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The guinness book of records has it that the funeral of ‘Anna’ was attended by the largest nukber of people in the world. I was closely associated with him from 1936 to 1969.
His close friends of Peddunaickenpet were mainly responsible to make him oppose the Congresson public platforms. In one meeting presided over by Rajaji in theY.M.C.A. hall his friends sent a note to the president to allot a few minutes for Anna to speak. With his Niagara flow of eloquence he spoke for more than fifteen minutes, interrupted often by teh approabation of the audience. That was the first occasion Rajaji Saw Anna.
In fact those were days of descline of the Justice party. He knew pretty well that the would not win the election, yet he contested against Congress as budding democrat. Anna used to address meeting both during day and night. People gathered in large numbers to hear him speak. Later when Rajaji become the Chief minister of then composite Madras Presidency he introduced complulsory study of Hindi in Schools.
The partiotic Tamils rose in revolt against Hindi. Unmindful of the various differences they had amongst them, they mustered together under the leadership of Thanthai Periyar E.V.R. This necessitated Anna to play his part with greater zeal and vigour.
The basis for a functioning of parliamentary democracy rests on the active participation of the people in all matters of vital importance. In those days politics was the monopoly of the english educated. The credit of bringing politics to the common man in the street goes to Thanthai Periyar and Aringnar Anna.
They spoke to the masses in the language of the people. They made the masses know about their hoary past. They sowed seeds of rationalism. This new technique of mass educaton and adult educaton awakened the people to take part in democratic parliamentary affairs.
Anna’s inimitable and superb chaste language appealed to the educated and uneducated. Every one began to realise his rights and duties.
As one who was fotunate to be near and dear, I think it relevant to recall to memory the suffering he had to face. He had to face brick bats, soda bottles, cowdung and rotten eggs. He received threatening letters. Live snakes, asses, bulls and buffaloes were let loose to disperse his audience. He asddressed the student unions in schools and colleges and thus strengthened the movement. He performed this miracle without adequate facilities.
He never consented to get into a rickshaw pulled by man. He did not even wear any footware. He travelled only in third class compartments. He rested on the platforms sharing the packets of savouries from petty shops. he never cringed for monetary helpf from the wealthy peoplw. He was always simple. selfless. He despised luxuries and comforts. He did not wear evena wrist watch or gelden ring. Anna had the gift for gap both in English and Tamil. The then society was mostly indifferent to political matters. They never bothered whether it was Rama or Ravana who rule.
It is the writings and speeches of Anna which educated the masses. He brought to light the reformers of the world as Aristotle, Plato, Ingersol, Bruno, Voltaire and thus magnetised the masses towards the Self-Respect Movement.
But for him the common people would not have taken interest to know about the Russian revolution, American revolution, French revolution. The Society was repeatedly taught the absurd, fantastic and heinous stories from Hindu puranas and sastras.
Men with political wisdom, who proclaim that Parliamentary democracy can survive only if it succeeds in reflecting the Kaleidoscope of popular aspirations without casting them into the frame work of rigid organisation, would hail Anna’s master minded adult education and democracy building designs.
I would say it is this rare trait that was abundently present in Anna, which led to his meteoric rise as the most charismatic leader of the masses. It was this peculiar phenomenon that helped him to bring to his fold all those who opposed him in the beginning. It was not mere eloquence but his elegance that converted his foes into friends. It was not mere diction but dignity that earned the esteem of his rivals. His persuasive eloquence was a source of strength to convert the haugty and arrogant political bosses. He equalled Edmund Burke in the art of convincing the dominators and exploiters by marshalling facts and quoting authorities.
in his last epistle before death he wrote,
“Let me send my greetings and good whishes to all of you. Let there be sunshine in your life and let that sunshine radiate throughout society so that all can be happy and prosperous without exploitation and slavery, without cant and hypocrisy.”
With that my “Sun” had set in the nest, drowning me in darkness all the rest.
Twenty persons were crushed to death and about seventy were injured accidentally because of their jouney on the train roofs to attend his funeral. The grief struck even all vehicles as busses, lorries, cars taxis, scooters, carts, tractors and cycles which deserted their route and turned back to Madras. There was universal sorrow - young and old, men and women were seen sobbing. The Police had to use teargas to control the flood of heads. The Military Van carried his body like a floating ferry on the surging wave of masses.
The ‘Hindu’, the popular national daily, wrote.
“If even a leader in this part of the country could be described as truly charismatic it was Mr. Annadurai.”
Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India commented
“It is tragic taht death has taken from us when he had so much to give to the people.”
To me he is not really dead. I see him in his brothers and by measuring the growth of the Movement. Like Marx and Lenin, we had the fortune of seeing Thanthai Periyar and Anna. The masses and still with the Movement. The Congress is today completely driven out of the Southern States.
I fervently hope that my narratives in this bok would enlighten the present generation, particularly the youngsters to know the glorious past of the Movement. I am sure the historians, research scholars and publicists would come to know the real facts about Anna and his crusade against the Congress and Brahminism.
Com.K.Thirunavukkarasu deserves to be complimented for the steps he had taken to publish this book and I hope that the readers would induce him to publish more and more books.