Tamil poet and activist Inquilab dies in Chennai at 72

Chennai,Dec2: Tamil poet, orator and activist Inquilab (also referred as Inkulab), who was voice of the marginalized, passed away at a private hospital in Chennai on Thursday. Popularly known as Makkal Pavalar (people’s poet), he was 72 and is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

Born as Sahul Hameed in Keezhakarai, Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, the rationalist’s body would be donated to government medical college in Chengalpattu.

As a student of Madurai Thyagarajar College, he actively took part in the anti-Hindi agitations in 1965.

Later he became ideologically oriented towards communism and the Keezhvenmani massacre in 1968 is a prime reason for this shift, says Suba Veerapandian, a Dravidian ideologue and general secretary of the Dravida Iyyakka Tamizhar Peravai.

In 1968, 44 Dalit agricultural workers were burnt alive in a small hut by landlords in Keezhvenmani village, Nagapattinam district.

A communist with Marxist-Leninist inclination, Inquilab, condemning this heinous act wrote his famous poem “Manushangada… Naanga Manushangada” (Humans… We are humans). This went on to become the anthem for Dalit and human rights movements. His extensive contribution to the Tamil Dalit discourse became the tool of liberation for the marginalized and his modern dramas like Avvai and Manimegalai questioned the patriarchy.

The rationalist who espoused aesthetics into Tamil political poetry, “addressed the women and Dalit liberation that was ignored by the Dravidian parties in the post Periyar era and was an iconoclast of the nationality question that was ignored by the communist parties by raising his voice for the Tamil Eelam,” says D. Ravikumar, writer and general secretary of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK).

Inquilab was greatly influenced by Periyar and the Marxist ideology, despite being a strong critic of Dravidian political parties and communist parties. “For him the ideology took precedence over parties’ high command and Inquilab would quote Mao Tse-tung: ‘bombard the headquarters’”, says Veerapandian.

The Marxist ideologue, strongly criticized the moral bankruptcy of politicians through his poem Kanmani Rajam and his “political leanings did not become bondage in expressing his views,” adds Ravikumar.

The writer was associated with the Vanambadi Literary Movement, which gave a social and Marxist outlook to poetry by bringing together Tamil writers and thinkers in the 1970’s.

“His(Inquilab) was a very powerful, status quo questioning voice that opposed establishments, worked for people’s rights and liberation of the oppressed,” says V. Vasanthi Devi, educationalist and former vice-chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University.

In 2006, protesting the government’s failure to protect Sri Lankan Tamils, the poet returned the Kalaimamani award given by Tamil Nadu state government.

The writer of Marx Mudhal Mao Tse-tung Varai (From Marx to Mao Tse-tung), he strongly believed that the liberation of Tamils was possible only through people’s movement and seeking the Indian government’s help would in no way bolster the cause. Veerapandian recollects the late poet’s verse: “How can you ask a leech to donate blood?”