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Akkamma Cherian

Jhansi Rani of Travancore
Born Akkamma
February 14, 1909
Kanjirappally , erstwhile Travancore (Kerala)
Died May 5, 1982
Nationality Indian
Known for Freedom fighter
Political party Travancore State Congress
Religion Christian
Spouse(s) V V Varkey
Parents Thomman Cherian and Annamma

Akkamma Cherian was an Indian freedom fighter [1][2][3] from the erstwhile Travancore (Kerala), India. She was popularly known as the Jhansi Rani of Travancore [4][5][6].

Contents

Early life

She was born on Feb 14 , 1909 at Kanjirappally, (then Kingdom of Travancore), present Kerala state of India as second daughter of Thomman Cherian and Annamma. She was educated at Government Girls High School Kanjirappally and St. Joseph High School, Changanassery. She graduated in B.A. History from St. Teresa's College, Ernakulam. After her formal education, she worked as a teacher at St. Mary's School, Kanjirappally, where she later became Head teacher of the school. She also did her B.L.T degree from Trivandrum Training College.

'Akkamma Cherian – A Short Biography'

Akkamma Cherian, known as ‘The Jhansi Rani of Travancore’, was a famous Malayali freedom fighter of India. She was born on February 14, 1909 as the second daughter of Karippaparambil Thomman Cherian and Annamma at Kanjirappally in Kottayam, then a part of princely state of Travancore. She was educated at the Government High School Kanjirappally and St. Joseph High School, Changanassery. Then she moved to St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, from where she completed her B.A. in History. After her formal education in 1931, she became a teacher and the first Headmistress of the newly founded St. Mary’s English Medium School, Kanjirappally. (The school was started in 1930). She worked in this institution for about six years, and during this period she also did her B.L.T. degree from Trivandrum Training College. In February 1938, when Akkamma was the Headmistress of the school, the Travancore State Congress was formed. She gave up her teaching career in order to join the glorious struggle for liberty. Under the leadership of the State Congress, the people of Travancore started an agitation for a responsible government. In spite of accepting the demands of the people, Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, the Dewan of erstwhile Travancore and an enemy of liberal and democratic movements, decided to suppress the agitation. On August 26, 1938, he banned the State Congress and the Youth League. The State Congress then organized a civil disobedience movement. Prominent State Congress leaders including its President Pattom Thanu Pillai were arrested and put behind bars. Now, the State Congress decided to change its method of agitation. Its working committee was dissolved and the President was given dictatorial powers. The President was also given the right to nominate his successor. Eleven ‘dictators’ (Presidents) of the State Congress were arrested one by one. Kuttanad Ramakrishna Pillai, the eleventh dictator, before his arrest nominated Akkamma Cherian as the twelfth dictator. Under her leadership the State Congress intensified its agitation.

Akkamma led a mass rally from Thampanoor to the Kowdiar palace of the Maharaja Sri Chitra Thirunal to revoke a ban on the State Congress. The agitating mob also demanded the dismissal of the Dewan, C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, against whom the State Congress leaders had leveled several charges. The British police chief ordered his men to fire on the rally of over 20,000 people. Akkamma who stood in front of the rally cried, “I am the leader, shoot me first before you kill others”. Her courageous words forced the British police chief to withdraw his orders. On hearing the news Mahatma Gandhi hailed her as ‘The Jhansi Rani of Travancore’. The Maharaja was forced to release all the political prisoners. In October 1938, the working committee of the State Congress directed Akkamma Cherian to organize the Desasevika Sangh (Female Volunteer Crops). She, therefore, toured various centers and appealed to the women to join as members of the Desasevika Sangh.

The first annual conference of the State Congress was held at Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram on December 22 and 23, 1938 in spite of the ban orders. Almost all leaders of the State Congress were arrested and imprisoned. Akkamma, along with sister Rosamma (who is also a former freedom fighter, ex. MLA and is a CPI leader), was arrested and jailed on December 24, 1939. They were awarded one year imprisonment. They were insulted and threatened in the jail. Due to the instruction given by the jail authorities, some prisoners used abusing and vulgar words against them. This matter was brought to the notice of Mahatma Gandhi by Pattom Thanu Pillai. C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, however, denied it. (Akkamma’s brother, K.P. Varkey, also took part in freedom movement.)

