Perarignar Anna was one of the greatest public intellectuals, Tamil society has ever seen. He was a litterateur par excellence, perhaps unmatched, in contemporary Tamilnadu. He was a prolific writer and speaker who touched upon an eclectic range of topics from classical Tamil literature to International polity. It is astonishing to understand how he was able to write, more than hundred thousand pages as a fulltime politician while attending meetings, public gathering, political events, and protests day in and day out.
He has run his political party as a movement of learning and enlightenment, with affinity towards science and social inclusiveness. He has tirelessly written about everything he has read and learnt from geopolitics to history, amidst his hectic political activities.
He has been working continuously in public space for social advancement ever since he met Periyar in 1934 until his untimely demise in 1969. There are many great visionaries and leaders around the world who fought for power, rights and upliftment of their people. Anna is a political leader who deserves to celebrate as one of the greatest among them. He chose the path of non-violence, of political self-determination, to achieve his ideals and he was successful.
After the 1929 Chengalpattu Conference, Periyar resolved to remove the caste names and avoided using it anywhere. Though Anna has passed the resolution on abolition of caste suffix only at 1944 Dravidar Kazhagam Conference, he did not practice using caste name even during the period 1930–1944. In 1944 Annadurai’s resolution made the practice of avoiding caste names a widespread practice across Tamil Nadu.
In addition, the Salem conference of the Justice Party held in 1944 had settled two necessities of the time. The Justice party brought under the control of Thanthai Periyar, who proclaimed emancipation of Tamils. Secondly, the Justice party was renamed and became ‘Dravidar Kazhagam’. At the same Salem conference, Landlords, and Sires and rich elites who were trying to reject Periyar’s leadership were sidelined. Through ‘Annadurai Resolutions’, Anna cleansed the Justice Party and handed it over to Periyar to lead us forward.
He renounced caste and called for the unity of Tamils under the identity of Tamil language, to pursue Tamil nationalist politics of ethnic liberation and self-determination.
Anna has insisted and advised Tamils to protect few important things, irrespective of what happens and who is in power, first and foremost, the Tamil language, second reservation — communal representation, third The Hindu Religious Endowment act and finally the Tamilnadu Inam Act. He advises Tamils, of all political persuasions, to safeguard these important things from any potential threats that might come.
His life occupied by almost all the Tamil language protests, in different times over 4 decades (1938, 1948 and 1965), protests against removal of reservation provisioned by the Communal G.O., bringing the idea of Dravida Nadu Federation and the Tamil centered Tamil nationalist politics mainstream. Anna’s persistence is astonishing, implementation of two-language policy after 3 decades of protests and participation is one such evidence to his persistence. Anna’s self-determination, Nation state, Autonomy, his idea of Dravida Nadu as Federation of Socialist Dravidian Republics resembling the present European Union signifies the wide range of political knowledge and vision he had transcending time.
His ‘letters to the brother’ is another treasure of innovative ideas, political opinions and history. He was not mired into the newly found, nationalistic propaganda during the period before and after independence, he bravely re-defined the meaning for nationalism and self-determination. He interpreted the basis of nationalism in a different way and was actually a teacher for his brothers and sisters. He sought to explain them the basics of everything under the sun with so much love for the fellow Tamil brethren considering them all as one large family.
Anna has written those letters to the brothers as the window to the world history, politics and the freedom struggles of various ethnic nationalities. He has handled letters, stage dramas, cinema and all the media, simply as an instrument of teaching. Articles ranged from nation, nationalism, need for constitutional amendments, economic alternatives, international leaders, different ideologies, and world affairs. His voracious reading and hard work are astounding and is evident in his writing.
He has also nurtured the talents by giving every possible opportunity to his ‘younger brothers’. At one point in time, the DMK alone published many magazines. The Brahmin media of the time had almost banished Anna and the DMK from the news cycle. They identified Anna as a separatist and secessionist. The English press of the time also propagated it throughout India. This is one of the reasons behind publishing more magazines and using multiple media streams such as Cinema to reach the people as existing media blocked them out.
Anna says, “Brother, True democracy creates a tradition and a lineage of leaders; or helps to set up to continue to excel even after the death or retirement of a current leader though not able to outsmart the leadership. Democracy is not only merely a system of governance; it is a way to enrich the morality of life and humanity.”
It expresses his utmost faith in democracy.
