U. Muthuramalingam Thevar
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Statue of Pasumpon Ukkirapandi Muthuramalinga Thevar in Kolkata
|Born||Ukkirapandi Muthuramalinga Thevar
30 October 1908
Pasumpon, Ramanathapuram district, Tamilnadu
|Died||30 October 1963(aged 55)|
Ukkirapandi Muthuramalingam (30 October 1908 – 30 October 1963), also known as Pasumpon Muthuramalingam, was an Indian political leader. He became the leader of the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) in Tamil Nadu, and was national deputy chairman of the party from 1952 onwards. He was elected thrice to parliament.
- 1 Childhood and family life
- 2 Anti-CTA struggle
- 3 1936 District Board election
- 4 1937 provincial election
- 5 As a trade unionist
- 6 Tripuri session of the Congress and formation of the Forward Bloc
- 7 Support for the Temple Entry Movement
- 8 In jail
- 9 After release from jail
- 10 1952 general election
- 11 Split in the Forward Bloc
- 12 1957 general election
- 13 Ramnad riots
- 14 Final years
- 15 Legacy
- 16 References
Childhood and family life
Muthuramalingam (30 October 1908 - 1963) was born in the village of Pasumpon, Ramnad district. Muthuramalingam was the only son of Ukkirapandi Thevar and Indiraniammal.
His mother died before his first birthday and his stepmother the next year. From 1910 onwards he was in the custody of his maternal grandmother Parvathiammal in the neighbouring village of Kallupatti. Parvathiammal was furious on Muthuramalingam's father for having taken two new wives shortly after the death of his second wife.
During his youth, Muthuramalingam was aided by Kuzhanthaisami Pillai. Pillai was a close family friend of Muthuramalingam's father. Pillai took responsibility for arranging Muthuramalingam's schooling. First he was given private tuition and in June 1917 he began attending classes at an elementary school run by American missionaries in Kamuthi. Later he joined the Pasumalai High School (near Thirupparankundaram) and then he shifted to the Union Christian High School in Madurai.
Muthuramalingam would, however, not complete his studies. In 1924, he missed his final examinations due to an outbreak of a plague epidemic. The following year he also missed his chance to attend the final examinations, as he returned to Pasumpon to fight a legal battle over issues of inheritance of family property. The case would linger and was not settled until 1927, when the court ruled in Muthuramalingam Thevar's favour.
Muthuramalingam's father, Ukkirapandi Thevar, died on 6 June 1939.
One particular issue would have special impact on Thevar's political career. Since 1920 the Criminal Tribes Act had been enacted by the government of the Madras Presidency and began to be implemented in the Madurai, Ramnad and Tirunelveli districts. After his entry into politics, Thevar began to mobilize resistance to the CTA. He toured villages in the affected areas and led protest rallies for the rights of the individuals registered under the CTA. In 1929 the Maravars of 19 villages in Appanad were forced to registered under the CTA. Thevar led a massive campaign in the villages, urging the people to defy the CTA. The authorities partially withdrew, and reduced the number of CTA registrations in the concerned areas from around 2000 to 341.
In 1934 Thevar organised a convention at Abhiram, which urged the authorities to repeal the CTA. A committee consisting of Thevar, Dr. P. Varadarajulu Naidu, Perumal Thevar, Sasivarna Thevar and Navaneethakrishna Thevar was appointed by the convention to carry on the efforts to persuade the government to revoke the Act.
The CTA was, however, not revoked. On the contrary, its implementation was widened. Thevar again led agitations and awareness-raising campaigns against the Act. At the time the Justice Party was governing the Madras presidency, and their refusal to revoke the law created a strong animosity on Thevar's behalf towards the Justicites.
1936 District Board election
Infuriated over the attitude of the Justice Party government towards the CTA, Thevar came to the conclusion that the communities affected by the Act had to be mobilized by the Congress. After returning from a trip to Burma in 1936, he began to work to strengthen the Congress in the southern areas of the Presidency. He contested the election to the Ramnad District Board from the Mudukulathur constituency, defeating his Justice Party opponent. This was Thevar's first experience of being a candidate in an election.
After the election Thevar made a bid to be elected the president of the District Board. So did P.S. Kumarasamy, the Raja of Rajapalyam. Conflict erupted within the local Congress organisation over the issue. S. Satyamurthi, on behalf of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, intervened to preserve the unity of the Congress. Thevar was convinced to withdraw his candidature for president, and presented a motion nominating Kumarasamy as president.
