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Freedom Fighters from Tamil Nadu and their role

Freedom Fighters and their role

Thillaiyadi Valliammai

• The story of Thillaiyadi Valliammai is about one tiny indomitable flame of bravery that held against the mighty blows of colonial rule in South Africa.

• Born in Johannesburg on 22.02.1898 to Indian migrants from Tamil Nadu, Munuamy and Janaki Ammal, she was deeply influenced by the Civil Disobedience Movement started by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa and its spectacular effect on the Indian and other

communities there.

• On 14th March, 1913 a controversial judgment was passed rendering all marriages not covered under the Marriages Registration Act of South Africa null and void. This created widespread apprehension among the migrant Indians. Mahatma Gandhi started an agitation to protest this judgment. Thillaiyadi Valliammai actively canvassed and traveled extensively.

• On 28th October 1913 Satyagraha was launched by Kasturba in which Thillaiyadi Valliammai took the plunge. On 22nd December 1913, she was arrested and imprisoned in Maritzburg. The rigorous of the prison took a toll on her health and though released on 11th February 1914, she died on 22nd February 1914 at the tender age of sixteen.

Smt. Rukmini Lakshmipati

• Smt. Rukmini Lakshmipati born on 06.12.1892, in a landlord’s family from Madurai, graduated from Presidency College, Madras and was subsequently married to Dr. Achanta Lakshmipati, a staunch nationalist and thus began an involvement in the national movement for independence. She was deeply influenced by the thought and deeds of such eminent national leaders as Mahatma Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu and C. Rajagopalachari.

• She first made her presence felt in the area of social reform as secretary of the “Bharata Stri Mahamandal”, Madras. She was a prominent member of Women’s Indian Association since its inception. She also had the honour of working as the President of the Youth League in Madras, an organization dedicated to the upliftment of women. To her and similar social reformers, goes the credit of actively pursuing and getting passed social Legislation raising the age of marriage, age of consent etc.

• Mrs. Lakshmipati also presided over the Youth Tamil Conference which was convened at Madurai, Victoria Edward Hall.

• She became a member of the Congress Party in 1923, giving up all her jewellery to the Harijan Welfare Fund of Gandhiji. She further participated in the Salt Satyagraha in 1931 at Vedaranayam and was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. She was arrested in the Civil Disobedience Movement and sentenced to six months imprisonment.

Rani Velu Nachchiyar

• Born in Ramnathpuram in 1730, Velu Nachiyar was the first queen to have ever actively opposed the British rule. She fought against the colonial rulers many years before the Sepoy Mutiny. In collaboration with Hyder Ali and Gopala Nayaker, she waged a war against the British and emerged victorious. Eventually she went on to produce the first human bomb as well as establish the first army of trained women soldiers in the late 1700s.

• Nachiyar was trained in many methods of combat, including war match weapons usage, martial arts like Valari, Silambam, horse riding, and archery. She was a scholar in many languages and was proficient in languages like French, English and Urdu. At the time of death of her husband, King of Sivagangai, she was drawn into the conflict. She escaped the battlefield with her daughter.

• During this period, she formed an army and sought an alliance with Hyder Ali with the aim of launching a campaign against the East India Company in 1780. When Velu Nachiyar found the place where the Company stored some their ammunition, she arranged a suicide attack on the location, blowing it up. Nachiyar reinherited the kingdom of her husband and ruled it for ten more years. In 1790, the throne was inherited by her daughter Vellacci. She granted powers to her daughter with the Marudu brothers to help with the administration of the kingdom in 1780. Velu Nachiyar died a few years later, on 25 December 1796.

Kuyili

Kuyili was born in Kudanchavadi, Sivagangai, situated in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. She belonged to the Sambavar community, the devoted followers of Lord Shiva. Sivagangai was one of the seventy-two palayams into which the Madurai region was divided. In the year 1772, the colonialists attacked the capital of Sivagangai and annexed the region. Kuyili was the Commander-in-Chief to Velu Nachiyar, the queen of Sivagangai (a place in southern Tamil Nadu). The queen was one of the first monarchs to fight against the British in 1780. Kuyili led the queen’s army and sacrificed her life to save the queen and her land. She disguised herself and collected information of the movements of the East India Company. She also trained other women warriors in the capacity of being a commander. She was known for her bravery and courage.

Veerapandia Kattabomman

• A brave Polygar (feudal title) chieftain in Tamil Nadu in the 18th century, Veerapandiya

Kattabomman waged a war against the Britishers 60 years before the Indian War of Independence started in the northern part of India.