Following quotes shows us his faith in people
Go to the People,
Live with them,
Learn from them,
Start with what they know,
Build on what they have.
Calling Navalar Nedunchezhiyan to take over DMK General Secretary, designating Karunanidhi to lead the Tamils to change their lives after him were instances of establishing his faith in Democracy. He has done all this as he wished the party to be in tandem with the democratic way functioning.
The Dravidian movement always opposed the imposition of Hindi as part of its idea to maintain the autonomy of Tamil Nadu. Anna had opposed the Hindi imposition from as early as 1937. When the, language protests began to the forming of the DMK government in 1967, until the two-language policy resolution passed in 1968. He worked diligently to ensure the resolution was passed. Even after legal resolutions, the Indian Empire still imposes Hindi through its concentrated power at Delhi; hence, he called for a visionary pledge to “Oppose the Hindi imposition as always”. Until today, this stands as one of the five fundamental principles of the DMK party.
His innovation in his party’s organizational structure was unprecedented in India. Until then, there were political parties in India until up to the district working committee level only. Anna has expanded and created multiple branch organizations like, Executive Committee, Regional, District, Taluk, Panchayat Union, Panchayat, Ward for the common people, and the public to participate. This has greatly mobilized the people. Unlike North India, this is the basic reason for the people to speak politics, which concerns them and needs. He continued to insist that inclusive politics of all communities was the most effective way of democracy. He called Tamils to unite under the common Tamil identity, forgetting the differences and division of Hindus, Muslims, Brahmins or non-Brahmins. This strategy until date challenges the hatred religious politics of RSS, BJP ilk for more than half a century.
He was well talented to counter the opposition with tactical responses. His witty counter attack and responses in the official language problem, the Comparison of the Hindi to Crow while talking about majority, the comparison with small and big dogs, nothing to learn Hindi in beyond Ramayana and Railway guide, are all some examples of such counter attack and responses to his political opponents shows his cleverness.
When there was a debate, an opposition member Vinayagam sarcastically commented on Annadurai, remarking on his ailment and went to the extent of saying, “Your days are counted” to which Annadurai immediately retorted “But my steps are measured”. That is just a small example of his wit
He very much believed in science and worked towards taking it to the people through rational propaganda. In one of the Dravida Nadu issues, dated 5.12.1948, Anna calls on scientist Sir C.V. Raman to work for scientific rational propaganda. Sir C.V. Said, “I cannot accept that it is wise to praise the reviving of ancient civilization while riding on the American-made motor”. Anna has published this opinion in concurrence on the hypocrisy of such people.
“The Vedas contain the cosmic secret. The Truth of the World is in the Upanishads. Atharva, there are many slogans that are the source of the most amazing devices that the world can admire”, and C.V. Raman, is not such a person who claims all these nonsenses and simply eats and wanders around, he reveals the lies of the conservatives.
While using all the scientific devices for their better life, on other side even the current present Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, continues to propagate the most blatant lies of Hindu/Vedic age and the claims of world’s first plastic surgery performed on Vinayaka. Anna condemned and revealed such illogical, irrational unscientific things during his days. This laid the foundation for the logical reasoning in Tamil society, which embeds rationalism firmly in politics, with a need to question everything.
Though the people from the film industry joined DMK, he had a stance that the welfare of the people is the primary objective than anything else. He clearly called out, “M.G. Ramachandran has joined our party after seeing what is the best way to win the love of the people, and think through which party works for the people, not because some called him to join our party”.
When we praise the talents from the literary and film industry without realizing or considering their political position, Anna gently admonishes us and asks us to re-think. “Repercussions are important, we are pained to see, because of the poetry, Tamils became subservient and were enslaved by the Aryans. We condemn the essence of the Ramayana but not the poetic talent of Kambar. The scholars should know the repercussions to be created by their work of art.” This shows Anna’s stance on Kambar and Ramayana.
Perarignar Anna was noble and a people’s leader, who worked with the objectives of Freedom, Democracy, Autonomy, Self Determination, Socialism and Social liberation.
More than everything, Anna can be called an Emancipator of Humanity. He was not just against the oppression of Tamils but for anyone who faces oppression and enslavement. Anna was a person who understood the feeling of liberation and self-determination, raised the voice, recognized and supported the people who fought struggles of class, national, ethnic conflicts, language, liberation and self-determination anywhere in the world.
