At a time when Tamil Nadu was under the grip of a fear that Hindi could be imposed as an official language in 1965 with many political leaders speaking against it, the unexpected death of 27-year-old Chinnasmay incited a linguistic connect among the people. Hailing from Keezhapazhur, now in Ariyalur district, Chinnasamy set himself on fire in the early hours of January 25, 1964 (exactly a year before the Mozhi Por was launched) in front of the Tiruchy junction railway station, shouting the slogan, “Down with Hindi, long live Tamil” all along the way.
The day before his death, Chinnasamy was seen distributing sweets to the children and passersby in his village. When the puzzled elders asked him the reason for the unexpected ‘celebration’, he told them in a cheerful voice, “This day, Hindi is going to die and my Tamil language is going to have an eternal life.”
Subsequently, the man who had passed only Class III took his bicycle to Periya Pazhur and then reached Tiruchy, where he wrote letters detailing his plan of sacrifice for the language he loved the most.
“Oh Tamil, I am going to die to keep you alive. They have made an amendment to assassinate you (Tamil language) and I am going to the war field and perish around 11 am. Seeing this, let the people of Tamil Nadu ask why Hindi and for what Hindi,” the letter to his friends read.
“Later, he bought 17 litres of petrol to execute his plan of sacrifice and the bill was found in his bag hung near a tree before he set himself ablaze,” Diravida Selvi, daughter of Chinnasamy, who was just two years old then, tells Express. Though he mentioned the time as 11 am, the determined Chinnasamy went in advance as early as 4.30 am on January 25, 1964 and poured petrol over himself and set himself ablaze in front of the Tiruchy junction railway station.
Even while dying, he shouted “Tamil Vazhga! Hindi Ozhiga!” (Long live Tamil! Down with Hindi!”) unmindful of the physical pain and fell partially charred at the station and hence the ‘mozhi por’ intensified and several persons followed him, sacrificing their lives for the sake of the language. It is said that Chinnasamy chose the eve of Republic day for setting himself ablaze with a view to draw the attention of the then Chief Minister Bakthavatchalam and also to ensure that his ‘voice for Tamil’ was heard nationwide. His body was taken to the GH and family members, including his wife Kamalam and daughter Dravida Selvi visited the GH and later on January 26, 1964, the body was taken to Tennur in Tiruchy amidst tight police security and buried there.
Subsequently, Tamil martyr’s day has been observed in the state on January 25 every year, to mark the sacrifice of Keezhapazhur Chinnasamy.
Meanwhile, recently the State government announced that it would install a statue of Chinnasamy, costing `8.79 lakh, at Salai road junction in Tiruchy for which a pedestal had been constructed already. “The officials from the State government got approval of the portrait of my father and showed us the measurement of the statue to be installed in Tiruchy. But somehow, the plan has been put on hold”, Dravida Selvi said.
“While the works were in progress two years back, the Supreme Court issued an order stating that no statue should be erected in places that affect public movement and so we have been put on hold,” reveals K Muthusamy, Assistant Director (Information and Public Relations). However, the Assistant Director said that they have sought an opinion from the government on whether to install the statue on the place already identified or to relocate. “The plan is under process and approval”, the AD stresses.