Remembering MGR

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2018-01-06

By Manekshaw

Governor of Tamil Nadu, Banwarilal Purohit, speaking at the birth centenary celebrations of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M.G. Ramachandran, a few days ago highlighted that the late Chief Minister genuinely remained sympathetic towards Sri Lankan Tamils.

Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran, who was popularly known by the initials of his name as MGR, had expressed his concerns politically and sympathized with the grievances of Lankan Tamils after the Black July communal disturbance in 1983.

The iconic film star, who became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in 1977, was well received even among the Sri Lankan cinema fans including Sinhalese and Muslims. His action-packed movies were screened throughout the Island with a houseful audience.

The MGR's popularity in Sri Lanka was quite evident during a visit to Colombo in 1965, when he was given the opportunity to meet the late Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake.

Interestingly, MGR was instrumental in establishing a University in Tanjore, which had been the capital of the Chola dynasty. It is worth noting that the Chola dynasty with the Tiger emblem in its flag covered a vast area in South Asia, including Sri Lanka.

MGR was born in Kandy, Sri Lanka to a Malayali migrant family from Kerala on 17 January 1917.

He gained access to the Tamil cinema in the 1930s and thereafter made headway to transform himself as an iconic figure among the Tamil cinema fans. His fan clubs were sprouting up every nook and corner in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

Jaffna's Velvettiturai, the birth place of LTTE Leader V. Prabhakaran, being a seafarers' paradise, there were instances where MGR's fans from the coastal urban area in the Northern tip of the Peninsula boated to the southern coastal areas of Tamil Nadu to feast their eyes on the newly released movies of MGR.

Fan clubs in Jaffna

MGR's fan clubs in Jaffna were quite active in the '60s and '70s and a carnival like atmosphere prevailed throughout the cities when his movies were newly released.

After quitting the Dravida Munnetra Kalagam (DMK) M.G. Ramachandran formed his own party, Anna Dravida Munnetra Kalagam (AIADMK), named after his political mentor the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, C.N. Annadurai.

With the support gained at the Tamil Nadu State Assembly election in 1977, MGR became the Chief Minister of the State and remained formidable in power until his demise in 1987.

MGR focused on the plight of the Lankan Tamils at a time when the civilians from the North and East were seeking refuge in Tamil Nadu following the escalation of separatist war in the Island.

Tamil Nadu remained a safe haven for Tamil militants during MGR's period and the LTTE was allowed to set up camp extensively in the State.

The monetary assistance provided to the LTTE by MGR was immense and the outfit was able to buy modern weapons in its early stages and transfer them to Sri Lanka with the money received from the Chief Minister.

MGR was more a 'pawn' on the LTTE's chess board. The Chief Minister's good rapport with the Central Government of Indira Gandhi had paved the way for the LTTE outfit to get itself deeply rooted in Tamil Nadu.

It was not only the LTTE, even the Lankan Tamil moderate leadership such as the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) Leader A. Amirthalingam and many more were accommodated by MGR.

Gandhi killing

However, MGR being a person who had firmly stood by the Indian political culture of unity in diversity was not alive when a member of 'Nehru dynasty' – Rajiv Gandhi was killed ruthlessly in Tamil Nadu by the organization which he had aided immensely to thrive within the state.

MGR had a great respect for leaders of the Indian independent struggle. He had praised the lives led by Gandhi and Nehru frequently through the songs and dialogues which were frequently punched in his films. The late Chief Minister always admired the political ideologies of Indira Gandhi and he wouldn't have tolerated the LTTE at all if he had lived when Rajiv Gandhi was brutally killed in his state.

The action taken by MGR's successor late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram, following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, to root out the LTTE fully from Tamil Nadu clearly mirrors the strategies which would have been taken by MGR against LTTE, had he been alive.

Further, the birth centenary year of Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran (MGR) concludes on 17 January 2018 and his 30th death anniversary was commemorated on 24 December last year; even though MGR was labelled a great politician with many noble traits he too belongs to the list of politicians who had failed miserably trying to tame the LTTE.

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