanidhi and matinee idols like M G Ramachandran, through their creativity, reminded the Tamil masses of their primordial belonging. The authors need to be complimented for bringing out the story of the DMK, particularly in the initial decades, when the “former lieutenants” of Periyar were able to decentre the very notions of the Indian nation state.

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Updated On : 26th Jul, 2023
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