One of the iconic leaders of Tamil Nadu, U. Muthuramalinga Thevar (1908-1963) hailed from the Ramanathapuram district. Drawn into the national movement, he became a devout follower of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. When Netaji visited the State immediately after the formation of the Forward Bloc in 1939, it was Thevar who played the key role in arranging a rousing reception in Madurai. He belonged to that school of Netaji followers which refused to believe that its leader died in an air crash in Taihoku in August 1945.

One of the founding members of the Forward Bloc, Muthuramalinga Thevar was a fierce critic of the Congress party and a political adversary of Kamaraj and also of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam founder, C.N. Annadurai, the two prominent leaders who shaped the destiny of the State for many years. Implicated in a murder case in 1957, he was, two years later, acquitted. But Thevar never gave up his antagonism vis-a-vis the Congress; nor did his attitude towards Kamaraj change.

The books under review cover a wide range of issues, as seen and discussed by Thevar. An interesting piece of information is that he ran a magazine, called ‘Netaji,' for some years, starting from January 1949. The editorials, written by him in the magazine and reproduced in the first book, reveal his deep understanding of the complexities and nuances of international politics. To cite a few instances: His concern for the plight of the people of Indian origin in Myanmar; his steadfast support to Mao and the Chinese revolution; his analysis of foreign policies of the United States and the United Kingdom; and his advice to the Indian government not to join the Western camp.

Critic of Congress

If there is a common theme running through the collection of Thevar's political speeches, it is the criticism of the Congress party's politics. His call for the unity of the Scheduled Castes and criticism of the public distribution system are as relevant now as they were during his time. That he was a strong supporter of the reorganisation of States on linguistic basis comes across from his article where he accuses the Congress of delaying the process.

One may or may not agree with the Forward Bloc leader's views on the different subjects covered in these two volumes. But any dispassionate student of contemporary history of Tamil Nadu will have a lot to gain by reading them. In compiling and editing the articles written and the speeches made over 50 years ago, Bhoopathi Raja has done his best to be faithful to the original.

1949-PASUMPON THEVARIN SARVADESA ARASIYAL PARVAI:

1952-PASUMPON THEVARIN ARASIYAL MUZHAKKAM: Speeches and writings of U. Muthuramalinga Thevar: Compiled and edited by G. Bhoopathi Raja, Pasumpon Thevar Anmiga Manithaneya Nala Sangam, 14, Andavar Nagar II Street, Kodambakkam, Chennai-600024. Rs. 300 each.