Akkamma, after her release from jail, became a full-time worker of the State Congress. In 1942, she became its Acting President. In her presidential address, she welcomed the Quit India Resolution passed by the historic Bombay session of the Indian National Congress on August 8, 1942. She was arrested and awarded one year imprisonment. In 1946, she was arrested and imprisoned for six months for violating ban orders. In 1947, she was again arrested as she raised her voice against C.P. Ramaswami Iyer’s desire for independent Travancore.


In 1947, after independence, Akkamma was elected to the Travancore Legislative Assembly from Kanjirappally unopposed. In 1951, at the age of 43, she married V.V. Varkey, a former freedom fighter and a member of Thiru Kochi Legislative Assembly. (Their only son, George V. Varkey is an Engineer). In the early 1950s, she resigned from the Congress Party and in 1952, she unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary election from the Meenachal Lok Sabha constituency with the support of the Left parties. In 1967, she contested the Assembly election as an independent candidate and was defeated. She, then, slowly withdrew from active politics. Later, she served as a member of the Freedom Fighters’ Pension Advisory Board. This heroine of Kerala breathed her last on May 5, 1982 in Thiruvananthapuram. A statue was erected in her memory at Vellayambalam in Thiruvananthapuram.

This article is contributed by Dr. S. Jeyakumar,Reader, S.D. College, Alappuzha

Freedom struggle

It was during her time as a teacher, the Travancore State Congress was formed. She was very active in state politics and Travancore State Congress from the very beginning. She gave up her teaching career of the school in order to join the struggle for liberty ,under the inspiration of Gandhiji [7][8]. In 1936, Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar became the diwan of Travancore. In 1937, the Travancore and Cochin provinces had parliamentary style Governments working in tandem with the kings, Ambattu Sivarama Menon in Cochin and Pattom Thanu Pillai in Travancore became the first ministers. The Travancore State Congress launched a campaign seeking dismissal of the Dewan, C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, against whom they had leveled several charges [9].

C. P. Ramaswami Iyer
Akkamma Cheriyan (Malayalam),ISBN 978-81-237-4913-6

On August 26, 1939, C. P. Ramaswami Iyer banned State Congress and the Youth League. Congress president Pattom Thanu Pillai and other major leaders were arrested. While holding the post of acting Congress President, Akkamma Cherian lead a mass rally to the Palace of Prince Sri Chitra Thirunal to revoke a ban on State Congress [5][7]. The British police chief ordered his men to fire on the rally of over 20,000 people [10]. Akkamma Cherian cried “I am the leader; shoot me first before you kill others” . Her courageous words forced the police authorities to withdraw their orders.[5] The protesters did receive an order revoking the ban.[11].She was arrested and convicted for violating prohibitory orders in 1939 [12]. She participated in the Quit India Movement of 1942 and imprisoned. She was ill-treated at the prison as recorded by Gandhiji [13][14].

In the early 1950s, when her kind of political belief systems began to become invalid and parties ideologies were changing, she quit politics [7]. Her husband V V Varkey also was in politics , a former MLA ( 1952) to Kerala Legislative Assembly and, together, they left it in near-poverty.

Her life history was made into a documentary film by Sreebala K. Menon [15][16] and a statue was erected on her memory in Thiruvananthapuram [17] later. Docufest, a three-day festival of documentary films made by the Information and Public Relations Department of the Kerala State Government screened the film on Akkamma Cherian in 2005 [18] .

