Thoothukudi district in particular has produced many noted as well as unsung heroes. While VO Chidambaram Pillai, Bharathiyar, Veerapandiya Kattabomman, Maveeran Azhagu Muthu Kone are well-known, there are hundreds who died without recognition.
One such group is those part of the Kulasai conspiracy in which the then Assistant Inspector of Salt, Wilfred Loane, was murdered by extremist leaders of the Congress party. However, the case was soon forgotten and doesn’t find mention in TN’s Independence struggle.
“The Kulasai case is significant as firearms were used against the British. After the murder of former Tirunelveli Collector Ashe by Vanjinathan, Loane was the second English officer to be murdered by radical leaders of the Congress,” says historian C Perumal, who has written about the conspiracy in his book Contribution of Udangudi in Indian Freedom Struggle. Perumal says that during the Quit India movement, the struggle in Thoothukudi had intensified. “After Gandhi gave the ‘Do or Die’ call, radical leaders decided to use arms against the English and they succeeded to some extent,” says Perumal. The armed struggle in Thoothukudi commenced in September 1942 when several secret meetings were held by the leaders who decided to rout the police stations for weapons. After failing to steal from there, they decided to target guards posted at salt pans. During one such attempt in Arumuganeri, near Tiruchendur, when the leaders tied the guards to steal the guns, Loane, who was the officer in-charge, tried to shoot but was attacked and killed. A total 26 freedom fighters were accused in the case and important among them were ‘Thookudi Medai’ Rajagopal and Kasirajan, both from Arumuganeri. “Both were awarded capital punishment but after former CM Rajaji argued at the privy council at London, the death sentence was withdrawn and they were released,” says Perumal.
Descendants of the freedom fighters have urged the government to construct a memorial for them and also include their history in school textbooks. Asokan, son of Benjamin, a Congress leader who was arrested in the case, said, “My father was jailed for six years and was tortured by the Britishers. None of his or his aides’ contributions have been properly documented,” said Asokan. V Gunaseelan, nephew of Poovalingam, a communist leader who was also part of the case, said even locals are not aware of the history. “The government should set up a memorial for all those involved in the case and functions should be held for people to know history better,” said Gunaseelan.