Today is INDEPENDENCE DAY of our Great Nation.
Almost all News papers —in English as well as in Tamil– have come out with supplements with Tricolor, depicting great heroes, heroines, and great incidents that studded the history of our war of independence. But hardly is there any reference to the freedom fighters from the Parava community ——,not only this year. But down the years. Why?
We are not prone to praise others and perpetuate any ones name who has done better than us in any field. We do not make positive noise about any one. Nor do we have people in the right places to make our story heard. Nor do we have the talent to place ourselves in the right place. This piece however is not to diagnose what is wrong or good with us , but to record the three important personalities who have fought for freedom of this nation , in the company of others.
They are J.P. RODRIGUEZ , a Jathi talaiver in the days of Oomaithurai and A.S. BENJAMIN.
On J.P.Rodriguez there is already an article in this website, by Professor Savariammal of St. Mary’s Tuticorin. The article is fairly exhaustive and I commend our readers to glance through once again on this occasion of Independence Day. I would like to add what is written about him in the latest Tuticorin Gazetteer—2007.
On page 169 0f the Gazetteer it is said as follows;-
J.P. RODRIGUEZ born in 1891 was an important District level leader of the Freedom Movement. He joined the movement in 1921and took part in foreign cloth boycott, toddy shop picketing, and salt satyagraha.. He served as the District Congress President Member of the All India Congress Committee and President of Thoothukudi Taluk congress committee. In 1930 he was arrested and imprisoned .’
‘THE Congress Leader J.P.RODREIGUEZ went to Srilanka on 3rd may 1930 for collecting funds and recruiting volunteers from among the people of Thoothukudi who were living in that country. The volunteers thus recruited arrived at Thoothukudi port and marchd towards Vedaranyam in the second fortnight of June for salt picketing. (Page 154)
On July 4th when the Congress president of the district suddenly resigned it was J.P. Rodriguez who donned the mantle. The British administration raided his residence on 5th july 1930 and arrested him. This is to prevent a conference that he was scheduled to have at Thoothukudi on 5th. A crowd gathered protesting against the arrest of Rodreiguez and other congress men. The government promulgated 144 cr.p.c. and forcefully dispersed the crowd.(page 154)
Another reference in the Gazetteer — this time to the community, and to the Jathi talaivar is as follows;- (page 129.)
‘The Paravas of Thoothukudi led by their headman not only joined the rebellion but also supplied guns and other ammunitions for the promotion of violent struggle.’ (MADRAS COUNCIL MILITARY CONSULTATION. VOL. 279 P 728 , FEBRUARY 1801.)’
’This was followed by the conference of the leaders at Kadalgudi. Melappan of Ramanathapuram, Nagara monigar of Tirunelveli and the Parava chief (Jathi talaaivar ) of Thoothukudi held a meeting but as their deliberations were secret the details could not be ascertained.’ — this was at the time when Oomathurai and Sevathaiah were fighting against the British.
When India staged QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT Amalinagar BENJAMIN played a leading part in it. Let us see what the gazetteer says..(pages-158 -162)
Kulasekaran pattinam is a coastal villagein Tiruchendur taluk. It was a salt manufacturing village and the British government stationed an Inspector of salt there. The extremists including Benjamin decided to take away the arms of the inspector and his staff.
On 20th September 1942, at 30’ clock about 100 volunteers armed with sticks and swords entered the salt factory .They set the weighing shed on fire by overpowering the staff on duty and they took away their arms.
W.LOANE was the assistant Inspector of Salt, stationed in Kulasekarapattinam. His residence was very close to the salt office. On hearing the commotion , he came out of the house with a gun. While he was rushing towards the volunteers, the ammunition in the weapon dropped down and he attacked them with the bayonet. The enraged volunteers attacked LOANE and murdered him. The volunteers escaped from the scene with the arms seized.
The police accused twenty-six in this case and charged them .The British Government, established a special court at Tirunelvely. Among the twenty six who were charged A.S. BENJAMIN is accused number three. The court awarded the punishment of transportation for life to him in this case.
In Meignanapuram case A.S. BENJAMIN along with others ransacked the post office on 7th september 1942, and decamped with arms of the sepoys,; and in Kurumbur case on August 19th 1942 he along with others attacked police constables at the Railway station, seized their arms and ammunition and set fire to the Railway station and its records. He was awarded Life imprisonment and seventeen years imprisonment respectively in these cases.
Let us remember these veterans and let us perpetuate their memory.
Any one has photographs of these veterans. ? if so please send them for inclusion in this essay to the editor.
by A.X. Alexander