G Parameswaran Pillai, more famous as Barrister GP, died young, but his was an eventful life that left a deep imprint on the nationalistic and journalistic endeavours of an era.
He is often credited with being the first individual to have faced punishment for criticising the government in newspaper articles, and was perhaps the first individual to have done political work in the ‘’underground’’. ‘’He was one of the founders of the Temperance Movement and the brainchild behind the ‘’Malayali Memorial.’’
Such was the list of the achievements of this man that he also remains the only Malayali to find a mention in the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi. Wednesday, February 26, marks the 150th birth anniversary of Barrister G P Pillai who was born at Pallipuram in Thiruvananthapuram district.
As a college student, he had to flee to Madras after the then Travancore Diwan took umbrage at the critical pieces written against him by the young college student in the ‘’Western Star’’ and ‘’Cochin Argus,’’ two papers published from Kochi. He continued journalism in Madras, rising to be the first Malayali to edit a major English daily of the times - The Madras Standard in 1892. It was also as the editor of this newspaper that Pillai met Mahatma Gandhi during the latter’s Madras visit. Soon afterwards, Parameswaran Pillai left for England to study law where he continued to write and speak at public functions.
He returned to India as a Barrister in 1902 and enrolled in the Travancore Court. But his health had been failing for some time. Barrister G P Pillai died aged 39 on May 21, 1903.
The ‘’Malayali Memorial,’’ a mass petition that he drafted and presented to the Travancore king in protest against Diwan Sir T Madhava Rao denying government jobs to local people, made him the originator of the first people’s protest. He was also an inspiration behind the Ezhava Memorial, submitted for the development of the Ezhava community in Travancore.