Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair, constitutional activist for Jallianwala Bagh massacre & author of ‘Gandhi and Anarchy’

A man who stood against all tides and took on the British government’s atrocities of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The president of the Indian National Congress and the author of the book ‘Gandhi and Anarchy’ was not afraid to speak his mind out. And today on the occasion of the death anniversary of Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair we will look back into his glorious freedom struggle.

The journey of freedom struggle for India was a long fight in which many freedom fighters sacrificed their lives. For all the freedom fighters the goal was common but the approach to the fight was different according to their ideology. One such example in our Indian history is Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair (11 July 1857 – 24 April 1934).

Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair believed in constitutional reforms and wanted the country to attain freedom with proper empowerment and without fear. This idea was against the majority, hence he worked against the odds and contributed to the motherland’s freedom in a unique manner. Despite his outspokenness and independent views, he managed to hold high government positions which were rarely open to Indians at that time. He is among the few early Indians who have served in all three branches of governance, namely Judiciary, Legislature, and Executive.

Early Life

Sir C. Sankaran Nair was born on 11th July 1857, the same year when the country sparked the very first war against the Britishers for independence. He grew up in a joint family in Mankara village of South Malabar. In his traditional education, he learned Sanskrit and Malayalam, and later he was shifted to schools at Kannur and Kozhikode.

From there he went to Presidency College, followed by a degree in Law. His intellect was driven by English, History, Law, and Sanskrit and he ensured his physical wellbeing through Yoga.

In 1880, Sir C. Sankaran Nair enrolled in the Madras High Court as an advocate and impressed several barristers with his advocacy style.

The British government was quick to spot the talent of Sankaran Nair. As a result, he was appointed to the Malabar Land Revenue Committee, Hindu temple management Committee, and several others. 1890 was the year when things started to escalate for Sankaran Nair. He was appointed as a member of the Madras Legislative Council. He used to put things that were against the government and was not afraid to speak what he thought.

His decisions were logical and fact-based, be it against the British government or for the government. For this, he was heavily criticized and his approach towards the freedom struggle was powered by constitutional reforms.

Involvement in Congress

In early 1887, he began to associate with Congress and was irritated with the Brahmin Dominance. In 1987, Sankaran Nair was selected as the first President of the Madras Provincial Conference. At the age of 40, he was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress for its 13th Session at Amaravati.

In his speech he praised Queen Victoria and on the other hand, he states that the British government is responsible for poverty in the country. He also accused the British government of arresting people like Bal Gangadhar Tilak. His tenure at the congress made him an important personality in the nation.

Jallianwala Bagh incident

When the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh took place, Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair held the position in the Executive Council. At the same time, martial law was imposed in the state of Punjab. Due to severe press censorship, he was not aware of the horrors that occurred at the Jallianwala Bagh. Upon hearing the news, he was horrified that he was part of a government that had permitted these atrocities and due to this he resigned from the Viceregal Council.

From there it was speculated that Sarkaran Nair would join Gandhi in his nationalist movement but he decided to fly to England to be a member of Montague’s State’s Council. On his return to India, he was selected as the advisor to the state of Indore in 1921.

Michael O’Dwyer vs Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair case

On his return to India, Sankaran Nair blamed Michael O’Dwyer in a book for his cruel act of Jallianwala Bagh. On this Michael O’Dwyer sued Sankaran Nair at the court of the kings bench in london. The case was benched by an English Judge and Jury. This case revealed the British government’s atrocities at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in front of the entire world.

Reason behind the book ‘Gandhi and Anarchy’

The return also coincided with the Gandhian Cooperation and Nair tried to establish a connection with Gandhi. But Mahatma Gandhi refused the suggestions by Nair, which led to the book ‘Gandhi and Anarchy’. The book was highly controversial as Gandhi was the main pillar of the independence movement for India. The book was also the reason behind decreasing popularity of Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair.

Last Days in his last years, he led a busy public life. He was elected to the Council of States from the Malabar Landholders constituency and completed his term till 1932. He lost his life on 24th April 1934 to an unfortunate motor accident.

The contribution that Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair has made for the country is still undetermined but his record shows that he did his best for India. He was a constitutionalist who wished to preserve freedom and democracy in the country.

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