Social Scientist. v 22, no. 252-53 (May-June 1994) p. 84.

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Notes on the Transformation of 'Dravidian' Ideology: Tamilnadu, c. 1900-1940

The existing scholarship on the Dravidian Movement traces its ideological genesis to 'a tiny group of highly educated and capable Vellalas'1 such as P. Sundaram Pillai, J.M. Nallaswami Pillai, V. Kanakasabhai and Maraimalai Adigal. Further, these intellectual protagonists of the 'Dravidian* ideology are characterised as follows:

They remained an elite with no popular base, with no desire to be involved with the masses. Their stress on the past glories, the suspicion of the outsider, their abstract commitment to the people, made them populists like the Russian Narodniks of the nineteenth century' (Srinivasan, 1987: 17, 21).2

While one would broadly agree with this reading of the Dravidian Movement's beginning, one run into problems in understanding the specific ways in which this ideology of the elite was appropriated and transformed for a socially radical agenda by the Self Respect Movement in the 1920s and the 1930s.3 Here one is left with either terse unexplained statements or meta-generalisation which are hardly illuminating. For instance, Srinivasan (1987:1), in accounting for the changes witnessed by the Dravidian Movement, merely states the following: 'The development was initially ideological which later transformed itself in to a mass movement. In the interregnum, an involved elite tried to transform part of the ideology into a programme of action but mainly in elite institutions like the University. The third stage is contemporary with the second interregnum stage where the newly formed Justice Party gives the institutional base that it lacked. Later the movement slipped from the elite and the initiative passed on to a new leadership in the person of E.V. R[amaswamy] which followed totally unprecedented styles and adopted a populist stance considerably different from the early ones to which the province was used.' In such sweeping generalisations, not only are expressions like 'unprecedented style' and 'populist stance' left unanalised, but their adequacy as explanations also needs further probing.

Against this background, the present paper analyses in broad out-

Madras Institute of Development Studies, Madras.

Social Scientist, Vol. 22, Nos. 5-6, May-June 1994

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