Dr. C. Natesan is fondly remembered on 19th February as he died on the 19th February, 1937. The non-Brahmin community is greatly indebted to this stalwart of social justice. It is the duty of everyone of us to gratefully remember him and his mighty efforts. Exactly hundred years ago, Dr. Natesan in 1912, realized the need for the welfare of the non-Brahmins, for the first time in the annals of Tamil Nadu.The very occurrence of this thought was a great revolution, considering the plight of the non-Brahmins at that time. This very desire gave birth to a significant historical movement in his residence in the Big Street in Chennai and there appeared the Madras United League, which became “Dravidar Sangam” in 1913. At a later stage, when the Justice Party was started in November 1916 to protect the rights and welfare of the South Indians, Dr.Natesan’s ‘Dravidar Sangam’ was its main inspiration. For these reasons, K.M.Balasubramaniam(Editor of Sunday Observer) termed the Justice Party as the offspring of Dr. Natesan.
Through a strange coincidence Dr.Natesan happened to be the one who brought two hitherto estranged Congress workers together, namely Sir Pitty Theagarayar and Dr.T.M.Nair. It is history thereafter that these formidable three became the strong pillars of the Dravidian Movement.
In those days, college education was available only in cities like Madras and Trichy. In these cities, there were no hostels for the non-Brahmin students who came to study there from the other districts and the rural areas. The hostels that functioned at this time admitted only the Brahmins and blatantly denied admissions to the non-Brahmin students. Dr.Natesan, realizing this pathetic plight of the poor non-Brahmin youth, started a hostel in 1916 in Chennai, exclusively for the non-Brahmin students. This service alone of Dr. Natesan stands out as a monument among his other venues of services. Many Dravidian scholars who later took up very high offices in Tamil Nadu, were the fortunate beneficiaries of this hostel. They include personalities like the Vice Chancellor T.M.Narayanaswamy Pillai, Subramania Nadar who became High Court Judge, the first Finance Minister of India, R.K.Shanmugam Chettiar and Barrister Rangaramanuja Mudaliar. The zenith of his contribution is his proposal at the Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu, for the proportionate reservation for the non-Brahmins in Government jobs.
Sir Pitty Theagarayar:
Sir Pitty Theagarayar (April 27, 1852 – April 28, 1925) was one of the founders of the South Indian Liberal Federation (SILF) in 1916 along with Dr.C.Natesan and Dr.T.M.Nair. Later, SILF was popularly known as ‘Justice Party’ in the name of the magazine, ‘JUSTICE’ published by it. He is regarded as one of the founders of non-Brahmin movement in Tamil Nadu and the first to lead the movement.
Pitty Theagarayar was an eminent lawyer and industrialist and a prominent political leader in the erstwhile Madras Province. He served as Member of the Corporation of Madras from 1882 to 1922 and also served as its President. He was the first non official President of the Madras Corporation.
During the initial stages, Justice Party concentrated its agenda more on social cause than political. Justice Party argued and fought for separate electorates and reservations in government jobs and civil services for non-Brahmins. When election was held in 1920 in Madras Presidency as per Montagu Chelmsford Reforms, the Justice Party won with comfortable majority. When the Governor of Madras invited Pitty Theagarayar to form the Government, he refused the offer but continued for the cause. In the first non-Brahmin Confederation, Pitty Theagarayar spoke thus:
“Towards the Brahmins, we cherish no feelings of bitterness. If we have to fight, we do so in the interests of truth and justice and we shall be prepared to extend to them the right hand of fellowship, when they shall see the wrongs inflicted upon us and repent. Ours is essentially a movement of love and not of hate – love based upon a sense of which is due tothe various classes which constitutes the population of this vast and ancient land.”
Pitty Theagarayar was popularly knows as ‘Velludai Vendar’ (Royal of White Garments) and his statue at the venue of Chennai Corporation remains as a monument on the cause, for which he lived . The vital locality in Chennai City is being named after him as ‘Theagarayar Nagar.’
Dr. T.M.Nair ( January 15,1868 - July 19,1919). Dr. Taravath Madhavan Nair’s exhortation to the non-Brahmin youth in those days transformed and inspired many educated among them. He called them to “Awake, Arise or Be Forever Fallen!”. This psychological booster was very much cherished by the youth. Dr.Nair a great medical scholar was popularly called ‘Indian MaCaulay’, for his eloquence in English and learning. Sir P.Theagarayar observes, “with remarkable zeal, single mindedness and devotion, he served the community and the country and sacrificed his life, it may be truly said, at the alter of the non-Brahmins cause.” The Dravidian Movement, with his stunning oratorical exuberance, which was a powerful medium to promote non-Brahmin interests in the days when almost the entire print medium was in the hands of the Brahmins. At this juncture, Dr.Nair’s work on “The Elements of Political Reconstruction” urged the supreme importance of communal reservation in any scheme of political reforms for India.
Dr.Nair’s oratorical and writing skill in English language was of primary importance in the days when an authority on international political affairs was a great advantage to the Dravidian Movement, to advocate its causes to the ruling British.
What the Justice Party had not to do, Muthiah Mudaliar, an Independent Nationalist Minister had the unique courage and good sense to introduce in the shape of a communal G.O. in the year 1929. At first applied in the Registration Department under his care, this principle was soon introduced in almost all services in the province. To this bold step of a benevolent nature the Madras Province ( and the whole of Tamil Nadu) is indebted to Muthiah Mudaliar. It was the first of its kind in the whole of India. For these reasons Periyar made a request in a public meeting and said “It is the sacred duty of every non-Brahmin to commemorate the name of this courageous benefactor Mr. Muthiah Mudaliar by christening the children after the latter.” Mr. Muthiah thus, became the idol of the non-Brahmins.
While we celebrate the Birth Centenary of the Dravidian Movement in all jubilation, pride and gratitude, we all proclaim in one voice the promise to act as the faithful enthusiastic torch-bearers of these beacons of social reformation. We solemnly pledge, we shall stride following in their foot steps, instilling in us, their courage, conviction and vision.
On this occasion, there remains for all of us a painful fact. Yes. There is not even a single statue erected in Chennai in memory of Dr.Natesan.
We should put all our efforts and minds to erect one at the earliest.