Monday, 2 December 2019

Sir C. Sankaran Nair, Member Viceroy's council, an unsung freedon fighter and lawyer

Sir C. Sankaran Nair, Member Viceroy's council and eminent lawyer.en.wikipedia.org
Sir C. Sankaran Nair, eminent lawyer.en.wikipedia.org
The Indian history presented by the government  has countless pit falls; so  are the History Text Books for schools and colleges. There are no elaborate chapters on great rulers of India and freedom fighters. The true story of Nethaji Bose is not presented. There are many pieces of misinformation on people, local rulers  who are/were against Indian culture and traditions.  The stories of many freedom fighters and their contributions are either left out or just  dealt with brief information. Atheists who have neither made valid contribution to India's freedom nor made efforts toward amity among various communities have a liberal dose of their biographies.  As for patriots and freedom fighters across India,  many remain unsung and unheard of. One among them was a great lawyer and Congress man  Sir C. Sankaran Nair (1857-1934). He was relegated to the back stage in Indian history because  he boldly said Gandhiji's doctrine of non-violence won't  bring in quick result in dealing with autocratic British  rulers. Besides, his book ''Gandhi and Anarchy'' earned the ire of the Congress party leaders. A towering personality and an eminent judge of Madras High Court, Sri Sankaran Nair's distinguished contribution to India's freedom has to be properly recognized by the Indian government as well as by the Kerala government.  That he has not found a proper place in Indian History related to freedom struggle is a sad fact.
Jallianwalla bagh,.Punjab, India. indiatoday.in/

Among the blatant  atrocities committed by the British under the company (EIC) rule during the great rebellion of 1857 in which tens of thousand of Indian natives were mercilessly killed as a sort of retaliation against the unexpected killings of British subjects  including women and children by the Indian rebels and later under the direct administration of the Crown in London after 1958, none will surpass  the gory, mayhem and bloodletting that had taken place on the 13th of April 1919 at a closed garden called Jallianwalla Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab.  Acting Big Gen. Reginald Dyer, on orders form Punjab governor Michael O' Dwyer,  openly committed what was billed as the worst massacre in the British Empire  on a vast crowd of innocent people gathered in the bagh. With one exit to escape, he had his soldiers  stand near the exit and shoot continuously at the escaping, unarmed crowd until they ran out of ammunition.  The casualty was 373 people including children, women and elderly people,  many of them bled to death and thousands suffered grievous injuries, all happened in a short time.  No ambulance and no medical aids to the injured.  Unofficial casualty figure was more than 1000 killed in this horrible massacre.  Initially, the British administration in India gagged the press  and the British media hushed up this mass murder in collusion with the administration.  When the incident was leaked out secretly by some honest British reporters, this grisly incident not only shook the conscientious people in Brittan but also the entire world, in particular, western countries. The Indian patriots like Gandhiji, Patel and others were quite furious. 
Jallianwalla bagh, Amrisar, Punjab twitter.com/
None was more in rage than   Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair, the only Indian in the Viceroy’s Executive Council then, who soon resigned the covetous post in protest against this  appealing crime on the Indian soil by the foreign aggressors. In his autobiography he mentions ....''At the same time, I found that Lord Chelmsford [the Viceroy] approved of what was being done in Punjab. That, to me, was shocking.” Rabindranath Tagore, India’s most famous literary figure, gave up  his knighthood by way of registering his anger and resentment.

In the wake of Sankaran Nair's resignation, realizing the gravity of grave situation after the ghastly massacre,  the government lifted censorship of the press and terminated the  martial law in Punjab. The royal commission of inquiry headed by Hunter with both British and Indian members  was formed to go down to the bottom of this massacre. The whole of India appreciated  Sankaran Nair's reaction to the massacre and no doubt he won the heart and soul of every patriotic Indian. His resignation from the most powerful post in the British government was indeed a supreme sacrifice. In those days very high positions for the Indian was a far cry and the highest post they could reach was subaltern in nature.  Few eminent  people like Sir Rangacharlu,  Sir Sheshadri Iyer, Sir Mirza Ismail (Mysore), Sir Dinkar Rao, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar (Travancore), Sir Visvaswaraiah, Sir Ramaswamy Mudaliar (Mysore),  Sir Sheshaya Sastry (of Pudukottai), et al held positions of eminence in the British Raj.