“If a leader is found to save any ethnicity from losing self-respect and self-awareness, they will certainly be bound to have a nation state of self-determination. We will definitely support such demands similar to our support for Dravida Nadu. We condemn any race that oppresses another race or any race that exploits another race, regardless of whether it is white-black-brown-red”, Anna wrote.
He had written extensively quoting from International politics to make Tamils aware of freedom struggles, need for liberation, the justifications for the Tamil nationalist goals of Autonomy and self-determination.
We can give as many examples for this from his writings.
Even a year before DMK founded, he has written an article in 1948, about the nationalist self-determination rights of Kashmiris, the struggles of Sheikh Abdullah and criticizing the measures of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Kashmiri Maharaja Hari Singh. It was an outstanding article of support for Allies.
The President of Jammu and Kashmir arrested Kashmir Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah on 9–8–1953 for citing that he has acted against Indian sovereignty. Anna immediately condemned it and
Wrote the following in Dravida Nadu magazine on 16–8–1953 “History returns”.
“Sheik Abdullah wanted to attain an independent Kashmir. Because of that, he was branded a traitor. What weird newspapers these are. What a funny bunch these Swarajya leaders in Delhi are! Many underlying plots surround Abdullah’s dismissal and the new cabinet formation. The world knows about the Indian government’s role in this. Pandit’s deafening silence is a testimony to it.
Delhi has managed to take its revenge on the man who did not tow its line. By this, Pandit might have been able to show off his clout in the international arena. It surely is an act of vanity for him. Nevertheless, for the values of human rights and political dignity, this truly is a moment of embarrassment. The repercussions of this shameful act might not be immediately visible. Evil minds might celebrate this for now but truth and justice will always prevail.
Today Sheikh Abdullah is inside the jail and the people who have him inside their hearts are outside. They all happen to be Muslims. The power and political establishment in Delhi has forgotten the impact. Nevertheless, the future will surely teach a hard and costly lesson. The situation will soon unravel in an unfortunate fashion for the power mongers of Delhi.”
Anna wrote in his letters to brother in the Dravida Nadu magazine on July 7,1956, detailing summit held in Damascus, Syria and Nehru’s dualism to world, the independence struggle of Cyprus Islands against the British domination, particularly the stances of Indian empire and its iniquities and rights to Self-determination of Eelam (Sri Lanka), Kashmir and Naganadu. (Later, the Island of Cyprus was liberated from Britain in 1960).
“Jomo Kenyatta was imprisoned. The nationalism he instigated flares in African hearts. Every African is optimistic that their sacrifice will not go to waste. Freedom enthusiasts Triumph for Kenyatta in their minds”.
Anna wrote it in the 1955 Pongal edition of Dravida Nadu, (Jomo Kenyatta was freed from prison and became the new president of the country liberated from the British Empire).
The article ‘Sun’ Day in CEYLON, written on 30–6–1957 in Homeland, article “Tamilians shed tears of blood” written on 20–4–1958, the article Muster Strong — DEMAND JUSTICE FOR TAMILS on 10–4–1958 and the article written in Dravida Nadu “Eelam Liberation Struggle”, He articulates the state Tamils in Eelam and their struggles. Kamaraj was the Chief Minister of the state while Nehru was PM, but he closed his eyes in the Eelam issue. Anna condemned this and drew a cartoon in Homeland. He called for the protests to support the Eelam struggle, held several public meetings and took the issue to the people. Only because of Anna’s effort and attempts, Eelam struggle came to centre of Tamil Nadu politics.
We all know that he travelled to the US in 1968. During that trip, Anna met the Pope in Europe. He then made a request to the Pope, to free Mohan Ranade from Portuguese Lisbon prison.
Anna was well aware of freedom struggles across the world. So, he knew about Goa, which was under Portuguese control. He was fully aware that Portugal is a catholic country and the Pope has influence over catholic countries. He made a correct prediction that the speaking to pope would have a great chance of release of Mohan Ranade, a Goa freedom fighter, who was prison in Lisbon. Even Indian government did not show much interest in securing his freedom. Another thing to note was the fact that Mohan Ranade belonged to the Marathi Chitbhavan Brahmin caste. Anna, a staunch though Anti-Brahmanism, ignored all these things and demanded Ranade’s release. Because, in the Goa freedom struggle, Ranade stood not in the side of oppression but was on the side of the liberation of the oppressed Goa people. Hence, it is very much evident that Anna, who wrote Arya Mayai, was the voice of the Aryans when they were oppressed. Anna never showed any hatred for Aryan people while opposing and resisting the Aryan domination.
