Just as BJP tries to saffronise, DMK bent on ‘Dravidianisation’ of education?

Higher education minister K Ponmudi's statement that Dravidian ideology must be introduced in every school and college in the state and other steps by the DMK show the party is keen on promoting Dravidian ideology

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All the state run schools had to take an oath to put an end to caste hierarchy on the birthday of social reformer Periyar

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is constantly under fire for trying to “saffronise” education, the current Tamil Nadu government too seems to be bent on an agenda to actively push the ‘Dravidianisation of education’ in the state.

The BJP has been accused of chopping off portions critical to the Hindutva ideology from school and college syllabi, including the history of leaders who contested their legacy and appointing administrators in Universities, who kowtow to their ideology. The DMK government too appears to be keen to spread its brand of Dravidian ideology in the educational institutions in the state.

For example, the higher education minister K Ponmudi, while participating in a function recently organised by ‘Dravida Palli’, a school to disseminate Dravidian ideology based in Chennai, grandly declared that the Dravidian ideology must be introduced in every school and college in the state.

“The Dravidian movement was formed with an aim to abolish caste discrimination. It is through knowing history we can create a better future. This kind of Dravidian schools (Dravida Pali) will teach students on how we have created a society through equality and social justice. From the next academic year, such ‘Dravidian Schools’ will be formed in every schools and colleges,” he declared.


Moreover, DMK has taken up projects such as the ‘Dravida Kalanjiyam’ (an encyclopaedia of sorts about Dravidian movement’s contribution to language, culture and literature) and as part of its agenda to promote Dravidian ideology, the state government recently announced the birthday of reformer Periyar (September 17) as ‘Social Justice Day’. And all the state run schools had to take an oath to put an end to caste hierarchy.

Ironically, during the AIADMK regime, the DMK had opposed instances such as giving a saffron hue to the poet Bharathiyar’s white turban on a school book cover or even when a text book claimed that Sanskrit was the oldest language, older than Tamil. They had  accused the BJP of trying to saffronise education but the DMK now seems to have embarked on a similar exercise with their Dravidian ideology.

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A Dravidian school to counter saffronisation?

The ‘Dravida Palli’ was established in September 2020 by Suba Veerapandian, founder of Dravida Iyakka Tamilar Peravai, a non-electoral political movement. The school offers a one-year course designed for both – entry and advanced level students. The syllabus covers the history, principles and the impact of Dravidian movement and was designed by former vice-chancellors, university professors and Dravidian researchers.

The course fee is ₹1,200 and the lessons are sent to the students through post. The classes are held online and at the end of one year, exams are conducted and certificates distributed. Last year, about 500 students had joined this school.

“Last year, we had students from the US. This year, we have students from five continents and nearly 500 students have enrolled. The entry level students who successfully completed the course have rejoined in the advanced level,” said M Umapathy, the school’s chief coordinator.

Countering the criticisms against a Dravidian school, Umapathy said that they were always ready for a course correction if anyone found faults with evidence in their syllabus.

“Anyone can join the course irrespective of the party they support. Let they come up with evidence to prove what we are teaching is wrong. It is only in the schools and colleges run by the Union government, education is getting saffronised. Whereas, ours is an institution in which only those who are interested to know about Dravidian ideology join. How can this be equated with saffronisation?” Umapathy asked.

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P Kanagasabapathi, state vice president, BJP slammed the concept of a ‘Dravidian ideology’ and suggested that the government should focus on promoting Tamil culture.

“If we include lessons related to king Karikala Cholan or queen Velu Nachiyar or reformer like Ramanujar, it is criticised as ‘saffronisation’. But these lessons are related to Tamil culture and the history of this land. Why does the DMK overshadow these facts under the garb of ‘Dravidian’ ideology?” he asked.

Meanwhile, the Tamil nationalist organisation Thamil Thesiya Periyakkam president P Maniarasan pointed out that the promotion of Dravidian ideologies should be carried out using the party’s fund and not the government’s fund.

“They say that the government will bring ‘Dravida Kalanjiyam’. They are welcome to bring it but not at the cost of the exchequer. Let them do it with their own party fund. Through Dravidianisation of education you only teach about DMK leaders CN Annadurai and M Karunanidhi’s contribution alone. It will be a biased one,” he countered.

For the last two decades, the Tamil nationalists have been making a demand to the Dravidian parties to include the histories of anti-Hindi protests held in 1938 and 1965, and the state boundary struggles such as reclaiming Kanyakumari, etc. But, it has fallen on deaf ears, added Maniarasan.

Welcoming such an initiative, educationist Jayaprakash Gandhi however suggested that the indoctrination of Dravidian ideologies should be made optional by the state government.

“We always demand the governments to keep politics out of education and health. Education should be completely under the control of the state. It’s good that the government wants the students to be aware of the state culture and history. But it should be kept optional and not be forced,” he concluded.