On 17 June 1911, a young revolutionary from Tamil Nadu, shot Robert W. D. E. Ashe point blank at Maniyachi Railway Junction, when the train he was travelling in, halted there briefly. Ashe was the British collector of Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu at the time.
The young boy was none other than 26-year-old Vanchinathan, popular as Veer Vanchinathan or Veer Vanchi today.
Vanchi was living a happy family life with a lucrative government job when he came to know about V O Chidambaram Pillai popularly known as V O C who was fighting the British colonialists. In 1906, V O C launched the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company, India's first shipping enterprise, to challenge the British monopoly over shipping in the region. He also organised the workers and started a strike against the management firm A&F Harvey which was paying very low wages to its labourers. The firm was fully backed by Ashe.
In a series of events in which Ashe played a crucial role, V O C was arrested for sedition and locked up in Palayamkottai and received two life sentences of 40 years. This evoked the emotions of freedom fighters in the region. Ashe not only did everything in his power to kill Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company but also issued shoot-st-sight orders during protests against V O C’s arrest. It is also recorded that V O C was severely tortured in the prison.
Veer Vanchi was initiated into militant struggle for freedom through his brother-in-law Shankar Krishna Iyer. The mastermind of the assassination plan was Nilakanta Bramhachari. These three, along with few others, found Bharatha Matha Sangam.
After shooting Ashe, Vanchi left the spot and was later found dead, having shot himself. The pistol that was recovered had no bullets left, showing that he didn’t mean to cause any harm to anybody else. In his pocket, a letter was found which read as follows:
I dedicate my life as a small contribution to my motherland. I am alone responsible for this. The mlechas of England having captured our country, tread over the Sanatana Dharma of the Hindus and destroy them. Every Indian is trying to drive out the English and get swarajyam and restore Sanatana Dharma. Rama, Sivaji, Krishna, Guru Gobind, Guru Arjun ruled our land protecting all Dharmas, but in this land they are making arrangements to crown George V, a mlecha, and one who eats the flesh of cows.
Three thousand Madrasees have taken a vow to kill George V as soon as he lands in our country. In order to make others know our intention, I who am the least in the company, have done this deed this day. This is what everyone in Hindustan should consider it as his duty.
I will kill Ashe, whose arrival here is to celebrate the crowning of cow-eater King George V in this glorious land which was once ruled by great Samrats. This I do to make them understand the fate of those who cherish the thought of enslaving this sacred land.
I, as the least of them, wish to warn George by killing Ashe.
Vande Mataram. Vande Mataram. Vande Mataram