Justice Party (India)

Justice Party (India)

Justice Party was the political wing of "Then Nala Urimai Sangam" (literal translation: The South Indian Welfare Association). The Justice Party derived its name from an English-language daily of that time, named "Justice". The Justice Party is not to be confused with the Indian Justice Party, which was founded by Dr. Udit Raj.


In 1921, the Justice Party came to power after winning the Assembly elections in Madras Province of colonial India. Among its supporters were rich landowners and aristocracy who favoured the British colonial government. The Justice Party ruled the province for next 15 years, from 1921 to 1937, and brought forth several items of legislation:
* Reservations for government jobs based on social groups and castes (believed to be a first in India)
* Bringing the management of temples under the control of the government

The Congress Party campaigned for freedom and opposed the attitude of the Justice Party. The Congress Party had support from leaders in northern India but only Rajaji from the South. Within the party, Rajaji was close to Gandhi, but not well liked by the rest of the leading party members.

One member of the Congress Party, Periyar, and P.T.Rajan , W.P.A.Soundarapandian Nadar found it difficult to initiate social reforms as he wanted. The social reforms he proposed were drastic, as he aimed to bring equal opportunities for everybody. These types of policies were not acceptable to the party leaders, who wanted to get rid of colonial rule and become self-governed.

As such Periyar , P.T.Rajan , W.P.A Soundrapandian Nadar left the Congress Party and started a social reform program. It was called the Self-Respect Movement. The demands put forward by the Self-respect Movement were accepted by the Justice Party and they implemented equal representation for castes based on the caste ratio. Education and employment in the Province became proportionally represented. In the late 1910s, 1920s and early 1920s the leaders of Nadar Mahajana Sangam pledged support to Social reforms initiated by Justice Party making the community members to be supporters of Justice Party.

The Congress Party did not support these proposals as it was thought they could lead to divisions among the Indian people.

In opposition

Around 1937, Rajaji and the Congress Party defeated the Justice Party and took power in Madras. As part of a national policy, Hindi was introduced as a compulsory subject in schools. Non-Hindi speakers in southern India rebelled. Periyar, and the Self-Respect Movement wanted to put a stop to this turmoil. When the Justice Party was defeated in the 1937 general elections after being in power for a very long spell from 1921, most of its leaders were disheartened and became inactive. It was at this moment of crisis, Periyar accepted the leadership of the party because he always felt the need for the existence of a vigorous political party essentially oriented to work for the upliftment of the socially deprived sections of the people. At this critical movement, two of the old guards staunchly stood by him. They were Sir R.K.Shanmugam and Sir A.T. Panneerselvam. At the time, the former was the Dewan of the Princely State of Kochi (now a part of Kerala) and then became Independent India’s first finance minister in 1947. The latter was a member of the Governor’s council and then a minister in Madras province in 1930s. On 1st March 1940, Sir A.T.Panneerselvam lost his life in a plane crash while flying over Oman Sea on his way to London where he was to assume office as the first ever Indian adviser to the Secretary of State for India in the British Government. Periyar lamented that the sudden and tragic demise of Sir A.T. Panneerselvam was an irreparable loss to the people of Tamil Nadu.


Hindi imposition in Tamil Nadu started in 1937 when the Congress Government of the Madras Presidency under (Rajaji) made Hindi a compulsory subject in schools. Tamils opposed Hindi imposition immediately and the Justice Party under Sir A. T. Panneerselvam and Periyar organized anti-Hindi imposition protests in 1938.More than 1200 people, including women and children, were imprisoned in 1938, of which two, Thalamuthu Nadar belonging to Kumbakonam and Natarasan, lost their lives. In 1939 the Rajaji government quit and it was withdrawn in 1940. Paneerselvam and Periyar started Anti-Hindi agitations and was arrested and jailed by the Rajaji government. When the protests gained momentum Periyar was sentenced to imprisonment for two years, although he was released in six months. While in prison, the Justice Party elected him as its president on 29th December, 1938. [ [http://www.geocities.com/tamiltribune/99/1202.html Hindi Imposition and Independence for Tamil Nadu from India ] ]


Annadurai entered the Justice Party somewhere when all the old leadership was decimated in an election and an aircraft accident removed Paneerselvam. This left a leadership vacuum. Annadurai was what the party really wanted. He was a man whom the others cannot match in education or intelligence. Most of the Congress leaders were illiterate or from humble backgrounds. Annadurai was from a respected family and more acceptable to the populace.

Hereditary Education Policy and the Caste Factor

Rajaji introduced a a new education policy for school children based on their family vocation. As per this policy schools will work in the morning and students had to compulsorily learn the family vocation in the afternoon. A dhobi’s son would learn washing clothes, a priest's son chanting hymns and a barber’s son hair cutting and shaving after school in the afternoon. Periyar felt that it is a step backward into the Middle Ages and saw this as clever ploy against the Dalits,Scheduled Castes and Tribes and Backward Classes as there first generation was getting educated only then. It was called Kula Kalvi Thittam(Hereditary Education Policy). [ [http://sify.com/news/politics/fullstory.php?id=13569138 What if Periyar had not been born? - Sify.com ] ]

Periyar's struggles were well rewarded when Rajaji quit in 1954 and Kamaraj withdraw the Kula Kalvi Thittam after becoming Chief Minister.

The World War II

Periyar was offered the power and the support to rule Madras by Rajaji and the Congress Party as they have to resign from the Government. British government declared war on Germany and the Axis partners and involved India without consulting the Indian government. Some of the Congress leaders like Netaji were indeed in alliance with Germany and Japan and wanted to drive the British out of India with an armed struggle.

Periyar and Justice Party supported the British and opposed the Nazis and the Fascists as they were found to be obnoxious and racist. Furthermore, Periyar wanted the social reform more than the political power and he refused to take over the Madras government even though the Congress Party offered to support him from outside.The plan by Rajaji was later hailed by Acharya J.B.Kripalani and Jayaprakashnarayan when Rajaji passed.What Rajaji wanted was to impart vocational education.But he spoilt that by being adamant and tagged it to hereditary profession.

Change of Name and Transformation

In 1944, Periyar was transforming the Justice Party and he changed the name to Dravidar Kazhagam to represent all of the South Indians and also to focus on his theory of the "Dravidian" race as opposed to the north Indian "Aryan" race, in which he included all Brahmins. These racial theories are now in question, but were accepted and propagated at that time.

Annadurai was dominating the Justice Paty and became the General Secretary and people were attracted to this great learned man who was also a great orator as well.

Karunanidhi was also a rising star and he designed the flag of the new party which was similar to the Japanese national flag; the white colour was replaced by the black colour.

Thus the Justice Party changed its name and became Dravidar Kazhagam. Its objectives were changed to social reform. It left the parliamentary democratic politics forever. In addition to the name change, the tactics and the rhetoric became more violent. The Justice Party was more like a debating club, whereas the Dravidar Kazhagam took the message to the streets in a very explosive manner.

Later members of the Justice Party left Dravidar Kazhagam and started Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and captured power in Tamil Nadu. Annadurai, Karunanidhi and M.G. Ramachandran became chief ministers and ruled Tamil Nadu. The legacy of the Justice Party is still in power in Tamil Nadu.


External links

* [http://www.countercurrents.org/dalit-periyar280603.htm Countercurrents.org - Periyar's movement]

Further reading

*Rajaraman, P.: The Justice Party. A Historical Perspective 1916-37. Poompzhil Publ., Madras 1988.

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