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History revisited, but this time with love


PERACHI KANNAN | Chennai, June 18, 2011 14:56
Tags : History revisited | but this time with love |Vanchinathan | B A graduate | freedom fighter | tamil nadu | Ashe |

On June 17, one hundred years before, Vanchinathan, a youth revolutionary from Tamil Nadu, shot dead Robert W. D. E. Ashe, the British collector of Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu at Maniyachi Railway Junction, when the Train he was traveling in was halted there briefly. After killing Ashe, Vanchinathan, shot himself and died. Exactly hundred years later – on June 17, 2011 - his family received an unexpected letter from Ashe's family.

Vanchinathan was a B A graduate and worked in forest department briefly before killing Ashe, and himself. Inspired by the speeches of great freedom fighters of that time like V. O. Chidamabaranar and Subramania Siva, Vanshianathan, a 26 year old youth, took a pistol to contribute his part by killing a District collector who was known for his strict approach towards the freedom movement.

Now, a century later what does Ashe's family feel about that day is an intriguing question. The answer is here.

Ashe had four children - two daughters and two sons. Now Robert Ashe, a grand son of Ashe who lives in Ireland, has sent an email to the family of Vanchinathan, through Prof. A. R. Venkatachalapathy, a historian who have met the Ashe family recently in Ireland.

The email reads, "On this day of sad but proud remembrance, we, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Robert William Ashe would like to extend to the family of Vanchi Iyer, a message of reconciliation and friendship. Vanchi was an idealist political campaigner whose zeal for the freedom of his beloved India sent Robert to his early grave. Moments later, he took his own young life.  All who act fervently in the political arena, both ruler and oppressed, risk making mortal mistakes, and we who are fortunate enough to live on, must forgive and live in peace together".

Vanchinathan was from a Brahmin Iyer family. When he committed suicide immediately after killing the collector, his father, an orthodox Brahmin, refused to collect his body. There were no post death Hindu rituals done by his family.

“This (email) is a very good human gesture” says Venkatachalapathy. ''If you see the wordings in the mail, Robert Ashe acknowledges Vanchinathan's idealistic zeal for the freedom of the country. More importantly he uses the word 'oppressed', while describing Indians which has more political meanings”.

Harihara Subramanian, the son of younger brother of Vanchinathan, tells TSI that he has made ready a letter to be sent to Robert Ashe after hearing the news. “This is both of their Death Anniversary. There was no personal enmity between them. Fate has tied them like this. Both of them did their duties. I want to shake hands with the family of Ashe. I welcome them to my home any day”.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017