Thursday, April 30, 2009

Down Memory Lane: A K Sankara Menon and his Struggles

ONE OF the things which I wanted to do, and failed, was to meet A K Sankara Menon, freedom fighter.

He died last year on April 28 and I was there at his home in Koyilandy, to pay my respects. Instead of the man I wanted to meet, I had to contend with meeting his family and have a look at the old house where he spent his life. It was an ordinary house with very little facilities, quite unlike the abodes of our political leaders with or without a legacy in freedom movement.

Sankara Menon did have a great legacy as he was one of the last of our freedom fighters who did actually face torture and arrest under the British. As a young student of Koyilandy Government High School, he was arrested by the British authorities along with his elder brother for singing Vandematharam, an anathema to the colonial rulers.

Later he was part of the liberation movements in Goa and Jammu & Kashmir, where he had faced tremendous police brutality. In fact, in Goa, where the Portuguese were still holding on to their colonial property in spite of India’s liberation from colonial rule in 1947, freedom fighters form various parts of India converged and it was Sankara Menon who led the team from Kerala.

He was part of a stream in our national movement which traced their ancestry to Vir Savarkar and his line of religious nationalism. Naturally, Sankara Menon became part of Jan Sangh and later the Bharatiya Janata Party, in his political career but he kept his austere ways and commitment to principles till his end.

At a memorial meeting in Kozhikode the other day, organized by Sankara Menon Trust led by his son and journalist K S Sarat Lal, I heard O Rajagopal and P S Sreedharan Pillai, his long-time colleagues, recount their memories about the man and his struggles. One thing they talked about was the way he kept himself away from the centres of power, in spite of the fact that his party had been holding power at the Centre for a number of times but he was one person conspicuously absent at the corridors of power.

That explains why I failed to meet him in his life time. His son was a senior journalist in Delhi when BJP was ruling this country, but he was not a presence even in his son’s place at the capital.

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