1937 provincial election
Ahead of the 1937 elections to the assembly of the Madras Presidency, Thevar enlisted youths from the Mukkulathor communities to work for the Congress. His activities created worries for the Justice Party government, which forbade him to travel outside of the Ramnad district and to make speeches in public.
In February 1937 Thevar contested the assembly election himself, as a candidate in the Ramanathapuram constituency. He had a powerful opponent, the Raja of Ramnad. However, Thevar won a landslide victory with 11 942 votes against 6 057 for the Raja.
Following the election the Congress formed a government in the Presidency. Thevar had high hopes that the new Congress ministry would revoke the Criminal Tribes Act. But the new Chief minister, C. Rajagopalachari, did not fulfil those hopes.
As a trade unionist
During the late 1930s, Thevar he got increasingly involved in labour activities. He formed and led the Pasumalai Mahalaskshmi Mill Workers' Union, the Meenakshi Mill Workers' Union and the Madura Knitting Company Labour Union. During a prolonged strike of the Pasumalai Mahalaskshmi Mill Workers' Union, demanding the reinstatement of a section of fired trade unionists, Thevar was jailed for seven months from 15 October 1938. In the end, the management of the Mahalakshmi Mills accepted the demands of the union. In the same period a strike was led by Thevar at the Madura Knitting Company.
In 1945, he would become the founding president of the TVS Thozhaili Sangam.
Tripuri session of the Congress and formation of the Forward Bloc
Thevar attended the 52nd annual session of the Indian National Congress, held in Tripuri in March 1939. At this meeting the presidency of Subhas Chandra Bose was challenged by Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Sitaramayya had the active support of Gandhi. Bose was re-elected as the Congress President. Thevar strongly supported Bose in the intra-Congress dispute.Thevar mobilised all south India votes for Bose.
However, due to the manoeuvrings of the Gandhi-led clique in the Congress Working Committee, Bose found himself forced to resign from the Congress Presidency. He then launched the Forward Bloc on 22 June, calling for the unification of all leftwing elements into a united organisation within the Congress. Thevar, who was disillusioned by the official Congress leadership which had not revoked the CTA, joined the Forward Bloc. When Bose visited Madurai on 6 September, Thevar organised a massive rally as his reception.
Support for the Temple Entry Movement
The Temple Entry Authorisation and Indemnity Act was passed by the government of C. Rajagopalachari in 1939 by which restrictions prohibiting Dalits from entering into Hindu temples was removed. Thevar supported this reform, saying, "I would be there at the entrance of the Meenakshi Temple. Those who dare to prevent the Dalits' entry into the temple, could come there and meet me. I will answer them".
The growing popularity in Thevar as a leader of elements opposing the official Congress leadership in Tamil Nadu troubled the Congress-led government. Thevar was also increasingly associated with labour militancy. A criminal case, the so-called Madura Security Case, was proceeded against him. He was banned from leaving Madurai. When travelling to his birthplace, Pasumpon, in September 1940 he was apprehended and jailed for 18 months at the Central Jail in Tiruchirapalli. His capture sparked wide condemnation in Tamil Nadu.
Soon after his release he was arrested again under the Defense of India Rules. He was released from prison on 5 September 1945.
After release from jail
In 1945 C. Rajagopalachari tried to make a comeback within the Congress organisation in Tamil Nadu. He had the support of Gandhi and Sardar Patel, but the majority of in the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee opposed him. A conference was held in Tirupparankundram, in which the leadership should be elected. Chaos broke about during the conference, as warring factions confronted each other. Thevar interrupted the disputes and passed a motion reelecting Kamaraj as the TNCC President.
Elections to the assembly of the Madras Presidency were again held in March 1946. Thevar contested from the Mudukulathur constituency, and was elected unopposed. Soon thereafter, the CTA was repealed.
In February 1948 the Congress expelled all dissenting fractions, including the Forward Bloc. The Forward Bloc became an independent opposition party, and Thevar became its president of its Tamil Nadu state unit (a position he would hold for the rest of his life).
On 23 January 1949, in connection with birthday anniversary celebrations of Subhas Chandra Bose, Thevar publicly announced that Bose was alive and that he had met him. Soon thereafter Thevar disappeared without any explanation. He returned to public life in October 1950. Rumours claimed that he had travelled to Korea and China during this period.
On the national level the Forward Bloc had been suffering from internal ideological divisions. In 1948 two separate Forward Blocs had emerged, a 'Forward Bloc (Marxist)' (out of which the Forward Bloc of today emerged) and a 'Forward Bloc (Ruiker)' (led by R.S. Ruiker). On 23 June 1951, the two parties reunified at a meeting in Calcutta. A central committee was announced for the united party, which included Thevar as one of its members.
