Saturday, 5 December 2015

Courageous Accamma Cherian, The Jhansi Rani of Travancore, India


Akkamma Cherian a freedom fighter, Kerala  .en.wikipedia.org
Map showing Travancore state in 1859,  en.wikipedia.org
 Ever since the British became a strong force to reckon with and started gobbling up the states one by one  in  the Indian subcontinent in the 1700s to early 1900s, native Indians, had begun to show their hatred for them and their way of oppressing the gullible Indian natives for centuries by organizing numerous protests at various places across India. Unmoved, the British started showing their economic and military muscle power in S. India soon after the fall of Tipu Sultan of Mysore in 1799. Subsequently several local  Indian rulers revolted against the British prior to Sepoy mutiny  of 1857, but,  all of them were successfully eliminated by the foreign rulers. But these daring  local rulers, no doubt,  passed down the spirit of freedom and instilled a  sense of purpose and fighting qualities in the lives of next generation of natives  to drive the British out of India and not to be cowed down by their intimidation, coercion and oppressive tactics.  After Sepoy mutiny and later  several protests,  the Indian freedom movements became more active than before with the arrival  great leaders like Gandhi, Patel, Gokhale, Tilak, Nehru and S.C. Bose, et al.


During the fight for India's freedom, women's participation was, unfortunately, negligible. Not because of their being a soft gender, but because of social restrictions  prevailing then.. The Indian women were equally daring, intelligent ans smart. At a time when men were not in charge of running the kingdoms or leading the struggles and protests during the freedom struggle, the onus fell on the women and they took charge of the leadership more efficiently and more valiantly than men. Some women never missed the opportunity thrown at them and proved their amazing leadeship and grit.
 
Ms. Accamma Cherian, the second daughter of a Christian couple - Thomman Cherian and Annamma and a native of Kerala, S.India ,Kanjirapalli, was a well-known freedom fighter in a Gandhian way. She was a graduate in History, served as a  teacher at St. Mary's English Medium School, Kanjirapally in 1931 and became  its Head Mistress  after  six  years  of service there. She also received B.T degree from the Trivandrum Training College. During  her younger age, freedom struggle  was  going  on and Gandhiji  became one of the well-known leaders and along with other leaders he led several peaceful marches against the British and their undemocratic way of ruling India and its people.

Congress party was formed with a view to fighting the British and the party leaders  across India were campaigning for India's freedom from the British yoke.  The Travancore State Congress party was formed in February, 1938 to encourage freedom fighters from that part of the state to take an active role fot this noble cause.  Gandhiji  wanted people from different walks of life to stay united and join the freedom struggle. Particularly,  he asked the women not to stay at home and keep themselves confined in the Kitchen and urged them to actively participate in the freedom movement  and raise their voice along with other men folks. Accamma Cherian, unlike other women, was a self motivated woman and her upbringing was such that she was courageous and committed to whatever she did and could think  independently.  She was closely observing the freedom struggle and at one point Gandhiji's appeal to women gave her inspiration to join the Congress party of Travancore, Kerala.

A responsible government, caring for the aspirations of the people, was the need of that time, and in this regard,  under the leadership of its President Pattom A. Thanu Pillai , the Congress party and the people of Travancore started the agitation. When the agitation became a serious matter,  the then Dewan of  Travancore Sir C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar,  an eminent Administrator and lawyer, tried to suppress the agitation. Being a Dewan he owes his responsibility to the Royal family and also to the British rulers. As the  agitation  became uncontrollable, the Dewan arrested all prominent Congress leaders one by one, including Thanu Pillai and the last leader  Kuttanad Ramakrishna Pillai. So, now the mantle of leading the agitation and the party fell in the hands of  Ms. Accamma Cherian, the 12 th chosen leader. Under her leadership, a mass rally from  Thampanoor to the  Palace of the Maharajah Chithira Thirunal Balarama  Varma  was conducted,  urging  the Maharajah to revoke the ban and release of the arrested leaders and dismiss the Dewan. Tranancore, being a princely state,  the British rulers came to the Dewan's rescue. The agitation turned violent and no sooner had the  British police chief ordered his police forces to fire on the rally of over 20,000 people,  than   Ms. Accamma Cherian  moved quickly forward and courageously  shouted at the British officer "I am the leader; shoot me first before you kill others," She stood there unmoved,  as if she was not the one to be cowed down. The British officers, taken aback by her authoritarian, stentorian voice above the din  and finally withdrew the shooting orders. The rally ended with the King ordering the release of all political prisoners. Miss. Accamma Cherian's bold stand at a crucial time, despite the shooting orders,  became a sensational news across India.  It led Ghandhiji  to  call  her ''The  Jhansi  Rani  of Travancore.''   However,  she was arrested on December 24,  1939 by the authorities  for violating prohibitory orders.' She was  jailed for a one-year term on a silly ground for having attended the first annual conference of the Travancore State Congress. While in jail, unmindful of her gender, jailers and others treated her badly under the watchful eyes of British officers. As her main priority was freedom, with extreme enduring powers  and guts  she  faced exploitation, tortures and hardship.

Until India gained her freedom in August, 1947, Accamma Cherian, a brave woman as she was, did not lose her spirit to  fight back the British rulers, and during the long course,  she was jailed a few more times. Thus she dedicated her youthful part of her life to the cause of Indian  freedom struggle, for she believed in ''free India.'' and Indians breathing fresh air of freedom and not the stench of British exploitation and imperialism.  The history of freedom struggle in Kerala will be incomplete without mentioning the true sacrifices of this bold woman and she made a name for self in the political history of this highly literate state.


Ref:


http://www.yentha.com/news/view/features/statues-of-trivandrum-accamma-cherian