The Dravidian movement has originally started as ‘Anti-Brahminism’ and to provide Self-Respect to people belonging to Non-Brahminical castes but later it got converted into an anti-Hindi movement with a separatist undercurrent in Tamil Nadu. It also sowed seeds of linguistic-based states. The Dravidian movement was often described as a rationalist, atheist and socialist movement but the fancy label does not bring any change. Despite its Anti-Brahminist attitude and so-called rational thinking, the Dravidian movement failed to eradicate both caste discrimination and practices based on blind faith from the masses.
Both the two important political parties in Tamil Nadu find their origin in the Dravidian movement. The movement also provided a fertile ground for the emergence of several other smaller outfits including the separatist ones. It also gave birth to some extremely radical outfits in nature. But except Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), everybody else failed to make any significant electoral mark.
Dravidian ideology began to take a backseat in Tamil Nadu only after the rise of Jayalalithaa in the AIADMK. Jayalalithaa’s tirade against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), staunch nationalism, the fact that she was a devout Hindu, transformed the party and Tamil Nadu completely.
Karunanidhi was a multitalented personality — journalist, playwright, scriptwriter— he used to write fiery dialogues in films. He joined the Dravidian movement as a teenager under the guidance of Periyar E V Ramasamy and Anna. After the death of CN Annadurai, he continued to uphold the most of the movement’s values. Despite being the first CM to unfurl the tricolour, he continued his anti-Brahmin stance and supported the LTTE. He publicly appreciated LTTE for fighting against Indian Army. He even refused to be present at a ceremony to welcome back Indian soldiers who landed in Chennai as Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) withdrew from Sri Lanka in 1990. In the 80s, his supporters threatened to turn Chennai into a battleground between LTTE and other Sri Lankan Tamil militants.
Despite all this, he continued to flourish in the national politics mainly because of his pragmatic approach. In order to get to power, he allied with both National Parties- Congress and the BJP. His party members were in-charge of some of the important ministries at the centre. In later years, family love conquered the cause of Dravidian movement. Karunanidhi did all that he could do to promote his family members into politics. Karunanidhi brought his sons- M K Alagiri and M K Stalin– into the party. Former one became Union Minister and Stalin was declared as the political heir. He made his daughter Kanimozhi a Rajya Sabha member. Karunanidhi also managed to promote his grandnephew Dayanidhi Maran to the cabinet post in the central ministry under UPA government between 2004 and 2009. Karunanidhi was jailed several times on the charges of corruption during his political career but still, he remained a popular and strong political leader in Tamil Nadu.
Sarkaria Commission report stamped him as corrupt for the first time. Not just on Karunanidhi, corruption charges were also leveled against his family members. The Dravidian movement which was started as the movement for the progress of Dravidians ended up becoming a movement for the progress of the Karunanidhi family. And now one of the main torchbearers of the Dravidian movement is no more in this world. And the incumbent Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Edappadi K. Palaniswami is also cracking down on radical elements that have come out from this movement. The future of the Dravidian Movement looks bleak which is good for the unity and integrity of India.