Accamma Cherian was a Christian Indian Independence activist from the erstwhile Travancore(Kerala). She was popularly known as the Jhansi Rani of Travancore. She was born on 14 February 1909 in a Nasrani family as the second daughter of Thomman Cherian and Annamma Karippaparambil. She was educated at Government Girls High School, Kanjirapally and St. Joseph’s High School, Changanacherry. She earned a BA in History from St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam. After completing her education in 1931, she worked as a teacher at St. Mary’s English Medium School, Edakkara, where she later became head mistress. In February 1938, the Travancore State Congress was formed and Accamma relinquished her teaching career to coadunate the struggle for liberty.
Under the State Congress, the people of Travancore evoked an agitation for a responsible government. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar , the Dewan of Travancore, decided to suppress the agitation. On 26 August 1938, C. P Ramaswami Aiyar, the Dewan of Travancore banned the State Congress which then organised a civil disobedience movement. Prominent State Congress leaders including its President Pattom A. Thanu Pilla were arrested and put behind bars.The State Congress then pronounced to change its method of agitation. Its working committee was dissolved and the president was given dictatorial powers and the right to nominate his successor. Kuttanad Ramakrishna Pillai, the eleventh dictator, before his arrest nominated Accamma Cherian as the twelfth dictator.
She led a mass rally from Thampanoor to the Kowdiar Palace of the Maharaja Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma to revoke a ban on State Congress. The British police chief ordered his men to fire on the rally of over 20,000 people . Accamma Cherian cried, “I am the leader; shoot me first before you kill others”. Her courageous words forced the police authorities to withdraw their orders. On hearing the news M. K. Gandhi hailed her as ‘The Jhansi Rani of Travancore’. She was arrested and convicted for violating prohibitory orders in 1939.
Accamma, after her release from jail, became a full-time worker of the State Congress. In 1942, she became its Acting President. In her presidential address, she welcomed the Quit India Resolution. She was arrested and awarded one year imprisonment. In 1946, she was arrested and imprisoned for six months for violating ban orders. In 1947, she was again arrested as she raised her voice against C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar’s desire for an independent Travancore. Accamma Cherian died on 5 May 1982. A statue was erected in her memory in Vellayambalam, Thiruvananthapuram.
Source: Status of Kerala Women, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Emergence of Nationalism.
Written by: Jebin Jacob