References

  1. ^ "ROLE OF WOMEN IN KERALA POLITICS REFORMS AMENDMENT ACT 1969 A STUDY IN SOCIAL CHANGE". Journal of Kerala Studies. University of Kerala. 1985. pp. 21. 
  2. ^ Who is who of Freedom Fighters in Kerala. K. Karunakaran Nair. 1975. pp. 89. 
  3. ^ The Christians and the Freedom Movement. 
  4. ^ "Status of Kerala Women -... Akkamma Cherian, known as Jhansi Rani of Travancore was one of the veteran freedom fighters of Kerala who had participated in the Quit India Movement.". http://www.kswdc.org/status.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  5. ^ a b c "Akkamma Cheriyan is known as Jhansi Rani of Travancore. She was one of the veteran freedom fighters of Kerala.". http://keralawindow.net/imp_a.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  6. ^ "She was popularly known as Jhansi Rani of Travancore .". http://www.keralastate.org/akkache.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  7. ^ a b c "In the thirties, under the inspiration of Gandhiji, she resigned and joined the Congress agitation for a ‘responsible government’ in what was then the princely state of Travancore.". tehelka.com. January 20 , 2007. http://www.tehelka.com/story_main25.asp?filename=op012007culture_vulture.asp. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  8. ^ The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India. 1977. pp. 413,503. 
  9. ^ "The Travancore State Congress launched a campaign seeking dismissal of Ramaswami Iyer, against whom they had leveled certain charges.". http://www.kerala.gov.in/history&culture/emergence.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  10. ^ "late August 1938 Neyyattinkara Firing: The police opens fire on a March (jatha) of 20,000 people led by Akkamma Cheriyan (1909-1982)". http://ehess.philosophindia.fr/inde/33/. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  11. ^ "Mrs. Akkamma Cherian leads a mass rally to the Palace to revoke a ban on State". http://menon.ca/interestingchronology.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  12. ^ Freedom Fighters Remember. Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India. 1997. pp. 18. ISBN 812300575X, 9788123005751. 
  13. ^ The Indian States Problem. Navajivan press. pp. 167. 
  14. ^ Political and National Life and Affairs By Gandhi. Navajivan Pub. House. 1967. pp. 186,322. 
  15. ^ "‘Akkamma Cheriyan’ by Ms. Sreebala K. Menon — Remembering the eminent (kerala.gov.in)". http://www.kerala.gov.in/keracallaug04/p32.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  16. ^ "Films on ... Pattom Thanu Pillai and Akkamma Cherian would be screened on October 6th 2005(kerala.gov.in)". http://www.kerala.gov.in/news05/03oct05.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  17. ^ "..the Akkamma Cherian statue (The Hindu)". http://www.hindu.com/2006/03/15/stories/2006031525480300.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  18. ^ "Docufest,The films being screened on Thursday are those on Sathyan, Sree Narayana Guru, Pattam Thanupillai and Akkamma Cherian (The Hindu))". http://www.hindu.com/2005/10/03/stories/2005100306280400.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 

Akkamma Cherian – A Short Biography

Akkamma Cherian, known as ‘The Jhansi Rani of Travancore’, was a famous Malayali freedom fighter of India. She was born on February 14, 1909 as the second daughter of Karippaparambil Thomman Cherian and Annamma at Kanjirappally in Kottayam, then a part of princely state of Travancore. She was educated at the Government High School Kanjirappally and St. Joseph High School, Changanassery. Then she moved to St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, from where she completed her B.A. in History. After her formal education in 1931, she became a teacher and the first Headmistress of the newly founded St. Mary’s English Medium School, Kanjirappally. (The school was started in 1930). She worked in this institution for about six years, and during this period she also did her B.L.T. degree from Trivandum Training College.


