May 22, 2014 1:27:51 am
Former Lok Sabha member R Umanath who helped build the Communist movement in Tamil Nadu passed away in Tiruchy on Wednesday morning after a brief illness. He was 92.
The former CPM politbureau member and special invitee to its Central Committee is survived by daughters U Vasuki, a CPM leader who lost the recent Lok Sabha election, and U Nirmala Rani, a lawyer. His wife had passed away a couple of years ago. Umanath played a role in creation of CPM.
Son of a poor Brahmin couple, Ramnath Shenoy and Nethravathi, he was born in Kasargode, Kerala and in 1938, got influenced by Communist leaders P Krishna Pillai, EMS Namboothiripad and S Subramanya Sarma. In 1939, he went to Tamil Nadu to pursue higher education and later became a Communist party member.
He started working as a courier for underground leaders in Chennai. In 1940, the British government put him and several seniors in prison for distributing seditious pamphlets. They were released two years later. Umanath was asked to help organise a railway strike at Ponmalai in Tiruchy, in which Dhanalakshmi alias Pappa and her widowed mother Alamelu alias Lakshmi were local faces. In 1948, after the party was banned, Pappa and Lakshmi moved to Madras where Umanath was based. In 1950, police arrested them along with others. In jail, they went on an indefinite hunger strike and Lakshmi died. Umanath married Pappa later.
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He spent about a decade in prison before and after Independence. He was elected to Lok Sabha in 1962 from Pudukottai as a Left candidate. In the next general election, after formation of CPM and emergence of DMK, he was re-elected in DMK-Swantantra-CPM-IUML alliance.
In 1977, he was elected to the Tamil Nadu assembly from Nagapattinam when the party was in the DMK-led alliance, and three years later, re-elected when CPM and CPI aligned with AIADMK. A good orator, Umanath was a leading voice of farmers. He was elected to CPM politbureau in 1991 and continued till 2008. His cremation will be at Tiruchy on Thursday.
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