Date:23/08/2005 URL:
Back Book Review


Sub-regional freedom history

B. R. P. Bhaskar

THIRUVITHAMCORE SWATANTRYA SAMARA CHARITHRAM: C. Narayana Pillai, Published by C. Narayana Pillai Foundation, Thiruvananthapuram.

Rs. 500.

THE FREEDOM movement covers a short, nasty and brutish period in the history of the erstwhile state of Travancore. The State Congress, which spearheaded the movement, came into being only in 1938. Nine years later the country was free, and a popular uprising forced the ruler to sign the instrument of accession, abandoning his dream of keeping the state outside the Indian Union. This volume is a history of the movement, written by C. Narayana Pillai, who was a journalist and a leading participant in the freedom struggle.

A set of files containing newspaper clippings of the relevant period, provided by a fellow Congressman, enabled the author to refresh his memory as he wrote the book almost a quarter century after Independence. Apart from providing a detailed account of the activities of the State Congress, he places on record the contributions of different sections of the people such as workers, students and villagers. Although some parts of the narrative do not rise above the level of routine press reports, by and large he succeeds in recapturing the mood of the period.

It was a turbulent period. The State Congress had pitched its demand low, seeking not `freedom' but `responsible government' under the aegis of the Maharaja. The people's response to the party's campaign unnerved the administration, which adopted the twin strategy of weaning away the leaders and unleashing repression on the public. Adhering to the loyalist tradition of Travancoreans, the author lays the blame for the repression entirely on the Dewan, C. P. Ramaswami Aiyer, exonerating the ruler.

The book was first published in 1972 long after Travancore lost its identity in the State of Kerala. The appearance of a new edition raises the question how relevant sub-regional history is in today's conditions.

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