1952 general election
In January 1952 the first general elections in independent India were held. The Forward Bloc contested with the aim of forming non-Congress governments at the Centre as well as in the states. Election were held simultaneously to the Lok Sabha as well as to the legislative assemblies of the states. Thevar contested the Aruppukottai constituency in the Lok Sabha election and the Mudukulathur constituency in the assembly election. He won in both cases. After the election, he decided to vacate his Lok Sabha seat and concentrate his efforts to the Madras legislative assembly.
After the election, Congress lacked a majority of its own in the Madras legislative assembly. Thevar cooperated with the communists in trying to form a non-Congress governing coalition. However, the governor intervened and made C. Rajagopalachari of the Congress the Chief Minister.
Split in the Forward Bloc
In 1955, internal divisions reappeared with the Forward Bloc. The Indian National Congress had adopted Socialism as its guiding principle at a session in Madras. Some leaders within the Forward Bloc, like the chairman Mohan Singh and Sheel Bhadra Yajee, now argued that the time had come for the Forward Bloc to merge with the Congress. This proposal did however not win much support in other sections of the party leadership. Singh-Yagee unilaterally declared the party merged into the Congress.
An extraordinary central committee meeting was convened in Nagpur 11–15 May 1955. Singh, Yagee and their followers were expelled from the party. Hemanth Kumar Bose was elected chairman of the party, Haldulkar the general secretary and Thevar the deputy chairman of the party. Thevar would hold that post until his death.
1957 general election
In December 1955 Thevar travelled to Burma for the second time, during which he took part in political and religious activities organised by the All Burma Tamil Nadu Association. He returned on 18 February 1956 and began to prepare for the coming general election.
A new dynamic in the efforts to build a non-Congress front had emerged in the Madras State(which had been reorganised in 1956). The Congress had been divided and C. Rajagopalachari had formed a new party, the Congress Reform Committee (CRC).
In the election Thevar again contested both the Aruppukottai constituency in the Lok Sabha election and the Mudukulathur constituency in the assembly election. He won both seats, but this time he decided to vacate the assembly seat.
A by-election was held in the Mudukulathur assembly constituency on 1 July 1957, as Thevar had resigned from his assembly seat. The election was won by D.V. Sasivarna Thevar of the Forward Bloc. The situation in the area was tense on the day that the results were released, and there was a sizeable presence of police forces in place. Clashes between Maravars, who largely supported the Forward Bloc, and pro-Congress Devendrars began in a few villages soon after the election result was acknowledged. Gradually the violence spread to more and more villages, and by August the riots had spread throughout the entire district. Several persons were killed and thousands of houses were torched.
Thevar himself travelled to Delhi on 17 July to attend the session of the Lok Sabha. He returned on 9 September. On 10 September he took part in a 'Peace Conference' together with T. V. Sasivarna Thevar and Velu Kudumban (legislative assembly member of the Forward Bloc from devendrar community). From the Congress side six Devendrars took part. There was also a delegate from the Nadar caste. The conference concluded that the three castes should live in harmony.
Emmanuel Sekaran, the member of the Congress at the Peace Conference was killed the following day. On 28 September, a few days after the clashes had ceased, Thevar was arrested by the police under the Preventive Detention Act. Thevar's was apprehended directly after holding a speech at the conference of the Indian National Democratic Congress (the new name taken by the Congress Reform Committee). Thevar was taken to the Jail. Pudukkottai court was hearing that case. He was later accused of having masterminded the murder of Emmanuel sekaran.
The Forward Bloc and its allies condemned Thevar's arrest as a political vendetta, engineered by the Congress. A 'Thevar Committee' was step up by the INDC. Thevar was acquitted of all charges and released in January 1959.
After being released from prison Thevar began mobilising for the Madurai municipal elections, held in March 1959. An alliance of the Forward Bloc, Communist Party of India, Indian National Democratic Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was formed. The alliance won the elections, and for the first time Congress lost its hold over the city administration.
Following the election, Thevar's health deteriorated and he largely withdrew from public life. He was nominated for the 1962 Lok Sabha election. However he only attended a single campaign meeting, which also was attended by C. Rajagopalachari (who now had merged with his INDC with the Swatantra Party). Thevar was reelected, but due to health reasons he was unable to travel to the parliament in Delhi. U. Muthuramalingam Thevar, died on 30 October 1963, on his 55th birthday. A by-election for the Aruppukottai Lok Sabha constituency seat vacated by his death was held in 1964, in which the Forward Bloc was defeated for the first time.
