Annadurai, the Champion of the Eelam Tamil Liberation

Image result for Annaduraiby  M.K. Eelaventhan, February 3, 2018

Critical estimate of Anna’s contribution to Tamil and the Tamils.

Annadurai’s 50th Death Anniversary fell on February 3, 2018                      

Mr. C.N. Annadurai, the beloved disciple of Periyar, owes a lot to Periyar who shaped his multifarious career.  If is not for Periyar, Annadurai may not have attained this unique position. Periyar’s language was blunt and down to earth. The illiterate masses believed in meaningless superstitions and succumbed to Bramanical domination. To quote, Swami Vivekananda, “superstition is bad but bigotry is worse”. Tamils as a whole in a blindfolded manner fell prey to superstition, bigotry, and indulged in meaningless and metaphysical arguments on ceremonies. The word ‘Sathi’ (caste) is an alien Sanskrit term, but the Tamils consciously and unconsciously believe in a caste system that brought their own ruination. Periyar did not have a formal education but possessed immense common sense. He rightly thought that unless he was forthright in his approach, he cannot bring in the desired revolutionary changes in the people’s mind. The revolution Periyar carried out was not a bloody revolution but a bloodless revolution. His struggle lasted nearly sixty years. Whether he achieved his desired goal may be debatable, but a visible change in the people’s thinking cannot be denied.


Annadurai with his academic background did approve the approach of Periyar to revolutionize people’s thinking. The people were behaving like dumb driven cattle. But while appreciating Periyar’s approach in the social, Political and economic fields, Annadurai felt there was a need to use the mellowed language to win over the people. He felt that his bloodless revolution should be brought through Tamil Youths and students of Colleges and Universities. He sowed the seed of revolution by attracting the youth’s mind and heart by using alliteration, similies, and metaphor in his speeches and writings. He addressed series of meeting at Pachaiyappan College, Presidency College and other Universities especially at the Annamalai University and the impact was permanent. His lively debates with Tamils scholars raised the debating standard and literally criticism entered a new phase. His criticism of Kammban’s Ramayanam and other religious works was an eye opener to the Tamils. He was not denying the literaly acumen of the great poet Kamban. But the contents of Kamban’s work consciously or unconsciously paved the path to worship Rama and Seetha as divine beings which in turned led to Aryan domination. Following these debates the literary scene in Tamil Nadu underwent a sea change. Anna was a master of the English language, too. The literary criticisms that he studied in the English literature helped him to view things in a dispassionate manner. Though he honoured great poets, did not want to encourage personality cults.


Canchipuram Natarajan Annadurai was born into a humble family in Canchipuram, Tamil Nadu on the 15th of September 1909. His father was Nadarajan Mudaliar and his mother was Pangaruamma. Though his mother was living, his younger days were shaped by his mother’s younger sister. In Tamil mother’s younger sister is addressed as Chinnamma. He was deeply attached to her. He completed his master’s degree at Pachaiyappan College offering economics as his major. In his young days, he was very unassuming but developed strong friendship with his colleagues. Even during his school and college days, his debating talent and oratorical skills were well noticeable.

Though he was brought up and nutured by Periyar, he was originally in the Justice Party and later joined with the Thiravidar kalagam (Dravidian party) led by Periyar. He parted company in 1949 with Periyar and later formed the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kallagam) on September 17, 1949. Though he parted company with Periyar, his love, respect and attachment to him remained undiminished. As a respect for his guru, though the DMK was formed, the post of the Presidency was kept vacant and Anna functioned only as the general secretary of the movement. When the DMK came to power in 1967, the first thing he did was to go to Periayar and sought his blessings. That speaks volume of his gratitude to Periyar. He made an open declaration that all the social reforms that Periyar envisaged will be implemented. As promised, the DMK implemented the policies and programs of Periyar.


Annadurai love for his language and the desire to give it’s rightful place was openly pronounced by him at the Rajasaba sessions on May 5, 1963. This is what he said,

“I will say that of all the languages, barring Sanskrita which has come a dead language, Tamil has a literary tradition that goes back to five thousand years, I may tell, Madam deputy chairman, for the information of the House that the President is going over to our part of the country to release the English edition of the ancient Tamil work Tholkappiam. Tholkappiam is a grammatical work written more than three thousand years ago. We possess such an inheritance.  We are a very proud people as far as language is concerned. We think that no language can stand comparison of Tamil.”

Anna: Along with Bengali…I can never forget that I have got a hoary language in which my forefathers spoke, in which my poets have given sermons and scriptures, in which we have got classics and literature of inexhaustible knowledge, I will never be content till that day when Tamil takes its due place as on of the official languages in the Union (March 4, 1965).

