Tag Archives: freedom fighter

Our Heroes – II

After uploading the article on *Our Heros* on August 15th 2012, a reader has sent to the Editor a souvenir published in Tuticorin on 5-8-2000 on the occasion of golden Ther and drew our attention to an article in it , in which besides the Three Heros we mentioned already there is reference to Seven more Heros.
The article in the souvenir was by VINODH NETAJI FERNANDO.
Besides *J.P Rodriguez , A.S Benjamin and the Jathi thalivar* who were mentioned in the August 15th article , Vinodh Netaji Fernando refers to seven more freedom fighters.:-
1. Jermaih Fernandes of Punnakayal,
2. Eromier of Punnakayal,
3. Chellaih Fernandes of Punnakayal,
4. Valerian Fernando of punnakayal ,
5. T.A Fernando of Periyathazai ,
6. Peter Morais and
7. Masilamani Fernandes

Vinodh Netaji Fernando also identifies the Jathi Thalivar refered to in the August 15th article as Dom Gabriel Gomez de Cruz and points out to Lushington’s letter to Major Macaulay , Commanding officer , Palayamkottai dated 6 july 1801 and to board of revenue papers no 21 dated 1799 as authorities for the identification.
According to Vinodh Netaji,

*Jermiah Fernandes* son of Pitchiya Fernandes was born in 1895 in Punnakayal and took part in salt satyagraha in 1930 and was imprisoned for 6 months in Aligarh;

*Eromier Fernando* son of Pitchya Fernando was born in 1896 in north street Punnakayal and took part in salt satyagraha in 1930 and was imprisoned for 6 months in Cuddalore , Trichy and Bellary prisons;

*Masilamani Fernandes* was born in 1903 took part in salt satyagraha and was imprisoned for 6 months in Cuddalore and Alipuram prisons;

*Chelliya Fernandes* was born in Punnakayal in 1904, took part in salt satyagraha in 1930 and was imprisoned for 6 months in Aligarh;

*Valerian Fernandes* was born in Veerapandiyanpattanam in 1909 and was imprisoned in Trichy and Alipuram for participating in Non co-operation movement and Anti-war agitations;

*T.A Fernando* alias Thommai Antony Fernando was nick named Gandiyar in Periyathazai and participated in many of the independence campaigns; and

*Peter Morais* born in Tuticorin in 1918 participated in Toddy shop picketing and Anti foreign goods picketings. He proceeded on a *Long March* from Kurangani on 10-6-1941 through 154 villages covering 520 Kms – in Trichendur, Sri Vaigundam, Kovilpatti Taluks and in Ramanathapuram, and Madurai Districts and met villagers and infused in them the spirit of independence. He was arrested in Thiruprankundram and Dindugal and was imprisoned in Prisons at Madurai and Alipuram. Readers may kindly recollect an article on him in GLOBAL PARAVAR website

We are thankful to Vinodh Netaji Fernando for furnishing the additional information and enlightening us.

by A.X.Alexander


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?

76We 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


Among the many who fought for Independence in the erstwhile Tirunelveli district, a few like Veerapandiakattabomman, Pulithevan, Subramaniya Bharathi and V.O. Chidambaram Pillai have been extolled in history.

There were many others — nearly 400 of them — whose sacrifice of life, limb, health, livelihood, property has been left unrecorded for posterity and has been allowed to pass into oblivion without much notice by scholars or ordinary people. A few others were lucky to have occasional and miserly references in a few pages of history.

One such great warrior who merits a much larger space than what he gets in Thoothukudi district’s history is Joseph Pichaiya Rodriguez popularly known as J.P. Rodriguez.

Born in Thoothukudi on May 2nd, 1891 and educated at St. Xavier’s school in Thoothukudi, and later in St. Joseph’s college, Tiruchirappalli, he married Roselin Corera in 1917, and had thirteen children — one among them was the famous actor Chandra Babu whose name was Panimaya Dasan.

