Veera Vanchinathan – A Tribute to the forgotten Hero

Oil press pulled by VOC
Oil press pulled by VOC, displayed in guindy national park

Over a period of time I started hating the concept of patriotism, and wars in the name of patriotism. For long the root of the Indian culture was (is) based on the concept of

अयं बन्धुरयं नेति गणना लघुचेतसां उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकं

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam means the whole world is one family. The meaning of the phrase in the Upanishad is “Only small men discriminate saying: One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously the entire world constitutes but a family.”

It is not just in Sanskrit every region in ancient India had this concept as the basic idea of the culture.
In Tamil litereature around 2300 years back in the Puranaanooru collection Kaniyan Poonkundranar said “யாதும் ஊரே, யாவரும் கேளீர்” – Which means ‘every country is my own and all the people are my relatives.’ That is the reason for our land to be considered as Bharatvarsha and not as 100s of different tiny kingdoms, the common thread of a highly evolved culture tied us together.

This is not just restricted to India, even Southern Africa have the same concept (UBUNTU)

However for a long time as an youngster I fell in love with patriotism. Liked the idea of fighting for an Identity and saving the borders, when in reality every human should try and break the borders. As I got older I started looking at things differently and felt it is ridiculous to fight a war in the name of patriotism and eventually killing thousands of our own people. As I further evolved, I understood that it is indeed important to fight for a greater good. No matter how noble our intentions are, if there is someone out there who just want to destroy us we should not sit back and let them destroy us. Just like cancer cells, cancer cells are cells of our own body, but we got to destroy them for the greater good. Killing should never be justified at the same time we always should fight back for the greater good.

Indian Freedom struggle is a complex phenomenon. The people to whom we credit India’s Independence never asked for Independence, until 1942 (the quit India Movement) the entire movement was not asking for freedom but just for a dominion status. The history books did a great disservice to those who really fought for the independence. MK Gandhi was the one who decided on sending the Indian army to fight for the British in the world war I and II, however when fighting for independence he claimed we should follow ahimsa? Is sending the army to fight for the British amounts to Ahimsa? The fact is British after 1945 became completely broke after the second world war and was in no position to manage the colonies, and they gave freedom to all including Sri Lanka which never had a freedom movement at all. However the history forever will say a different story.

Vanchinathan (alias) Shankaran Iyer

Coming to the Topic; Vanchinathan, the forgotten hero hailing form South Tamil Nadu died on the same day (June 17th).

Oil press pulled by VOC
Oil press pulled by VOC, displayed in guindy national park

Chidambaram Pillai, popularly called as V.O.C, launched the first indigenous Indian shipping service between Tuticorin and Colombo with the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company, competing against British ships. He was a member of Indian National Congress, but like Subash Chandra Bose quit it because of differences with MK Gandhi. The Brits arrested him and tortured him in the prison and was made to yoke an oil press throughout the day. The amount of tortures meted out to him created a stir among people of southern Tamil Nadu and they peacefully protested against the treatment meted out to him. The then acting collected of Tirunelveli Robert William d’Escourt Ashe ordered a firing and it killed many and several injured. Triggered by this incident Vanchinathan (Actual name Shankaran Iyer) and his mate planned to assassinate Ashe, and he did it when Ashe was travelling in a train. When people came to capture him, he just said he wanted to kill Ashe and don’t intend to hurt anyone else. He went in to the toilet and killed himself. The pistol recovered from him was empty without any bullets as he just planned to kill himself after killing Ashe. There was a letter in his pocket, which inspired 1000s of people to fight for freedom.

I cannot be a judge and say what he did was right or wrong. Killing is wrong in my opinion, MK Gandhi killed lakhs of men by sending them to fight for the Brits in the world wars and when asked people to take the blows of the Brits and lay down their lives, SC Bose was responsible for the death of many in the war of independence (on either side). History is just a piece of paper written by those who win finally and it is not the truth, and the people who win eventually will end up heroes and the losers will be villians and eventually people will forget others who died fighting.

The assassination of Ashe was the only successful assassination of a Brit in the south India, however his name is erased from the history slowly, it is partly because of the periyar movement who ridiculed and oppressed all Brahmins (as Vanchi was a Brahmin). The worst part is, I was unable to find a single picture of Vanchinathan today to share it in my blog. Anyone who is fighting for a cause, anyone who is fighting for the society in which he was born and anyone who is fighting for a greater good is a hero in my opinion.

I salute Vanchi for his courage and for inspiring people to fight for their freedom.

EDIT: I managed to find an image of Vanchi