Social Scientist. v 26, no. 300-301 (May-June 1998) p. 61.

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Tamil Separatism and Cultural Negotiations: Gender Politics and Literature in Tamil Nadu

Tani Tamizh lyakkam

The Tamil quest for identity and self-expression vis-a-vis the English colonial masters as well as the Sanskritic/Hindi domination implicit in the Congress ideology crystallized to a large extent in the Tani Tamizh lyakkam.

The Tani Tamizh lyakkam represented not only the major strand in the transitional years in Madras politics but emerged as the most important post-colonial discourse in Tamil Nadu. The lyakkam (literally 'movement') can be defined as the Tamil ethno-nationalist movement which did not merely claim separateness from the 'mainstream' Congress led nationalist struggle but in fact moved parallel to it and represented a counter culture. It can be perceived as the beginnings of Tamil separatism which has persistently struggled against the domination of the centre in terms of Congress ideology, linguistic chauvinism of the Hindi belt and unequal resource allocation.

The nomenclature 'Tani Tamizh lyakkam' can be translated literally as 'separate Tamil movement'. Its apparent manifestation was linguistic separatism or 'a movement towards purification of Tamil' . Its political and cultural dimensions take off from this crucial point of difference.

The role of women in the Tani Tamizh lyakkam is best illustrated in terms of an unusual occurence on 14 November 1938. An army of women consisting of a motley crowd of housewives, intellectuals, authors and professionals assembled in front of the Theological High School in Madras. The women raised slogans like 'Down with English' and 'Down with Hindi' interspaced with 'Tamizh Vazhga' meaning 'may Tamil flourish' . Five of the women leaders were arrested and jailed. Among these were - Moothatti Moovalur Ramamritham, Malarmugaththammai,

* Department of History, Gargi College, Delhi University, Delhi

Social Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 5 - 6, May- June 1998

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