Lincolns in the Legislature
Dravida Nadu Editorial - 16-02-1958
The words "Dravida Nadu" and "Separation" were on the lips of practically all the legislators, who participated in the debate on the Governor's address in the Madras Assembly last week. This was the special feature that characterised this session and we welcome this development, for even those 'dyed-in-the-wool Nationalists' who had considered it one of the five Great Sins to mouth such phrases, were obliged to utter them. More over, with the exception of two or three Congressmen who let loose expressions of raw resentment and called for stern steps to put down the Dravidian National Movement, most others including Minister Subramaniam were most conciliatory in their attitude and called for "co-operation" or made fervent appeals to the D.M.K., to "changes its policies." We consider this, only as an infallible index to the growing popularity of our Movement—for, those who had slighted it ere now, have come out openly, if at least to express their reaction to us.
A somewhat strange note was sounded by Home Minister Bhakthavatsalam. He instituted a simile after the fashion of his erstwhile boss, C.R.—but not being an adept in the art of employing figures of speech—failed so miserably that even the Press could not make head or tail of his fanciful notion. He said something about the people, the D.M.K., and its policies and ended up by giving the time-worn warning "Do not play with fire". Whether the Minister compared the D.M.K., itself or its policies to fire, and whether the warning was addressed to the people or to the D.M.K., will be one of the unsolved mysteries of this session. Two leading dailies of Madras—neither very friendly to us—have reported the Minister's speech differently! We shall therefore abandon the futile task of understanding Mr. Bhakthavasalam's comparison aright and content ourselves with meeting the general tenor of the speech. The Home Minister attempted to formulate a novel thesis that the D.M.K., ought to "function as a Constitutional opposition" and choose "recognised political and Parliamentary methods", thereby implying that the path of the D.M.K., at present, is a different one. We do not follow what the Minister means by this homily, particularly as everyone, even slightly familiar with D.M.K. politics knows full well that the D.M.K., stands for the utmost uprightness in conduct and peacefulness in agitation. It is an old proverb "Repeat a lie a thousand times and it will pass for truth." Lest by oft repetition the slander which the interested Congressmen in office have now begun to mouth, achieves any measure of credibility, we hasten to traverse it.
The Minister has advised the D.M.K. to resort to "recognised" methods. May we turn round and ask this champion of constitutionality, how he defines his "recognised methods." If we remember that the context of the ministerial sermon was a reference to the Black Flag Demonstration against the Prime Minister, we at once perceive the wisdom behind the advice. Showing of black flags according to Mr. Bhakthavatsalam's political perspicacity amounts to "unconstitutional" or "unrecognised agitation." If this be so, we are in the esteemable company of thousands of democratic minded people all over the world who have shown their disapproval of any governmental action or ministerial conduct by staging such demonstrations. Placards containing such slogans as "Anthony Eden, Resign!" have been exhibited in London on hundreds of occasions, and even as recently as 1956 during the Suez Canal crisis. Downing Street democrats did not grumble. Showing of black flags, we maintain, is not only a constitutional form and a recognised form of political agitation, but is one of the most peaceful methods. We are willing to take lessons in constitutional methods of agitation from renown democrats, who, we are sure, will side us on this issue. But we cannot so easily listen to the Lincolns in the Madras Legislature, who have their own axes to grind in tendering advice to the opposition.
In order to whittle down the new democratic dicta that he laid down, Mr. Bhakthavatsalam went on to state that "a black-flag demonstration will always tend to develop on violent and it is only those who are prepared for violence of all types that would come forward to organise such demonstrations". Once again we are compelled to seek elucidation from the Minister as to where he gets his data from. How many black-flag demonstrations organised by the D.M.K., or any other party, which had been quietly permitted by the government, "degenerated into an orgy or violence?" General conclusions must be based on particular instances. This is a fundamental rule of logic. Perhaps the minister learnt his Logic where he learnt his Democracy and that is why he lays down cock-eyed propositions for us and the public to swallow. It is only the nervousness of the authorities and the consequent hasty repressive actions that are to blame, if anything untoward were to happen. No political party wedded to non-violent means—and we claim to be one, and are recognised by all fair-minded observers to be one—will ever plan a demonstration with the hope or expectation that it should lead to acts of mob violence. The D.M.K., did not plan the January Sixth Demonstration with any such evil motive. The Nagercoil Resolution, as well as the statements of the party leaders, make this amply clear—and the government knows it. Their incompetence in handling the situation and the consequent mess have shown the government in a very bad light and the minister is apparently trying to shift the public's accusing finger, if he can, from the Government to the D.M.K. We have condemned in no uncertain terms the cowardly acts of violence and in the beach meeting on Jan., 14th, it was actually stated that it is the duty of all the D.M.K. partymen to apprehend criminals red-handed and turn them over to the Police. And yet the Minister and his ilk chose to slander us—which only shows that they deliberately prefer to castigate us as part of their political game, rather than appreciate the truth.
We are reminded of the way in which Lord Linlithgow and Mr. Gandhi wrote to each other in 1943. The Viceroy wrote to the Congress leader that the latter "was responsible for the sad campaign of violence and crime." Mr. Gandhi indignantly wrote "Of course, I deplore the happenings.... But have I not laid the blame for them at the door of Government of India?...." Mr. Gandhi further wrote "The Government it was that goaded the people to the point of madness... The government's violence was leonine... The arrests started the violence and yet you (the Viceroy) blame me (Gandhi) for the violence, though I have worked all my life for non-violence." In spite of Mr. Gandhi's repeated reassurances that he and his party neither planned nor intended nor anticipated the mob's actions the Imperial Viceroy still tenaciously held Mr. Gandhi—the apostle of non-violence—responsible. Has Mr. Bhakthavatsalam forgotten all this history? Either he must say the Viceroy was right, in order to maintain his statements about the D.M.K., in which case we keep company with Mr. Gandhi as victims of an unjust accusation; or the minister must admit that his leader was correct, in which case, he must unreservedly accept our sincere statements and let the matter rest. We would request the minister to take his choice!
Before they offer any more advice to us, as if they were incarnations of Abe Lincoln or Daniel Webster, let the legislators ponder over these words and reflect on their past. Further, constitutional government is not one way traffic, we crave leave to remind our good friends on the seats of power. Lincoln did not carry a lathi, when he spoke Democracy. With its dark record of repression, it comes with ill grace from our government to lecture to us on how to behave.
(Dravida Nadu Editorial - 16-02-1958)