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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Mythily Sivaraman: ‘She fought ardently for women’s liberation, upliftment of marginalised’

Sivaraman was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for about a decade and was not keeping well after she lost her memory.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
Updated: May 31, 2021 5:21:46 am
Mythily Sivaraman was 81

Mythily Sivaraman, a prominent women leader who was one of the founding members of CPI(M)’s All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), died in Chennai on Sunday. She was 81.

Sivaraman was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for about a decade and was not keeping well after she lost her memory. People close to her family said she tested positive for Covid-19 a few days ago and succumbed to the disease.

She is survived by her husband Karunakaran and daughter Kalpana Karunakaran, a senior academic teaching at IIT-Madras.

Through her personal visits and writings, Sivaraman was at the forefront of protests related to the Keezhvenmani massacre of Dalits in Thanjavur. Being one of the prominent leaders of AIDWA and CPI(M), she worked along with generations of Left activists in Tamil Nadu, and was a leading voice on issues related to caste oppression and trade unions.

After her education from Syracuse University, Sivaraman was associated with the United Nations where she worked with the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonisation and visited Cuba without a passport. Before being actively involved with the CPI(M), Sivaraman was also associated with Vinoba Bhave and his associates in Tamil Nadu — Krishnammal Jagannathan and her late husband Jagannathan who launched Land for Tillers’ Freedom (LAFTI) in the early 1980s to work toward land reforms and land distribution.

Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram, former judge of Madras High Court K Chandru and senior journalist N Ram were among those who closely worked with Sivaraman in late 1960s. Chidambaram recalled that Sivaraman lived the life of a fighter all along her life. “Very sad to learn that our long time friend Mythily Sivaraman passed away yesterday. My sincere condolences…” read a message sent by him to Sivaraman’s family and close friends in Chennai.

Sivaraman had started editing Radical Review, a socio-economic-political magazine, in 1969 after Chidambaram quit after the first edition. She ran the journal till 1972.

For retired judge Chandru, his association with Sivaraman lasted for about 53 years, including his wedding that was held at her home. Even after she lost her memory, Chandru was one of the few people she was able to recognise. “It was a long association. She maintained our friendship even after I was expelled from CPI(M) in 1989,” he recalled.

Several CPI(M) leaders expressed their condolences.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted, “Mythily Sivaraman fought ardently for women’s liberation and for upliftment of dalits & marginalised. She made significant contributions as AIDWA leader, CITU activist & @cpimspeak member. Her passing is a great loss to left and progressive movements in the country.”

“Covid-19 took away Mythili Sivaraman today: a v remarkable figure in the Left, TU & women’s movements of Tamil Nadu & India. She was among the first to visit Kilvenmani in wake of the massacre of Dalit workers. Red Salute comrade Mythili, from your daughters, comrades in spirit!” tweeted CPI(M) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan.

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