Meeting Krishnammal

Posted: January 8, 2010 in Published Articles
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(Padmashree Krishnammal Jegannathan- Sarvodaya leader, Social activist, Dalit spokesperson, freedom fighter, Noble Peace Prize nominee and several more awards…)



I was driving back at night after an interview with a very special person; a person whom I was lucky to meet, talk and interact with. A deep sense of calmness overtook me and a strange sense of tranquility and happiness filled my heart, the kind of feeling one gets on meeting a noble soul. Some people leave an indelible impression in the mind that restores faith in humanity and the goodness of human spirit.

Krishnammal Jegannathan, the 82-year-old social activist, freedom fighter, Sarvodya leader and Dalit activist; the recipient of the Padmashree, Jamnalal Bajaj award, the Women’s World Summit Foundation award of Switzerland to name a few.  She was nominated twice for the Right Livelihood Award and also nominated for the Noble Peace Prize in 2005.

She was touring here to receive the Opus peace prize and will also be one of the four recipients of the 2008 Right Livelihood Award that is frequently awarded as the “Alternative Noble Peace Prize” which will be presented in a ceremony at the Swedish Parliament on December 8th . She along with three others was chosen from around the world. What a great honor for an extraordinary life that rises above the mediocre, setting a trend and blazing a trail.

A sense of purpose drives them; a light shines in their eyes like a beacon and exudes out, engulfing everybody else in its warm embrace.

She was 24 year old when she started her crusade along with Vinobha Bhave who had started the Bhoodan movement. She has also known Gandhi from those days as they went around collecting funds for the Harijans. A very unassuming lady, who even today prepares lunch for the inmates of the Vinobha Ashram at Koothur in Nagapattinam district. She was born into a Harijan family but went on to get an education and took up social services working in slums and conducting night schools. She and her husband were involved in the Sarvodaya movement and later the Bhoodan movement. She witnessed the macabre killing of 44 Harijan women and children in Tanjavur district that affected her so much that she pledged her life for the cause.

Along with her husband she launched the LAFTI in 1981 the Land for Tillers Freedom.

In her own words:

“Owning a house is a dream for everyone. But no one thought of the plight of agriculture laborers living in huts. My dream is to make these huts into houses. 60 years after independence why should people still live in huts? We are still a backward nation even after all these so called progress. There are still thousands of people below poverty line, thousands of bonded laborers. They don’t have social justice and nobody to represent them. The country has so much to do. Women need to be empowered more. They have a right to own land. They are not just empty boxes at home. Women need to progress beyond that and needs to be respected as an individual.”

When asked about all the accolades and the nomination for Nobel Prize she replied with a laugh
 “I don’t care about all that. If people are recognizing it I have only God to thank. He has set me on a purpose and I feel I don’t have enough time left. There is so much I want to do. My body how much ever it allows me to go on in this mission I will do it. 24 hours is not enough for me to get all that work done.”

She went on to talk about her life’s missions and her desires and hopes for the masses. She laced it with beautiful verses in Tamil. After a while I stopped jotting notes and just sat listening to her in rapt attention and awe. My tape-recorder doing the job of recording her voice for posterity.

When she finished I found myself touching her feet and seeking her blessings. Not normally given to such displays I surprised myself. People like that we don’t get to see everyday and maybe a once in a life-time opportunity.

I hugged her tight , wished her the best in her endeavors and drove away into the night at peace knowing that there are people like her who care and will make a difference  in the lives of others and the betterment of society.


Krishanmmal, C.K.Prahalad and several others were felicitated for their achievements.


Edited & Published in Indian Express-NA edition and ASIA News-West coast edition



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