Anna had cited Napoleon as an example of the danger of empires during the twentieth century while everyone else praised Napoleon for his bravery. This would show that Anna was against domination in any form.
It was Anna who awakened the Tamils to realize their egalitarian past history and glory and it was Anna who named the Madras State Tamil Nadu and helped Tamil Nadu to be known to the world by her own historical name highlighting the glory and grandeur of Tamil and Tamil Land.
Though the classical Tamil literature referred this land as Tamil Nadu millenniums before 1969, after formation of Indian Union, liberated from British Empire, only the Government led by Anna, changed the name as Tamilnadu. No one including Kamaraj came forward to do so. He remembered the late Mr. Sankaralinganar, who had fasted unto death during Kamarajar regime. Manimandapam was also built in his memory. Anna was also a man of values and was known to respect even his political opponents with a saying that Even the Jasmines of our opponent’s garden have a good fragrance.
While renaming Madras state as Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister Arignar Anna addressed the Assembly and roared, “Hail Tamil Nadu!” Three times to have the Assembly tremble with loud resonance! Anna owns the event engraved with the golden letters of history.
He has also achieved this unique feat in the history of Tamil nadu, where name referred for at least 2500 years. Anna discovered Tamil Nadu and named her. He identified his ‘mother’ and ‘christened’ her. He was the only son who in history, ever named his mother. In addition, the story of Anna’s life is itself the History of Tamil Nadu. He also attended the event even when his health deteriorated a few weeks before his death.
On 6 March 1967, Anna, General Secretary of DMK, as a leader of DMK government took charge as the Chief Minister of Madras state. He changed the way of oath to take in the name of God, He took oath by consciousness. This might look like a very easy thing but even to do this, we needed Anna because Tamil Nadu was so deluded with religious, caste domination and irrational politicians. “Chera, Chola, Pandya, Nayak, Muhammadan, British men, Congressmen and many others ruled. But who has formed a rational government in India like Anna who rejected God, religion, caste, shastra? Only Anna has achieved that no one could achieve before”, Periyar highlighted this in his speech on Anna’s birth anniversary. This shows the significance of the achievement.
The rule of the Shudras, fourth Varna in Hindu Varnashrama established under the Tamil leader Anna. We have thus established the fact that the Vedas and Manu are false, and are against humanity. Nevertheless, Brahmins are still trying to prove the Vedas by the Sastras with the help of Neo Brahmin Shudra slaves. This reaffirms the necessity of politics of Anna.
His call for State Autonomy is born out of democratic thought process. He called out in the parliament, council of states in one of his speech in 1963,
“What is it that we mean by sovereignty?
The Preamble to the Constitution says that political sovereignty rests with the people. The legal sovereignty is divided between the Federal Union and the constituent units. Why not take it that our scheme is to make the States still more effective sovereign units?”
He even further questioned behind the centralization of power and called for making states autonomous as much as possible
“If the central government needs strength against the Chinese aggression, we are ready to provide that strength without a hint of hesitation! If the central government needs strength to suppress the Pakistani invasion, we are definitely ready to provide that strength.
We will think of all other powers except national defense; Let the states take the necessary powers. Then let the central government take the remaining powers other than the states want.”
The Dravidian movement is fundamentally a movement of non-violence and talks about solutions through means of peace, not through violence. Anna chose a peaceful path despite the strong reformist and self-determination ideologies.
In a way, Anna’s belief in non-violence is far more surprising than Gandhi’s, as Anna was more of a revolutionary than a moderate Gandhi who believed in Ram Rajya.
Another example for Anna’s vision is that his views were against rural life filled with Casteism and farming controlled by big landlords. This is synonymous with the view of progressives, including Dr. Ambedkar and Periyar who criticized against saying that the villages being the pillars of India. After visiting Japan and the United States, he spoke about Rural Agriculture and the need for improvement. He then drafted multiple reforms and plans for the changes required, such as Land ceiling amendment, repealing hereditary village offices, Agricultural Land Record of Tenancy Rights act, sowing the seeds for nationalization of transport, and a public distribution system. The subsequent 50-year rule under either of the main Dravidian parties has contributed to the gradual reduction in the percentage of the people engaged in Agricultural labour. In short, Agricultural labourers were less than 40% in 2019, compared to 80% in 1967. This is the result of the vision of people’s welfare objectives of Anna and his lineage. He spent Rs.70 million more on education than his predecessors and increased the focus on education. Today, Tamil Nadu has moved to the top in Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) to Higher education. In addition, we should remember that Uttar Pradesh was better than Tamil Nadu in many factors when Anna came to power in 1967.
