August 08, 2021

TN: Comrade N Sankaraiah, now the Emeritus Tamilian

V B Ganesan

THE birth centenary of Comrade N Sankaraiah, one of the doyens of the communist movement in Tamil Nadu began with a fantastic start on July 15, 2021, as the district committees across the state came forward to celebrate the occasion with hoisting red flags in their neighbourhoods. The party daily Theekkathir brought out a special supplement from July 14- 18, with a series of articles written by all the political leaders, social activists of Tamil Nadu about the myriad activities of Comrade Sankaraiah during his more than 80 years of public life.

On July 15th, the celebrations began in the morning with a flag hoisting and opening of a plaque by  Sitaram Yechury near the residence of Comrade Sankaraiah. Polit Bureau Member, G Ramakrishnan hoisted the Party flag at the state committee office. Starting from Yechury, chief minister of Tamil Nadu and president of DMK, M K Stalin, CPI leaders-D Raja, R Nallakkannu, R Mutharasan,  MDMK leader Vaiko and a host of other leaders of various political parties felicitated him personally on his birthday. G Ramakrishnan, Polit Bureau Member and state secretary, K Balakrishnan, CCMs T K Rangarajan, A Soundararajan, P Sampath, U Vasuki and other state secretariat members gave him a memento on behalf of the Party.

CITU president Hemalatha, AIKS leader Vijoo Krishnan also visited Chennai and felicitated Comrade Sankaraiah at his residence. VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan also met Comrade NS and felicitated him. Prakash Karat and Brinda Karat sent a greeting to Comrade NS on the occasion of entering his centenary year and recalled his contributions to the growth of the party in Tamil Nadu.

In all the district headquarters and major towns of the state, the party committees hoisted Party flags at the offices and put up banners highlighting the contributions of Comrade Sankaraiah in the public life of Tamil Nadu.

P Shanmugam, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Kisan Sabha pointed out that it was  NS who as a legislator put pressure on the then chief minister M G Ramachandran to open ration shops in all the villages who had agreed, ignoring the plea of the then finance minister that the budget papers are ready for circulation among the legislators.  Comrade NS insisted that a slip may be pasted at the relevant page in the budget speech to ensure that the decision of the government is implemented. Before that the villagers had to travel a long distance to nearby towns to get their rations.

Similarly in an article written recently in a web portal, G Ramakrishnan commented that in the late 1980s though the then CM, M Karunanidhi of DMK introduced a housing scheme in memory of Periyar called ‘Samathuvapuram’  to provide houses to all the communities within a single complex to eradicate caste division and to promote equity among the people of Tamil Nadu, in its actual sense it was Comrade Sankaraiah to broke the barricade of religion, caste etc., within his family through marriage and showed the path to the next generation of leaders. Incidentally, in every speech he delivered to the students and youth in the state, he will end them with a clarion call to promote love marriages in order to destroy the caste divisions prevailing in the society.

It is to be heartening to note that two leading dailies of Tamil Nadu, Daily Thanthi and Dinamani wrote a long editorial recollecting the contributions of Comrade NS to the politics of Tamil Nadu in a befitting manner which took the message of his work to a much wider audience.

Meanwhile, the DMK-led Tamil Nadu state government has announced about the institution of an award called Thagaisaal Thamizhar ( Emeritus Tamilian)  which will be awarded to a person who has  immensely contributed to the development of Tamil Nadu, Tamil Language and its culture. It has been announced that this award will carry a purse of Rs 10 lakhs and a citation and it will be presented every year on August 15, by the chief minister during the Independence Day celebrations. For this purpose, it has formed a team led by the chief minister M K Stalin, minister for Industries, Thangam Thennarasu and chief secretary, Irai Anbu to select a suitable person for the award.

Accordingly, the award selection team met on July 27 and decided that Comrade N Sankaraiah will be the first person to receive the Thagaisaal Thamizhar award for this year. Upon such an announcement, Comrade Sankaraiah thanked the state government for selecting him as the first recipient of this award and felt honoured by such gesture. He also announced with much happiness that he will donate the purse of Rs 10 lakhs attached to this award to the chief minister’s special relief fund for Covid-19 relief. CPI(M) Tamil Nadu state committee also thanked the chief minister for selecting Comrade Sankaraiah for this award. It is to be noted that though Comrade Sankaraiah as a freedom fighter was jailed for more than four years by the British rulers and eligible to receive freedom fighters pension, he has not accepted the state or central government pension for the freedom fighters as per the decision of the Party.

In 1967 when the newly elected DMK government led by Annadurai decided to pass a resolution in the state assembly to make Tamil language the official language of the state, Comrade Sankaraiah as a legislator of CPI(M) intervened and suggested to the chief minister that besides making Tamil as an official language, it should be made as a  medium of instruction (education), governance and jurisprudence. Accepting this suggestion, the chief minister revised the government’s resolution accordingly and only such a modified the resolution was passed in the assembly reiterating the importance of Tamil language in the lives of the people.  

Now, the chief minister M K Stalin has announced that considering the age of Comrade Sankaraiah, he need not travel to attend the Independence Day celebrations to receive the award and that the CM himself will visit the residence of Comrade Sankaraiah and present the award.