அறிஞர் அண்ணாவின் கட்டுரைகள்

First Round

Mitta Manickam was not favourably disposed towards me - not that I competed with him in business - but as hereditary trustee of Ekathammal Temple, he thought that he should scorn me because of my leanings towards the self-respect movement.

Having had a heavy meal that day, I was extra happy, and sat half dozing in the local park, when I found myself being patted on the shoulder. I was startled first, next shocked to find, Mitta Manickam by my side.

"Dozing?" asked Mitta. "A little" said I, still a bit dazed - for it was quite unexpected.

I have forgotten to tell you one important fact. Mitta Manickam was in the Congress - not in the ordinary way, mind you, his chief clerk was the Mandal Congress president - his store keeper happened to be the Editor of the Congress weekly journal, and it was rumoured that he had more than half-a-dozen friends in the T.N.C.C. itself. So, Mitta Manickam was an important personage in the Congress pantheon. No wonder no minister failed to offer one or two smiles, on inauguration and festive days.

"My dear fellow", began Mitta, in a patronising tone, "you are dozing simply because you are happy; nothing to worry; no anxiety unlike me."

I was not able to follow his line of thought. We sat in silence for some seconds.

"After all you were right. Young though you are, you had intelligence enough to understand these Congress Wallahas! You kept them at a distance."

I was still further surprised. To hear Mitta Manickam speak in such a strain. Wonder of wonders? What has happened?

"As you used to say, the Congress has become rotten, swollen-headed. It has become adamant, tyrannical. Mahatma, of course, foresaw this and that was why he asked them to disband the Congress."

Well, I have expressed these sentiments, many a time on the platform, only I employed more civilised terms. And Mitta Manickam used to speak vehemently about me to my father-in-law who had some small business dealings with him. But what do I now hear? Mitta Manickam condemning the Congress! There he was in pure white Khadi; but he was speaking in disparaging terms about the Congress. Why, I wondered.

"The Congress, having taken up the responsibility of running the administration, should become realistic in its approach towards problems. Instead of that, it is poking its nose in every affair, meddling in the private rights of individuals, and is becoming more and more dictatorial. Whoever asked them to fix a ceiling on land! Ceiling!! At Karachi, they themselves fixed a ceiling on salaries - 500 a month; was it not? Now they are getting one thousand five hundred as salary alone; but, they want ceiling on land! They forget, that it was because of the hard - earned money liberally donated by the landlords, that they won the elections. Ungrateful men!"

Mitta Manickam was merciless. The Congress was not ungrateful. He was favoured with many a patronage, and it was the talk of the town, that but for his intimacy with some of the top-ranking Congressmen, he could not have secured the chance to export cloth and beedies and such other articles to Ceylon. But, why should I intervene and act as a break to his thought and talk? I expressed my approval by a broad smile, and encouraged him to talk further.

"The Congress thinks that the landlords are there to obey their orders. How meek were they when they approached us for funds! And how unconcerned have they become now! We also are to be blamed. When the Congress was tottering, we stood by its side and gave the sinews of war. And, you also are to be blamed. You people were adamant. Refused to approach us at all. And now the Congress thinks that it could boss over all. They are busy fixing ceiling on land."

"But" I began, "it seems that all of you, landlords in the Congress knew before hand, that ceiling would be fixed sooner or later. I was told that you even accepted the necessity for such a scheme. Congress leaders, especially Ministers, are saying that you are patriotic enough to accept this reform in the interest of the country."

"They do talk - and we thought that they would go on talking. Talking is nothing but taking action is another. We were led to believe that they are indulging in such talks only to counteract the propaganda of the leftists. So we gave our approval. But to pounce upon us in this merciless manner - that is ungrateful. Look at Pakistan, there too there is a scheme about ceiling. But they are liberal. The ceiling fixed is 500 acres. That is justice with mercy. But here, they say that the ceiling would be something like 15 or 20 acres."

"But, in Pakistan they have taken over all Jagirs without paying compensation."

