Murder of Ashe, Collector of Tinnelveli - What made Vanchinathan take the extreme step?

''Happy Independence Day''.  Be a proud man to celebrate  -75 years of its Independence ;  mind you in countless countries people are not not free under draconian laws.  Bear in mind that no nation is perfect, and it can only be made perfect by me and you. Let's us be grateful to  the people who sacrificed their lives for our country. let's take a pledge to protect the peace, diversity, harmony, and unity of our great nation first and good governance in the future..... 

India's 75th independence day.

Patriot  VO Chidambaram

During the colonial time under the crown administration, the same misrule and  injustice  continued unabated under the direct British Crown  rule as before under  the corrupt  East India company's rule.  During the early 1900s political situation  in India was one of  a serious nature as the people were quite unhappy with the repressive rule being pursued by the British India government against the freedom fighters. Persistent freedom struggle by many prominent  leaders  and protests did not yield any desired  result.  It appeared the natives had to struggle for long years to breath the fresh air of freedom. The police brutality in Calcutta (then Bengal) and other places was very high consequently,  it led to the birth of revolutionaries who took to violence as a way to achieve freedom. Some British officials were shot dad by the revolutionaries in Bengal, a breeding ground for  freedom fighters.

The police and the civil administration firmed up their grip on the ''call for free India'' slogan across India.  The same situation prevailed in the Madras presidency. In the south, particularly, Tirunelveli became a hot bed of freedom movements. Among the prominent freedom fighters,  VO Chidambaram, a patriot and a staunch  follower of patriot  Bal Gangadhar Tilak was actively involved in company labor problems in his capacity as a  qualified lawyer with good practice. He was also a strong supporter  of Swadeshi Movement - encouraging Indian products and discarding foreign stuff. 

Veera vanchinathan, patriot of Tinnelveli.

Driven by patriotic zeal VOC started the first ever fully -Indian -managed Shipping Co called  the Swadeshi Shipping Company (1906) to break the  British monopoly on the Thoothukudi- Ceylon sea route.  British-owned A & F Harvey group (later it became  Madura Coats) that ran  the  English shipping  company and also  the Coral textile mills in Thoothukudi was not happy about the growing  competition. VOC, as a lawyer, was a strong  supporter of the textile mill's labor union.

In those days English companies and traders paid   poor wages and in return  employees had to work long hours like a sweat hog. In the textile and other companies the machinery had no protection mechanism, so  injuries were frequent and the company management had neither improved their working condition nor paid compensation for the injured workers.  The  Coral textile mill of Thoothukudi had a lousy name for poor treatment of workers and low wages. Strikes were frequent. 

 In early February, 1908  the Coral Mill was  beset with  major labor problems over low wages and poor working conditions. Patriots  Chidambaram and Subramaniya Shiva gave guidance and led the  labor strike. On 23 February 1908 at  Thoothukudi he gave public speeches encouraging  labor strikes and gave wide publicity that got nation wide attention. This encouraged  company workers in other regions  to fight for their labor rights  On the 10th day of strike, on 6th March the management   conceded to  the workers' demand. Now, the British government had began to watch VOC seriously as he became a far-reaching public figure as ''a savior of company workers and a champion of the  oppressed'' besides being a thorn in the flesh of colonial rule. 

In order to take revenge on VOC, the English shipping Co reduced the sea-fares on their ships with free gifts  and made it tough  for VOC to run  his shipping company. The big English company   regarded  Chidambaram  was  a threat to their company's  future function and growth. VOC's  persistent involvement  in the  company's labor dispute irritated influential British beyond tolerance level. Further, VOC and his associate Subramanya Shiva' political influence grew by leap and bound in Tinnelveli district and other places.  Quite perturbed, the British had to stop his growing political stature at local and national level. Thus VOC incurred the displeasure of the British government. 

