C.N.Anna Durai

  • A good leader protects his people during his rule. A great leader ensures that his people remain protected even after his rule. One such great leader was Arignar Annadurai. At least for the forthcoming 500 years, it is impossible to gather attention or garner votes in the political field of Tamil Nadu without using Anna’s name or words.
  • Anna’s fame cannot be limited to one particular deed. But the foremost deed that warrants appreciation and admiration is that he led the world in implementation of a Government with a rational vision. A question may arise – rational thoughts and rational parties have existed even before Anna. There were communist parties that ruled big countries like Russia and China. The difference is that opposing superstitions and religions were only a side goal of such communist parties that ruled these regions. But Anna’s government had superstition abolishment and opposing religions as its main goal. This land has been under the rule of so many renowned kings. But no one until Anna had thought of forming a government with rational values. ‘Anna succeeded in doing what Buddha failed to achieve’ – these were the words of Periyar. Critics comment that Anna moderated his rational values after he won the election, the answer to this comment is the speech he gave at a function in Annamalai University, after four months of winning the election. He advised, “You students should wage a war against the superstitions that contrast science.”
  • It is true that Periyar and Anna did have a difference of opinion at one point of time. But that did not make their relationship hostile. Anna always considered Periyar as his mentor. When he started his party, he announced that Periyar will head the party. He considered Dravida Kazhagam and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam as the two barrels of a gun. After Anna became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, he advocated Self-Respect Marriages, Bilingual Policy, and the practice of giving Tamil names to children. All the three ideas were the brain-children of Periyar. In November 1957, Periyar protested by burning the Indian Constitution book. Congress immediately started forming a law to oppose this act, to a severity of giving Periyar a three-year jail sentence. During this happening, Anna was in the opposition party. Everyone was eager to hear Anna’s take on this issue, for Periyar had criticised Anna merely months ago. Anna replied to the assembly, “Till date you have changed 10 laws that were written in the original Constitution. This correction is no less than a symbolic burning of the constitution. If you can do it symbolically, why can Periyar do it physically?” Despite their differences, Anna never gave up his respect for Periyar.
  • Anna learnt a lot about rationality from Periyar. The difference between the both is that Periyar gave the message point blank, without softening it, and Anna moderated the tone, but not the message and took it to the people through his classic oratory skills. Periyar said “The Brahmins fool us in the name of religion”. Anna said the same message in a different way – “We are not above anyone and there is no one above us. We don’t want slums, we don’t want agrahaarams. We don’t want religion, priests, superstition, customs, or rituals.” Periyar commented “God’s creator is a fool.” Anna’s delivery of the same message paints a stark contrast – “We don’t need a group of Gods with multiple sets of eyes; we need one God. A God who doesn’t care for a form, a God who doesn’t demand offerings, a God who doesn’t consume public money for unnecessary celebrations. That is the God we need.” Anna spoke for a God who asked for nothing but our love, instead of saying there is no God. This difference in message delivery and oratory skills is what makes him a beloved leader.
  • He challenged the religious texts and epics. He commented that there was no practical use for them. “Robert Clive conquered nations by the power of his gun, and not by performing a rigorous penance. The land that worships Saraswathi is still 90% illiterate. The land that worships Lakshmi has so many people dying of poverty. The land that worships Shakthi refuses to see the mountain of human corpses piling up. Countries that don’t worship these gods are better than us. Don’t you want a similar happy life?” A rough translation of one of his articles on such ancient texts: “Here’s what we can gather from our old texts. The geographical knowledge the books contain- 14 planets; The historical knowledge the books contain – a king ruled for 14000 years; The women empowerment these books show – a wife carries her husband to the house of his mistress; The element of science in these books – Rivers of fire and bridges made of hair to cross such rivers.” These lines will make every theist hesitate at least for a second.
  • Anna was one of the frontline workers in introducing Federalism to India. He commented, “Snatching one’s rights is no less than snatching their belongings. It is of utmost importance that the state governments and the federal government work together. But working together is not the same as working out a merger.” In his famous “I belong to Dravidian stock…” speech at the assembly, he said, “I’m arguing for the nation’s development. I’m not being narrow-minded, nor am I thinking of my party’s welfare. I’m arguing for my great country’s right of making autonomous decisions. By ensuring this right, India can also make its due contribution to the world. But this is not possible until the authority and hierarchy mentioned in the Constitution are tweaked.” Further, he said that India is a country ruled by states. The vice-versa concept of the Central government governing the states is not plausible.These words of Anna are still a nightmare for Nationalists.
