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Politics & War

Politics & War

Conjeevaram Natarajan Annadurai

Conjeevaram Natarajan Annadurai




  • Annadurai was born on 15 September 1909 in Kanchipuram (then called Conjeevaram), Tamil Nadu in a lower-middle-class family.
  • His father Natarajan was a weaver and his mother was Bangaru Ammal. He was raised by his sister Rajamani Ammal. At the age of 21, he married Rani while he was still a student.


  • He attended Pachaiyappa’s High School, but left school to work as a clerk in the town’s Municipal office to assist with the family finances.
  • In 1934, he graduated with a B.A. degree (Hons) from Pachaiyappa’s College in Chennai. He then earned an MA degree in Economics and Politics from the same college.
  • He worked as an English teacher in Pachaiyappa High School. Later he quit the teaching job and began involving himself in journalism and politics.


  • Annadurai’s interest in politics made him join the Justice party in 1935. The Justice party was formed by nonBrahmin elites in 1917.
  • The party had been in power in Madras Presidency since self-governance was introduced in 1920, until it was defeated by the Indian National Congress in 1937. By the time Annadurai joined the Justice party, Periyar E. V. Ramasami was the party president.
  • He started his own journal Dravida Nadu (named after the Dravida Nadu – an independent state that the party called for). In 1944, Periyar renamed the Justice party to Dravidar Kazhagam and gave up contesting in the elections.


  • Moreover, Periyar’s decision on giving up participating in democratic elections was also opposed by Annadurai, in reaction to which he walked out of a party meeting in 1948.
  • Annadurai launched his own party with his party The new party was named Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.DMK’s presence was initially restricted to urban centres and its surrounding areas.
  • During his days in Dravida Kazhagam, Annadurai had supported Periyar’s call for an independent Dravida Nadu.


  • In 1962, Annadurai said in the Rajya Sabha that Dravidians want the right of self-determination … We want a separate country for southern India.
  • However, the reorganisation of states in India on linguistic basis removed Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam speaking regions from the Madras Presidency leaving behind a predominantly Tamil Madras State.
  • Giving in to realities, Annadurai and his DMK changed the call of independent Dravida Nadu for Dravidians to independent Tamil Nadu for Tamils.


  • When India became a republic with its own constitution in 1950, the constitution had given special status to the Hindi language, which was to gain official status after 15 years in 1965. This move was regarded with anxiety by students in Tamil Nadu.
  • Sensing an uprising, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru assured in the Parliament that English would continue to be the official language of India, as long as non-Hindi speaking people desire.
  • With no constitutional amendment done, Annadurai declared 26 January 1965, the 15th Republic Day of India and also the day the Constitution, which in essence enshrined Hindi as the official language of India, came into practice, as a day of mourning.
  • Nevertheless, Annadurai was arrested for instigating the agitation. Although the violence were not directly instigated by the DMK, the agitation itself aided DMK to win the 1967 elections and Annadurai became the new Chief Minister of Madras State.


  • In 1967, the Congress lost nine states to opposition parties, but it was only in Madras state that a single non-Congress party majority was achieved.
  • Annadurai legalised Self-respect marriages for the first time in the country. Such marriages were void of priests to preside over the ceremony and thus did not need a Brahmin to carry out the wedding.
  • Self-respect marriages were a brainchild of Periyar.It was Annadurai’s government that renamed the Madras State to its present-day form declaring officially as Tamil Nadu.
  • With Annadurai as chief minister, the state assembly succeeded in passing the bill renaming the states.Anna was instrumental in organising the World Tamil Conference under the aegies of UNESCO in 1967.
  • Another major achievement of Annadurai’s government was to introduce a two language policy over the then popular three language formula.
  • Annadurai also issued an order for the removal of the pictures of gods and religious symbols from public offices and buildings.


  • On 10 September 1968 Annadurai travelled to New York for medical treatment and he was operated for Cancer in the gullet at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
  • His health deteriorated further and he died on 3 February 1969. His cancer was attributed to his habit of chewing tobacco.
  • His funeral had the highest number of attendees until then, as registered with The Guinness Book of Records. An estimated 15 million people attended it.