P. Kakkan (sometimes Kakkan) (Tamil: கக்கன்) (18 June 1908 – 23 December 1981) was a Dalit leader, freedom fighter and Indian politician who served as a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, Member of Parliament, President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee and in various ministerial posts in Congress governments in the erstwhile Madras state between 1957 and 1967.
Kakkan was born into a Tamil family on 18 June 1908 in a village called Thumbaipatti in Melur Taluk, Madurai district of Madras Presidency.His father Poosari Kakkan was a “Poosari” in the village shrine.
Kakkan was drawn to the independence movement from an early stage in his life. While in school, he joined the Indian National Congress. When the Rajaji Government brought forth the Temple Entry Authorization and Indemnity Act 1939 which removed restrictions on Dalits and Shanars entering temples, Kakkan led the temple entry at Madurai.He also participated in the Quit India Movement and was sent to Alipore jail. In 1946, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly.and served from 1946 to 1950.
Kakkan served as a member of the Lok Sabha from 1952 to 1957.When K. Kamaraj resigned as the President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee in order to take office as the Chief Minister of Madras state, Kakkan was elected as the President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee. Following the 1957 elections when the Indian National Congress was re-elected to power in the Madras state, Kakkan was sworn in as the Minister for Public Works (excluding Electricity), Harijan Welfare, Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes on 13 April 1957.From 13 March 1962 to 3 October 1963, Kakkan served as the Minister of Agriculture. On 24 April 1962, he was appointed as a member of the Business Advisory Committee and as Home Minister on 3 October 1963 and served till 1967 when the Indian National Congress was defeated in the Assembly elections.
In the 1967 Assembly elections, Kakkan stood for elections from Melur (South) constituency and lost to Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate O. P. Raman. Following his defeat in the 1967 elections, Kakkan retired from politics.
Some of Kakkan’s achievements as Minister have been the construction of the Mettur and Vaigai reservoirs and the formation of the Harijan Seva Sangh for the upliftment and welfare of Dalits. As Minister of Agriculture, he established two Agriculture Universities in Madras state.In 1999, the Government of India released a postage stamp commemorating Kakkan and his contributions to the nation.
Being the son of a priest, Kakkan was deeply religious. He was also a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi. When Periyar, the leader of the Self-respect movement publicly declared his intention to organize a Dravidar Kazhagam procession to the Marina in order to burn pictures of the Hindu God Rama, Kakkan warned Periyar that the desecration of images would constitute an “anti-social act” that would forsake the strong faith in God by which Gandhi won independence for India. When Periyar tried to ignore the warning, he was arrested and confined in prison though the Government was not able to stop Dravidar Kazhagam activists from burning pictures of Lord Rama.
Mrs Swarnam Parvathi Kakkan his wife was a very simple person. She worked as a school teacher in Madurai. She was a great companion and supporter of his principles.
Children: He had five sons and one daughter. Eldest son Mr P K Padmanthan served the Tamil Nadu Government as President and Registrar of Cooperative societies. Mr Kakkan refused to make any recommendation when his son appeared for the TN Public service commission. He was married to Prof. V S Krishnakumari who is a paediatrician and worked as the Director of Institute of Child Health Egmore, Chennai (see Madras Medical College). His eldest daughter Mrs Meenakshi Vijayakumar is currently the deputy Director in TN fire Services. She is one of the two woman fire officers recruited in Fire service in the country. His second daughter Dr Shanthi Krishnan MRCGP MRCOG works in the UK for the National Health Service.
His second son Mr P K Pakkiyanathan worked for Simpson’s Chennai. His third son Mr P K Kasiviswanathan was an IPS officer who worked as Assistant commissioner of Police in Madurai. His fourth and fifth sons Dr P K Sathiayanathan and Dr P K Nadarajamoorthy were both doctors in Chennai.
His only daughter Mrs Kasthuri Sivasamy was involved in state politics. Her husband Mr Sivasamy is a retired Chief Engineer at Port Blair Andaman. Their second daughter Mrs Rajeshwari is an IPS officer and Assistant Commissioner of Police in Trichy.
Kakkan’s brother Viswanathan Kakkan, an advocate, was a former Vice-President of the Hindu Munnaniand a well-known devotee of the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Jayendra Saraswathi.He unsuccessfully contested the 2006 Assembly election in Tamil Nadu from Perambur as a candidate of the Janata Party.