Easwaran is the man behind the Lower Bhavani Project
Erode has the distinction of having 350 freedom fighters
ERODE: August 15 is undoubtedly the right time to recall freedom fighters who sacrificed their all so that people like us can live in a free India. As in the past, this year too leaders will be recalled but may be not all.
So, what about those martyrs who are not well known. And, their being on the margins of popular culture in no measure diminishes their contributions.
On the occasion of the country’s 60th year of Independence this is an attempt to look at some of the lesser-known heroes.
Topping the list of such freedom fighters from Erode is M.A. Easwaran.
The man behind the Lower Bhavani Project is now a forgotten hero in this agriculture town.
Erode historian Pulavar S. Raju says Easwaran, elected unopposed in 1946 to the then Madras Presidency, was key behind getting the LBP scheme to Erode district.
Author T. Stalin Gunasekaran in his Viduthalai Vezhviyil Tamizhagam says Easwaran got the project sanctioned in exchange of his support to T. Prakasam’s Government and also saw to it that it got implemented expeditiously.
Pulavar Raju says the Karungalpalayam-born freedom fighter has many firsts to his credit. “Long before Vaidhyanatha Iyer fought in Madurai for temple entry of Dalits, M. A. Easwaran and a few others took three Dalits inside Easwaran Kovil, Erode.” It is perhaps the first temple entry protest in Tamil Nadu, he adds.
Born in 1899, Easwaran, in response to Gandhiji’s call, gave up his collegiate education and also footwear. Till his death in 1978, he remained a bachelor, the Pulavar says.
If it was Mahatma Gandhi for India, it was Kuhalur Gandhi for Erode. K.K. Subbanna Gounder, fondly called Kuhalur Gandhi, fought against caste discrimination in Erode.
Pulavar Raju says the wealthy land owner took home Dalits to provide access to food and water. “He went to Dalits’ homes to invite them to his house to serve food. He also provided water from the well at his home, something unthinkable in those days.”
Another now-forgotten freedom fighter from Erode is R.C. Krishnan. A Netaji devotee, Krishnan dressed and fought like his leader. Pulavar Raju says Krishnan raised a Dalit boy, Karuppan, as his son.
Since 1930s Krishnan participated in all events and served several prison terms, he says. Women from Erode were no less than their men compatriots when it came to Freedom struggle.
“What perhaps prompted Gandhiji to launch the prohibition drive against toddy shops was the complaint and suggestion for action by Periyar’s wife Nagammai and sister Kannammal,” says the Pulavar.
He adds: “When Gandhiji camped at Periyar’s house, the women approached the Father of the Nation to complain about the menace of toddy shops and suggested that Congress take a prohibition drive.”
This led Gandhiji to launch an agitation against liquor, says Mr. Raju, adding that the leader has acknowledged the women’s role in an article in Young India on December 22, 1921.
He says including people like K. P. Sundarambal and Keshavlal Kalidas Seth, Erode alone has the distinction of having 350 freedom fighters.