Unsung Heroes

C.S. Ranga Iyer : Unsung hero of the freedom struggle

India’s war of independence of 1857, the role played by freedom fighters such as C.S. Ranga Iyer, who was born in Chittur, Palakkad, on September 19, 1894, was the Editor of The Independent deserves special mention. The journal was started by Motilal Nehru who was chairman of Nationalist Journal Ltd., which owned it. Jawaharlal Nehru was its Secretary.

Mr. Iyer assumed charge as Editor of the journal in end-1919 when Syed Hussain left for Amritsar and then to England to arrange the recall of Lord Chemsford as Viceroy.

Mr. Iyer was also a member of the Central Legislative Assembly from Kumaon, Uttar Pradesh, for a decade from 1923. He was entrusted with the responsibility of preparing a Bill for the rights of Dalits.

Mr. Iyer was jailed by the British Government for his articles and editorials. He was asked to express regret or face prosecution for his articles published on January 11, 1921, on the crushing of a farmers’ struggle in Rae Bareli. The article `New Era in Rae Bareli’ said “Rae Bareli, which is distinguished for Taluqdar tyranny as many other districts in Oudhh, has been given a taste of military violence! From the facts that have reached us from our Special Correspondent on the spot, we cannot see the slightest justification for the exhibition of `strength’. A few superfluous Kisan lives never matter to the unscrupulous men clothed in authority.” The Special Correspondent was none other than Jawaharlal Nehru.

Mr. Iyer was sentenced to one-year rigorous imprisonment for writing articles “disclosing the plans of the Government to wreck the non-co-operation movement by making leaders apologise or give undertakings.” Mahatma Gandhi realised the danger when he wrote the letter to Jawaharlal Nehru refusing to give an undertaking. The Independent threw a challenge with the headline: `The Independent’s challenge to the Government: Apology – mongering and after – Bureaucratic benevolence rejected.’

Mr. Iyer authored the book `Father India’ in reply to `Mother India,’ written by Ms. Mayo. His book’s 12 editions were sold in its first year of publication.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s socialistic campaign in Uttar Pradesh was viewed by the British Government with alarm, as it had roused the countryside as never before since 1857. Supporting his campaign and exposure of the shooting of the Kisans at Rai Bareli, Mr. Iyer wrote an editorial attacking Sir Harcourt Butler, U.P. Governor, which Lambert, the then chief secretary of the United Provinces, had included in the articles in The Independent as “directly or indirectly inciting to violence or calculated to create an atmosphere or readiness for violence.”


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