Patriots > Cultural Inspiration and Nationalism > Annadurai.C.N
Annadurai.C.N (1909-1969)
Conjeevaram Natarajan Annadurai, endearingly called ‘Anna’ (elder brother), was born on 15 September 1909 in a Hindu lower middle class family of the weaver community at Kancheepuram, the famous city of temples near Madras. Her father Natarajan was a handloom weaver. His mother’s name was Bangaru Ammal. Her younger sister Rajamani Ammal was the foster-mother of Annadurai. She brought him up and educated him from the elementary school to the College. In 1930, while still a student, he married Rani who came from a suburb of Madras. The couple had no offspring and Annadurai later adopted the four grandsons of his elder sister.

Annadurai had his early education at the Panchiyappa’s High School at Kancheepuram and completed his School Final in 1929. He had to break his studies for a while on account of financial difficulties and worked as a clerk in the Local Municipal Office. He later joined the Panchaiyappa’s College, Madras, and passed the Intermediate Examination in 1931. Continuing his studies in the same College he obtained his B. A. Honours and then M. A. degree in Econimics and Politics (1934).

After his M. A. he worked as a teacher in a Panchaiyappa School for nearly a year, and then turned to journalism and politics which became his principal field interest in later life.

In his early life he was associated with the South Indian Liberal Federation, the organisation of the non-Brahmins, founded in 1917 by Sir P. Theagaraya and Dr. T. M. Nair. It was popularly known as the Justice Party after the name of the Party’s English daily. Annadurai served as sub-editor of the Justice. As an active member of the Justice Party, he was opposed to the Congress Party. During this period he once contested the election to the Madras City Corporation but lost.

Annadurai was deeply interested in the conditions of the poor and the down-trodden and organised small labour unions. In this field he was greatly influenced by two Communist leaders, M. Singaravelu and C. Basudev. He first met the iconoclast and agitator Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy in 1934 at Tiruppur (Coimbatore District) at a Youth Conference and was immediately attracted to him. Even after the parting of ways starting of the DMK in 1949, Annadurai continued to be magnanimous enough to acknowledge openly that the leader whom he met early in his life was his one and only leader.

As a stormy petrel of the Justice Party, Annadurai was arrested during the first Rajaji Ministry for taking part in the anti-Hindi campaigns. After release he became the editor of the Viduthalai under the aegis of Periyar at Erod. He was also associated with the Tamil weekly Kudi Arusu. In 1942 he started his own weekly, the Daviddnadu, and developed a distinct style of his own. In 1949 he assumed the editorship of a Tamil daily, the Malai Mani, started to propagate the cause of the Dravidian Progressive Federation (DMK).

He also edited till 1967 another Tamil weekly, the Kanchi. Annadurai was a good writer in English as well. In 1957 he started an English weekly, the Homeland, which continued for a few years. In 1966 he founded another English weekly, the Home Rule.

Annadurai had great interest in
literature also, and early made his mark as a playwright and writer of short stories. Social reform and championing the cause of he exploited class were the principal themes of his stories and plays.

By slow degrees and relentless efforts Periyar and Annadurai provided a mass-base for the Justice Party which had been confined to a small class till then. They infused the party with radical ideas. Their efforts were crowned with success at the Confederation of the Party held at Salem in 1944, when the Party was renamed as Dravida Kazhagam (Dravidian Federation). At the same time the party dropped its pro-British attitude. These changes attracted the student community and soon the party came to have a wider following. Particularly among the young.

Though a follower of Periyar, Annadurai did not hesitate to differ with him sharply when the occasion arose. Periyar essentially a separatist, and when independence came, he wanted 15th August to be declared a day of mourning for the Dravidians. Annadurai, on the other hand, was keep on preserving national unity, although fighting for the due rights of the Dravidians within the national political framework. The split came in September 1949 when the majority of the Dravida Kazhagam under Annadurai’s leadership started the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Dravidian Progressive Federation).

The DMK conducted agitational campaigns against the Congress rule in Madras, Hindi domination and spiralling of prices. The party soon became a formidable political force in Madras, and in 1957 secured a sizable number of seats in the Madras Legislative Assembly. In 1962 Annadurai was elected to the Rajya Sabha where he strongly opposed the imposition of Hindi as the sole official language of the Union. In 1965 he led the Anti-Hindi agitation in Madras. In the 1967 General Election the DMK Party obtained an absolute majority in the Madras Legislature and formed the first DMK Government, with Annadurai as the Chief Minister.

As chief Minister for about two years Annadurai showed great statesmanship and did much not only to introduce needed reforms in Madras but also to make the voice of South India heard and appreciated at seat of the Central Power. He was never against the political unity of India but he insisted that the unity would be best preserved by granting the greatest amount of autonomy to the States.

In 1965 and again in 1968 he travelled widely in Asia, Europe and America. In September 1968 he went to America again for medical treatment. He had cancerous growth in the gullet. He underwent two surgical operations in America and India which could not cure him. He breathed his last in the midnight of February 2-3, 1969. The mortal remains were laid to rest under the Marina sands.

Annadurai had his roots deep in the land of his birth and its culture. He was always dressed in simple South Indian style and presented a picture of tenderness. He was austere and quiet, but strong and dynamic when occasion needed. He had contempt for ceremonials and superstitions but was tolerant to other men’s views. A statesman and a scholar, a litterateur and a social reformer, a mass leader and a friend of poor, Anna will be ever remembered specially as the maker of the new Tamilnadu.
Author : M.Karunanidhi