CHENNAI: “The youth will rise up to the occasion and it will happen at the right time,” said N Sankaraiah, a veteran Communist leader and one of the few freedom fighters alive now. Fondly called ‘Comrade NS’ in party circles, he is entering his 100th year today.
In a brief conversation with Express, facilitated by his son S Narasimhan, Sankaraiah exuded confidence that the youth, though not directly participating in politics, are well aware of political affairs. He was responding to a question on the politicisation of the youth in the country.
Born on July 15, 1922, in Kovilpatti, Sankaraiah was exposed to Periyar’s ideas at a young age. As a youth, he actively participated in student politics and fought against the British rule. As a student of the American College in Madurai, he played a pivotal role in the formation of various students unions in Madurai. His academics, however, came to a screeching halt after he was arrested in 1941. He spent a total of eight years in jail and was released hours before India’s Independence.
He was one of the 32 communist leaders who laid the keel for CPI(Marxist). Sankaraiah exhorted the youth to join the struggle for the annihilation of the caste system. He married Navamani Ammal, belonging to a protestant Christian family. A senior party leader said that during the peak of the pandemic, Comrade NS had urged them to take up more ground work to mitigate the Covid effect on the poor.
Narasimhan said that his father, is well aware of current affairs.When asked about his comments on the present political situation, the veteran leader, who had also served as Tamil Nadu’s CPI(M) secretary, blamed the flawed economic policies for the rise in fuel and food prices. “The BJP government is snatching rights of States. Right to speech and to write is being curtailed.
Human-rights activists like Stan Swamy are being oppressed,” the three-time MLA said. Stating that BJP has to be fought together, he called for unity among left and secular parties. A CPI(M) worker said he has impeccable memory. The State Platform for Common School System (TN) has urged the State government to celebrate Sankaraiah’s birthday, saying, “Not everyone gets the opportunity to celebrate the centenary of a living freedom fighter.”