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Friday, June 17, 2011

One Hundred Years - 17th June - lest we forget the martyrdom of Vanchi Nathan

Exactly one hundred years ago – on this date at a dusty Railway station something of National relevance occurred.  Is the Nation remembering ??

As you travel down south and as the train winds its way to a small station – perhaps you might get down to free your legs, take a stroll or enjoy a cup of tea – unlikely that you will bow down to touch the land ! – after Madurai, it would be Virudunagar, Sattur, Kovilpatti and 624 km away from Chennai Egmore it is Maniyachi station – now named ‘Vanchi Maniyachi Junction’.  100 years back, at 10.30 in the morning pistol sounded – there was commotion as the only killing of British Official in South India occurred – few minutes later – there were sounds of pistol again – this time the martyrdom of a youth – hardly 25 years of age did the supreme sacrifice of his life for the motherland.  

This is not to eulogise the killing but the martyrdom needs to be extolled.  Inspired by the Surat Congress in Dec 1907 the man who pioneered shipping – VO Chidambaram Pillai organised political meetings in Tuticorin and Tirunelveli.  There were fiery speeches by Subramania Siva.  The Freedom struggle spread and on Feb 1908, around 1000 workers struck work in the Coral Mills of Tuticorin.  The collector Robert William Escourt Ashe had imposed restriction by Sec 144 and the union of workers was not to his liking.  When the patriotic leaders planned to celebrate release of Bipin Chanda Pal as Swarajya day – violence was unleashed by the Dist Admn.  VOC, Siva, Padmanabha Iyengar were arested in Mar 1908. There were riots in Tuticorin and Tirunelveli termed as incendiarism.    Perhaps all these made Ashe.  The downfall of the VOC’s Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company was also linked to Ashe.  

Robert Ashe had been born in 1872 in Ireland.  In 1895, he arrived in India, where he began his career as an Assistant Collector and rose up to be District Magistrate and Collector.   In 1907 he had his posting in Tirunelveli.  For two months he officiated at Tuticorin during which period much occurred.  

A few years later, on 17th June 1911 -  Ashe was travelling along with his wife Mary Lillian Patterson.  At 10.38 the train halted at small Maniyachi, a neatly dressed man with tufted hair alongwith another in a dhoti approached the carriage and shot Ashe on the chest from point blank range with a belgian made pistol.  The assailant ran towards the latrine and shot himself in the mouth.  He belonged to Bharatha Matha Association.

---- and that Man was Vanchinathan.  He was  born in 1886 to Raghupathy Iyer and Rukmani Ammal. His actual name was Shankaran. He did his schooling in Shenkottai and graduated in M.A. from Moolam Thirunal Maharaja College in Thiruvananthapuram. Even while in college, he married Ponnammal and got into a lucrative Government job.

After Vanchi shot Ashe and himself, a letter was recovered which purportedly indicated that the murder was political and caused great apprehension. The timing of the assassination indicated a protest against the impending coronation.  A massive manhunt followed the assassination.  Sadly, it was reported that even his last rites were not performed.  14 persons were arrested and charged with conspiracy.  More deaths were to follow as two committed suicide - Dharmaraja Aiyar took poison, while Venkateswara Aiyar slit his own throat. Madasamy, widely believed to be Vanchi's accomplice and who was seen running away after the assassination, was never traced.

In a Court of Justice in the colonial context there were testimony of approvers who perhaps were threatened and there was panic amongst the freedom fighters as they feared strict action.  

What happened to the family of Veera Vanchinathan is not documented but there cannot be any doubt that his lineage would have suffered chill penury and were left uncared for – they would have been hounded by the British and after India obtained freedom, nobody ever cared for them.  

One hundred years is a long time and today there is a news item in Dinamalar that the grandson of Ashe – Robert Ashe who practices law in Ireland has written to Prof Venkatachalapathi stating that hatred needs to be buried.  His words that past needs to be forgotten and people need to live in harmony is apt and are to be appreciated.

Indians exhibited their loyalty immediately after the killing by erecting two memorials – one at the place where Ashe was interred and another  a mantap at Great Cotton Road in Tuticorin - the subscription of Rs.3002/- being raised from the Indians !!.  

The life history of the Great Patriot Vanchinathan is not found in any great detail  in the history books and not many remember him.  In his birthplace Sengottai [Shencottah] in the foothills of Western Ghats closer to Tenkasi / Courtallam, a statue was erected during the regime of CM MGR.   In the movie Kappalottiya Tamizhan, Actor Balaji played the role of Vanchinathan.

Long Live Bharat Mata and Long Live the Martyrs who gave everything to make us live the way that we are doing today…..

With tears thinking of the Great son of India
- S. Sampathkumar.