 Sankaran Nair's journey to the exalted position was an arduous one. Like many others, he began his career as an advocate in 1880 in Madras. After a long stint, he  became a  member of the Madras Bar.  As a member of  the Madras Legislative Council in 1890, he was instrumental in introducing the legislation leading to enactment of the Malabar Marriage Act of 1896. Being a staunch Congress man, obviously, in recognition of his leadership qualities and administrative skill he  became  an  elected President of the Indian National Congress. Incidentally, the only person from Kerala ever to hold this  most responsible position  at its Amaravathi session in 1897. Soon he became  the first Indian to be appointed Advocate General of the Madras government in 1907.  Earlier in 1902, the Viceroy Lord Curzon appointed him Secretary to the Raleigh University Commission. In 1904  he was appointed a Companion of the Indian Empire by the King-Emperor  and in 1912 he was knighted for his vast contribution in many fields. Later in 1908  he was elevated as judge of the Madras High Court and he held the post till 1915.  He became a member of the Viceroy's Council in the same year with the charge of the Education portfolio;  the highest post in the British Indian government ever enjoyed by an Indian.  He had numerous  departments under his control all headed by the British. 
Sankaran Nair's wisdom and handwork  were on full display in the preparation of  the Montagu-Chelmsford Report significantly influenced the British Parliament in enacting the Government of India Act of 1919 which was  a ground-breaking move toward India's independence. He, without any hesitation,  mooted an ingenious deal that  India's  participation in the World War was contingent upon the acceptance by the British government of ''Self-Rule'' by the Indians after the war was over, thus  showing the groping Indian leaders flickering light at the end of the dark tunnel, gateway to India's freedom from the British yoke. K.P.S. Menon, a great diplomat said, ...'' a prophet who was to change the course of events not only in India but in Asia and the world”. Being a courageous man, he was of the opinion that  Gandhiji's  ''doctrine of  non-violence for self-purification was  certain to lead to frightful disorders and riots”. He meant that the adamant British government, particularly under the Conservative Administration would give a damn to civil disobedience promoted by Gandhiji as a tool to get freedom.  Nethaji also felt this doctrine of non-violence won't work and the British would prolong giving freedom to India.

In a sensational case Nair Verses Lieutenant-Governor Michael O’Dwyer  that came up before the King's Bench in London (Mr Nair was sued for libel), not withstanding the fact both Gov. O' Dwyer and  Brig. Gen. Dyer were responsible for killing countless innocent people in Punjab,  the biased  judge and equally prejudicial  jury handed down verdict against Nair who preferred to pay 7000 pounds in damages rather than tendering an apology before the royal bench. You could not expect justice from a society that declared Gen. Dyer was a savior of British women and awarded him a big purse in London under the patronage of a well-known British newspaper.  As of today  Britain, which colonized India for 200 plus years and looted it as much as they could, is yet to tender an apology for the incident and similar such excesses committed by its forces on the Indians.
In 1997, Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh  were on a visit to the bagh. The royal couple  merely signed on the visitor's book and  they made no comments on the innocent  people who died in the disgusting massacre in April 1919.  Way back in  2013, former British Prime Minister David Cameron  did the same thing
when he visited the bagh in Amritsar.  No apology was offered. he said  the  Jallianwala Bagh massacre  was a "deeply shameful event".

Sir Sankaran Nair retired from active politics and public life at a time when  the Viceregal  made an announcement  granting Dominion Status to India, one step toward freedom. Unfortunately he died in 1934 at the age of 77, 13 years before India attained freedom from the British. If Sri Sankaran Nair were  alive he would have become a broken man as Indian subcontinent was partitioned into ''Democratic'' India and ''Theocratic'' Pakistan, the latter  has been consistently a source of trouble for the peace-loving Indians. In the last two decades, Pakistan has become a breeding ground for religious terrorists and fanatics  who without any mercy engage in mass killing by setting bombs, etc  and  spreading ghastly violence in many parts of Asia. Hard core terrorist Bin laden was hiding in Pakistan until he was captured by the US forces. Consequently, innocent people in that country suffer on account of this misguided rule. How many of you know that  Major William Alexander Brown MBE (13 December 1922 - 5 December 1984), a British military officer in British India created a big problem during the Partition of India. He vehemently led a successful coup, killing both Hindus and Muslims  against the ruling Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir Guru Singh. This  resulted in the Gilgit Agency (consisting of Gilgit and Baltistan, both part of Kashmir) becoming part of Pakistan administered Kashmir. The Indian government has vowed to take them over  them in the future
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/a-keralite-who-kept-the-jallianwala-bagh-fight-alive/article26823801.ece
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._Sankaran_Nair