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Notes From Adivasi History: How The Kuravar Tribe Of TN Took On The Might Of The British Raj

The colonization of India by the British is one slice of history that is condemned due to its exploitative nature. As such this history witnessed many individuals and groups organize revolts to overthrow the foreign government. A close study reveals that the tribal communities of India played a substantial part in the freedom struggle from the initial stages of British annexation of Indian territories.

The Suaar tribe, the Santhal tribe, and the Munda tribes fought against the Britishers with mere bows and arrows. They gave their lives to protect their lands and identity. Similar stories of sacrifice and bravery can be found from Adivasi histories around the country. Tribal people played an important role in defeating the British.

Photo for representational purposes only. By Ashish Birulee

One of the stories that everyone should know about is that of the Kuravar tribe of Tamil Nadu who fought the Britishers for several years. Many members were killed by Britishers and humiliated because of their opposition.

The seven Kuravar freedom fighters who stood out for their bravery are:

  1. Periyampillai Kuravanar

  2. Sundhara Kuravanar

  3. Irulaandi Kuravanar

  4. Aarumuga Kuravanar

  5. Kaalimuthu Kuravanar

  6. Kottaya Kuravanar

  7. Ranga Kuravanar

These fighters fought courageously against British Imperialism and oppression. In 1942, they caused great damage to the telecommunication devices in the Ramanathapuram district. The rebels captured the Thiruvadanai police station which was under British control and demolished the prison doors. Thereby, they freed the political prisoners whom the British had locked up for participating in the freedom struggle.

Realizing that they could not suppress all the protesters who took part, including the seven rebels who had violated the rules and regulations of the British, they called in the British Army troops. The Army then ravaged the villages of the protesters and set their huts on fire. Unable to contain the protesters, the army humiliated the villagers and the family members of the protesters by making them ride donkeys. Women and children were not spared.

Just like pouring oil into the burning flames, this enraged the protesters even more and thus the protests intensified further. They did not care for the English bullet. They marched courageously bringing the sky down by raising the slogan “Vande Mataram”. Thiruvadanai became a battleground.

They fiercely fought against the imperialists and the enablers who supported their own oppression. To handle the attack, the army called in more than a thousand soldiers and opened fire at the protestors. Many of them were shot dead and others were brutally beaten and arrested. The arrested protesters were jailed at Alipore and Madurai.

This incident is an important part of the freedom struggle in south India, especially Tamil Nadu. The Thiruvadanai rebellion also played an important role in India’s war for independence. It became a hot topic throughout India. Everyone was astonished by the courage and fierceness displayed by the protesters.

Aarumuga Kuravanar was born in 1888 and his father’s name was Kuppaiyandi Kuravanar. He was arrested under Section 67 of the Emergency Act, Section 147 of the IPC and Section 5 of the Defence of India Act (38) for his involvement in the revolt against the British in the Thiruvadanai, Ramanathapuram area. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. He served his time at the Madurai jail and attained martyrdom.

Kalimuthu Kuravanar, son of Muniandi Kuravanar, who took part in the same revolution in Thiruvananthapuram, was born in 1915 and was arrested with gunshot wounds under Section 147 of the IPC and the Defence of India Act and imprisoned at Alipore.

Kottaya Kuravanar, son of Kannappa Kuravanar wasborn in 1906. He was involved in the freedom struggle even at an early age. During the Thiruvadanai rebellion as part of the Quit India movement, he was arrested under the Defence of India Act and was imprisoned for seven years at Alipore and Madurai. He attained martyrdom when he was hanged in prison.

Uthayan Kuravanar's son Ranga Kuravanar was arrested under Section 147 of IPCO for rioting and was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment in Madurai Central Jail. He was also hanged during imprisonment.

The Kuravars of the indigenous Tamil clan of the Kurinji landform played an important role in the struggle for Indian independence. The Kuravar people displayed their love and patriotism to the Indian land by fiercely participating in India’s freedom struggle.

Quit India Movement

The protests by the Kuruvar tribe was a direct consequence of the Quit India movement of 1942 which became the last chapter of the Indian struggle for Independence.

Gandhiji raised the slogan “We will win freedom from the British or will die fighting for it” while fighting against the enslavement of the Indian nation by the colonisers. He asserted that he would not sit idle while fellow Indians were enslaved by the colonisers and urged all the freedom fighters to “Do or Die”.

This slogan resonated with every heart fighting for freedom from the British and encouraged many more to participate in the struggle. Thus, this movement grew and became an important watershed moment in the struggle for independence. It created a ruckus among the white British imperialists. The August revolution (Quit India Movement) intensified and thus spread like wildfire to Tamil Nadu.

The protestors blocked the Coimbatore airport and set it on fire. An army camp was set on fire as well. Throughout India, anti-British voices and emotions ran high. The collective consciousness of Indians was against the British. Especially in places like Madurai, Trichy and Ramanathapuram, the protests intensified. The draconian laws enacted by the British against the sons of the soil could have been the reason for such intensified protests.

As part of the Quit India movement, the protests in Ramanathapuram intensified violently. The Thiruvadanai protests in Ramanathapuram district played an important part in the freedom movement in Tamil Nadu.

During the Thiruvadanai protests, more than fifty courageous people fought for their country with their lives on the line. Let us recognise their holy sacrifices and remember them for the heroes that they truly are. This has been documented here for people who do not know about these freedom fighters.

This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.


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