THE special issue of Frontline on Karunanidhi is a fitting tribute to the great leader, with whom I have shared a six-decade-long friendship. I consider the judgment of the Madras High Court ordering the Tamil Nadu government to allot space at the Marina to inter his mortal remains an exercise in democracy. The verdict endorses the illustrious life Karunanidhi lived.
I knew him from 1952. The DMK and the Left had a difference of opinion when the former held on to its “Dravida Nadu” demand. The Left insisted that the concept ran counter to the spirit of national integration and unity. As a result of this the CPI could not come to an electoral understanding with the DMK in the 1957 and 1962 general elections.
Only after the DMK dropped its demand for a separate state following the 1962 elections did the understanding between the two parties begin in right earnest. The CPI(M) had an alliance with the DMK in the 1967 general election. This led to a change in government in Tamil Nadu.
The CPI(M) and the DMK launched many joint struggles demanding more powers for the State and its autonomy. As a result, regional languages gained extensive acceptance and significant importance. In Parliament, too, these languages are used today. This is very important in democracy.
In fact, he prompted me to involve myself in the eradication of untouchability. On my request, he organised a conference on the issue of untouchability in Madurai, in which I detailed the forms of discrimination that were in practice. He listened carefully and responded to me with statistics and what his government had done so far and would do in the future. We organised a similar conference in Neyveli in which he also took part.
Similarly, he invited me to attend the unveiling of the Tiruvalluvar statue at Kanyakumari, to which he had invited leaders from all political parties. It showed his democratic approach. He played a significant role in popularising the Tirukkural. He asked me to write the preface to his Tamil work “Mother” ( Thaai in Tamil), the work of Maxim Gorky, which Idid. It was in verse form. He invited me for its launch.
He was a simple and transparent leader who respected the views of others. He never discouraged alternative views and always sought facts and truths in them. He had a long political life from which the people of Tamil Nadu should learn and go forward. The situation today is such that democratic and secular parties must unite. The voices in the north have become bolder and louder. In such a situation the CPI(M) must continue to keep secular parties in its fold. Our friendship transcended political considerations. An epoch has come to an end.
N. Sankariah is a veteran CPI(M) leader.
As told to Ilangovan Rajasekaran