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Chennai was the first city to celebrate May Day in India. As early as 1923, Singaravelar conducted May Day meetings in front of high court and at the Tiruvellikeni beach. Subramaniya Siva and Krishnaswamy Sarma and other Congress leaders participated in the meeting. The theme of the meetings was the problems faced by workers. Singaravelar announced the formation of Labour, Kisan Party of Hindustan.

The Hindu and Swadesamitran carried news items on the meeting. Vanguard, a publication brought out by M N Roy, an early Indian communist in Germany, also referred to the meeting.

Singaravelar passed a resolution at the meeting that May 1 should be a holiday for workers. Many decades later, V P Singh, as prime minister, made May 1 a national holiday.

When he was chief minister, K Kamaraj unveiled Deviprasad Roy Chowdhury’s labour statue at the spot where Singaravelar’s meeting happened. In 1990, chief minister M Karunanidhi announced Napier Park will be renamed as May Day park.

Singaravelar was born in Ayodhya Kuppam on Feb 18 in 1860. Where his house stood on Beach Road is where the Lady Willingdon Institute of Advanced Study in Education is located today. Singaravelar’s house was seized by Lord Willingdon who started a training college in his wife’s name. He studied in Hindu High School, Presidency College and then studied law at the Madras Law College. He practiced as a lawyer.

Singaravelar never appeared for exploiters and oppressors, his biographers say. He gave up his law practice during the Non Cooperation Movement.

A polyglot, Singaravelar knew Urdu, French and German besides Tamil and English. He had close association with Subramaniya Bharathi, Sakkarai Chettiyar, Thiru Vi Ka and Periyar.

He went as a Tamil Nadu delegate to the 1922 Congress conference in Gaya. There he met S A Dange. He established links with M N Roy also. He presided over the first communist conference in Kanpur in 1925. He continued his association with communist front organizations when the party was banned in 1934.

Along with Thiru Vi Ka, Singaravelar founded the Maras Labour Fedderation. He started taking part in labour struggles. He was a Corporation councillor and started the mid-day meals scheme which was later given up.

Along with Thiru Vi Ka, Singaravelar founded the Maras Labour Fedderation. He started taking part in labour struggles. He was a Corporation councillor and started the mid-day meals scheme which was later given up.

In 1928, he was given a 10-year prison sentence as one of the leaders of a railway strike. But he was released in 1930.

He published an English weekly called Labour Kisan Gazette and a Tamil weekly called Thozhilalan.In 1935, he started a monthly magazine called Pudhu Ulagam.

Singaravelar wrote many articles in Periyar’s Kudiyarasu. Singaravelar’s books dealt with themes such as rationalism, philosophy, self-rule and so on.

Biographies have been written about him. Chief among them are New Century Book House’s South India’s First Communist by K Murugesan and CS Subramaniam and Ko Kesavan’s Communist Movement and Singaravelar.

He conceived a socialist society in which no land owner will seek rent for land and no capitalist will collect surplus value. He said surplus value, house rent and land rent will be collected and spent for the people’s food, housing, clothes and education.

Addressing the print workers in 1945, he said he was 84 years old and was happy if he were to die in their midst. He said the communist party would provide the right leadership for them. Next year, he passed away.

Singaravelar donated his vast collection of books to the communist party. On his passing, Annadurai said at a time when chameleons were famous, a tiger-like revolutionary had died.


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