  • What makes Anna a distinguished politician? There have been so many politicians and there will be many more in the future. But Anna stood out because of how thin a rope he managed to walk on. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was in a way founded on the fundamentals of caste issues. But Anna’s democratic management is what protected the party from taking the route of Nazism. At every level of the party hierarchy, he ensured adherence to the policies of Duty, Dignity and Discipline. He made sure that every member of the party was clear on the concept that their efforts should be aligned with the destruction of unjust views of the opponents and not on the destruction of the opponents themselves. To him, democracy was nothing but basic human compassion. His comments and statements were all mild-mannered. A great example of this is his statement in 1967, during the submission of a financial report at the assembly. He remarked, ‘My biggest regret is having to plan this for what little money Congress had left for us.’ To this a member of Congress objected saying, ‘We may have lost the state election. But do not forget that we rule the Central Government.’ Anna replied with a smile, ‘The words of the opposition party member sounds to me like a person saying “I may be a bill collector, but my brother is a sub-collector”.’ The entire assembly, including the Congress members, laughed uproariously, forgetting all grudges.
  • There were quite a few times when his intelligence shone brighter than his sacrifices. That doesn’t mean his sacrifices were negligible. He could have easily abused his position to build himself a lavish lifestyle. But he did not do that. He lived a very simple life. He did not save wealth for himself nor did he spend his money on indulgences and luxuries. More often than not, he came home at midnight, had a dinner of not-so-fresh parotas at Buhari hotel, and then retired to bed. His simple appearance made us think of him as one of the people, rather than giving the impression of someone distant and high above us. He founded DMK with the quality of sacrifice as its core. He remarked, “A group that operates on money will soon become an operation of money. There will then be no corner for sacrifice and service. So it is important that we understand that service and sacrifice take the bigger place in our party.”
  • The protest against Hindi Imposition is one of the milestones in Tamil Nadu’s politics. He fought tooth and nail for 20 years to protect his mother tongue and destroy the threats to it. Initially he appealed to the self-esteem of Tamilians to show the seriousness of the issue. “Tamilians will accept knowledge and logic irrespective of the source. But we will not blindly accept anything and everything just because it comes from a higher order.” He then appealed to the sense of logic – “Imposition of Hindi can result only in a chaotic India. If peace is to be maintained, acceptance of diversity is the basic step.” He then pointed out the historical facts – “India is more than just a country. It is a land of multiple cultures. Every culture is significant and has its own proud heritage and language. That is why it is called a ‘subcontinent’. Your concept of having an official language may work out for a country, but not for a subcontinent.” His last weapon was highlighting the economic hurdles individual states may have to face if Hindi was imposed as the official language. “How many benefits Hindi-speaking people enjoy! It is their mother-tongue, official state language, and now Hindi aspires to be the nation’s official language. But how do the non-Hindi-speaking population benefit from this imposition of Hindi as the nation’s official language?” When a person hears this, how can they remain silent? This is how the entire state actively protested against Hindi imposition.
  • Today’s youngsters who wish to take a political route have 2 important lessons to learn from Anna. The first is that the true motive of a people’s movement should be ensuring the equality of every last person, as dictated by the Indian Constitution. In the 1950s-60s, the majority of the Congress members were landowners who could afford every luxury. They had servants to cater to every whim of theirs. Anna’s victory was to educate that servant who served landlords and imparting education of their Constitutional rights and spreading political awareness among the lowest economic strata. When this became an agenda of humour for a few, Anna reverted, “Gandhi’s army of stained dhotis and wrinkled saris is what brought us this freedom. I’m just giving their fair share – nothing more, nothing less.” The second lesson would be that social justice is not just treating everyone equally, it is ensuring the creation of equal opportunities for everyone. In a legislative assembly in 1957, the then Finance Minister C Subramanian spoke “Harijans should be grateful to the Congress…” To this, Anna objected, “We are not doing a favour to the Harijans. We are compensating them.”
  • In 1962, Anna gave up on his efforts for the creation of a Dravidian State. In the same year, he stopped the publishing of the magazine ‘Dravida Nadu’. Anna commented, ‘But the reasons that instigated me to toil for the creation of a Dravidian state still remain the same’. This move is often criticised as a cover-up. But the quest for a Dravidian State was not founded on an intention of factionalism or the desire to rule. Anna wanted the creation of a Dravidian State within the confines of the Indian Constitution, to create a wealthy and united community that is free of oppression. This was his dream!