‘A sym­bol of courage and hope’: K. An­bazha­gan

FrontLine - - EDITOR’S NOTE -

I HAVE the priv­i­lege of pre­sid­ing over the largest num­ber of pub­lic meet­ings to cel­e­brate the con­tri­bu­tions of my friend and leader, Kalaig­nar. I de­liv­ered the in­au­gu­ral ad­dress for the Dravida move­ment at An­na­malai Univer­sity. I have been a wit­ness, par­tic­i­pant and fel­low trav­eller in this long jour­ney, which sought to es­tab­lish a place of pride for the Tamil lan­guage, to re­move in­equal­ity and to place so­cial jus­tice on a firm pedestal, and to make the In­dian polity a truly fed­eral one, where a State has an in­alien­able right to de­ter­mine its own af­fairs.

Why do we cel­e­brate Kalaig­nar? Is it be­cause he was our party pres­i­dent? Is it be­cause he was a Chief Min­is­ter for five times? Is it be­cause of his in­flu­en­tial role in se­lect­ing many of our Prime Min­is­ters? I would like to draw the at­ten­tion of young read­ers to one cru­cial el­e­ment. These pres­i­den­tial ad­dresses were not cer­e­mo­nial ones. They were the gate­way to ex­press our lofty ideals and our prin­ci­pled ide­ol­ogy. Any cel­e­bra­tion for Kalaig­nar is never about him alone. It is not re­duced to re­mem­ber­ing Peri­yar or Anna. It has to be about us. It is about the en­tire Tamil so­ci­ety. It is about the Dravida race.

The best way to cel­e­brate Kalaig­nar is to im­bibe the prin­ci­ples taught to us by Peri­yar and Anna, and if we fail in this fun­da­men­tal premise, there is no point in prais­ing Kalaig­nar. Kalaig­nar was a tall leader. Kalaig­nar was a gifted writer, an out­stand­ing or­a­tor, a talented ad­min­is­tra­tor and a per­son who was pre­pared for any sac­ri­fice for his ide­ol­ogy. His com­mit­ment to de­fend­ing our dig­nity and self-re­spect was un­wa­ver­ing. To re­mem­ber and cel­e­brate such a per­son, we need to in­cul­cate the val­ues he rep­re­sented and worked for tire­lessly.

Seven decades ago, the youths were di­vided on the ba­sis of high prin­ci­ples and ide­olo­gies. Some em­braced the Congress, some the Com­mu­nist party, some opted for the so­cial­ist move­ment, some de­cided to work for the rights of Tamil and self-re­spect. The de­bates were based on these prin­ci­ples. It was Anna’s sphere of in­flu­ence that brought in more youths to­wards this move­ment. His pro­gres­sive ideas in­cluded: lin­guis­tic rights; State rights; no one is lower to another hu­man be­ing based on birth; the need for an in­clu­sive so­ci­ety. To­day, there may be many par­ties bear­ing the suf­fix “Dravida”, but they do not be­come a Dravida party. If we dis­pas­sion­ately an­a­lyse their poli­cies and prac­tices, we will be ter­ri­bly dis­ap­pointed with them. On the other hand, it is very ev­i­dent that it is the DMK that has truly inherited the spirit of Peri­yar and Anna, and it was the able lead­er­ship of Kalaig­nar that kept the move­ment on track.

The lead­er­ship po­si­tion came to Kalaig­nar be­cause of his sharp in­tel­lect, tire­less or­gan­i­sa­tional


work and out­stand­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive skills, and it was not an in­her­i­tance from rich and in­flu­en­tial an­ces­tors. His rise was not be­cause of his un­par­al­leled achieve­ments in the world of art and lit­er­a­ture. He ex­hib­ited lead­er­ship qual­i­ties in ev­ery sphere in which he worked. The un­der­cur­rent that tied his mul­ti­far­i­ous en­gage­ments was the po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy of self-re­spect, and that is the rea­son he was our leader.

I can list any num­ber of his achieve­ments as a Chief Min­is­ter, as the party pres­i­dent, as a leg­is­la­tor, as a writer and as a pub­lic speaker. What links all these ac­tiv­i­ties was his over­whelm­ing de­sire to spread and strengthen the ide­ol­ogy of self-re­spect. Peo­ple look up to the DMK and Kalaig­nar’s lead­er­ship be­cause of this. He was much taller than oth­ers in our body polity for the same rea­son. When you have a po­lit­i­cal prin­ci­ple, a clear ide­ol­ogy, it gives you courage to face vic­tory and de­feat with equa­nim­ity. My re­la­tion­ship with Kalaig­nar flows from my com­mit­ment to the ide­ol­ogy. It is this com­mit­ment that strength­ened our friend­ship, which gave me the right to be in­quis­i­tive and in­ter­rog­a­tive, and in re­turn se­cured the faith of the cadres and the party. It is the ide­ol­ogy that gives me the plea­sure and pride of be­ing with Kalaig­nar, who was the best de­fender of my ide­ol­ogy.

When­ever I saw Kalaig­nar, I saw a pros­per­ous and thriv­ing Tamil Nadu. I didn’t see his age. I didn’t see his writ­ings alone. I never looked up to his hon­our of be­ing the Chief Min­is­ter. I saw my vi­brant ide­ol­ogy. I saw the fu­ture of Tamil Nadu. For the col­lec­tive wel­fare, I had re­solved decades ago to stand with Kalaig­nar and work with him. I don’t see any other leader sur­pass­ing him in lead­er­ship qual­i­ties. He was a sym­bol of courage and hope. Our homage to him is to en­sure that no harm comes to his un­wa­ver­ing ide­ol­ogy and com­mit­ment for an egal­i­tar­ian Tamil so­ci­ety.

K. An­bazha­gan is gen­eral sec­re­tary, Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam (DMK).

and K. An­bazha­gan at the zonal con­fer­ence of the party on May 28, 2005.

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