Interview Of The Week: Swathanthra Bharath Ki Jai
Cris Seetha meets the freedom fighter and Gandhian, KE Mammen, who has been in the forefront fighting for the cause of the common people
On Aug 15, 2010



On the night of August 14, 1947, when the whole country waited for that big moment, to see the tricolour flag that spelled out freedom going up, KE Mammen was in a jail in Thiruvalla. At 11pm, he was released. At 12am, he went to a nearby junction and shouted ‘Swathanthra Bharath ki jai’.

ke mammen trivandrum yentha

KE Mammen at his nephew's house in Vanchiyoor


The freedom fighter is now 90 years old. KE Mammen sits at the house of his nephew in Vanchiyoor, and recalls the long years of struggles he put up with in his young age, for his country, in erstwhile Travancore. “I was 19 years old, and a student at the Arts College, when I was first arrested,” he starts the story. “I was active in the State Congress Movement. At the time, CP Ramaswamy Iyer was the dewan of Travancore. He wanted us to stop our activities. I gave a statement in The Hindu criticising what the dewan asked for -- to withdraw from the movement. So I was called for an interview, in the presence of my college principal, vice principal and IG Abdul Karim. It was also the time we had invited Mysore State Congress leader KT Bhashyam, to inaugurate the Student Congress chapter here.

Sir CP asked: ‘Why you want someone who is an outsider to inaugurate?’. And I don’t know where I got the courage from, but in front of all these people, I shot back: ‘Then how are you here?’ (Sir CP was from the Madras province). He had called me for a compromise. But this angered him greatly. The next day, I was arrested, under section 90. I was first taken to the Palayam police station and then to Kottayam jail.”

ke mammen trivandrum yentha

Nineteen-year-old KE Mammen

KE Mammen was taken into custody on the charge of throwing stones at police in a public meeting. “It was a cooked up story. I never threw stones. I am a Gandhian, I follow the path of non-violence.”

He had paid his fees to write his university exams. He would have been released if he apologised. But he did not. “Thus, I spent seven months in lock-up. When I got out, I was expelled from my college and on my TC it was written ‘Character bad. Twice suspended from college’. With this certificate, I went to a college in Kochi. But they didn’t let me in. Then I went to Thrissur. There I studied for one year. Mundassery master taught us.”

ke mammen trivandrum yentha

Rewards of patriotism

Next he went to Madras College. It was the time of the Quit India Movement. “Gandhiji said: ‘Students must come out of the colleges. This is our last fight, Do or die’. All our leaders were jailed. So students took up the freedom struggle. The Indian Socialist Party was formed with Jayaprakash Narayanan and others as its leaders. I too joined the movement. I took off from college, and went underground. I listened to a speech made by Netaji when he came to Madras. I could still remember his lines:

‘I request Gandhiji and Congress Working Committee not to compromise with British imperialism, and to see that India’s men, money and resources are not exploited by British imperialism. We must prepare ourselves to die if necessary, so India may be free.’ Netaji wept after this speech.”

For the next Congress presidential election, KE Mamman voted for Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, who went on to defeat Pattabhi Sitaramayya.

Mammen’s struggles did not end with India’s freedom from the British. It was the time CP Ramaswamy came up with the declaration for an independent Travancore. But the State Congress stood in their stand strongly: ‘We must join Indian Union.’ KE Mammen said so at a meeting. “A group of men, we call ‘anju roopa police’ barged into the meeting raising slogans ‘Sir CP ki jai, Maharaja ki jai, Swathanthra Thiruvithaamkoor ki jai’. They started beating us. And I said ‘This is Gandhi’s movement. We must be non-violent. Do not throw stones at the police.’ For each beating I got, I said ‘Gandhi ki jai, Vandhe Mataram’. " Tears well up in his eyes when KE Mammen recalls how the police pushed him down, and beat him that day.

Soon, Sir CP Ramaswamy was attacked by KCS Mani. “CP loved music and one evening when he came out after attending a concert at the music college, Mani attacked him, cut his nose and ran away. I call Mani our Bhagat Singh. The penicillin that was brought to save the life of a 14-year-old who died in police firing at a Congress meeting, was used to save CP. I was in Thiruvalla at the time. I didn’t know about any of this. But the police came and arrested me with the charge of cutting Sir CP’s nose. I said I want to tell my mother before going with them. My mother...,” KE Mammen stops as he breaks down. “Amme njangal pokunnu, vannillengil karayaruthu (Mother, we are going, do not cry if we don’t come back).”

Years passed by, but memories still stay fresh in KE Mammen’s mind. He recalls those days and the struggles: ‘When Akkamma Cherian led a rally in Chalai-East Fort, I was among the volunteers. We lay down on the road demanding our leaders be released from prison. When the police came to shoot us, Akkamma said: ‘They are my volunteers. If you want to shoot, shoot me first’. She was a bold lady. That night, our leaders were released from the prison.”

ke mammen trivandrum yentha
Memento from Indira Gandhi for taking part in the freedom struggle

“The problem with living long is you will see more deaths. I had six siblings, three sisters and three brothers. They are no more now. All the freedom fighters with me have died. Viswambaharan of the Socialist Party and I are among the last few living. But Gandhiji’s Swaraj is still not achieved. Everyone must have enough food, house, everyone must be happy. Maveli naadu vaneedum kaalum maanushyar ellarum onnupole. Kallavumilla chathiyumilla, madhyashoppum illa. Last year, I said, ‘Maveli, don’t come. Kerala is full of thieves, goons and liquor’.”

On July 31 2010, KE Mammen celebrated his 90th birthday. “Sixty three years ago, in 1947, I spent my birthday in a prison,” he remembers sadly. He recently suffered a stroke and now walks with the help of a cane. After all those years of suffering, nothing seems too big enough to ruin this man’s strength of mind. He has always stuck to his principles of non-violence; he has never given up. KE Mammen goes back to rest in his room.

ke mammen trivandrum yentha
Pictures of Bhagat Singh, Mahatma Gandhi, Subash Chandra Bose, and Jesus Christ on his walls

The walls have pictures of Bhagat Singh, Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ. Watching them and remembering the bygone days of freedom struggle, there is no doubt what is still resonating in his mind --- the same slogan he shouted 63 years ago at that junction:

‘Swathanthra Bharath ki jai’.

Report Abuse    Report Error    Comments SMS/E-Mail
Bookmark and Share
I understand the spirit of the then congress men. But the view of Sir CP on american model could have made India a developed country, which Our Great Abdul Kalam sir dreamin gin 2020. Sir CP's contribution to the state of travancore cannot be negated with the punnapra revolt or any other atrocities. How can mani be Bhagt Singh.. Bhagt singh attacked in broad day light... not in the dark. Please dont downgrade the veera puthra of bharat comparing with Mani.
Bhagwat, on Dec 17, 2010 12:49:27 PM
@Bhagwat: It is KE Mammen's comment that Mani can be compared to Bhagat Singh. Opinions differ.
Cris, on Dec 18, 2010 12:38:31 PM
Sir CP was a great visionary. However he was not an 'Indian' but the dewan of a kingdom which was outside British rule. His dream to bring in American Model administration only means that he was impressed with English system. The fact is that everyone really wants to run off to English nations now. Even the communist leader Nayanar's son is reputed to be in America. Dont know what is the official stand of the Communist party with regard to their leaders' children running off to English nations.
VED From VICTORIA INSTITUTIONS, on Oct 17, 2012 03:20:56 PM
News Features Columns