Chennai: Murasoli, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) mouthpiece which celebrated its platinum jubilee on Thursday, started off as a pamphlet 75 years ago and is a daily newspaper today.

As an 18-year-old, DMK president M. Karunanidhi started publishing handwritten notices named Murasoli, under the pen name Cheran in 1942, while the Second World War was underway. Since then, Murasoli has played a significant role in advancing causes championed by Periyar E.V. Ramasamy’s Dravidian movement and later in nurturing DMK as a political party through the writings of C.N. Annadurai and Kalaignar Karunanidhi.

“Murasoli is intertwined in an uninterrupted manner, with six decades of the rise of the Dravidian movement and consequent political and social change; prior to that for 15 years it advocated the precepts of the movement in an on and off manner," said writer-biographer R. Kannan.

The party’s mouthpiece, which claims to have a circulation of over 60,000 today, has adapted to changing times. The e-paper version now reaches out to a wider audience.

Murasoli, which was published from Tiruvarur, Karunanidhi’s hometown and later from Thanjavur moved to Chennai in 1954, became a weekly in 1948. and a daily on September 17, 1960— Periyar’s birthday. Karunandhi had briefly suspended its publication when he was actively involved in theatre.

Until recently, the newspaper was the medium through which Karunanidhi reached out to his cadre. Addressing them as udanpirappe (brethren), his article in a letter format talked about key political issues. The veteran politician has often described Murasoli as his first child.

Observers say Karunanidhi’s articles played a special role in taking forward the ideals of the Dravidian movement.

As the 93-year-old Karunanidhi has been ill and out of action over the last few months, his son and the party’s working president M.K. Stalin has taken over the job of writing letters from January this year. “Stalin has begun to emulate his father and the DMK president’s letters to the cadres addressing himself as ungalil oruvan (one amongst you)," said Kannan.

Murasoli’s high point was its fierce and principled opposition to the Emergency when it carried a cartoon that depicted Indira Gandhi as Adolf Hitler. “It was later picked up and published by Newsweek," said Kannan.

In order to avoid censorship during the Emergency, the paper conveyed the names of arrested cadres using codes.

According to historians and observers, Karunanidhi as the editor of the paper assured that it stood by the principles of the Dravidian movement and supported inter-caste marriage, social justice, women’s empowerment and Tamil cultural nationalism. With a dose of Karunanidhi’s satire, the daily which professed Periyar’s anti-Brahminical thoughts became a critic of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam after the party split from the DMK in 1972.

“Murasoli is transforming with the times and will remain a key tool in bringing out needed social reforms," said Kannan.

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