Vanchinathan-Proud freedom fighter

Vanchinathan was born in 1886 in Sengottai to Raghupathy Iyer and Rukmani Ammal. His actual name was Shankaran. He did his schooling in Sengottai. He married Ponnammal and got into a lucrative government job.

On 17 June 1911, Vanchi who was just 25, assassinated Robert Ashe, the district collector of Tirunelveli, who was also known as Collector Dorai. He shot Ashe at point-blank range when Ashe’s train had stopped at the Maniyachi Station, en route to Madras. He committed suicide thereafter. The railway station has since been renamed Vanchi Maniyachi.

The mastermind behind the assassination was Nilakanta Brahmachari who went around the Madras presidency in 1910 recruiting cadres and hatching plots against the British. In this venture, he was accompanied by Shankar Krishna Iyer, Vanchinathan’s brother-in-law, who introduced the men to each other. Along with a few other men, Nilakanta Bramhachari, Vaanchinathan, and Shankar Krishna Aiyar found an organisation called Bharatha Matha Sangam which plots the assassination of influential British men. On 17 June 1911, Ashe boarded the 9:30 am Maniyachi Mail at Tirunelveli Junction. With him was his wife, Mary Lillian Patterson, who had arrived from Ireland only a few days earlier. They had married on 6 April 1898, in Berhampore; Mary was about a year older than Ashe. They were on their way to Kodaikanal where their four children, Molly, Arthur, Sheila, and Herbert, lived in a rented bungalow. At 10:38 am, the train pulled in at Maniyachi. The Ceylon Boat Mail was due to arrive at 10:48 am. As the Ashes sat facing each other in the first class carriage, waiting for the Boat Mail to arrive, a neatly dressed man with tufted hair and another young man wearing a dhoti approached the carriage. The former boarded the carriage and pulled out a Belgian-made Browning automatic pistol. The bullet hit Ashe in the chest and he collapsed. The sound of the pistol shot was absorbed by the howling wind. 

The reason for the selection of Ashe as the target was his role in the suppression of Swadeshi movement led by V.O. Chidambaram and others in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin. His suppressive action also led to the collapse of the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company. Fourteen persons were charged in the Ashe murder case, which came to be known as the Tirunelveli conspiracy case.

After the shooting, Vanchinathan ran along the platform and took cover in the latrine. Sometime later he was found dead, having shot himself in the mouth. The pistol recovered from him was empty without any bullets as he just planned to kill himself after killing Ashe and had no intention to hurt anyone other than Ashe.In his pocket was found a letter

I dedicate my life as a small contribution to my motherland. I am alone responsible for this.

The mlechas of England having captured our country, tread over the sanathana dharma of the Hindus and destroy them. Every Indian is trying to drive out the English and get swarajyam and restore sanathana dharma. Our Raman, Sivaji, Krishnan, Guru Govindan, Arjuna ruled our land protecting all dharmas, but in this land, they are making arrangements to crown George V, a mlecha, and one who eats the flesh of cows.

Three thousand Madrasees have taken a vow to kill George V as soon as he lands in our country. In order to make others know our intention, I who am the least in the company, have done this deed this day. This is what everyone in Hindustan should consider it as his duty.

I will kill Ashe, whose arrival here is to celebrate the crowning of cow-eater King George V in this glorious land which was once ruled by great samrats. This I do to make them understand the fate of those who cherish the thought of enslaving this sacred land.

I, as the least of them, wish to warn George by killing Ashe.

Vande Mataram. Vande Mataram. Vande Mataram

The railway station Vanchi maniyachi is named after the Tamil freedom fighter Vanchinathan and was the site of assassination of the British Collector, Robert Ashe. Today the station is a significant station in the Madurai railway division of the Southern Railway Zone, one of the six divisions established within the Southern Railway Zone others being Chennai, Tiruchchirappalli, Salem, Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram.

Categories: Culture and History, India