[lg policy] Tamil Nadu: The Grand Mobilisation [against Hindi]

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Jan 20 16:05:02 UTC 2015

The Grand Mobilisation

By Gokul Vannan

Published: 20th January 2015 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 20th January 2015 10:40 AM
Email 2

    A file photo of C Rajagopalachari sharing his wisdom with L Ganesan
    A file photo of C Rajagopalachari sharing his wisdom with L Ganesan

When schools and colleges reopened after the January 25 agitation against
attempts to make Hindi the official language in 1965, the State government
did not expect the protests to continue. But the agitation snowballed
mainly due to the efforts of L Ganesan, the prime motivator of the
movement, who evaded the police net and coordinated the protests throughout
the State till the end.

Narrating his experiences, Ganesan, now 82, recalls a cold night in
mid-January when a group of students, including Vai Gopalaswamy, who later
chose to call himself Vaiko, met at the Marina sands to discuss their plans
for January 25. After hours of deliberations, Vaiko, then an MA (Economics)
student at Presidency College, asked: “What are your plans?”

When he said that all schools and colleges should be closed indefinitely
from January 26, Vaiko asked: “Is it possible?” Ganesan replied: “Why not?”

Ganesan’s optimism stemmed from the fact that he had been working for the
previous three years to mobilise support for the cause. Since 1962, he had
been going from one college hostel to another - from Annamalai and Madurai
universities to Presidency and Pachaiyappa’s colleges in Chennai and
Thiagarajar College in Madurai.

Ganesan, who joined the Madras Law College when he was 26 after resigning
his job as a senior inspector of cooperative societies in 1962, was a
powerful orator. After he was elected president of Madras Law College Tamil
Ilakkiya Peravai during 1963-1964, he participated in all inter-college and
university elocution competitions.

“After the competition, I would spent the night in the college hostel
debating the political situation with students. Those interactions helped
me realise that 95 per cent of the students were against Hindi,” he says.

Yet, the students were strongly divided on political lines. So Ganesan
decided to the make the anti-Hindi movement apolitical by avoiding giving
leadership roles in the agitation to active DMK students wing functionaries
like P Srinivasan, Vaiko, Durai Murugan, Pon Muthuramlingam, Radhagovindan,
and Duraipandi. An official language conference organised by the Tamil
Ilakkiya Peravai at the Madras Law College in 1963, set the momentum for
the struggle. “I had invited Swatantra Party leader C Rajagopalachari and
DMK leader C N Annadurai. Before they spoke, I posed questions to them. I
asked Rajagoplachari how he was supporting us now when he, as chief
minister, introduced Hindi as a compulsory language in schools. Then I told
Annadurai that his followers were waiting for him to launch a revolution to
chase Hindi away from Tamil Nadu.

The uproarious acknowledgement to Ganesan’s posers by the crowd forced
Annadurai to assure that he would find a solution through democratic means,
and Rajagopalachari to say: “Do not doubt a person who is here as a friend.
Even if you stop the struggle, I will continue.”

After graduating in law, Ganesan devoted his time to prepare the students
for the protest, writing the statements that were released in the name of
students’ leaders. Since he projected students as leaders, he avoided ego
clashes and ensured that all students listened to him.

On January 25, it  was his oratory that helped convince the students to
disperse from the Marina. Then as he was meeting students outside campuses
when the colleges and schools were closed, one evening N V N Somu informed
him during a meeting at a park in Harrington Road that Annadurai wanted to
meet him.

Though the students advised him not to meet Annadurai as he could pressure
him to give up the struggle, Ganesan went to Anna’s house in Nungambakkam.

As predicted, after appreciating him for organising the protest
successfully on January 25, Anna asked him to call off the protests. “If
only bravery can bring victory to Tamils, Tamilians should have ruled the
country. Only valour coupled with wisdom can win a war,” Anna said. He told
him that he wanted the students to do well academically and become doctors,
engineers, teachers and so on.

Ganesan was confused as he came out of the house. So he met a few other
stalwarts in the DMK like Muthu, M Karunanidhi and S D Somasundaram, who
were echoed his wish to continue the strike when schools and colleges

Finally with some money given by leaders like Muthu and Somasundaram (by
pledging their family jewellery), Ganesan toured the State, along with
Muthu, S G Duraimurugan and Navalan. “With the help of local DMK leaders in
every district, we met students who headed the agitation on January 25 and
invited them to visit Chennai to plan the next level of struggle,” informs

Among those they met during this trip were: Aravanan at Annamalai
University in Chidambaram; M Natarajan at Thanjavur and K Rajamanikandan;
Ragupathi and Natesan at Tiruchy; Jeeva and Kalaimani at Karaikudi;
Kalimuthu, Kamaraj and Jeyaprakasam at Madurai; and Thathampatty Krishnan
at Salem.

“All the leaders came to Chennai and we met at Hotel Everest at Parry’s
corner. After an hour-long discussion we formed the All India Students
Anti-Hindi Agitation Council and made Chennai law college student Ravindran
as president and Presidency College student M M Raman as secretary,” he

When the government announced reopening of educational institutions on
February 8, assuming that the situation was under control, the council
announced that students will observe non-violent fast in all schools and
colleges on February 8, organise protests before post offices on February 9
and at railway stations on February 10.

“The protests were organised as planned and police lathi-charged the
students. When the situation went out of control, the Malabar police was
brought in, but they too failed. With members of the general public too
joining in, for the first time in the history of Tamil Nadu, the Indian
army was called in,” says Ganesan.

With the army shooting at protestors and the situation threatening to go
out of hand, as Annadurai had predicted to Ganesan earlier, a meeting of
leaders was called at Thanjavur to stop the protest temporarily.

Then Ganesan decided to hold anti-Hindi conferences to bring in a new
government that would fight against Hindi imposition.

The rest is history - the DMK coming to power and the government going in
for a two-language policy in school education.

Read Part I:

50th Anniversary of Language Warriors: A Look Back

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