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Friday, July 12, 2019

Col William Fullarton , who ? and remembering Veeran Azhagu Muthu Kone

Chennai Egmore Railway station is an important landmark of the city – and those of us who have ventured nearer, for sure, would not have missed this statue of a warrior ~ yet not many would know the history and significance of this person.  We have read more of British history in schools – not sure whether any text has any reference to the Scottish soldier – Col William Fullarton who sat in the House of Commons too.  ~ and here is a poster found near Egmore ..

That British came to India as traders is known .. .. much earlier in 1498 the Portuguese vessels reached Kozhikode on the Malabar Coast. Not long after this momentous event, they discovered the possibility of exploiting the conflicts among the localrajahs to their advantage. They acquired Goa in 1510 and made it their headquarters. This was followed by the establishment of commercial settlements all along the coastal strip.  What the Portuguese aimed at was no large territorial possession, for their resources did not permit it, but the command of the eastern market through alliances with the princes and control of isolated posts.In 1600 the English East India Company obtained a royal charter for trade with the Indies. It made a vigorous attempt to seize trade but was initially outmanoeuvred by the Portuguese and the Dutch.Thwarted in their endeavour to establish a profitable trade with the West Coast of India and in the East Indies, the English, whose principal base had been Surat, turned to the Carnatic, a region which lay remote from the spheres of their rivals. To them this was a land of promise, for it unfolded vast opportunities.

There were some wars and the locals defeated them too .. .. history has not recorded them well or rather they were so well hid from the annals of history ! – the reverses suffered by the British army undid what it gained in the first phase of its operations. In the region between Madurai and Tinnevelly, the  poligars and the rest of small rulers united against the common foe, but unfortunately enough,  soon after the forces withdrew from the field, repudiated whatever settlements they had accepted and retained their independence and influence unabridged. Undeterred by these reverses the Anglo-Saxons resumed their operations in 1756, when they sent a talented but rash general,Khan Sahib in command of a powerful expedition. The diabolic atrocities, that marked his encounters, struck so great a terror that the defiant chiefs were thrown into bewilderment. As resistance seemed futile, the chiefs accepted terms and agreed to pay tribute.

In the province, the poligars gained their influence,taking advantage of a rebellion organised by Maphuz Khan, brother of Mohammad Ali, with their support. This unexpected turn of events forced the Company to undertake more campaigns.In 1757 John Caillaud commanded an expedition to Tirunelveli, but unable to coerce the chiefs, returned. The situation turned favourable to the British East India Company in 1761, when Khan Sahib gained aseries of victories, which culminated in the occupation of the strongholds of Puli Tevar and the destruction of twenty-nine forts of the chieftains. 

Col William Fullarton was at  coast of Mexico,  engaged to  capture the Acapulco fleet. The regiments were accordingly raised, Fullarton was gazetted lieutenant-colonel-commandant of the 98th regiment in 1780.  The outbreak of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War changed the destination of these regiments, which were then ordered to form part of the expedition against the Cape of Good Hope.  The regiments then went on to India, to take their part in the Second Anglo-Mysore War against Haidar Ali. Mackenzie's regiment disembarked at Calicut, to make a diversion by invading Mysore from the Malabar coast, while Fullarton's went round to Madras. He remained in the neighbourhood of the capital of the presidency until after the Battle of Porto Novo, when he was sent south in command of the king's troops, in order if possible to attract the Mysore troops away from the Carnatic.

It is this Fullarton who  led the Madras Army against the heroic warrior Kattaboman, a palaiyakarar of PanchalumKurucchi, a fortress town in present-day Tinnevelly District of Tamil Nadu. Fullarton's name is associated with the destruction of the fort of the rebel chieftain at Nettkelcheval, in Tinnevelly District. William Fullarton, who led expeditionagainst the poligars of the South in 1783, however, had an opportunity to exchange views with the chiefs in the light of whichhe had cautioned the British against disregard to the country’s traditions. As an outcome of his deliberations with the leaders of the people, his impressions reflect the concepts, cherished by them. He warned in 1784 that the British proceedings againstthe rulers of the land had led to a general imputation by the inhabitants that they rudely violated the rights and honour of the locals.

Panchalankurichi situated closer to Ottapidaram, the birth place of VO Chidambaranar and less then 20 km from Tuticorin,  is a small village but has history associated with it.  Veerapandiya Kattabomman lived here and fought  East India Company; history has it that he was hanged at Kayatharu in Tirunelveli District in 1799.  The meeting of Bomman with Jackson representing British is legendary, more because of a film which is ranked high in Tamil tinseldom.

The role of South Indian freedom fighters has not been chronicled properly in the history. Leaders like Veerapandiya Kattabomman, Pulithevan and VeeranAzhagu Muthu Kone were pioneers in the freedom struggle from South India”.  Former CM Ms J Jayalalithaa opened the lifesize statue of  freedom fighter Azhagu Muthu Kone in Egmore roundtana.  History has it that in 1759, Muthukone, a konar,  was preparing for a war against British at Pethanayanakanur near Vilathikulam.  British rulers surrounded his camp. The right hands of 248 soldiers in his army were chopped off by the British. Some of his Lieutenants including Venkateswaran Servai, Muthazhagu, Muthu Irulan, Lakshmanan and Muthu Pillai were tied at the mouth of the canons and were blown into pieces.

Though not much of historical record is available, Maveeran Alagumuthu Kone (1728–1757 was born in Kattalankulam village in Tirunelveli district. He rose to prominence as  a military leader in the town of Ettayapuram.  He was defeated in battle there against the British and Maruthanayagam's forces and executed in 1759.  By some accounts he was born this day [11.7.1710].  He is regarded for having raised one of the first revolts against the British India. He was  one of the early freedom fighters to arouse public consciousness against foreign rule.

Alagu Muthu Kone was a general with Ettayapa Naicker, a polygar king of Ettayapuram. He was a skilful general with Madurai Nayaks, but left the army after some misunderstanding and was eagerly adopted by the polygar king. After the failed battle at Ettayapuram against the British and Maruthanayagam, Alagumuthukone had to flee with the royal family. Kone and his 255 men, including seven generals, were captured by the British, their right hands were cruelly chopped off and the fighter was tied to cannon and blown up in the year 1759.

Remembering him on his 309th  birth anniversary ~ lest we forget the heroes. ~in between there were attempts to eulogise the villain of the chief plot too .. !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
11th July 2019.
PS : photos at Egmore taken by me; that of his memorial courtesy;
Historical facts from book of K Rajayyan, Madurai University titled – ‘South Indian Rebellion – the First war of Independence 1800-1801’

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