Recalling Amirthalingam

Balasundaram's book in memory of Sri Lankan Tamil leader released

Staff Reporter

PONDICHERRY: Appapillai Amirthalingam. Does the name ring a bell? Born to Appapillai, a railway stationmaster and Valliammai in Suzhipuram in Jaffna, he rose to become a leader respected by everyone. Nicknamed Dharma because of his intelligence, patience and soft nature, the leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) became a legend in the Tamils' struggle in Sri Lanka.

After doing his law at the Colombo University, A. Amirthalingam gave up a roaring law practice and entered politics when Thanthai Selvanayagam called him to serve the country. In 1956, he became a member of the Sri Lankan Parliament.

A consummate statesman, he conducted a sathyagraha in front of Parliament, was beaten up and then instead of going to a hospital went into Parliament and made a speech condemning the Government's attitude towards Tamils.

Not just Amirthalingam but his wife Mangaiyarkarasi too was actively involved in politics and stood by her husband in everything that he did. So much so that in April 1961 when Tamils were arrested for protesting against the government, she was arrested along with him and the two of them were imprisoned for 170 days.

At that time, Baheeradhan, their son was just a toddler.

When Amirthalingam was the Leader of Opposition in July 1981, a group of ruling party MPs moved a vote of no confidence against him and removed him from the house.

He was shot dead in Colombo on July 13, 1989.

To mark his birth anniversary, which falls on 26 August (he was born in 1927), a book titled `Amirthalingam Sahaptham', written by Kathir Balasundaram, a Sri Lankan Tamil living in Canada, was released at a simple function in Pondicherry recently.

The Leader of Opposition in the Pondicherry Assembly, R. V. Janakiraman, released the book. Among those present were the son of the slain leader Baheeradhan, MLA K Lakshminarayanan and lecturer in the UGC Academic Staff College Panch Ramalingam.

Mr. Janakiraman recalled how Amirthalingam had come to India several times and had met leaders such as Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and garnered support for the cause of the Tamils.

Music concert

At the function organised by the All India Tamil Writers Association, the grandson of Amirthalingam, Aravindhan Baheerathan gave a flute and mridangam concert.

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