In February 1938, when Akkamma was the Headmistress of the school, the Travancore State Congress was formed. She gave up her teaching career in order to join the glorious struggle for liberty. Under the leadership of the State Congress, the people of Travancore started an agitation for a responsible government. In spite of accepting the demands of the people, Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, the Dewan of erstwhile Travancore and an enemy of liberal and democratic movements, decided to suppress the agitation. On August 26, 1938, he banned the State Congress and the Youth League. The State Congress then organized a civil disobedience movement. Prominent State Congress leaders including its President Pattom Thanu Pillai were arrested and put behind bars. Now, the State Congress decided to change its method of agitation. Its working committee was dissolved and the President was given dictatorial powers. The President was also given the right to nominate his successor. Eleven ‘dictators’ (Presidents) of the State Congress were arrested one by one. Kuttanad Ramakrishna Pillai, the eleventh dictator, before his arrest nominated Akkamma Cherian as the twelfth dictator. Under her leadership the State Congress intensified its agitation.

Akkamma led a mass rally from Thampanoor to the Kowdiar palace of the Maharaja Sri Chitra Thirunal to revoke a ban on the State Congress. The agitating mob also demanded the dismissal of the Dewan, C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, against whom the State Congress leaders had leveled several charges. The British police chief ordered his men to fire on the rally of over 20,000 people. Akkamma who stood in front of the rally cried, “I am the leader, shoot me first before you kill others”. Her courageous words forced the British police chief to withdraw his orders. On hearing the news Mahatma Gandhi hailed her as ‘The Jhansi Rani of Travancore’. The Maharaja was forced to release all the political prisoners.

In October 1938, the working committee of the State Congress directed Akkamma Cherian to organize the Desasevika Sangh (Female Volunteer Crops). She, therefore, toured various centers and appealed to the women to join as members of the Desasevika Sangh.

The first annual conference of the State Congress was held at Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram on December 22 and 23, 1938 in spite of the ban orders. Almost all leaders of the State Congress were arrested and imprisoned. Akkamma, along with sister Rosamma (who is also a former freedom fighter, ex. MLA and is a CPI leader), was arrested and jailed on December 24, 1939. They were awarded one year imprisonment. They were insulted and threatened in the jail. Due to the instruction given by the jail authorities, some prisoners used abusing and vulgar words against them. This matter was brought to the notice of Mahatma Gandhi by Pattom Thanu Pillai. C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, however, denied it. (Akkamma’s brother, K.P. Varkey, also took part in freedom movement.)

Akkamma, after her release from jail, became a full-time worker of the State Congress. In 1942, she became its Acting President. In her presidential address, she welcomed the Quit India Resolution passed by the historic Bombay session of the Indian National Congress on August 8, 1942. She was arrested and awarded one year imprisonment. In 1946, she was arrested and imprisoned for six months for violating ban orders. In 1947, she was again arrested as she raised her voice against C.P. Ramaswami Iyer’s desire for independent Travancore.

    Akkamma Cherian’s statue – Thiruvananthapuram

In 1947, after independence, Akkamma was elected to the Travancore Legislative Assembly from Kanjirappally unopposed. In 1951, at the age of 43, she married V.V. Varkey, a former freedom fighter and a member of Thiru Kochi Legislative Assembly. (Their only son, George V. Varkey is an Engineer). In the early 1950s, she resigned from the Congress Party and in 1952, she unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary election from the Meenachal Lok Sabha constituency with the support of the Left parties. In 1967, she contested the Assembly election as an independent candidate and was defeated. She, then, slowly withdrew from active politics. Later, she served as a member of the Freedom Fighters’ Pension Advisory Board. This heroine of Kerala breathed her last on May 5, 1982 in Thiruvananthapuram. A statue was erected in her memory at Vellayambalam in Thiruvananthapuram.

(This article is contributed bu Dr.S. Jeyakumar, S.D.College

See also

Akkamma Cherian – A Short Biography

Akkamma Cherian, known as ‘The Jhansi Rani of Travancore’, was a famous Malayali freedom fighter of India. She was born on February 14, 1909 as the second daughter of Karippaparambil Thomman Cherian and Annamma at Kanjirappally in Kottayam, then a part of princely state of Travancore. She was educated at the Government High School Kanjirappally and St. Joseph High School, Changanassery. Then she moved to St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, from where she completed her B.A. in History. After her formal education in 1931, she became a teacher and the first Headmistress of the newly founded St. Mary’s English Medium School, Kanjirappally. (The school was started in 1930). She worked in this institution for about six years, and during this period she also did her B.L.T. degree from Trivandum Training College.


