Tribute

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

Print edition : August 31, 2018

Karunanidhi and K. Anbazhagan at the zonal conference of the party on May 28, 2005. Photo: K. Ananthan

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).

As told to A.S. Panneerselvan

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