Patriotic fervour Tamil Nadu

Kodi Kaatha Kumaran, the man who held the flag aloft

 ‘Tiruppur’ Kumaran

 ‘Tiruppur’ Kumaran | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Chennimalai Kumarasamy lived only for 27 years but carved a unique place for himself in the history of the Indian National Movement. He was born on October 4, 1904 to Nachimuthu Mudaliyar and Karupayi Ammal as the fourth of seven children in a family of weavers near Erode. He had to drop out of school after Class V because of his family situation.

At the age of 10, Kumarasamy moved to his maternal uncle’s house in Pallipalayam and started practising weaving to support his family. After two years, he returned to Chennimalai and started his own handloom business. The relentless struggle to earn money to support his family forced him to move to Tiruppur — today’s knitwear city, then the abode of cotton — in 1922, working in a cotton mill. Kumarasamy, thereafter, was fondly referred to as ‘Tiruppur’ Kumaran, a moniker that stuck with the young freedom fighter.

P.D. Sivanandham, a resident of Lingai Gounder Street, Tiruppur, whose father was the foster son of Kumaran and his wife Ramayi Ammal, recalls hearing a lot of stories about the freedom fighter from his grandmother. He recalled Ramayi Ammal, saying she was a 14-year-old when she married Kumaran, who was then 19.

It was in Tiruppur he began wearing khadi and the Gandhi cap. He would often recite the couplets from Tirukkural and verses of Thiruvasagam while at work. He worked tirelessly during the day to support his family and was dedicatedly involved in the activities of the Desabandhu Youth Association.

It was on March 19, 1925, during a meeting with Mahatma Gandhi for the first time at the house of freedom fighter Padmavathy Asher, that he became involved with the quest for freedom. From then, Kumaran became an ardent follower of Gandhi and his principles of Satyagraha. He developed a strong sense of belief in truth, morality, fearlessness and sacrifice.

When Gandhi took out the Dandi March in 1930 to break the Salt Law, Kumaran wanted to join the procession in the erstwhile Madras presidency, led by Rajaji (C. Rajagopalachari) in Vedaranyam. Following opposition from his parents, Kumaran went on a hunger strike for the whole day in Tiruppur as a mark of solidarity.

The fateful day

On January 4, 1932, Gandhi was arrested and imprisoned at Yerawada Central Jail in Pune after he announced the resumption of the Civil Disobedience Movement against the British government. Opposing this, the Desabandhu Youth Association, led by Kumaran, went for a peaceful procession starting from ‘Mangala Vilas’, the residence of a freedom fighter. They carried the Tricolour flag of the Nationalists along the banks of the Noyyal in Tiruppur on January 10, 1932.

When the nine-member procession crossed the police station, the police disrupted the peaceful march with a lathi charge and brutally assaulted them. The protesters did not give up and continued to raise slogans, hailing the National Movement and Gandhi. The police knocked them down in which Kumaran suffered severe injuries to his head.

However, Kumaran did not let go of the Nationalist flag, which was banned by the British, even during the brutal attack to protect its honour. He fell unconscious and was taken to the Tiruppur General Hospital, where the 27-year-old heroic satyagrahi died on January 11, 1932. Kumaran was revered as a true satyagrahi for holding the flag even during his death, for which he came to be known as ‘Kodi Kaatha Kumaran’ (the one who saved the flag).

To honour Kumaran’s contributions, a memorial was opened adjacent to the entrance gate of the Tiruppur railway station in 1957, during the centenary year of freedom struggle. The Information and Public Relations Department maintains the memorial that houses a bust and a monument of Kumaran. Photographs of freedom fighters from Tiruppur are also exhibited at the memorial.

The Kodi Kaatha Kumaran memorial, which was inaugurated in 1957, near the Tiruppur railway station.

The Kodi Kaatha Kumaran memorial, which was inaugurated in 1957, near the Tiruppur railway station. | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

As a tribute, the Government of India released a postal stamp in 2004, on the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary. A memorial pillar stands at the place where Kumaran was beaten by the British police.

As India gears up to celebrate the 75th year of Independence, N. Nirmal Raj, nephew of Sivanandham, appeals to the Union government to give Kumaran’s name to the Tiruppur Railway Station on the same lines as Vanchi Maniyachi Junction, remembering the Indian revolutionary Vanchinathan.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2022 11:22:12 am |