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In 1975-76, as the DMK raised the heat against the central government and opposed the Emergency, TN secession from the rest of the country was among the topics that dominated the discourse.

Tamil Nadu’s secession cropped up in the despatches and reports sent by US diplomats in then Madras to their government in Washington. Some 10 years ago, WikiLeaks had leaked a set of US diplomatic cables that included despatches from the US consulate in Madras. 

A July 1975 despatch talked about a US diplomat’s meeting with state labour minister K. Rajaram, during which the minister had asked the diplomat if the US would support Tamil Nadu seceding from India. This report was sent barely a month after the Emergency that the DMK was opposing. The diplomat told Rajaram that the US wouldn’t support any such move. [The Hindu reported on the cable in 2013

The issue of the TN secession is back in conversations after DMK leader and former telecom minister, A. Raja on July 4 demanded ‘State autonomy’ for  Tamil Nadu, and said the Union government should not push them to seek an independent country.

A PTI report quoted Raja saying that though the icon of the Dravidian movement, Thanthai Periyar stood for an independent Tamil Nadu, the DMK moved away from it. Raja was addressing a party meet of representatives of urban local bodies in Namakkal. 

A July 1975 despatch talked about a US diplomat’s meeting with state labour minister K. Rajaram, during which the minister had asked the diplomat if the US would support Tamil Nadu seceding from India.


The party, though it accepted Periyar, backed the country’s integrity and democracy and said, ‘long live India’ and it continues to stick to that line.

In his speech, Raja urged the centre:  “Do not make us seek a separate country; give state autonomy and we will not rest till then.”

The DMK responded to criticism of this speech by saying that the party has stayed with the  lines drawn by Anna (Annadorai) who had given up on the TN secession and supported the unity and integrity of India. Annadurai had welcomed Indian Independence, drawing a contrast with Periyar who opposed it. Later, when the demand for secession was made illegal, the DMK withdrew its demand.

While officially the party’s stand is maximum powers for the state and autonomy, from time to time, some leaders and the rank and file of the party feel miffed enough to revisit the issue of secession. The ongoing tussle between Governor R.N. Ravi and the DMK government has riled many DMK leaders and the government, too. 

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The US diplomatic cable quoted Rajaram as saying younger people in the DMK were saying Indira Gandhi was going to kill democracy so the DMK should consider Tamil Nadu seceding. The young Turks did discuss the US response to such a move since the USSR was supporting the Indira Gandhi government, Rajaram told the US diplomat. But Rajaram said the higher echelons of the DMK were not seriously considering it.

Rajaram did not mention the topic again during that conversation. It was not known if the top leadership in the DMK was setting off a trial balloon either.

The July 1975 cable that discussed Rajaram’s TN secession remarks also talks about an unnamed educationist in then Madras bringing up that topic to officials of  US consulate. The educationist had insisted on meeting the officials and told the diplomat that he had told the chief minister that if the rest of India became a communist-influenced dictatorship, Tamil Nadu should try to become independent and the US would support that. But Karunanidhi told him that after the debacle in Vietnam, the US would not take on anything new in Asia. Karunanidhi was referring to the possibilities of active intervention by the US to support a non-communist, independent Tamil Nadu just as it intervened in Vietnam to prop up an anti-communist government.

Next year in January, at a DK meeting in Thanjavur, secessionist speeches were made even with DMK ministers attending the sessions. The WikiLeaks cable quotes P Sabanayagam, chief secretary during the DMK government of 1971 to 1976, that the presence of DMK ministers at the conference “played into the prime minister’s hands.” And the government was dismissed end of January, seven months into Emergency.

The issue of the TN secession is back in conversations after DMK leader and former telecom minister, A. Raja on June 4 demanded ‘State autonomy’ for  Tamil Nadu, and said the Union government should not push them to seek an independent country.


As Emergency was declared, the DMK openly declared its opposition to it and actively gave refuge to Janata leaders in the state. Party mouthpiece Murasoli would publish nonsensical news items such as how castor oil cooled the body and ladies finger is good for health just to register opposition to censorship, the US diplomatic cables noted. 

In a public meeting at Marina Beach after the DMK government was dismissed, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi gave reasons for dismissing the DMK government. She said the DMK had planned to let loose violence in the state and that in the violence it wanted to appear as if they were martyrs. Mrs Gandhi, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks, said, “While one or two top people [in the DMK] were not asking for separation, there were others who were speaking about it and making undisguised open threats to the rest of the country.”

But the US diplomatic cable quotes Sabanayagam as saying that there was no report that the DMK was going to unleash violence during the Emergency that was promulgated on June 25, 1975, and lasted nearly two years. Sabanayagam also downplayed the allegations of massive corruption by top DMK leadership, saying corruption was not any higher than in other states. A diplomat quotes a central government official as saying Tamil Nadu’s administration was extremely efficient and was among the best administered states in the nation.


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