Tamil Nadu

Veteran communist Sankaraiah turns 100 today

N. Sankaraiah  

When the Communist Party was banned in India in 1948, N. Sankaraiah, then 26, went underground. He was hiding in the house of a washerman, a party member, in Madurai. Living amid soiled clothes caused him allergy, itching and boils.

“As his condition became unbearable, the party secretly shifted him to Chennai for treatment,” recalled S. Narasimhan, son of Mr. Sankaraiah, who turns 100 on July 15. He spent eight years in jail before and after Independence and another three years underground.

Student leader

Mr. Sankaraiah became a communist party member in 1940 when he was 18. He was a student of American College in Madurai. He functioned as the chairman of the college student union and brought Chief Minister C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) to address the students.

“The national movement for freedom was at its zenith, and only the Communist Party championed complete independence. It attracted Mr. Sankaraiah, who concluded that a social change leading to a casteless society with economic equality could alone be the solution, and Marxism alone could guide humanity towards this goal,” CPI(M) polit bureau member G. Ramakrishnan said.

Intense political activities put paid to the hopes of Mr. Sankaraiah’s father, who wanted him to become a lawyer. He could not complete his degree as he was arrested in 1941 when he was in the final year. After his release, he became the district secretary of the party. He was only 22.

Years later, when Mr. Ramakrishnan asked Mr. Sankaraiah about the state of his mind about the arrest that prevented him from obtaining a degree and becoming a lawyer, the veteran replied that he was inspired by his arrest and incarceration for participating in the national struggle. “I did not worry about anything else.”

In 1946, he was arrested, along with other communist leaders P. Ramamurthy, A. Balasubramanian, M.R. Venkataraman, K.T.K. Thangamani and Janaki Amma. They were implicated in what came to be known as the Madurai conspiracy case. “They were released only on August 14, 1947. News of their impending release had spread, and a big crowd greeted them,” Mr. Ramakrishnan said.

Went with CPI(M)

When the party split in 1964, Mr. Sankaraiah joined the CPI(M). He was elected to its central committee.

“Today, Mr. Sankaraiah and V.S. Achuthanathan are the only two veterans who are still alive,” Mr. Ramakrishnan said.

He became the State secretary of the CPI(M) in 1995 and held that post until 2002.

Mr. Sankaraiah was elected to the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 1967, 1977 and 1980.

He was a powerful speaker — Congress leader G.K. Moopanar would call him a “roaring lion”. “He keeps himself abreast of political developments by reading newspapers with a magnifying glass. We have subscribed to The Hindu digital edition, and if he wants to read a particular news in detail, I will play the audio for him,” Mr. Narasimhan said.

He listens to the film songs of M.S. Viswanathan and Ilaiyaraaja and Carnatic music. “He is also very fond of sports. He wanted me to wake him up to watch Euro Cup last time. But I slept. When I woke up, I saw him watching the match,” recalled Mr. Narasimhan.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 3:56:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/veteran-communist-sankaraiah-turns-100-today/article35333382.ece

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