Tamil Nadu

Dalit outfit pays homage to Ashe

For the first time in the history of independent India, a Dalit outfit paid floral tributes to Collector Robert William d’ Escourt Ashe, who was assassinated by martyr Vanchinathan at Maniyachi Junction 104 years ago.

“Since this great Briton was against untouchability and recognised the Dalits as human beings even when the caste-ridden society took all-out measures to oppress them, we pay floral tributes to the slain Collector,” justified members of Aathi Thamizhar Katchi.

As Ashe’s suppressive measures collapsed VOC’s Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company that posed a serious threat to the colonial rulers’ maritime interests, Vanchinathan shot the then Collector of Tirunelveli point-blank at Maniyachi Railway Junction even as he was waiting along with his wife to board the Boat Mail.

Within the next few minutes, the young assassin sacrificed his life by shooting himself with the Belgium-made pistol.

Since then, a few outfits organise simple functions at Shencottah, the birthplace of Vanchinathan, and also at Maniyachi that was renamed Vaanchi Maniyachi later, remembering the supreme sacrifice. Even as people from various walks of life were paying floral tributes to the statue of Vanchinathan at Shencottah on Wednesday, a group of youths affiliated to Aathi Thamizhar Katchi paid ‘veera vanakkam’ to Ashe at his tomb on English Church premises opposite St. John’s College, Palayamkottai.

“Collector Ashe recognised us and did whatever he could to put an end to the oppressive measures against us. Apart from the Britons, upper caste members were alone allowed to take bath in the Courtallam waterfalls and the idols of deities alone were washed in the waterfalls while all other castes were not permitted.

Ashe, who ensured equality in his office, put an end to this system and allowed everyone to take bath in the Courtallam waterfalls.

K.K. Kalaikannan, Aathi Thamizhar Katchi’s Tirunelveli district secretary, led the youths.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 9:53:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/dalit-outfit-pays-homage-to-ashe/article7327748.ece

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