Patriots > The Revolutionaries >Pillai , Chempakaraman (Dr.)
Pillai , Chempakaraman (Dr.)
Dr. Chempakaraman Pillai was born on 15 September 1891, in a well-to-do Tamil Hindu Vellala family settled in Trivandrum. His father was Chinna Swami Pillai, a Police Officer under the Travancore Government, and mother Nagammal. When about seventeen years old he had to leave India, and in Berlin, in 1933, he married Laxmi Bai, who was a native of Manipur. They had met in Nerlin about two years earlier.

While in the Maharaja’s High School, Trivandrum, he was caught in the ferment of the Bengal Partition Movement in 1905, and left school. Starting in an active anti-British propaganda, he clashed with the Police, and about 1908 had to leave India. He reached Italy and was able to study in the Berlin School of Languages there, and also enrolled for engineering studies. He continued education in Switzerland and finished it in Germany, securing doctorates in Engineering and Economics.

He learned about twelve languages. Tilak and Gandhiji impressed him strongly. He took up Tilak’s cry, “Swaraj is my birthright and I will have it.” Foreign influence also was strong on him. It was an English noble, Earl Strickland, spying for Germany, who helped him out of India and to get education and contracts in Europe. These contracts, mainly with the revolutionaries in many, European countries, moulded his ideas.

His career of a political revolutionary began even in his school days. He led the boys, shouting anti-British slogans, and on no-tax campaigns, feeling the injustice of the Bengal partition. The Police were on his trail and so he got out of Tranvanore, and reaching Europe, finished his education there. In the meantime he was also imbibing revolutionary ideas and wished more and more to set the British World War he was in Berlin, reorganising opposition to Britain, along with the other Indian revolutionaries there.

In 1914 they formed an ‘Indian Independence Committee’. An ‘Indian Volunteer Corps’ was also formed by him, with the help of the German Government, to fight against Britain. About this time he started a paper also, named the Pro-India, to conduct propaganda against imperialism and colonialism.

It seems that he joined the crew of the well-known cruiser Emden and helped its manoeuvres to undermine Britain’s prestige in India and in the Indian Ocean. In 1915 the Indian revolutionaries in Germany formed a ‘Provisional Government of Free India’ functioning from Derlin. Dr. Pillai was its Minister for Foreign Affairs. He is said to have dropped pamphlets from aeroplanes among the Indian soldiers in France, exhorting them to turn against the English. On account of such activities the British Government put a price on his head. He could not be caught. When the Treaty of Versailles was signed, Dr. Pillai wanted that one of

the terms must be the withdrawal of the English from India.

On the cessation of the war he worked for the improvement of trade between India and Germany. As part of this programme he organised, in 1924, an exhibition of Indian Swadeshi goods in the International Leipzig Fair.

In course of his activities the British rule in India, he met some of the Indian national leaders, like Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel. In 1933, he met Subhas Chandra Bose in Vienna. He requested Bose to organise revolutionary groups in Asia to fight European domination, and then to join him in Germany to fight for an independent India.

Hitler then emerged in Germany. He was sarcastic about the ability of the Asian peoples to govern themselves. Dr. Pillai protested non-grata with Hitler and the Nazis. Dr. Pillai soon fell ill and left for Italy to regain his health. While there, he heard that all his possessions in Germany had been seized and sold away by the Nazis for a nominal price. In despair he returned to Germany and complained to the authorities about the injustice done to him. Naturally, one day he was beaten up by the Nazis. He was physically injured and mentally shocked that he should be so treated in his adopted country. He had to go into a nursing home where he breathed his last on 26 May 1934.

In political matters he was a revolutionary, in social matters a reformer and he did not care for some of the age-old conventions. This is proved by his marriage to a Manipuri girl. He believed in self-determination and self-government for all peoples and naturally wanted India to be free of British rule. He loved Travancore, but being against regionalism and in favour of comprehensive nationalism, his ideal was India as a single unit. For him industrial and educational advance in India was a necessary, but a minor matter. He was all out to win freedom for India. Once free, he believed that every need in India would be fulfilled.

In his activities he displayed unusual dynamism and courage, as shown by his wide propaganda tours, his organisation of anti-British groups, and his voyage on the Emden. He, it appears, is the father of the slogan ‘Jai Hind ‘. he had the courage, or, shall we say, foolhardiness, to stand up even against Hitler. To Jawaharlal, Dr. Pillai appeared to be somewhat pompous. There is no doubt that he was an extremely active type, with strong extremist views. His life’s chief work was the propaganda he conducted in Europe, specially in Germany, against imperialism anywhere. In his revolutionary opposition to imperialism, his main target was British imperialism in India and the sole wish of his life was to see India free of its foreign yoke.

Author : T.C.Sankara Menon