KOCHI: A life-sized statue of A J John stands amidst old shops and establishments at Pallikavala junction at the freedom fighter’s native village of Thalayolaparambu, Vaikom bearing scars from vagaries of weather and visibly unattended.
Not many of the present generation may know him even in his village, but that does not diminish the impeccable character and achievements of Anaparambil Joseph John, whose 59th death anniversary went unnoticed on October 1.
A J John, who passed away in 1957 when he was the Governor of former Madras state after sudden illness, had also served as Speaker of the first Travancore Legislative Assembly in 1948, Minister and Chief Minister of Travancore-Cochin State and Minister for Home, Food, Civil Supplies and Forest in Panampally Govinda Menon Ministry from 1955-56.
“The late A J John was a fine gentleman among gentlemen and a great statesman among politicians. He stood for things which mattered best for the well being of the people. His simplicity, humanism, compassion and respect for good government and the rights of others impressed me,” the late Justice V R Krishna Iyer said in a booklet brought out on the occasion of A J John’s birth centenary in 1993.
Born as the third son of Joseph and Mary on July 18, 1893 at Thalayolaparambu, John had his primary education at the local school and finished his school final from Vaikom High School. After doing degree in Law in 1919 from the Law College, Madras, he began his career as a lawyer. He was in the forefront in the historic ‘Abstention Movement’ which rocked Travancore for some time; an agitation against social injustice staged by the weaker sections and backward classes for proportionate representations in government service.
The turning point in John’s life came when he plunged into freedom struggle after abandoning his bright future in his profession. He was one of the founder leaders of ‘the State Congress’, a political organisation formed in Travancore to fight for responsible government. “He fought against ‘Independent Travancore’ proposed by Sir C P Rama Swamy Iyer in 1946. The popular agitation continued till India became independent,” wrote V V Jacob, Vayalil, in the centenary booklet.
Anaparambil Monichan, John’s descendent, alleges that the current crop of Congress leaders are not interested in reviving or resurrecting the values that John stood for. “In fact, I would like to say that the current Congress leaders in Kerala should try to imbibe the honest and just public life he lived,” he says.
The mortal remains of John was laid to rest at San Thom Cathedral in Madras which is incidentally near to the tomb of St Thomas.