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History revisited

Late British officer's kin sent letter to killer's kin


PERACHI KANNAN | Chennai, June 18, 2011 14:01
Tags : letter | Robert W. D. E. Ashe | Vanchinathan | Tamil Nadu | British officer |

Time is the biggest healer than any other factor. It is once again proved by the recent letter sent by the kin of a killed British officer in the colonial era to the kins of the killer.
On June 17, the centenary anniversary of the great freedom fighter of Tamil Nadu, Vanchinathan, was observed. On this same day before one hundred years in 1911, Vanchinathan, a youth revolutionary, 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 was halting there briefly.

After killing Ashe, Vanchinathan, shot himself and died. This incident was very popular then in the entire British India. Vanchinathan was a B A graduate and worked in forest department briefly before killing Ashe. 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, years have passed. What the family of Ashe feels now on this day which inevitably the centenary death anniversary of him also, 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 e-mail to the kith and kin of Vanchinathan, through Prof. A R Venkatachalapathy, a historian who have met the Ashe family recently in Ireland.

The e-mail says, "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."  The mail also states that this has been proof-read by one grandson, one granddaughter, one wife of grandson and one great-grand-daughter - all present at our house this evening,15 June, 2011.

Robert Ashe's mother was dead three months back. For that there was a remembrance event by that day. So all the relatives were there and they are able to send this email together.

“This 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”

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.

Harihara Subramanian who is 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. Fate has tied them like this. There was no personal enmity between them. Both of them did their duties. I want to shake hands with the family of Ashe. I welcome them to my home any day.”

He was survived by a wife who died twenty years back. Their only child was dead before Vanchinathan's death. Now there is no direct descendants of him. ''But after hundred years we all are his descendants only. Isn't it? ” asks Venkatachalapathy.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017