Kuthirai Vandi Court, Coimbatore, where patriot V. O. Chidambaram was dragged from the street


in ruins Kuthirai Vandi Court, Coimbatore, facebook.com


The famous Kuthirai Vandi Court (Magistrate court) off  busy Avinashi  Road, Coimbatore city  built in 1863 during the East India company rule is undergoing major repair and renovation work. In August 2021 the restoration work was moving at a much faster  phase. What had made me feel elated is this old court's historical and colonial legacy frozen in time is to be brought back to old glory and its preservation for the posterity is a necessity. The history of Tamil Nadu's contribution to freedom struggle is on the back burner.


restoration of Kuthirai Vandi Court, Coimbatore, TN,simplicity.in 


This old colonial  court building (built in 1863)  that was in a dilapidated condition in the recent past is taken up for urgent restoration work upon judicial recommendation; two primary reasons come to my mind:  01.  This was the first  colonial magistrate court in this part of Madras Presidency (now in Tamil Nadu) and 02. Its historical link with V. O. Chidambaram Pillai, a  staunch freedom fighter and a lawyer of repute. 


Coimbatore city, TN mapsofindia.com


Central prison, Coimbatore, TNthehinduimages.com


Above image: The central Prison, Coimbatore, entrance. It was here V. O. Chidambaranar was jailed and toiled on tough jobs including  pulling the wooden oil press (in local parlance: ''Chekku'') and other nerve-breaking jobs between whiplashes from  British  jailors who had no scruples............ .


A statue of  VO Chidambaram worthy of him was  unveiled in November 2015 on the premises of  Central Prison, Coimbatore  about 86 years after his death.  It was here the freedom fighter underwent untold miseries and pain Reason"  He defied the laws and   vehemently protested against the Raj  and their repressive rule.  Various organizations had  been demanding  for years to have his statue unveiled at the prison particularly,  VOC Makkal Nala Iyakkam, a local patriotic organization  was demanding a memorial in VOC's name.


VOC Marble statue, Cntral prison, Coimbatore.dtnext.in

Above image:  V. O. Chidambaram pillai's 150th birthday was celebrated on 5 September 2021 and the state minister  Mr. Sakkrapani  said that he would make efforts to have a full-size statue of VOC in the VOC park of Coimbatore.  The Minister further flagged off a bus with a photo exhibition portraying the life and history of V.O.C. The bus will be taken to schools and colleges for exhibition. This  is a good approach by the present  ruling ministry and the minister..................... 


Chidambaram Pillai, an associate of Tilak and an  admirer of Bipin Chandra pal of W. Bengal,  made vast contribution to  the welfare of the labor force  in the Coral Textiles Mills (part of Madura Coats, formerly A & F Harvey & Co.), Thoothukudi. The English company paid poor wages to them for long hours of work  and   offered  neither welfare  protection  nor needed amenities to them. Quite disappointing was  there was no protection available when running machinery that would  cause physical injuries.  He, in February 1908,  argued for the workers and demanded higher pay and benefits. This irritated the management of the company who was indirectly supported by the then Collector of Tinnelveli (Thirunelvali)   William Ashe ICS.


When VOC  founded Swadeshi  Steam   Navigation Co to run passenger and cargo services between Thoothukudi and Ceylon (Sri Lanka; services began in early 1906), again the management of the British Shipping Co (under A & F Co) purposely prevented his progress and drastically cut down their tariff  to squeeze the Indian company and this made VOC  ride his enterprise  into  rough seas. At one age, VOC  could not run the ships profitably  and in 1911, his company was liquidated.  A rich lawyer  was rendered poor over a period of time by the greedy and grasping  British companies. This time also Collector Robert William Ashe indirectly plated a subtle role in the liquidation of  the Indian company. VOC  is still  remembered as ‘ Kappalottiya Tamilan ’ (the Tamil who ran the first Indian Ship company).


Undaunted and with patriotic zeal he carried on his freedom struggle activities along with his friend Subramanya Shiva, Bharathiyar  and others.  in 1908 his persistent involvement  in  political rallies  and unrests in Thirunelveli and other towns got the attention of the British  administration. The Raj did not like him becoming a mass leader.


At one point of time VOC became a menace, a veritable rattler in a wood pile.   Using some excuses, the Raj charged  him  with sedition, and a sentence of two life imprisonments (in effect forty years) was imposed. The arrest was intended to curtail his political muzzle,  activities and cut down the pitch for freedom. He was confined in the Central Prison, Coimbatore from 9 July 1908 to 1 December 1910.


It was on the Avinasi  road, Coimbatore  VOC  was physically dragged to the Kuthirai Vandi Magistrate Court (the old court) to report to the presiding  English judge. At  the central prison here, VOC had to undergo rigorous imprisonment, breaking of hard rocks and pulling the country wooden oil press (in Tamil Sekku). In a short period Physically and health wise, he became weak. In the later years, apparently his sentences were reduced,  on an appeal petition filed  only through this court. 


Various organizations pooled in Rs. 1.4 lakh and  had  a marble statue of VOC  at Jaipur and was installed several years ago. The credit goes to one Mr. Sivakumar whose organization is   maintaining the memorial at the prison and remembering him on his death anniversary, for the last 26 years. “It was on this road he was dragged to the Kuthirai Vandi Court (the old court) in the city. Naming the road after him would be a fitting tribute to him as he left behind his footprints on it,” the organizations felt. 


https://www.dtnext.in/News/City/2016/11/18225801/1021753/Kovai-jail-gets-VOCs-statue-on-freedom-fighter

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/voc-remembered-on-his-150th-birth-anniversary-in-coimbatore/article36303188.ece