The pillars of Thevar's political thought were spiritualism, nationalism, anti-communism, anti-imperialism and non-Congressism (wanting to create a non-Congress political alternative). Although committed to the construction of a federal socialist India, Thevar rejected Marxism-Leninism as a foreign concept and he opposed the trade policy of the Soviet Union as discriminatory towards countries like India. But first and foremost, his animosity towards the communists was due to the rejection of the Indian communists of Subhas Chandra Bose (who they had called a 'quisling'). His relationship to Marxism was further complicated by his spiritualistic orientation. As an Indian nationalist, Thevar condemned the Dravidar Kazhagam its successor DMK for stimulating separatism and parochialism. Moreover, he distrusted the Atheist element of the Dravidian political discourse.
After his death, the Forward Bloc entered into a period of decline in Tamil Nadu. The party leadership was overtaken by Thevar's disciple P.K. Mookiah Thevar. The party organisation became ridden by splits and disputes. In this situation, the major chunk of the Maravar vote-bank of the Forward Bloc was overtaken by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
Several official honours have been given to Thevar. In 1968 the Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar College was founded in Usilampatti by the then DMK-led state government. His biography was included in the high school textbooks in Tamil Nadu. In 1971 his cemetery in Pasumpon was converted into an official memorial. A life-size portrait of Thevar was installed in the Tamil Nadu assembly in 1980. In 1984, after the bifurcation of the Ramnad District the 'Pasumpon Muthuramalingam District' was created. On 1 October 2002 the life-size statue of Thevar was unveiled in the Parliament House by then President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Chamiers Road, an important arterial road in Chennai, was renamed after Thevar, and currently there is a statue of Thevar where his eponymous road intersects with Anna Salai. And the one in Mumbai city which connects both western express and eastern express highways to the Mumbai airport the road earlier known as Sion-Mahim link road is renamed after Thevar.
U.Muthuramalingam Thevar is revered as a hero of the Thevar/Maravar community. Thevar is an icon in the political life in southern Tamil Nadu. Many political parties seeking the support from that community at the time of elections will make pay their respect to him. But at the same time his legacy is not entirely uncontroversial. At times violence between Thevars and Dalits flare up in the area, and desecrations of monuments of Muthuramalinga Thevar have taken place.
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 77–78, 83, 238
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 80–81, 125
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 81–82, 126, 220
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 82, 127
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 83, 127-128
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 83, 162
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 83
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 84–85
- Thevar himself consequently kept a pragmatic attitude towards the ideological debates of the party at the national level, and kept aloof from taking sides in the splits. Although he himself refuted Marxism, he did not align with the anti-Marxist elements on the national level. See Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 165–166, 200, 221
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 17–19, 84–86, 130
- In the Lok Sabha election Thevar got 90 512 votes (45.09%) against the Congress candidate M. Gulam Mohideen who got 70724 votes (35.23%). The Mudukulatur assembly constituency was a two-seat constituency. The Forward Bloc won both seats. Thevar got 37011 votes (28.48%) and his party colleague Mottaya Kundabam got 38412 votes (29.56%)."Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 February 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2007. 
- A by-election was held, in which Forward Bloc candidate M.D. Ramaswamy Chettiar was elected with 69 128 votes.
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 86–87
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 18–21
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 87–88
- According to a statement of the then Tamil Nadu Home Minister M. Bakthavatsalam, 38 persons were killed in the clashes and over 2800 houses were burnt down.
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 88–110, 240
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 89–90
- Velayudham Nayar was the Forward Bloc candidate. His candidature was supported by the Swatantra Party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Indian Union Muslim League. Nayar was defeated by the Congress candidate R.K. Dorai (brother of the Raja of Ramnad). Nayar got 131 281 votes, against 138 358 for Dorai. 2 independent candidates were also in the fray. 
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 110–117, 220
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 234–235
- Bose claims that one cause of the post-Thevar decline of the Forward Bloc was that Thevar's personal dominance over the party in Tamil Nadu had prevented the formation of a strong second-rank leadership. See Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 165
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 162–163, 188
- M. Karunanidhi played a significant part in incorporating the southern warrior castes, like the Maravars, into the Tamil political identity. 
- . However in 1996 the district was renamed. The Pasumpon Muthuralingam District is now known as the Sivaganga District.
- Bose, K.; Forward Bloc. Madras: 1988, Tamil Nadu Academy of Political Science. p. 133
- "President unveils statues of eminent leaders". The Hindu. 1 October 2002.
- "PARLIAMENT HOUSE ESTATE".
- Politicians add fuel to caste fire in TN