One the Founders of Justice Party from Tamilnadu
Happy Birthday Sir
(An Article from The Hindu in 2016 touching his Achievements )
The Justice Party, now virtually a footnote in history books, was founded a hundred years ago. It was on November 20, 1916 that “non-Brahmin gentlemen of position and influence both in Madras and the mofussil” gathered at a meeting in Victoria Public Hall and agreed to found two institutions. One was to be called the South India People’s Association and was to be a joint stock company that would publish a newspaper, in English, Tamil and Telugu, to present the non-Brahmin viewpoint. The other was The South India Liberal Federation, which was “to promote the interests of non-Brahmin Caste Hindus” .The first issue of the paper called Justice appeared on February 26, 1917. The Tamil paper, called Dravidan, started publishing from June. Taking a cue from its mouthpiece, the Federation began to be called Justice Party.
Ask anyone who recalls the Justice Party who started it and almost every one of them will say Pitti Theagaroya Chetty and Dr. T.M. Nair. Forgotten is the role Dr. C. Natesa Mudaliar played in this and how that role entitles him to be called a founder. The story starts with a few non-Brahmin Government servants, who felt discriminated against and unfairly treated by their Brahmin superiors, founding what they called the Madras United League on the advice and guidance of Dr. Natesan, an allopathic medicine practitioner in Triplicane who did much social service in the area. At its first annual meeting, on November 10, 1912, it changed its name to the Madras Dravidian Association. Guided by the doctor, the Association grew as it began enrolling outstation members as well. When representatives of the numerous branches met on April 5, 1914, they unanimously elected Dr. Natesan Honorary Secretary and, with no name of a President being reported, it must be presumed that the doctor played that role as well.
One of the first things the Association did was to start the Dravidian Home on Akbar Sahib Street in Triplicane for non-Brahmin students. It then published in 1915 two seminal books, Dravidian Worthies by C. Sankaran Nair and Non-Brahmin Letters by an anonymous author thought to be C. Karunakaran Menon, then editor of the Indian Patriot, a newspaper. All this helped the Association gain a certain importance in the public eye, but not political clout. Such clout could only come with a leadership with a more public face. But, the two most prominent non-Brahmins at the time, Theagaroya Chetty and Dr. Nair, were at loggerheads in the Madras Corporation Council. Dr. Natesan mediated with them to bring about a rapprochement, but forming a political party was still a matter of discussion.
When non-Brahmin candidates were defeated in several elections in 1916, Theagoroya Chetty and Dr. Nair decided it was time to form a political party and the South India Liberal Federation was born. Though Dr. Natesan joined the party, as did several leading members of the Dravidian Association, the association remained a separate body till Dr. Natesan’s death. It enabled him to be often critical of the actions of the Justice Party, particularly after it came to power in 1920.
When the impression was created that the Justice Party was Andhra-dominated, to counter this, the Rajah of Panagal, heading the second Justice Party Ministry in 1923, appointed a Tamil to the Ministry, Dr. Natesan led a group that opposed the person nominated and this became an opposition group in the party. He was again in the forefront of the Justice Party members who opposed the boycotting of the Simon Commission in 1927; the majority was for it.
But, there were other occasions when the Justice Party and Dr. Natesan thought alike. In 1920, the Doctor moved a resolution in the Madras Corporation Council that what were called the Depressed Classes and usually called Panchamas should be called Adi Dravidas. In 1922, the Justice Party passed a resolution in the Legislative Council that Adi Dravida should be the name for those who were called Panchamas and other derogatory caste names. Doing without Brahmin priests in domestic functions was also a part of Justice Party thinking. Dr. Natesan, very much of the same view, celebrated his daughter’s wedding without Brahmin purohits, getting down two non-Brahmin priests from Coimbatore.