In February 1938, when Akkamma was the Headmistress of the school, the Travancore State Congress was formed. She gave up her teaching career in order to join the glorious struggle for liberty. Under the leadership of the State Congress, the people of Travancore started an agitation for a responsible government. In spite of accepting the demands of the people, Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, the Dewan of erstwhile Travancore and an enemy of liberal and democratic movements, decided to suppress the agitation. On August 26, 1938, he banned the State Congress and the Youth League. The State Congress then organized a civil disobedience movement. Prominent State Congress leaders including its President Pattom Thanu Pillai were arrested and put behind bars. Now, the State Congress decided to change its method of agitation. Its working committee was dissolved and the President was given dictatorial powers. The President was also given the right to nominate his successor. Eleven ‘dictators’ (Presidents) of the State Congress were arrested one by one. Kuttanad Ramakrishna Pillai, the eleventh dictator, before his arrest nominated Akkamma Cherian as the twelfth dictator. Under her leadership the State Congress intensified its agitation.

Akkamma led a mass rally from Thampanoor to the Kowdiar palace of the Maharaja Sri Chitra Thirunal to revoke a ban on the State Congress. The agitating mob also demanded the dismissal of the Dewan, C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, against whom the State Congress leaders had leveled several charges. The British police chief ordered his men to fire on the rally of over 20,000 people. Akkamma who stood in front of the rally cried, “I am the leader, shoot me first before you kill others”. Her courageous words forced the British police chief to withdraw his orders. On hearing the news Mahatma Gandhi hailed her as ‘The Jhansi Rani of Travancore’. The Maharaja was forced to release all the political prisoners.

In October 1938, the working committee of the State Congress directed Akkamma Cherian to organize the Desasevika Sangh (Female Volunteer Crops). She, therefore, toured various centers and appealed to the women to join as members of the Desasevika Sangh.

The first annual conference of the State Congress was held at Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram on December 22 and 23, 1938 in spite of the ban orders. Almost all leaders of the State Congress were arrested and imprisoned. Akkamma, along with sister Rosamma (who is also a former freedom fighter, ex. MLA and is a CPI leader), was arrested and jailed on December 24, 1939. They were awarded one year imprisonment. They were insulted and threatened in the jail. Due to the instruction given by the jail authorities, some prisoners used abusing and vulgar words against them. This matter was brought to the notice of Mahatma Gandhi by Pattom Thanu Pillai. C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, however, denied it. (Akkamma’s brother, K.P. Varkey, also took part in freedom movement.)

Akkamma, after her release from jail, became a full-time worker of the State Congress. In 1942, she became its Acting President. In her presidential address, she welcomed the Quit India Resolution passed by the historic Bombay session of the Indian National Congress on August 8, 1942. She was arrested and awarded one year imprisonment. In 1946, she was arrested and imprisoned for six months for violating ban orders. In 1947, she was again arrested as she raised her voice against C.P. Ramaswami Iyer’s desire for independent Travancore.


In 1947, after independence, Akkamma was elected to the Travancore Legislative Assembly from Kanjirappally unopposed. In 1951, at the age of 43, she married V.V. Varkey, a former freedom fighter and a member of Thiru Kochi Legislative Assembly. (Their only son, George V. Varkey is an Engineer). In the early 1950s, she resigned from the Congress Party and in 1952, she unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary election from the Meenachal Lok Sabha constituency with the support of the Left parties. In 1967, she contested the Assembly election as an independent candidate and was defeated. She, then, slowly withdrew from active politics. Later, she served as a member of the Freedom Fighters’ Pension Advisory Board. This heroine of Kerala breathed her last on May 5, 1982 in Thiruvananthapuram. A statue was erected in her memory at Vellayambalam in Thiruvananthapuram.

This article is contributed by Dr. S. Jeyakumar, Reader, S.D.College, Alappuzha.

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