Why chief ministers should spare a thought for Karunanidhi while hoisting the tricolor on Independence Day

Chief ministers are hoisting the national flag on Independence Day, thanks to the efforts of Dravidian stalwart Muthuvel Karunanidhi.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Aug 15, 2023 | 6:00 AMUpdatedAug 15, 2023 | 7:49 AM

Why chief ministers should spare a thought for Karunanidhi while hoisting the tricolor on Independence Day

On 15 August, 1974, Tamil Nadu’s then chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi created history by hoisting the national tricolour, celebrating India’s independence.

It also marked the partial success of his movement, Maanilathil Suyatchi, Mathiyil Kootatchi (Autonomy for States, Federalism at the Centre), which he launched in Trichy four years ago. Till 1973, only Governors hoisted the national flag on both Independence and Republic days.

During his first term as the chief minister between 1969 and 1971 after the death of CN Annadurai, he held a conference in Trichy, which coined the slogan, Maanilathil Suyatchi, Mathiyil Kootatchi.

In May 1971, the Rajamannar Commission constituted by the DMK government in 1969, submitted its report to Karunanidhi. The commission was asked to examine the Centre-state relations.

Karunanidhi, who ascended to power for the second time in 1971, battled for the state’s autonomy.

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Letter to Indira Gandhi

In February 1974, during the launch of a book on state autonomy, Karunanidhi pointed out that chief ministers were ignored on Independence Day and Republic Day. He said when the prime minister hoisted the national flag, the chief ministers were denied that privilege.

Karunanidhi wrote to the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, citing the different practices being followed in Delhi and other states. He said that on Republic Day, the President unfurled the tricolour and on Independence Day it was the prime minister. He told Gandhi that chief ministers should have the opportunity to unfurl the tricolor on Independence Day.

In July last week, Karunanidhi’s suggestion was accepted and a communication to this effect was sent to all state governments.

On 15 August, 1974, Karunanidhi unfurled the national flag at St George Fort even as other chief ministers hoisted the tricolor in their respective state capitals.

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Nenjukku Needhi

In his autobiography, Nenjukku Needhi (Justice for the Heart) Karunanidhi remembered his efforts in convincing the Union government to allow chief ministers to hoist the national flag.

“Every year, on 15 August, it was a practice that the Governor would hoist the national flag at the state secretariat. It was due to my repeated efforts in writing letters to Delhi (Union government) and repeatedly raising the issue in person as to why democratically-elected chief ministers should not be given this right that it was decided that governors will unfurl the national flag on Republic Day and chief ministers will hoist the national flag on Independence Day,” he wrote.

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Karunanidhi and national flag

In the early 1970s, when Karunanidhi was the chief minister he wanted a separate flag for Tamil Nadu. On 27 August, 1970, he displayed the design of the flag. He had designed the flag.

M Karunanidhi displaying the design of the Tamil Nadu flag. (Supplied)

The proposed Tamil Nadu flag was in grey, and had the Indian flag in one-quarter, while the main space featured the state emblem, a temple tower, symbolising the Tamil culture.

N Arumuga Naiyanar, a senior DMK functionary, said that initially there were many suggestions made to Thalaivar (Karunanidhi) to incorporate the Mooventhar (Chera, Chola, and Pandiyas) symbols, the bow and arrow, tiger, and the fish, respectively.

“But Kalaignar was particular about incorporating the Indian flag,” he said.

“Kalaingar was so keen on the state’s autonomy and wanted to give a befitting reply to allegations of ‘separatism’ against the DMK. He always respected the national flag. If chief ministers are hoisting the tricolor on Independence Day, It is the result of the Dravidian stalwart Karunanidhi’s efforts,” he added.