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Ariyanayagam Chandranehru: Tamil Nationalist son of the Eastern soil

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By D.B.S.Jeyaraj

(Former Tamil National Alliance Amparai district MP Ariyanayagam Chandranehru was assassinated on February 7th 2005. This Article published then in “The Sunday Leader”is reproduced here to denote his 10th death anniversary………….DBSJ)

Ariyanayagam Chandranehru

Ariyanayagam Chandranehru

Ariyanayagam Chandranehru was the latest unfortunate casualty caught in the crossfire of a dirty war between the LTTE and its former Eastern commander. The former MP from Amparai district who was gunned down along with the LTTE’s Kausalyan and others on the Batticaloa – Polonnaruwa road on Feb 7th happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nehru or Chandra as he was generally known was a colourful character with a flamboyant personality. He was an old “sea dog” with about 30 years service as a mariner. Of these at least 20 were as captain of a mercantile vessel.Years of sea going however did not diminish the patriotism of this Eastern son of the soil whose family was steeped in Tamil nationalist politics. He returned home a few years ago to put down roots in his motherland and took to politics in a big way.

Hailing from Thirukkovil in the south of Amparai district Chandranehru was the son of a well – known pedagogue KAW Ariyanayagam who made a name for himself in the Gandhiyan way of Tamil national struggle some decades ago. Ariyanayagam was a founder member of the Federal Party led by the “Gandhi of Eelam” SJV Chelvanayagam.

Like Chelva he too was a protestant christian. If the North was a preserve of the American Missionaries the East has been a Methodist stronghold from the time of William Ault who came along with the original seven methodist missionaries led by Thomas Coke. Thirkkovil was one place that took to Methodism in large numbers. This Christianisation however did not prevent Tamil nationalism entrenching itself there.

Ariyanayagam senior participated in all the non – violent struggles of the fifties and sixties that the Tamils engaged in to win back their lost rights. He was the uncrowned king of the Amparai district Tamils and fostered principles of non – violence in them. As a result he was called “Arappoar” (Ahimsa struggle) Ariyanayagam. He also wrote the Tamil national anthem of yesteryear “Engal Eelath Thamil Thiru Naadu” modelled on Tamil Nadu lyricist Kannadasan’s “Thiraavida Ponnadu” song from the film”Sivagangai Seemai”.

Young Chandranehru also participated in many such demonstrations during his student and early youth including the 1956 and 1961 Satyagrahas. LIke many Tamils he became disillusioned with non – violent struggle and in later years an ardent devotee of the armed struggle and the LTTE.

Entering government service first as a fisheries department employee he worked in Kalpitiya. The lure of the ocean was irresistible and he quit government service and joined a Maldivian ship as second officer. In six years he was captain of his own ship. He worked for many years in Maldivian ships. He also got married .

If life on the high seas took Chandranehrus mind off Tamil politics a nasty experience in the mid – eighties brought him back to reality. Coming home on a vacation he was arrested under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and incarcerated in Boosa for more than a year. The experience made him a determined Tamil nationalist espousing separation through armed struggle.

He bade adieu to shipping at the end of the last century and returned home to Thirikkovil. He bought a complex of shops and became a businessman. Poitics was in his blood. Soon came the 2001 elections. Nehru contested on the TULF ticket in Amparai district where Tamils were only 19%. Though a newcomer and being away from the Country for decades He won a seat.

One thing that helped him was the family background. His father Ariyanayagam would have been an MP in 1960 when Amparai district was carved out of Batticaloa but for the fact that the Tamils willingly “sacrificed” the seat due to them to let the Muslims get additional representation during electoral demarcation. Such was the amity that prevailed between both communities them. In 1977 when Pottuvil was made a multi – member constituency Ariyanayagam would have been the first choice had he been living. He passed away in 1972 and so entered M. Canagaretnam.

Apart from this one of Nehrus brothers Ruban was a popular methodist pastor. The Christian community rallied strongly behind Nehru because of this. Another factor that helped him was the fact that the Thambiluvil – Thirukkovil people mobilised strongly in his favour because Nehru was a man from that area.

Nehru’s Parliamentary baptism was funny. He came wearing a batik bush shirt and the speaker refused to let him take his seat as he was improperly attired. So Nehru had to borrow the shirt of a Parliamentary staffer and take his seat. He was a firebrand and often made controversial pronouncements. He took no effort to disguise his unbridled admiration of the LTTE.

When the Tamil Nadu assembly passed a resolution calling for Pirapakarans arrest and deportation to India Nehru lost his temper. He described India not as “Thainadu”(Mother Country) of the Tamils but a “Pei Nadu” (Devilish Country). He also threatened to bring Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha Jayaram to trial under the Tamil Eelam penal code.

The irony in all this was that his father Ariyanayagam was a great admirer of India. He himself was named after two great sons of India. The Chandra was for Subash Chandrabose and the Nehru obviously for Jawarhalal Nehru.

When the Karuna revolt occurred Chandranehru was in a quandary. He took no sides initially and urged unity saying Praba and Karuna were the right and left eye of the Tamils. Later he was compelled to throw in his lot with Karuna and spoke at a rally where Prabakarans picture was burnt publicly.

Despite this Nehru was not trusted by Karuna who had brought in Pathmanathan to contest on the TNA ticket along with Nehru. Pathmanathan was from Karaitheevu and married in Thambiluvil. Thus he dented Nehru’s Thirukkovil 0 Thambiluvil vote bank while garnering Karaitheevu votes.

Another factor was the “religious” card being raised. The support of all Hindu temple trustees was obtained to mobilise Hindu votes and keep the “Vedakkaran” (Bibleperson) out. Despite this Nehru lost only by a narrow margin to Pathmanathan.The Eastern situation changed within a week of the 2004 election. Karuna left Batticaloa and Praba gained the upper hand. Nehru appealed that he should be given a national list nomination but did not succeed.

As time progressed Nehru re-established better relations with the tigers in the East as well as Wanni. He was made Amparai district representative of the North – Eastern Centre for Human Rights. Regarded as an LTTE affiliate the center is headed by Rev. Karunairatnam.

There was a lot of traedy in the family as Nehru lost two brothers in the past two years. Both died due to illness. The recent Tsunami disaster hit Thirukkovil hard and according to a close relative 26 of Chandranehrus relations were killed.

Now Chandranehru himself is no more. He got caught up in the internecine intra – LTTE strife by going to help Kausalyan of the LTTE. The LTTE has conferred the posthumous honour “Naatruppatraalar” or “Patriotic citizen” om him. Even without that title Chandranehru Ariyanayagam was certainly a Tamil nationalist patriot. He leaves behind his wife, son, elderly mother and seven siblings.

DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at ~ dbsjeyaraj@yahoo.com

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