"Without compensation? How could they? It is expropriation. Here our government paid compensation to Zamindars."

"Yes, liberally too! But, in Pakistan, they are not paying any compensation. Here the Congress government has got a proposal to pay compensation to those who are going to be affected by ceiling."

"It won't be liberal. The rates would be fixed arbitarily."

"But you would be paid. In Pakistan, they do not shell out cash! They tabulate the compensation and issue bonds at 4% interest, which could mature after, say, some twenty years or so."

"Scraps of paper instead of rich fields? How atrocious! But, well, there is a dictator in Pakistan. That is why such expropriatory methods are being adopted."

"And, Ayub Khan himself is affected by this ceiling. So too are some of his colleagues."

"Such schemes, whether they are on this side or that, should be fought tooth and nail. And who could be better equipped than your partymen for this Dharama Yuddha. We may differ on matters of religion and God. And even that difference could be overlooked - minimised? But this problem of annihilating the power of the Congress party, should bring us on a common platform. We should pool our resources, and fight out the issue."

"A sort of United Front, that is what you contemplate?"

"Call it by whatever name you like - What is important is, we should cry a halt to this rake's progress of the Congress. I am sure, your party would welcome this move. You may count upon my unstinted support."

"Sure! Sure! I realise your enthusiasm, and value your energy."

"United, we could defeat these men puffed up with doctrines - at the next elections. We could come out in a majority - form a ministry."

"That is a fine picture - bright in colour but, pray, have you pondered over the most vital aspect? A ministry, wherein our partymen find a place, will refuse to accept some parts of the Congress scheme about ceiling."

"Fine! Why some parts! The whole scheme could be reshaped."

"That would take time. The first measure of change would be, we would scrap that portion dealing with compensation. No cash would be paid. Only bonds!"

"You.... you ..... impertinent ... insolent ...?

"You have not heard me in full. We would go deeper in to the problem to find out, the tactics adopted by the big landlords to counteract the measure. Bogus transactions would be torn off! Transfer not bona fide, would be detected and dealt with in the proper manner. There would be a thoroughness unlike the policy of the Congress, faltering and fumbling as it was. Our quarrel with the Congress is, not that they are bringing in legislation about ceiling, but their unaccountable delay in drafting it. They have given you long rope, - more than enough time to find out loop-holes to jump off and away. Ceiling as and when it is implemented would be just a caricature! Men of your type, have been all these years, busy parcelling out your estates, as between brothers and brothers-in-law, trusts and Corporations, charitable institutions and educational organisations. These matters should be and would be looked into - if and when we get power."

Mitta Manickam was naturally furious.
"Neither your party nor the Congress could succeed in unseating us from power and position. You know that! They contemplate ceiling and you are supporting their move. Attempt, it you dare. We are determined to organise a Rightist Party very soon; and we would sweep the polls."

"I would request you to do that in right earnest. That would be much better than sneaking into a growing party just to sap its vitality. If you organise a Rightist Party, then the people could see for themselves, the real state of affairs, and in the final bound there would be not only ceiling of land, but 'sealing off' as far as suckers and self-seekers are concerned."

Mitta Manickam began slapping me - well it did not hurt me much, but the feelings of those who were sanuntering in the park were wounded. They took law into their own hands! And now there is a criminal proceeding against all of us! My lawyer reads out the sections in the I.P.C. under which we stand charged.

"Justice is one thing and Law another, though Law is there to maintain Justice. That Mitta Manickam was assaulted cannot be denied. That ten of you were found on the spot, some actually active in the assault, can be proved by the prosecution. If only I could succeed in proving that there has been no conspiracy I would feel satisfied, and you would all be safe. But, the Barrister on the other side is an expert in such cases. So you better allow me to engage a senior," explains, my lawyer.

"This is but the first round; poor fellow he would have to face many more rounds, and my master's punches would be swift, hard and dangerous" says one on the staff of Mitta Manickam's estate.