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


With reference to the article “M Karunanidhi: The Dravidian Sun Sets” by A Kalaiyarasan and Karthick Ram Manoharan (EPW Engage, 8 August 2018), I would like to add that one of the signi­ficant achievements of M Karuna­nidhi was the passing of two amendments to the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1955. The first amendment did away with the appointments of archakas (priests) on a hereditary basis. The second one aimed at the appointment of archakas from all communities to the temples under government control, provided they were properly trained in agamas (scriptures).

The most conservative Brahminical hegemonic forces petitioned the Supreme Court and successfully got the second amendment nullified. The judgment invoking Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution ruled that the second amendment was in contravention to the constitutional provisions that guarantee the continuance of customs and practices in all the respective religious communities. To buttress this reasoning, it quoted from the History of Dharmashastras written by a Maharashtrian scholar, P V Kane. (One of the quoted pages said that an idol is rendered impure if it is touched by “beasts like donkeys” or outcastes.) This was a big blow to Periyar E V Ramasamy, who had encouraged Karunanidhi to get these amendments passed unanimously in the state legislature. As Karunanidhi was trying to seek constitutional amendments, his government was dismissed during the Emergency.

After he returned to power, his government passed two more legislations to give life to the original amendment, in the light of another Supreme Court judgment. Again, his moves were thw­arted by Jayalalithaa, who succeeded him, and by the Brahminical lobbies. Now that there have been more Supreme Court judgments favouring the appointment of ­archakas from all castes, one non-Brahmin— amongst the more-than-200 persons trained in the rules of the agamas during Karunanidhi’s tenure (2006–11)—has now been appointed as an archaka in a Madurai temple; a development Karunanidhi might not have been aware of due to his hospitalisation. Karunanidhi also brought in legislation in the early 1970s to ensure the right of female members of the family to inherit property.

Almost all his ministers took secular oaths when they were sworn in. And Karunanidhi’s funeral too was a secular affair; his coffin was laid down into the pit without any religious rituals. True to Tamil cultural traditions, only salt was placed in the coffin and once it was lowered into the grave, a handful of soil was thrown into it by each member of his family.

On the Tamil Eelam question, he was the first to make it an issue that should concern politicians from other parts of the country, since he knew that Tamil Nadu was but a part of India, and any major decision on foreign affairs could be taken only after a broad consensus at the national level. But, his attempt was thwarted by M G Ramachandran, who wanted to prove he was more Tamilian than Karunanidhi and selectively enco­uraged the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which had no political vision or understanding of the geopolitical ­interests of South Asian countries. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the beginning of the end of the LTTE slowly unfolded. The empty rhetoric of the ­Tamil nationalists did not get them anywhere. The rest is history.

S V Rajadurai

Web Comment

Updated On : 17th Aug, 2018


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