Forgotten tales – The freedom movement in Madras – DTNEXT

Chennai News


Tamil poets and writers had been on the sidelines of the freedom movement and though they may not have directly participated, inspired thousands to make sacrifices.

During the thirties, somehow sneaking past the censors (the already overworked police superintendent) theatre and talkies started having what looked outwardly harmless scenes. But mythological characters wore Gandhi caps and statues of Gandhi appeared in showcases in the backdrop. Bharathi songs tiptoed past watchful eyes. In one early Tamil film of the 1930s, the entire cast used to sing the Jana gana mana in their own tune in the last scene. Cinema and drama stars were used by the Congress to perform on freedom stages to gather more crowds. The British woke up and many films including Thyaga Bhoomi were banned just because they showed a Congress march. Temples which were being renovated also saw a secret but strong fervour of freedom. Sculptures started appearing on pillars with a striking resemblance to Gandhi. A statue of Bharath matha was carved in secret by a patriotic sculptor in the Mylapore temple.


In 1942, Gandhi told the British to QUIT INDIA and to the Indians said DO OR DIE. The British weren’t too concerned with handling Madras. Four local forces opposed the movement in Madras — the Justice Party, the Communists, the Muslim League and surprisingly the most unexpected of critics. Rajaji, then out of Congress, asked citizens not to participate in the hooliganism.

The British realised that a leaderless agitation was like a rudderless ship. Congress leaders were arrested en route to Madras, the organisation was banned and holding public assemblies was outlawed.

But the students of the city colleges and schools clad in khadi and wearing Gandhi caps were in the vanguard of protest. Girls added inclusivity and in many places like Pachaiyappa’s, they were at the forefront. The docile girls of Queen Mary’s crowded the beach road shouting ‘Inquilab Zindabad. There was a two-day hunger strike in Women’s Christian College.

Presidency students blocked roads with parked bicycles locked with each other. Pachaiyappa’s students assembled near the Chetpet railway gate, threw stones, and were lathicharged, many ending up in hospital. Without doubt, the Quit India agitation would have become a damp squib but for the patriotism of the students.