To read the article in Dinamalar of date [17/06/2011] :click here 

சென்னை: சுதந்திரப் போராட்டத்தில் ஆங்கிலேய கலெக்டர் ஆஷ், சுட்டுக் கொல்லப்பட்ட நூறாவது ஆண்டையொட்டி, சுட்டுக் கொன்ற வாஞ்சிநாதன் குடும்பத்துக்கு, அயர்லாந்தில் வசிக்கும் ஆஷ் குடும்பத்தினர் உருக்கமான கடிதம் எழுதியுள்ளனர். "பழையவற்றை மறந்து சமாதானத்துடன் வாழ்வது முக்கியமானது' என்று, கடிதத்தில் குறிப்பிடப்பட்டுள்ளது.

ஆங்கிலேயர் ஆட்சியில் நெல்லைக் கலெக்டராக இருந்த ராபர்ட் வில்லியம் ஆஷை, வாஞ்சிநாதன் 1911 ம் ஆண்டு ஜூன் 17 ல் காலை 10.30 மணிக்கு, நெல்லை மாவட்டம் மணியாச்சியில் சுட்டுக் கொன்றார். சுதந்திரப்போராட்டத்தில் முக்கிய நிகழ்வாக இது பதிவானது. இந்த நிகழ்ச்சிக்குப்பின் ஆஷின் குடும்பத்தினர் சொந்த நாட்டுக்குச் சென்று விட்டனர். கொல்லப்பட்ட கலெக்டர் ஆஷ்க்கு இரண்டு மகன் மற்றும் இரண்டு மகள்கள். இதில் ஒரு மகன் இரண்டாம் உலகப்போரில் மரணமடைந்தார். இரண்டு மகள்களும் திருமணம் செய்துகொள்ளவில்லை. ஒரு மகன் அயர்லாந்து நாட்டில் டப்ளின் நகரம் அருகே இக்ளோ என்ற ஊரில் குடும்பத்துடன் வசித்தார். அவரது மகன் அதாவது ஆஷின் பேரன் ராபர்ட் ஆஷ். அயர்லாந்தில் வக்கீலாக பணியாற்றுகிறார். சுதந்திரப் போராட்ட வீரர் வ.உ.சிதம்பரம் குறித்து, சென்னை வளர்ச்சி ஆராய்ச்சி மையத்தில் ஆய்வு செய்த பேராசிரியர் எ.ஆர். வெங்கடாசலபதி கடந்த 2006 ம் ஆண்டு ஆஷின் பேரன் ராபர்ட் ஆஷை சந்தித்து, ஆஷ் கொலை தொடர்பான பல்வேறு ஆவணங்களைப் பெற்றார்.

இன்று ஆஷ் கொலையின் நூறாவது ஆண்டு நினைவுநாள். இதையொட்டி வாஞ்சிநாதன் குடும்பத்துக்கு, சுட்டுக்கொல்லப்பட்ட ஆஷின் பேரன் ராபர்ட் ஆஷ் ஓர் கடிதம் அனுப்பியுள்ளார். இந்த கடிதம் பேராசிரியர் வெங்கடாசலபதி வழியாக அனுப்பப்பட்டுள்ளது. அந்த கடிதத்தில் கூறப்பட்டுள்ளதாவது: துயரமும், பெருமிதமும் ஒருங்கே அமைந்த இந்த நாளில், ராபர்ட் வில்லியம் ஆஷ் அவர்களின் பேரனும் கொள்ளுபேத்திகளுமாகிய நாங்கள், வாஞ்சி அய்யரின் குடும்பத்துக்கு ஆறுதலையும், நட்பையும் வெளிப்படுத்தும் விதமாக இந்த கடிதத்தை எழுதுகிறோம். லட்சிய நோக்கமுள்ள அரசியல் செயல்பாட்டாளர் வாஞ்சிநாதன். அவரது விடுதலை வேட்கை எங்கள் தாத்தா ஆஷைக் கல்லறைக்கு அனுப்பியது. அரசியல் களத்தில் தீவிரமாக செயல்பட்டவர்கள், அவர்கள் ஆட்சியாளர்கள் ஆனாலும், ஒடுக்கப்படுபவர்கள் ஆனாலும், பெரும் பிழைகளைச் செய்யும் சூழல் ஏற்பட்டு விடுகிறது. இப்போது உயிர் வாழும் வாய்ப்பை பெற்றுள்ள நாம், பழையவற்றை மறந்து சமாதானத்துடன் வாழ்வது முக்கியமானது. அன்புடன், ராபர்ட் ஆஷ் குடும்பத்தினர், அயர்லாந்து. இவ்வாறு கடிதத்தில் கூறப்பட்டுள்ளது. ஆஷ் சுட்டுக் கொல்லப்பட்டு நூறு ஆண்டுகளுக்குப்பின், இப்படி ஓர் கடிதம் எழுதப்பட்டுள்ளது முக்கியத்துவம் வாய்ந்ததாக கருதப்படுகிறது.


  1. It is really sad that indians in those days were quite quick to erect memorials for their colonial masters rather than their own countrymen. Time for Indians to have a nationalist feeling.When will we ever learn.

