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'Rationalist' DMK turns religious

'Rationalist' DMK turns religious

Author: Gopu Mohan
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: February 3, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/rationalist-dmk-turns-religious/418394/

Introduction: Will observe atheist icon Annadurai's death anniversary with 31 special pujas

Observing the death anniversary of late chief minister C N Annadurai, the ruling DMK will offer 31 special pujas at various temples on Tuesday. Ironically, Annadurai was an atheist and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's son, M K Stalin, named after a Communist leader, will be attending the maximum number of pujas - three, including one at a temple near the party headquarters, Anna Arivalayam.

The state Government will also offer free meals on the day in Chennai. While the feasts at temples on February 3 were introduced some years ago, it is for the first time that pujas are being held.

The DMK has always been wedded to the idea of atheism, identifying caste differences and Brahmin supremacy as the major obstacles to social reform. The founder of the Dravidian movement, E V Ramasamy Naicker or Periyar, spared no effort in criticising religion, scriptures, and temples, and propounding an unwavering rationalism.

Annadurai took the lead to form the political Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam out of the social Dravida Kazhagam in September 1949. After becoming the leader of a political outfit, Anna toned down his philosophy of atheism, adopting the 'one race, one God' principle put forward by Tamil Saivite mystic Thirumoolar. At a personal level, he remained an atheist till his death in 1969. One of his earliest decisions as the CM in 1967 was to legalise marriages that did not require the presence of priests.

Anna's successor in party and power, Karunanidhi, is a self-proclaimed rationalist, who recently triggered a controversy with his comments on Lord Ram in the context of the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project.

Playwright-journalist Cho Ramaswamy said, "The DMK organising pujas means that they have given up rationalism, the way they have given up their goal of state autonomy and the anti-Hindi agitation. Their brand of rationalism was directed only towards the Hindus. The CM never misses an opportunity to ridicule Hindus and temples, and has been able to get away with it each time."

DMK leaders have argued that feasts inside temples should be seen as a form of social reform, making everyone equal inside temple premises.

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