Comrade N K Natarajan: A Tireless Crusader of the Working Class of Tamil Nadu
Comrade NK Natarajan who served as national and state leader of AICCTU in various capacities for decades, breathed his lost on 10th December 2022 while attending a CPI ML district committee meeting at Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu. He was elected the state secretary of CPI ML in a just concluded state party conference.
Born in a remote village near Ottanchatram of Dindigul district, he extensively spent his lifetime among workers throughout Tamil Nadu in organising them for a revolutionary politics. He led a life of a professional revolutionary.
Comrade NK Natarajan made it a point to attend the all India conference of AICCTU in 2020 at Naihati as a delegate despite his busy engagement as the state secretary of CPI ML, Tamil Nadu. He was also elected as a member of the National Council. He played an important role for the success of one all India conference at Chennai and several all India meetings of AICCTU in Tamil Nadu, including the recent national council meeting at Coimbatore in August 2022. He is known for his dedication and simplicity. He began his journey as full time activist organising workers of plantations in Valparai, Coimbatore. Then, he moved on to organising power loom workers of Namakkal – Erode – Salem districts. Later, he also organised textile workers of Coimbatore and spent several years among Pricol workers at Coimbatore, particularly in the most crisis period of the Pricol movement. He was part and parcel of the Pricol workers’ movement from the beginning. He stayed in the union office itself for years and guided workers on their day today activities.
Many workers of power loom workers fondly recalled the days of their association in struggles with him. He not only developed trade union leaders from among the most downtrodden, illiterate section of powerloom workers but also facilitated in raising their literacy level to read and write.
In the backdrop of an unfortunate development of a death of HR manager of Pricol because of the management’s adamant attitude, refusal to negotiate with the union of AICCTU enjoying majority and because of illegal victimisation of workers, the administration unleashed white terror.
Hundreds of frontline workers of the union were put behind bars under fabricated, false cases. The union president went underground to evade arrest. In such a trying circumstances, comrade NK Natarajan led the movement. He was in the fore front in reviving the movement along with AICCTU’s central leadership including Comrade Shankar. Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, the then General Secretary, too visited Coimbatore for a convention of Pricol workers against the police crackdown.
Comrade NK was also part of delegation to meet the then Deputy CM, Mr Stalin. AICCTU led the campaign against the illegal and undemocratic attitude of the Pricol management and anti – workers repressive measures of the state by enrolling the support of democratic sections of Tamil Nadu. All India body of AICCTU also built a powerful nationwide movement in support of pricol workers struggle. Only in the process of multi-pronged resistance led by AICCTU, the heat of administration’s actions cooled down.
He was also leading workers struggles and the unions of textool, ITPL, Subha Plastics, LGB, etc., for better wages and better working conditions. His experience in conciliation proceedings and in handling the labour department brought some relief to scores of victimised workers of several engineering industries situated in Coimbatore.
He travelled the nook and corner of Tamil Nadu to organise workers, to agitate for their life and livelihood and to educate them to develop as vangaurds of the social change.
His role in uniting the entire party, after he became the state secretary of CPI ML in a challenging situation, is really commendable. He pioneered the idea of anti-fascist movement in Tamil Nadu and took all efforts to earn the support of Left and progressive forces in solidarity. He had a very warm relationship with leaders of the left and democratic parties in the state.
The memorial meeting at Coimbatore on 22 Dec 2022 was presided over by comrade Bala Subramanian, a close associate of NK and the state Vice President of AICCTU in Tamil nadu. The meeting was also addressed by comrade Dipankar, the GS of CPIML, Comrade Shankar, the president of AICCTU, Balamurugan, the national secretary of pucl and host of leaders from left and democratic parties in the state.
Comrade Thenmozhi, the life partner of NK and a leader of AICCTU and NK’s brother Vijayakumar also addressed the meeting.
The meeting was attended by hundreds of workers, including construction, civil supplies corporation, engineering, electricity, textiles, transport and TASMAC from across the state, Kanyakumari to Chennai.
The revolutionary trade union movement and the working class of Tamil Nadu are determined to carry forward his legacy of simplicity, determination and hard work.