• Polygars were feudal lords who were appointed as military chiefs and administrative governors since the time of the Vijayanagara Empire in parts of Southern India. They were given the charge of a group of villages, collected taxes from the peasants and in time, they almost acted as independent chieftains. When the East India Company started seizing control of the region, they came in conflict with the polygars on the question of who would collect taxes – the Company wanted to control them and secure the rights to collect taxes, as well as control territory. Kattabomman refused to give in to the British and waged a war against them. This is often called the First Polygar War of 1799.

• Kattabomman was ultimately captured, sentenced to death and publicly hanged at Kayatharu in 1799.

Subramania Bharati

A born poet and a patriot, Subramania Bharati was greatly moved by the Indian struggle for independence. A Tamil pundit, he was also accomplished in Sanskrit and Hindi. Editor of Tamil India and English Bala Bharati, Subramania was greatly influenced by Sri Aurobindo and VVS Iyer, and later by Mahatma Gandhi. To symbolize the spirit of national unity he adopted the turban as popularly worn by the Sikhs of Northern India. He was arrested for his nationalistic activities. He inspired people with his poems such as PanchaliSapatam which was an allegory of Bharat Mata.

Subramaniya Siva

• Subramaniya Sivam, popularly known as Subramaniya Siva was born in Batlagundu village, Dindigul District (Madurai Region) in 1884 to Rajam Iyer and Nagalakshmi. He showed great interest in spiritual enquiry even when young and became an ardent disciple of his uncle who was a sannyasi named Odha Swami. The strained circumstances of his family made him accept a job in the district court, which he left soon to plunge into the fight for India’s freedom. He was a fine orator, who spoke his mind openly in every context. The principles of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who advocated always meeting the adversary with firmness and without compromising, appealed to him very much.

• Some common friends introduced him to VO Chidambaram Pillai (VOC) who had the courage and management skills to compete with British ship companies by starting his own Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company. Siva became a close friend and associate of VOC and started speaking publicly in support of his shipping activities and his role as a Trade Union leader.

• It was thus that Siva and another older Swadeshi enthusiast Padmanabha Iyengar, got together with VOC when he organized a strike in the British owned Coral Mills at Tuticorin. Closely following it on March 9, 1908, they also held a well-attended rally in Tirunelveli to celebrate the release from prison at Calcutta of Bipin Chandra Pal, defying the orders of the district collector Wynch. Wynch got all three arrested and tried in court. They were held in a jail in Palayamkottai and released around the end of March.

• However, the British were smarting from the fiery speeches of Siva and VOC and charged them again with sedition and unmoved by the support that the leaders received from around the country, sentenced them to transportation for 20 years and 10 years. On appeal, they relented and reduced the imprisonment to 6 years for VOC and 3 for Siva in the jail in Coimbatore, where they were treated harshly and inhumanely.

V.O. Chidambaram Pillai

• Valliyappan Ulaganathan Chidambaram, also known by his initials V.O.C(at times referred to as KappalottiyaTamizhan or ‘The Tamil Helmsman’), was an Indian freedom fighter. He was a prominent lawyer, trade union leader, and leader in the Indian National Congress. He mobilized the workers of the Coral Mills, thereby expanding the social base of the Swadeshi movement. This led to a conflict with the British Raj. In 1906, he established the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company, which competed with the monopoly of the British India Steam Navigation Company.

• Valliyappan, in completion with the British ships, launched the first Indian shipping service between Tuticorin and Colombo with the help of Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company. One of India’s major ports, i.e. Tuticorin Port Trust, is named after him. He was charged with sedition by the British colonial government and was sentenced to life imprisonment. His barrister license was also revoked.

Sundara Shastri Satyamurti

• Sundara Sastri Satyamurti, one of the leading freedom fighters in the province of Madras. He joined politics at an early age and was chosen as a delegate to represent the cause of Indian freedom several times. He visited England on two occasions – with respect to the bill that was to become the Government of India Act (1919), and for pleading the case of Indian freedom (1925), respectively –leading a constructive role. Although he was a Gandhian, he disagreed with his policy decisions on many occasions. He was arrested on one occasion while attempting to hoist the Indian flag, and yet again during the course of the Quit India Movement.

• S. Satyamurti actively involved in the Swadeshi Movement. He was one of the prominent leaders of the ‘pro-changers’, who were defeated by the ‘no-changers’ in the year 1922. They founded the Swaraj Party and gained council entry in the Madras Province, acquiring experience in the Legislature. He was a member of the Central Legislative Assembly from 1935-1943, and Mayor of the Corporation of Madras from November 1939-November 1940. He fought actively for the cause of PurnaSwaraj. He, thus, held firm belief in Constitutional government and Parliamentary democracy. He persistently opposed the discriminatory caste system prevalent in Indian society. He was also instrumental in getting the Annamalai University Bill passed.

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