  2. Sir, In northern parts of India, we are under the impression that the uprising against the British was not that much as was here. Of course have heard of Barathiyar and now of VOC. This piece on Vanchinathan was truly inspirational - Gupta

  3. A search about vanchinathan returns more about the film of Vijayakanth than the martyr. Long live Bharat - Balaji

  4. For those of who have failed to honour our martyrs, our history will not forgive even if the ghost of Vanchi does - Jai Hind. A patriotic one - K Murthy

  5. Salutations to Veera Vanchi and next time when I pass through, I will sure get down to pay homage - Radha

  6. There is a story about this incident in my native (near maniyachi)where they say that Vanchi Iyer was disturbed by the way Ashe and his wife took care of a lower caste woman who had labor pain.She was taken in a cart via Agraharam(brahmin dwelling place)and that irked Vanchi Iyer as it was considered as a big disrespect to their sentiments and feelings.This ended up in the shoot! I am just sharing this 'story'as I do not have any proof or even I am not sure about that.But the fact is that ,there is such a story in that place.Jai Hind!

  7. Whoever has psoted the above one without name - it appears to be a figment of imagination and raw crude thinking in trying to attribut caste basis to the sacrifice of a great patriot in his prime of youth. Why at all one would waste his life and if he had tried to do the same in the manner, why shoot himself ?

    Let us not try to belittle the great sacrifices. If you cannot honour atleast desist from saying wrong.

    Vanchi was the greatest of the patriots and displayed great valour in his selfless sacrifice

  8. On Sat, Oct 22, 2011 at 3:27 PM, Partha Desikan <……> wrote:
    Dear Sri Sampath,
    You must have perused Prof Venkatachalapathi's full wiki account of Vanchinathan as well,
    because I find the photograph of the Vanchi Maniyachi station and words referring to Vanchi' father to be similar.

    You have only not caught the tragedy of Collector Ashe having been the wrong man on the spot in place of Wynch who was responsible for the excesses connected with VOC and his associates.

    Vanchi's own youthful idealism and patriotic fervour is not under question. One hundred years after his martyrdom, we are also able to see that Robert Ashe was also a victim of circumstances.

    Warm regards.

    From: Partha Desikan < Sent: Friday, October 21, 2011 7:54 PM
    Subject: vanchinathan

    Dear Sri Sampath Srinivasan,
    Today I accidentally found your blog dated 17th June 2011, on the martyrdom of Vanchinathan exactly a hundred years prior to that date.

    Your blog contained information reported in The Hindu and other dailies on that day and some additional details about Vanchi's family. Your poignant regret that the country may have forgotten the unfortunate youth's family also came out vividly.

    I also noticed that your blog mentioned all three leaders, Sri V. O Chidambaram Pillai, Sri Subramania Siva and Sri Padmanabha Iyengar who were arrested in March 1908 at Tuticorin, an event that was to build up the rage which might have led to the only assassination of a white man in South India during the freedom struggle. Professor Venkatachalapathy's painstaking research on the sequence of events that unfolded at the time makes poignant though very interesting reading. You must have perused his article based on his visit to the Ashe residence in Dublin in 2006 that was published in Frontline Magazine in 2009. Unlike your blog or the Professor's article, The Hindu and a few other Chennai based dailies have omitted mentioning the name of Padmanabha Iyengar, when talking about the arrest in March 1908, in their reports about the centenary of Vanchi's martyrdom.
    Like a number of our countrymen, I am touched by the gentlemanly message sent by Robert Ashe's great grandson suggesting that Vanchi's family and his should forget the past and wish each other well.

    I personally believe that part of the motivation for the young man to send such a message through a letter he wrote to Prof. Venkatachalapathy was the Professor's visit to the Ashe residence. Prof V had intended the visit only to aid his investigation of background material about Collector Ashe. But his manners and bearing while carrying out his academic work would have so impressed the family that their young member would have felt only friendliness towards all Indians.

    A number of readers of the Hindu would not have noticed the omission I mention. I noticed it, of course. Swadeshi Padmanabha Iyengar was my grandfather, you see.

    Warm regards.
    Partha Desikan

    (Dr. P. Desikan)

  9. Sir, reads to be a fitting tribute - I once saw this statue photographed by you, on way to Sabarimala... would have got down to kneel down, if I had read this earlier - Gunaseelan

  10. I agreed with Mr.Srinivasan Sampath Kumar....This has been planned earlier else he didn't shot and Vanchinathan is from Shencottah and there is no need to enter the caste problem in Maniyachi.
    As an Indian respect our freedom fighters else at least don't criticize...Proud to be an Indian and also born in Shencottah.

  11. I agreed with Mr.Srinivasan Sampath Kumar....This has been planned earlier else he didn't shot and Vanchinathan is from Shencottah and there is no need to enter the caste problem in Maniyachi.
    As an Indian respect our freedom fighters else at least don't criticize...Proud to be an Indian and also born in Shencottah.