They through  Tinnelveli Collector Ashe  charged  VOC with sedition, and a sentence of two life imprisonments (forty years). Reason: He and Shiva conducted political rallies in the town of Tinnelveli  defying promulgation of  144. Confined to the   Central Prison, Coimbatore from 9 July 1908 to 1 December 1910, he was treated shabbily by the  prison warders. He had to break had rocks in the open and  push the oil press like cattle. Even the British media   Statesmen magazine  widely condemned  it claiming that it was unjust.(after appeal his sentence was  reduced to 40 years). In the mean time his shipping company became liquidated in 1911.

Chidambaram Pillai, a famous layer and a staunch parrot  was reduced to poverty. Till his death on 18 November 1936 at the Tuticorin office of the Indian National Congress, his chequred life  had been a saga of pain mental agony. The British Crown administration, London,  without remorse, tore his life apart. 

As to the murder of Collector Ashe (June 17, 1911 at Maniachi, TN) by patriot Vanchinathan, the following reasons  chose him to take the drastic action: 

Tinnelveli, TN Collector  Robert Ashe

01. The Corral textile Mill at Thoothukudi (a part of Madura Coats/ A & F Harvey Co) was an English company and all the company directors were British. Senior employees were mostly White men  with some exceptions. 

02. The  low level workers were Indians and labor disputes were common  at the Coral Spinning (Textile) mill for simple reasons  the workers were paid poor wages, under bad working conditions. 

03. Workers had to put in long hours of work.  Some of the textile  machines had no safety protections or safety guard to prevent physical injury to the operators. 

04. Injured employees were not taken care of. No monetary aid  There was no such a thing called yearly bonus, incentives, etc. In otherward they were badly treated  like galley slave who had to row the slave boat to stay alive. 

05. The new Collector and District Magistrate of Tinnelveli Robert William Escourt d’Ashe, ICS could have asked the district labor officer to go into the grievances of the growing labor problems in the Textile Mill at Thoothukudi. At least, in his capacity as a  Magistrate could have personally interfered and solved the labor dispute amicably. His failed action made his critics say that he was siding with the company run by  White men. 

06. VOC not only guided the long labor strike at the Textile mill but also made powerful public speeches that got the national attention. This angered the British Co and  also the English Co over the new Indian owned  Shipping Co. both the government and he company wanted to get VOC out of the way. 

07. VOC and his friend  Subramania Shiva, in violation of governments  orders were not allowed to enter Tinnelveli District.  Despite the restrictions, VOC and Shiva  led public rallies as part of freedom struggle on  12 March 1908 and  both were arrested  in Tirunelveli (then Tinnelveli).  Their arrest under  sections 123-A and 153-A of the Indian Penal Code and sedition charge against VOC (later reduced to 40 years)  was  condemned by the English media as well. Harsh prison life like at the Central Prison, Coimbatore (from 9 July 1908 to 1 December 1910) made his health poor. 

08. While in jail his shipping Co became broke and when he died he became a poor man. . 

09. Now the question arises as to the role of Collector Ashe. He could have given VOC and others severe warning and had let them off. 

10. It is strongly believed  that the District Collector  and Magistrate Ashe  was pressurized by the  government as well as by the influential directors of the English Co to render VOC  powerless using his political speeches as a ruse. He invoked severe laws and used them against a man who happened to be a lawyer. 

11. In yet  another incident, according to one  writer Ilasai  Manian, Collector Ashe  put restrictions on the natives bathing at the famous Courtallam water Falls during certain hours when the whites were taking bath. 

12. Being young and a follower  of  VOC and other important freedom fighters,  Vanchi was infuriated over the blatant racial discrimination and shabby  treatment of Indian leaders and the natives who wanted India to be ruled by Indians. His intent as well as his associates'  was Poorna Swaraj. Collector Ashe 's actions as a repetitive of the Raj were quite offending. So, he earned the ire of the people of this area. 

 Personally, I am  against violence, because violence begets violence. Vanchinathan's action may not be justified, but in a tumultuous and volatile political situation  when people were terrorized by the government in collision with local administration, such violent action might go unnoticed.