It is unfortunate though years are rolled down his dream and demand remains unfulfilled. I sincerely believe that in the very near future Tamil will be declared an official language of Union of India. Let us remember “that the eternal Vigilance is a price we pay for liberty.” The above excerpts are from the Raja Sabha speeches of Anna. They clearly point out two distinct features: the richness and the Hoary past of Tamil have been clearly explained and therefore it was a solid foundation laid by him toward declaring Tamil as a classical language. Of course, let us remember that Parithimal Kalaignar for the first person to pronounce the Tamil is a classical language. The contribution by Maraimalai Adigal, Thiru Ve.Ka, Devenaye Pavanar and Mu.Va also paved the path for the Tamils to be conscious of their richness of their language. Their researches were also added factor to make Tamil as a classical language. But, to the eternal credit of Anna it was he that declared Tamil as a classical language in the highest legislature’s forum of India.


I was privileged to attend the second International Tamil Conference of Tamil Nadu at Chennai in the year 1968. Annadurai in his extempore speech which he addressed to the Tamils and the foreign audience in English said about the attachments of the Tamils to the Tamil language in moving words. In his speech he spoke of the ancient heritage of the Tamil language, its richness, flexibility, adaptability, amenability and that’s why the Tamil language was able to survive down the ages, in spite of repeated onslaughts by different notations. “Tamils by nature are lethargic and indifferent on all issues, but when they know that there is a danger to the Tamil language, God forbid at to what they would do.” His statement is pregnant in its meaning.


Anna started his career as a journalist in the year 1934.  His writing covered on politics, short stories, fictions, drama’s one act place and parodies. Within the short period of 34 years the volume of works written by him is amazing. Words fail to describe his multifarious talents. Epistles to his Thambi (Brother) are more than 290 and these letters covers more than 3000 pages when printed. His writings excel in quality and quantity. He proved that pen is mightier than the sword. Even his political opponents like Kalki could not resist to pay a tribute to Anna’s dramatical talent. His one night drama “Or Iravu” was compared to Bernard Shaw’s artistic outburst.


Emimant scholars Marai malai adikal thiru Ve. Ka, R.P Sethupillai, Pavanur, and Bharathi’ dasan’s poetry paved the path for the pure Tamil movement in Tamil Nadu. Annadurai, though conscious of the pure Tamil movement and its impact in the society, could not adapt the same pure Tamil style because he was dealing with the masses. But his tributes to Maraimali adikal, and Thiru Ve.Ka it is a clear indication of his love to preserve the purity of the Tamil language. His alliterations, allusions, subtle satires, pungent and criticisms was a treat to the literates and to the illiterates.

During his period Sanskrit dominated in the field of education, religion, politics and social spears. With determined, calculated move he dethroned Sanskrit. He passed legislation to conduct self respect marriage and saw that marriages were conducted in Tamil to uplift the Tamil masses and make them feel proud of their language.


He pleaded in Tamil Nadu and also in Raja Sabha that Madras state be renamed as Tamil Nadu. To start he faced opposition but he won over the opposition. When one member asked him to what satisfaction he has by renaming Madras state to Tamil Nadu? Typical of Anna he retorted in this manner “What we gain, is, we gain sentimental satisfaction and status for our ancient Tamil Nadu. If in Madras we change the name of China bazaar to Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Road, nothing is changed in the street, but something is changed in our thinking, in our soul and in our fibre.”

With this same enthusiasm and Vigour Anna introduced the Bill for renaming in the Madras Legislative Assembly and it was passed with a thundering applause.  Then he echoed “ Tamil Nadu” and the members responded “Vazhga!” This emotional outburst was a unique scene in the entire history of our Tamil Nadu.

Really this was a historical event and the entire Tamil Nadu is proud of it even now and it will be so for centuries together. This was the climax of his career. But, unfortunately for him and for us he couldn’t live long to enjoy the fruit of his labour.


The depth of his knowledge ranging on all subjects and his vision of the future was something special of him. His command over the Tamil language, and equally so in English, he stands in comparable on a pedestal of his own creation. A classic example of his command of the English language and his concept of what a university should be, could be seen in the following lines: “ The role of the University today is not cloistered and confined as in the past. Its function has been enlarged not in the fundament outlook in its domain. It has to take into account the common man-not to perpetuate his commonness, but to trim and train, guide and lead him, for he is called upon today to perform uncommon tasks. He is asked to do his duty as the citizen of a democracy  – a task which kindles sweet hopes but which demands patience and perservence, faith and confidence, faith in himself and in others and confidence in his inherent ability to shoulder the responsibilities. The common man has become the ruler of the land. He hold his destiny in his own hand. Unlike in a bygone age, when rulers were born either in palaces or in mansions, today every hamlet and every hut has become the birth place for a potential ruler and the duty today – the responsibility today, of the Universities is to fashion out of him an individual fitted and equipped for the task of making democracy fruitful and effective.”