J.P. Rodriguez joined the freedom movement in 1921, following Gandhiji’s call during his visit to Tirunelveli. His close associate in the Freedom Movement was Masilamani Pillai, a well-known Catholic freedom fighter of Thoothukudi; another was Pe. Kandasamy also of Thoothukudi. These three were the ring leaders in the freedom movement in Thoothukudi.

J.P. Rodriguez had close contact with Congress leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Kamaraj, Satyamoorthy, and Indira Gandhi. The rapport that J.P. Rodriguez had with Nehru was so good that Nehru who travelled with him on a ship from Ceylon, readily accepted his invitation to pay a visit to Thoothukudi.

During Nehru’s visit to Thoothukudi, Rodriguez arranged a grand and impressive reception for him. Responding to the call of Gandhi, he, as one of the Congress leaders of the district, led the masses of Thoothukudi in the agitation to boycott foreign cloth, and the agitations to picket toddy shops. In these agitations his wife Roselin also took an active part.

J.P. Rodriguez, started a journal Suthanthra Veeran in Tamil to conscientise and educate Tamil youth in the Freedom Movement. Worried by the fervent exhortations to Tamil youth to rebel, aired in the journal, and the tangible response they elicited, the British government unleashed a reign of terror on the journal and its founder, J.P. Rodriguez. His press was raided, the types were confiscated, cases for seditious activities were registered and the journal was banned and closed. Further, the British confiscated his properties worth Rs. 2.5 lakhs. Undeterred by all these suppressions J.P. continued his participation in the struggle for freedom.

J.P. Rodriguez assisted by one Valerian Fernando from Veerapandiapattinam formed The National Christian Army and recruited youth to fight against the British might. He even went to Ceylon to recruit youth from the island. In this he reminds one of Nethaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

During his sojourn in Ceylon he started another journal Yavana Barathan and wrote articles such as ‘Yeniin Pathai’ in Gnanathoothan.

He took part in the Salt Satyagraha in 1930 and was arrested along with Masilamanipillai and Pe. Kandasamy and sentenced to one-year rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs. 200 or two months under the Salt Act.

J.P. Rodriguez in 1957 in Gnanathoothan recalled this arrest and the hardship he and his friends underwent. He said, “When Masilamani, Pe. Kandasamy and I were arrested in 1930 in Thoothukudi, there was a big agitation in the town. They arrested and kept us in the police station for a long time and locked us in separate cells in the Thoothukudi Sub–jail at 11 a.m.”

“The Police and administrative officers did not give us anything to drink or eat. The floors of the cells into which we were pushed into were uneven and uncomfortable either to sit or to spread oneself. There were no mats, no pillows, no blankets. The cells were dark and damp and there was no light — not even a night lamp! There were no windows — no air or breeze. The sepoy ordered us not to shout or cry out even if a scorpion or snake stung or a rat bit us. The sepoy further instructed us that in the event of any such calamity we might have to keep silence till the next day till the prison doctor might turn up.”

Despite all these taciturn threats and warnings J.P. Rodriguez and Masilamanipillai protested against prisoners removing the urine pots.

After some time, J.P. Rodriguez was removed to Vellore Central jail and Tiruchirapalli Central jail to undergo the sentence.

In 1939, J.P. Rodriguez was arrested again and imprisoned for his participation in the Freedom Struggle. After his release he was exiled to Ceylon where he started a weekly magazine Kalachakram.

1n 1941, he was again arrested for participating in individual satyagraha. His famous saying was “I will fight for the liberation of my motherland till the last drop of my blood in my body.”

After having spent some years in Colombo and Hatton where he had a shop, he returned to India and settled in Chennai in 1943 and joined Dinamani.
Though he was settled in Chennai, he visited Thoothukudi often and engaged himself in the freedom struggle till India attained independence.

M. Pitchai Savariammal Associate Professor, Department of History,St. Mary’s College, Thoothukudi