V Anaimuthu – Periyarist, founder of the Marxist Periyarist Communist Party and a crusader for reservation for backward classes – died in Puducherry on April 6. He was 96.
Anaimuthu tested positive for the novel coronavirus in December but recovered from the illness after receiving treatment at a hospital in Chennai. However, he was admitted again due to age-related illness to a private hospital in Puducherry, where he died on Tuesday. His body was donated to Sri Ramachandra Medical College, Chennai, the next day.
Vembayee Anaimuthu was born on June 21, 1925, at Murukkangudi, Perambalur District. Attracted by the speeches of rationalist Periyar, he joined the Dravidar Kazhagam, a movement for self-respect, at the age of 19. He continued his association with Periyar until the latter’s death in 1973.
Starting in 1950, Anaimuthu launched several magazines to spread the ideas of Periyar. All of them are now defunct, except Sindhanaiyaalan, which is still in print. When Periyar launched the ‘Constitution Burning Movement’ in 1957, Anaimuthu took part in it and served an 18-month sentence in a Vellore jail.
Anaimuthu was expelled from Dravidar Kazhagam in 1975 following difference of opinion with the party’s chief, K Veeramani. In 1976 he floated his own organisation, Periyar Sama Urimai Kazhagam (Periyar Equal Rights Organisation), and took forward the legacy of Periyar. It was during this period that he started focusing on reservations for backward classes (BC).
“In 1978 Anaimuthu fought with the government to create a commission for BC reservation. That year, he organised the All India Proportional Caste-based Reservation in Chennai,” said Wallajah Vallavan, a close associate of Anaimuthu and one of the editors of Sindhanaiyaalan.
“He brought North Indian leaders like Dhanik Lal Mandal, then minister of state for home affairs in Morarji Desai’s cabinet, to Tamil Nadu.”
Anaimuthu knew BP Mandal even before he became head of the Mandal Commission, Vallavan said. “In 1979 Anaimuthu and Ram Awadhesh Singh, who was known as ‘Periyar of the North’, organised birth centenary celebrations of Periyar in 30 districts of Bihar. With the help of all these leaders, Anaimuthu tried to create a lobby for BC reservation and implement the recommendations of the First Backward Classes Commission report, submitted in 1955,” Vallavan said.
In 1979, then Tamil Nadu chief minister MGR established an income ceiling for BCs to get reservation. He said those with annual income of ₹9,000 and above could not avail the benefits of reservation. “This move cost him the 1980 Lok Sabha elections,” Vallavan said.
“All other political leaders were opposed MGR’s order, but Anaimuthu submitted a memorandum to MGR advising him to increase BC reservation from 31 per cent to 60 per cent,” added Vallavan.
But MGR rejected the memorandum and said if such a thing could have been done, his predecessor, M Karunanidhi, would have done it. Anaimuthu approached Panruti Ramachandran, an AIADMK legislator, and explained to him that Karunanidhi was unable to expand reservations because of a Supreme Court ban, which had been revoked.
“When MGR became chief minister for the second time, he increased BC reservation from 31 per cent to 50 per cent in 1982. After that successive governments increased reservations for BCs. Today Tamil Nadu has 69 per cent reservation,” Vallavan said.
In 1988, Anaimuthu rechristened his Periyar Sama Urimai Kazhagam to Marxist Periyarist Communist Party (MPCP).
“Periyar also dreamed of creating a communist society. But he saw a difficulty in the form of caste. To abolish caste, one has to come out of religion. To remove religion, one has to question the concept of God. Periyar did all these things. It was Periyar who translated the Communist Manifesto into Tamil, the first translation in any Indian language. So Periyar thought of creating ‘Mannukketra Marxiyam’ [Marxism that suits the region]. But it was not accepted even by the communists. In order to bridge the gap between Periyarism and Marxism, Anaimuthu launched MPCP. It was due to his work that communists started to celebrate the birthday of Periyar in the 1980s,” said anaesthetist Thani Tamil Kottran.
Vallavan added that in 1962 itself, with Periyar’s permission, Anaimuthu had brought communist leader K Balathandayutham to one of the Dravidar Kazhagam conferences held in Karur District.
Periyar entrusted Anaimuthu with the rights to publish his thoughts and speeches. He first published the collection Thoughts of EVR Periyar in three volumes, running to 2,170 pages. It was later expanded to 20 volumes. Anaimuthu himself published 21 volumes of Ve Anaimuthu Karuthu Karuvoolam.
Anaimuthu is survived by four sons and two daughters. His wife Susheela passed away two years ago.