Though Tamil was the made language of curriculum, Sanskrit continued to occupy a key place by the Pro Sanskrit lobby. Added to this factor, Hindi imposition was gained foot hold from 1938.

The Indian Constitution came in to vogue in 1950 in according to its bill, after the lapse of fifteen years Hindi was to replace English in the administrative field. This left to the anti Hindi agitation by Anna during 1964. Chief Minister Bakthavathsalam stood like a rock and dealt with situation with iron hands and took away numerous precious lives. This was a turning point in the political scenario of Tamil Nadu. The people of Tamil Nadu felt the danger they were facing due to Hindi domination and decided to hand over power to the DMK headed by Anna. Some section express fear that the Central Government might bring down the Tamil Nadu Government but Annadurai in a fearless manner pronounced I have done “what I Can! Let Delhi do what it wants!” This fearless clear cut pronouncement was a challenge to Delhi. At this convocation address delivered at Annamalai University, he satirically remarked.

The Government of Tamil Nadu, as stated in unmistakable tener that Tamil and English can server all our purposes, the former the official languages of state and the latter as the link language. What serves us to link with the outside world is certainly capable of rendering the same service inside India as well. “To plead for two link languages is like boring a smaller hole for kitten while there is a bigger one for the cat.”


The International forum of Tamil studies conducted in Madras in 1968 focussed world attention on the antiquity and greatness of the Tamil language. He was also conscious of the greatness of the unique personality of the saint, sage philosopher – Valluvar. Valluvar is considered as a bard of the universal man and hence he created a chair of Thirukural for Valluvar in the Madras University, Annamalai University and Madurai University.


In 1958, Anna focused the Eelam Tamil problems in two fronts. First, he did his best to draw the attention of the Delhi government. At the time, Nehru was a Prime Minister and Kamaraj was Chief minister. Both turned deaf ear and blind eye to the Eelam Tamil problem. He got a cartoon drawn in the Homeland paper to show the indifference of these two personalities. In 1958 June 22nd he declared Ceylon Tamils freedom day and conducted demonstrations and mass meetings. At the meeting he conducted in the Nepier Park, thousands assembled and the resolution passed focused on our problem and its considered as a historic event in the Annals of Tamil freedom.


In 1961 when Tamils demonstrated against Singala implementation in the northern and the eastern provinces in Sri Lanka opposite the “Kachcheris (Secretariats), in a open expression of sympathy for Eelam Tamils there was a mass meeting on the 13th of March 1961 at Marina Beach. The gathering of the masses and the resolution passed was a turning point in our freedom struggle. His articles in Tharavidar Nadu in Tamil and Homeland in English focused world attention.

In 1958, in his Homeland dated June 15th he described the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces to Eelam Tamils. Again on July 22nd 1958 the Homeland issue covered his letters addressed to the world forum appealing to their attention.

In 1958 on August 10th he appealed to the Tamils to rally round to make Bandaranayaka feel guilty of his conduct. In his Homeland, in thick letters he wrote the following paragraph:

“That does not necessarily mean, demanding a Tamil Raj comprising Tamil Nadu and that portion of Ceylon wherein Tamilans are in a majority. The task immediately ahead is to focus public attention on the problem. World opinion should be harnessed to the cause for justice and fair play. The plight of the Tamilains in Ceylon should be placed before the discerning public all over the world.”

What he said in 1958 is echoed and re-echoed by the Tamils in the present period and the world is giving a hearing to our appeal.


In conclusion, let me state as to what Anna said to V.K.Krishna Menon then defence minister. Krishna Menon in keeping with his position said of Anna, “His interference in the internal affairs in Sri Lanka is an embarrassment to India.” He said “Sri Lanka is a loving close neighbour, we cannot afford to offend its feelings.” Typical of Anna, Anna retorted by saying the Krishna Menon is a political giant, with rich experience in politics and that he is not a match to him; but he asked the question “if I see my neighbour hugging and kissing his wife I shall not look on but out of shyness I will look the other side but if my neighbour under the pretext that he is the husband and trying to knife her to death and she cries in agony am I to watch on? No, I have to go to her rescue. The Plight of the Eelam Tamils is the same. I cannot watch on when they are dying; I have to go to their rescue.” This statement of his silenced Krishna Menon and he didn’t say anything after that. This is where Anna excels in the beautiful art of diplomacy. What his diplomacy is to say the worst things in the best form.


*On a personal note the writer of this article was privelaged to meet Anna during the International Tamil conference held at Tamil Nadu in 1968 and briefed him on our Tamil problem. He received me with an unforgettable smile and I presented him with my small booklet on “Maraimalai Adigal – father of Tamil Renassiance”. Fifty years have rolled down but the sweet memories are enshrined in my heart.

(M.K. Eelaventhan is a Former Member of Parliament – Sri Lanka and Member of Trans National Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), Representing Canada)

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