Memories of Amachadi Thevan, the blinded hero of Vaikom Satyagraha, come alive after long neglect

Amachadi Thevan's resting place on Amachadi Thuruth near Poothotta. Photo: Special arrangement

Kochi: It will be the due resurrection of the memories of an unsung hero of the Indian freedom movement when Anand Raj Ambedkar unveils the memorial of Amachadi Thevan at Amachadi Thuruth, a tiny island located in the Vembanad Lake near Poothotta here, on Monday. The grandson of B R Ambedkar will be unveiling the memorial restored by the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (DCC) paying its tribute to Thevan, a Dalit freedom fighter who played a prominent role in the Vaikom Satyagraha.

The Congress stepped in to restore the memorial as part of the centenary celebrations of the anti-caste struggle which is part of the rich history of the freedom movement and the renaissance in Kerala. Thevan’s house and his tombstone had been lying in a deplorable condition for long and the memorial was found desecrated last month.

KPCC president K Sudhakaran will chair the memorial event which will be inaugurated by Kerala's Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan. Dalit thinker-activist Sunny M Kapikad will deliver the keynote address.

Ahead of the event, the KPCC's Vaikom Satyagraha Centenary Celebrations Committee has urged the state government to include Thevan's biography in the school curriculum.

Thevan was blinded during the Vaikom Satyagraha by opponents who poured a solution of lime into his eyes. Knowing this incident through KP Keshava Menon, Mahatma Gandhi sent medicines that helped him regain his eyesight.

Amachadi Thevan. Photo: Special arrangement

Born to Kali and Kannan on Perumbalam island in Cherthala, Thevan belonged to the so-called untouchable Pulaya community. Unlike other Puliya children, he was fortunate to get primary education with the help of a revolutionary lady Achukutty Amma. Due to the protest of high caste people, he was expelled from the foster house and became a bonded worker in the paddy field like other Pulayas.

Attracted to the writings of Gandhi and Sree Narayana Guru, Thevan had a strong opposition to untouchability and became a strong supporter of Congress. It was Congress leader T K Madhavan who drew him to the Vaikom Satyagraha.

"When T K Madhavan entered the Poothotta temple Amachadi Thevan and a group of low caste Pulayas also entered the temple and prayed before the deity. Thevan and T K Madhavan were arrested and jailed for two weeks... During the Vaikom Satyagraha, he was attacked by goons of high caste Namboodiris, and a solution of lime was poured into his eyes, nearly blinding him. Knowing this incident through K P Keshava Menon, Gandhiji sent medicines that helped him regain his eyesight. In connection with Vaikom Satyagraha, Thevan and other protesters were arrested and tortured by the police. He returned from jail in 1925, by that time his dwelling on Amachadi was destroyed by the upper caste people. But under the initiative of T K Madhavan, one acre of land was secured for Thevan on the island. He lived as a Congressman until his death," according to an account on a government website marking the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, an initiative of the Government of India to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of independence.

The account also mentions Thevan's meeting with Gandhi during which the latter advised him to campaign against the use of alcohol among the lower caste people. Gandhiji also asked him to encourage the low caste people to leave ornaments made of leaves and stones. Thevan died on March 15, 1968.

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