Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thevar, a national leader, who wielded considerable influence

A man who should have been accorded national recognition, has been limited to Tamil Nadu and one community. Pasumpon U Muthuramalinga Thevar who donated thousands of acres of land to dalits and Muslims, struggled to repeal the Criminal Tribes Act that restricted movements of male members belonging to about dozens of communities and helped the activist and freedom fighter A Vaidyanatha Iyer on July 8, 1939 to take dalits to Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, Madurai is now portrayed as a leader of a particular community. The man's birth anniversary and death anniversary (Gurupooja) curiously fall on October 30. Owner of 32 and a half villages, he was born on October 30, 1908 in Pasumpon village in Ramanthapuram district. He died on October 30, 1963 in Thirumangalam near Madurai. Every year, lakhs of people congregate at his memorial situated in Pasumpon to pay homage. As many as 5,000 police personnel have been deployed in Pasumpon on the occasion of his 107th birth anniversary and 52nd Gurupooja today (Thursday). The people who love Thevar's thoughts and principles and respect him regret that his anniversaries have to take place under a communal cover. Thevar was a national leader who wielded considerable influence. It is believed that largely due to his support, in 1939 Netaji Subash Chandra Bose defeated Mahatma Gandhi' nominee Pattabhi Sitaramaiah to become the president of the Indian National Congress. In another episode, when Gandhi wanted Rajaji (then governor general of India) to be selected as the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president at 1945 conference in Thiruparankundram, Thevar had supported Kamaraj for the post and succeeded in his bid. In India, the British government had passed orders restraining two freedom fighters from making political speeches at public meetings (in Tamil it is called Vaai Poottu Chattam). The two were Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Muthuramalinga Thevar. When the Japanese government had on August 18, 1945 announced that Netaji died in an air crash, Thevar announced at a public meeting on January 23, 1949, which happened to be Netaji's birthday, that the latter was alive and he had met him. This resulted in the central government setting up the Shah Nawaz Committee to enquire into Netaji's death. "In fact, Thevar fielded persons of other communities in the elections and struggled against communal domination in the state. His victory against Shanmuga Rajeswara Naganatha Sethupathi in the Mudhukulathur assembly constituency in 1937 was a classic example to show that he was a man above communalism," said T. Harappa, coordinator, Thevar Peravai PolitBureau. Thevar helped state's former chief minister K. Kamaraj to contest in the then municipality election by giving a goat to him after paying necessary tax in his name (then there was a practice that a person who contests in the election should be a property holder. As this was not so in Kamaraj's case, he was helped, said Harappa. "As he was a landlord he did a lot of good things for the Dalits donating 87,000 acres of land to Dalit people. He was an activist and trade unionist. He headed 23 trade unions. He criticized cash for voting, raised his voice for maternity leave for women. His task was to repeal Criminal Tribes Act," said V.S. Navamani, president, Pasumpon Thevar Sindhanai Peravai.

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