Just as Periyar accepted Dr. Ambedkar as his leader, Anna also thought in concurrence with ideals of Dr. Ambedkar. He has appreciated Dr Ambedkar’s battle against Brahmanism and followed him while working for the development of rural economy. Also, he wrote in support of Dr. Ambedkar’s decision to convert to Buddhism, written in Dravida Nadu dated, 21.10.1956, extensively in praise of Dr. Ambedkar while condemning the ruling classes and Sankaracharya who did not try to reform Hinduism.
He believed in equality, created opportunities for women, and treated them on par with men. Appointment of Annai Satyavani Muthu as the Propaganda Secretary, making her minister in his government, and working with the social worker Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar are such attempts towards inclusive politics. Thus, he led the Dravidian movement as an inclusive movement for Women, Backward classes, depressed classes, Religious minorities etc.
Foundation laid by Anna is the basis for Tamil Nadu being the top few states in the Union of India, in Education and Medical infrastructure. As mentioned in the recently published book on Anna, Maperum Tamil Kanavu (Great Tamil Dream), Anna has emphasized that everything we need to do is a dream and a means to make it come true.
Even today, the destination is yet to be reached, but there are compelling reasons to continue the journey in the same direction. The ideas of Hindu, Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra have emerged as the extremist means and tools of the ruling BJP to dominate the majority of the people in this vast sub-continent.
“There should be no violence. Violence means not only being armed, but also by philosophy. Not even the idea of national unity and nationalism should be used and forcibly as a tool of violence”.
These words by Anna are to follow the path of resistance against any means of violence.
In September 2016, Writer Samas wrote an article titled “One Day, Anna will be needed for India”. It talked about the need of Anna one day to reconsider the ideas of One India, ruling India from Delhi. As he envisioned, Anna is needed now more than ever.
With abrogation of Article 370 which provisioned special rights to Kashmir on August 5, 2019 by the ruling BJP Government , limiting and intimidating freedom of expression, arresting many human rights activists across India, the caste domination, discrimination reaching the peak, the rise in violence against Dalits and minorities and the rulers’ support for that, One India, One language (Hindi) and One tax (GST), centralization of Finance ( FFC, NITI Aayog ), One ration card, One education policy(NEP), RSS & BJP trying to build one India, Hindu India on religious grounds, Diluting the Social justice (10% EWS), attacking State Autonomy , all these reached a peak like never before in the Indian Union, We need Anna to oppose all these with assertive alternative solutions or to move forward in the path of liberation, when we realize that social liberation for nationalities is the real liberation from the Indian Empire. Anna is required to reshape our views in every aspect of public life in the current situation.
Even in his last letter, Anna voiced for appraisal and amendment of the Constitution, so that the States can have more power. It was a voice not exclusively for Tamil Nadu, but for self-determination, Autonomy of states in the whole union! It determined the political course of the next several decades.
This attempt is to know more about such a political master, by bringing the ideas of Anna into small snippets for easy understanding. Moreover, Anna’s intellectual contribution cannot be narrowed down to a particular school of thought.
He has given so much of ideas, principles, solutions and views on everything under the sun from Nationhood, Ethnicity, Language, Religion, Politics, Education, Justice, Socialism, Public life, Society, Reservation, self-determination, vision, and rationalism which is a foundation for all of this. Although all of them have been available in many books and volumes, this “Anna 400: Words of a Democrat” is a new initiative which contains four hundred quotes chosen from them.
Some are excerpts from long articles written by Anna. I hope this collection will help the readers to understand Anna’s multifaceted personality and make them take a firm stand in protecting the interests of the people whenever there is a conflict in the political arena.
This is a special article for 06-03-1967 anniversary.( The day Anna assumed the office )
I have translated the piece of preface written for Anna 400 with additional biographical moments. This will find a place in Anna 400 english translation.