After its tableau for the upcoming Republic Day parade was rejected, Tamil Nadu has decided to take it across the state on the same day. Apart from Velu Nachiyar, Maruthu Pandiyar brothers, Subramaniya Bharathiyar and V.O. Chidambaram – the designs that were rejected by the expert committee in Delhi – floats talking about social justice and E.V.R. Periyar, too, will take part in the Republic Day parade on January 26 on Marina beach in Chennai.
On Tuesday, the artisans were seen giving final touches to the floats, at the Lady Willingdon college premises near Marina beach. While the Republic Day parade is not open for public viewing due to Covid restrictions, the focus this year will be on the several floats displayed during the event. One of the floats will have Velu Nachiyar riding a horse with a sword and women soldiers standing beside her with spears in their hand.
Delhi’s loss, Tamil Nadu’s gain
The Tamil Nadu tableau under the theme “Tamil Nadu in the freedom struggle” apparently failed to impress the expert committee in Delhi. Having participated in the Republic Day parade for the past three years, Tamil Nadu was gearing up with around seven sketches to display the state’s culture, valour and the contribution by freedom fighters. Apparently, the expert committee was not satisfied with the designs. In fact, sources in the state secretariat said that one of the members in the expert committee asked, “Who is V.O. Chidambaram? Is he a businessman?” The tableau was rejected saying it was a “harsh portrayal”, said sources in the Tamil Nadu Information Department.
Why TN celebrates Velu Nachiyar and Chidambaram?
Two days after the expert committee rejected the floats, DMK MP and women’s wing leader Kanimozhi Karunanidhi shared two videos on Chidambaram and Velu Nachiyar, on her Twitter page. The videos spoke of their contributions to India’s freedom struggle. The video was in Tamil, with English and Hindi subtitles with a punchline at the end, saying, “samjhe. Samajliye?”, with an intention to inform those in power in Delhi on the contributions of the duo.
Tamil Nadu has always celebrated these freedom fighters and looks up to them as pioneers in the freedom struggle even before the era of Jhansi Rani Laxmibai and even Mahatma Gandhi. When it comes to Velu Nachiyar, her valour and her relentless fight against the British has always been celebrated. In fact, she and the Maruthu brothers – the two kings who vehemently opposed the British from the same Sivaganga region – have always been celebrated in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. On one side, while Bharathiyar opposed the British through his revolutionary poems against caste and communal hatred, Chidambaram’s determination to take on the British through his indigenous shipping company, irked them. 2022 is the latter’s 150th birth anniversary. In fact, on January 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet recalled the valour of Velu Nachiyar on her birthday. Modi’s tweet came at a time, when the Tamil Nadu BJP is trying hard to project itself as the saviour of Tamil culture and freedom fighters from the state.
Politics around the float
In his statement Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said that Tamil Nadu has contributed to the freedom struggle no less than any other state, for over 250 years. “The Vellore mutiny, or Vellore Revolution, occurred on 10 July 1806 and was the first instance of a large-scale and violent mutiny by Indian sepoys against the East India Company, predating the Indian Rebellion of 1857 by half a century. Similarly, 75 years ahead of Jhansi Rani entered the freedom struggle, Velu Nachiyar of Tamil Nadu opposed Britishers vehemently and lost her country,” he said in his statement.
Sources in the state secretariat say that the role of Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali in Karnataka come up if Velu Nachiyar’s fight against the British is talked about. Apparently Velu Nachiyar got the support of Hyder Ali when she was in exile to fight the British. “With Karnataka elections and Tipu Sultan being an issue there, any talk on Velu Nachiyar in south India might prove disastrous for the BJP. This could be one of the political reasons for the rejection,” says a senior officer at the secretariat on conditions of anonymity.
However, the questions raised by the committee and the rejection have not only angered the political class in Tamil Nadu but has also led to widespread dissatisfaction among the general public. And Tamil Nadu BJP’s clarification to salvage the situation did not cut ice with the general public.