Dravidian and anti-national elements celebrate dreaded British Collector Robert William Ashe but demean and disrespect freedom fighters like Vanchinathan only because he belonged to the upper caste
Vanchinathan, a fiery freedom fighter was only 20 years old when he killed the merciless and discriminatory British Collector Robert William d’Escourt Ashe on June 17, 1911 at Palayamkottai in Tirunelveli district. He later chose to take his own life with a pistol rather than getting arrested by the British. More than a century later, the Dravidian chauvinism has decayed Tamil politics to a level where the dreaded British Collector Robert William d’Escourt Ashe is honoured by the anti-National forces and freedom fighter Vanchinathan is denied his due tribute.
This year too Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), wanted to observe Vanchinathan death anniversary at Palayamkottai on June 17th. VHP‘s Tirunelveli district president Arumuga Kani and others had gathered at the memorial of Vanchinathan in the city to pay their tributes. District collector Arun Sundar Dayalan was supposed to garland the statue. However, as they gathered members of Tamilar Peravai and Aathi Tamizhar Katchi (Dravidian outfits) with black shirts entered Robert William Ashe's cemetery nearby carrying banners and raised slogans against VHP. Aathi Tamizhar Katchi paid ‘Veera Vanakkam’ (Bravery Salute) to Ashe at his tomb at the premises of English Church opposite to St John’s college, Palayamkottai. The event to pay tribute to Vanchinathan was hindered due to the ruckus caused by the Darvidian outfits.
The police instead of apprehending the nuisance creators, allowed them to complete their job of spoiling the tribute to Vanchinathan and later made a token arrest before letting them off. The VHP complained to the district administration about the incident but no action has been taken. These anti-National elements and Dravidian forces support dreaded people like Ashe and hate Vanchinathan only because he was from a upper caste.
VHP had organised a event to pay tribute to Vanchinathan at his memorial in Palayamkottai. A railway junction has been named after him in Tirunelveli.
Arumuga Kani said, "Police detained some of them only to hoodwink us. These outfits have been creating similar nuisance for the past ten years. In the all party meeting held on 16th, the police assured us none would be allowed to pay homage to Vanchi and Ashe. Of late the government is supporting minorities and anti–nationals and our complaints were thrown in dustbin. Particularly in Nellai and Tenkasi districts, police have become stooges of such anti-National forces. Today’s incident clearly shows their blatant disregard for freedom fighters and are keen only on vote bank politics”.
VHP leaders also say that many of the Dravidian chauvinists are under the wrong impression that British Collector Ashe had ensured equality during this tenure and put an end to Caste system. False stories are spread about his role in allowing people of all castes to take bath at the Courtallam water falls, they say.
Sr. Journalist Senkottai Sriram said patriots were not permitted to pay respects to those who laid down their lives for the country’s freedom. But some fringe groups are allowed to pay homage to a colonial collector, whose government had kept citizens as slaves and killed sever lakhs of natives.
VHP leaders say, "There is no other place in the country where a British Christian is remembered on his death anniversary and a freedom fighter shamed. Does the government want to demean the martyrdom of freedom fighters by allowing fringe out-fits to observe the death anniversary of a colonial era collector but denying permission to pay floral homage to fiery freedom fighter Vanchinathan?"
Valor of Vanchinathan
Delapidated condition of the freedom fighter Vanchinathan memorial in Tirunelveli
When the freedom movement was at its peak, Subramania Bharathi, Varahaneri Venkatesa Subrmaniam Iyer (Va Ve Su Iyer), famous lawyer V.O. Chidambaram (who first run a Swadeshi Steam Navigation company), journalist Neelakanta Brahmachary, Subramania Siva and many others in South India who were the followers of Bala Gangadar Tilak believed in getting freedom from British would be possible only through revolutionary means. They differed from moderates like Gandhi and other Congress leaders. In their fight against the British, many fell for bullets while some were hanged after unilateral and unfair trail.
However, Vanchi and others were firm that armed revolt against the colonial rulers was the only way to achieve their goal. They were prepared to lay their lives for that cause rather than get caught and be subjected to third degree punishment at the hands of British.
Vanchinathan (aka Sankaran) was born in 1886 in Senkottai, Tirunelveli district to Raghupathy Iyer and Rukmani Ammal. He did his schooling in Senkottai and got a MA from Moolam Thirunal Maharajaja College in Thiruvananthapuram. He was married to Ponnammal and got a job in forest department. He resigned from his job to take part in freedom struggle.
Unable to bear the merciless and discriminatory practices of the British officers, poor wages to workers, blatant racial indiscrimination of Indians, unfair sedition charges and repressive measures on freedom fighters forced him to take up arms. Vanchi was trained to handle weapons by Va.Ve.Su Iyer who also firmly believed armed revolt against the British.
Tirunelveli Collector Robert William d’Escourt Ashe, an Irish man was responsible for many atrocities on the citizens of Madras and was the target of the revolutionaries. A meeting was held to select the killer of Ashe at Bharathi’s house in Puducherry. All the names were written on pieces of papers and shuffled. Vanchi's name was picked up and was assigned the task.
Vanchi closely followed the movements of Collector Ashe and got a tip that he was going on a vacation with his wife to Kodaikanal (a hill station) to visit his four sons who were studying there. When he was waiting for the train, a well-dressed Vanchi with an accomplice who was wearing dhoti with a tuft walked towards the First class compartment at Maniyachchi junction. He took out the Belgian made automatic pistol and shot at Ashe at point blank. Ashe died on the spot. This happened on June 17, 1911 at 10.38 am. 20 year old Vanchi later shot himself chosing death over getting arrested by the British.
Vanchinathan’s 104th death anniversary was observed in January 2015 at his birth place in Senkottai and at Vanchi Maniyachchi junction where he shot Ashe dead before killing himself.
However, in today's Tamil Nadu it is sad that schools do not teach much about the sacrifices of freedom fighters like Vanchinathan, Bharathi, Siva, Va Ve Su, V O C, Neelakantan and others in the right perspective. Communists and Dravidian parties misguide youths in the name of language and caste politics and demonise those whom they do not like or agree. Chauvinistic groups like Viduthalai Chiruthaigal, Tamil Tigers, Adhi Tamilar Peravai and some other letter pad parties remember Ashe by garlanding his cemetery purely for their own agenda and not in the interest of society.