Quit India: Going from classrooms to jail cells A and Back

Published: 15th August 2016 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th August 2016 04:17 AM   |  A+A-

If at all there was a major crisis in the College, it was during the ‘Quit India Movement’ in the year 1942. Dr Easo John, who himself was among those who courted arrest recounts the events: It was almost impossible to contain the patriotic zeal among the students. Some of the most enthusiastic of these held secret meetings in the three halls, escaping the watchful eyes of the administration. K. Draviam, Ambadi Damodaran, Ravindra Verma, Ramunni Menon, who acted as the supreme commander of the students, Miss Bharati, the grand daughter of Poet Subramanya Bharati besides Easo John, participated in the agitations in the city, and were imprisoned, not for a week or a month, but for six months. It created quite a stir in the college. These students served rigorous imprisonment in the Allipuram jail, near Bellary. Those who came back were received by Dr Boyd without any rancour.

Incidentally, these patriotic students attained distinguished positions in their later life.

It was hardly four year since Boyd took charge as the Principal, and yet he exerted such a moral authority over his students that they never took to the extreme of rebelling against the administration. During these testing time, Dr Boyd guided the affairs of the college remarkably well, striking a fine balance between sympathizing with the students with their cause, and yet maintaining the necessary standard of discipline. Even when tempers were running high, and potential risk of violence looming large, Dr Boyd never allowed the police even once to enter the campus. By refusing to curb the genuine rights of the students, Boyd was even willing to take the risk, like Skinner did, of being labelled a traitor of the British Government. Even at the height of the Quit India Movement, MCC was reputed to be the only city college giving admissions to the students expelled from other colleges for political activities, without insisting on the transfer certificates.

In his Principal’s Report delivered in January, 1948, Dr Boyd reveals his innermost feelings as to what Independence meant to him, his colleagues and the college as a whole. Boyd describes the dawn of August 15th as follows: It was a happy day for every body, and not least for the British members of the college, who felt relieved that they could no longer be regarded as members of the ‘ruling race’. Looking back on the twenty-seven years during which the demand for national freedom developed and reached its climax, I think we can say with pride that the consequent tensions never seriously impaired the quality of our college life…But even in those tense weeks (in 1942), it was on all hands quietly taken for granted that British teachers in this college could remain, and would remain, on terms of warmest friendship with their students and their colleagues; and for that we give thanks to God.

The night of 14th August was spent with tumultuous excitement by the students and staff of the College. In Selaiyur there was a terminal dinner, and bursting of crackers. Heberians staged their own play, Thomasians, along with the rest, preferred to be glued to the radio sets lent by some faculty members. As the sun dawned on new India, Thomasians organized a march up to the Rural Service League centre, led by the members of the fair sex. Anderson Hall was decorated with flags; while Principal Boyd led in the prayer, Professors Adinarayana and Gavin Martin, and several students spoke.

Independence of India was compared to the liberation of Israelites from the bondage of Egyptians. G.V. Job, writing in the first issue of the MCC Magazine after India attained independence, considered it nothing short of a miracle. It was the unarmed and helpless people obtaining freedom from the control of greatest of imperial powers of all time. India, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi did well to have abandoned violence and chose non-violent, non-co- operation as her only weapon.

On Mahatma’s death, the college magazine published an article, in which his qualities such as — hearing the inner voice of God, practicing the ahimsa of the brave, working for the casteless society, simplicity of life and inner discipline—were commended.  (Abridged from the book Life and Legacy of Madras Christian College (2010) by Dr. Joshua Kalapati and Dr. Ambrose Jeyasekaran)

Opinion Inked

When Tilak was arrested, the MCC magazine commented that if any Tom, Dick and Harry advocated violence it mattered little...But when men of weight and power allow their power to tell on that side, it is a serious matter

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