Remembering the first freedom fighters banished from India

Vengum Periya Wodaiyana Tevar of Sivaganga, who was deported by the British in 1802  

73 rebels from T.N. were sent to Penang by the British 216 years ago

February 11, 1802 may not hold any historical significance for many. However, that day marked a significant event in the history of the freedom movement.

It still evokes poignant memories for many in southern Tamil Nadu, as they recall how 73 freedom fighters – who were deported to the Prince of Wales Island, Penang, on the charge of assisting rebellious fighters such as Veerapandiya Kattabomman and the Marudu Brothers – were hanged by the British East India Company.

“Early in February, 1802, the enemy sent all these condemned rebels to Tutukudi (present day Thoothukudi) and placed them under the military custody of Col. James Welsh,” writes historian K. Rajayyan in his book, South Indian Rebellion-The First War of Independence.

Vengum Periya Wodaiyana Thevar of Sivaganga; Doraiswamy, the son of Chinna Marudu; Jagannatha Ayyar, rebel amildar of Ramnad; and others had been listed as the ‘chief rebels’.

“They were the first Indian freedom fighters to be deported to an unknown foreign land. Three of them died even before the deportation,” says former IAS officer Rajendran.

A melancholic expression

Col. Welsh, a friend-turned-foe of the Marudu brothers, described the event in his book Military Reminiscences. “I had the melancholy satisfaction of lightening the chains of Dora Swamy, the only surviving son of my poor quondam friend, Cheena Murdoo, a youth of about fifteen, condemned to perpetual banishment. With a mild and dignified resignation, this amiable young man bore his cruel fate without a murmur; but such was the melancholy expression in his fine countenance, that it was impossible to see and not commiserate him,” Welsh wrote.

But what continued to haunt Welsh was his chance encounter with Doraiswamy at Penang in 1818. “I received a sudden visit from a miserable decrepit old man.I demanded his name …he uttered the word “Dora Swamy”. It came like a dagger to my heart.”

Mr. Rajendran said Doraiswamy was allowed to enter India. “But he never landed in Sivaganga. He died of severe stomach pain at Madurai in 1823.”

Thanks :

B.Kolappan(The Hindu Article)

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