Veteran communist leader D. Pandian passes away after a prolonged illness

Published : February 26, 2021 14:37 IST

D. Pandian, leader of the Communist Party of India. A file picture. Photo: M. Srinath

Veteran communist leader and former Member of Parliament Tha Pandian alias David Pandian passed away at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in Chennai on February 26 after a prolonged illness. He was 89.

Pandian had been suffering from chronic kidney and lung infections and was on regular haemodialysis. Doctors said that he was admitted to the hospital on February 24 in an unconscious state with “sepsis and hypoglycemia.” He was on ventilator support but failed to respond to treatment. He died on February 26 morning. He is survived by his son David Jawahar, former Registrar of University of Madras, and two daughters. His wife Joyce Pandian passed away in 2010.

A stormy petrel of the Left movement in Tamil Nadu, the veteran leader had a long innings in politics and its affiliated social services. Born in a village in Usilampatti taluk in Madurai district in 1932, Pandian finished his schooling in Usilampatti and completed his postgraduation in English from Alagappa College in Karaikkudi. He served as a lecturer there for a while.

Pandian joined the Communist Party of India (CPI) in 1950s and was involved in active field work that saw him becoming the first general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Kalai Ilakkiya Perumandram (Tamil Nadu Art and Literary Federation). The late communist leader P. Jeevanandam alias Jeeva was the brain behind the forum. In fact, it was Jeeva who moulded Pandian in the movement, when he was a college student.

His scorching speeches made him a sought-after politician. His disenchantment with some senior functionaries had made him quit the party and join Mohit Sen’s United Communist Party of India (UCPI). He won the Lok Sabha election from North Chennai in 1989 and returned to the Lok Sabha in the 1991 election too.

In 2000, he rejoined the CPI and became its State secretary, a post he held until 2015. He was the party’s National Council member until his death. He held the post of president of the Indian Railway Labour Union and was the editor of Jana Sakthi, the CPI’s Tamil daily. On May 21, 1991, he was one of those seriously injured in the LTTE suicide bomb attack that killed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Sriperumbudur. He was there to translate Rajiv’s speech in Tamil. A staunch critic of the LTTE, he was equally critical of the Sri Lankan government for its rights violations.

An erudite scholar and a staunch Marxian, Pandian, a close friend of many progressive writers like Jayakanthan, was a multi-faceted personality. He was a journalist, prolific speaker and an activist. He published eight books on various subjects and six translated works, besides 13 small works. He was a recipient of the Soviet Land Nehru Award. “Marx lived his whole life as a political refugee, but he matters to rulers, scientists and all of humanity. He has given a call — if you want to save this world and humanity, remove capitalism and establish socialism,” he once said at a book launch function in Chennai.

Just before getting admitted to hospital he took part in a CPI conference in Madurai. Seated in a wheel chair, Pandian said that “though his body was refusing to oblige him, his brain remained very strong and active”.

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