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Dravidar Kazhagam or Dravida Kazhagam (Dravidian Organization) was one of the first Dravidian parties in India. The party was founded by E. V. Ramaswamy, also called Thanthai Periyar. Its original goals were to eradicate the ills of the existing caste system including untouchability and on a grander scale to obtain a "Dravida Nadu" (Dravidian nation) from the Madras Presidency. Dravidar Kazhagam would in turn give birth to many other political parties including Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. The erstwhile Dravidar Kazhagam is now headed by K.Veeramani.
The roots of the Dravidar Kazhagam lie in the Self Respect Movement and Justice party, founded by Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. Periyar formed the Self Respect Movement in 1925, breaking in the process from the Indian National Congress party of which he had been a member until then. Justice Party, formed in 1916 also claimed to promote similar interests. The two entities merged in 1938 under Periyar's leadership. The name was changed to Dravidar Kazhagam in 1944.
The party at its inception retained the flag of South Indian Liberal Federation which had a picture of a traditional type of balance signifying the idea of equality. Its central theme was to remove the degraded status imposed on Dravidians and to denote this, the party adopted a black flag with a red circle inside it, the black signifying their degradation and the red denoting the movement for upliftment.
As the party gained prominence, many in the party wanted to contest in the elections including Annadurai. However, Periyar argued that politics will force ideology to the background. With a straining relationship in the organization and Periyar marrying Maniammai, who was more than 40 years younger than him, some members of the party broke up and formed the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. The party was headed by Maniammai and later by K.Veeramani after her demise.
Periyar's protests were largely symbolic and did not call for the destruction of private property or physically harm anyone. It based its interests on anti-Hindi agitations and never became a full-fledged political party by choice.
The party often adopted hard line approach and was often involved in mass attempts to change the system outright. One such incident involved bringing in Adi Dravidas into the inner sanctum sanctorum of temples and threatening Brahmin priests to recite hymns in Tamil instead of Sanskrit. During Indian independence in 1947, the party did not accept the same as Periyar viewed Independence as the transfer of power from British to the Brahmin-Bania combine who occupied all important positions. With a firm belief that caste-based reservations are the only way to empower the under-represented, they supported reservations in education and employment right from 1919. Periyar was instrumental in introducing reservation in Tamil Nadu from 1921 even before independence.
The organization laid the foundation for further Dravidian involvement into politics. It enthused a new Dravidian spirit that later on led to the formation of many parties that would eventually challenge the Indian National Congress stranglehold. Though it failed to achieve its grandiose idea of an independent Dravidian nation, it fostered a spirit of unity amongst the Dravidians, especially in opposing Hindi language in the seventies.
Dravida Kazhagam strongly routed for the implementation of Mandal Commission report, which was later adopted by V.P. Singh led government in 1990. It has also involved itself in the Srilankan Tamils issue and has been vocal in the support of LTTE.
- Saraswathi, S. (2004) Towards Self-Respect. Institute of South Indian Studies, pp. 93 & 94
- Saraswathi, S., Towards Self-Respect, p. 94.
- Gopalakrishnan, Periyar: Father of the Tamil race, p. 52.
- Dravidar Kazhagam - Official homepage of Dravidar Kazhagam