N. Sankaraiah breathed his last on November 15, 2023. He was 102; he is survived by sons Chandrasekar and Narasimhan, and daughter Chitra.
During the course of an interview to P. Sainath and PARI in December 2019, Sankaraiah spoke at length about his life – most of which had been spent in protest. Read: Sankariah: nine decades a revolutionary
He was 99 when the interview happened and age was yet to shrink him. His voice remained resolute and his memory, impeccable. He was full of life. Full of hope.
Sankaraiah had spent eight years in jail during the freedom struggle – once in 1941 when he was a student at American College, Madurai and later, in 1946, as an accused in the Madurai Conspiracy case. The Indian government has recognised the Madurai Conspiracy as part of the freedom movement.
Although a good student, Sankaraiah couldn’t complete his degree as in 1941 his arrest for protesting against British rule, was just 15 days before his final BA examinations.
He was released a day before India got her independence – on August 14, 1947. Sankaraiah spent three years underground after the Communist Party was banned in 1948. Growing up in a politically charged atmosphere – his maternal grandfather was a Periyarist – Sankaraiah was acquainted with the Left movement during his college days. After his release from the prison and after Independence, Sankaraiah was active in the Communist movement. He was instrumental in building the farmer’s movement in Tamil Nadu, and spearheading many other struggles.
Even while being part of the freedom struggle, Sankaraiah, like many Communist leaders, fought for other issues. “We fought for equal wages, untouchability issues and temple entry movements” he said in the interview to PARI. “Abolishing Zamindari system was an important move. The Communists fought for this.”