Veteran Gandhian, K.M. Natarajan, dies of COVID-19 in Madurai

The 89-year-old was the secretary of Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai, was a stalwart of the Bhoodan movement and had also helped in restoring the rights of soil tillers in Vilampatti and Valivalam

Veteran Gandhian and secretary of Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai, K. M. Natarajan, who was 89, succumbed to COVID-19 at Government Rajaji Hospital on Monday night.

Curator and administrative officer of the Gandhi Memorial Museum, K.R. Nanda Rao said that Natarajan suffered from breathlessness and was admitted to GRH on May 19, and the RT-PCR test taken at that time showed that he was COVID-19 positive. Despite treatment at the hospital, he died on Monday night.

It was in 1952 that Natarajan resolved to take up Mahatma Gandhi’s call to boycott foreign clothes and opted for the hand-spun khadi ever after. When Vinoba Bhave came calling to Tamil Nadu for the Bhoodan movement, Natarajan followed his inner voice. He took to long padyatras for 11 months at a stretch across the State in 1956-57, going from one village to village, making personal appeals to landowners to voluntarily give up part of their surplus lands to the landless rural poor as an act of social justice.

Natarajan, who was the chairman of Tamil Nadu Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Madurai, had also helped restoring the rights of soil tillers in Vilampatti and Valivalam under the guidance of the doyen of the Sarvodaya movement in South India, Sankaralingam Jagannathan.

Natarajan was previously a Senate member and Academic Council member of the Gandhigram Rural Institute and Madurai Kamaraj University. He had won several awards including the Best Gandhian Constructive Worker by the Gandhigram Rural Institute in 2009.

Natarajan was also the chairman of the Tamil Nadu Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Madurai and was also the editor of ‘Sarvodaya Talisman’, a Gandhian bi-monthly magazine.

Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted that Natarajan was a stalwart of the Bhoodan movement, and a close associate of Vinoba Bhave, and J. C. Kumarappa. He was a wise, compassionate, and courageous human being, he added.

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