Society Magazine

Remembering the Real 'Emden' - Shenbagaraman Pillai - the Great Freedom Fighter

Posted on the 15 September 2021 by Sampathkumar Sampath

SMS Emden ("His Majesty's Ship Emden") was the second and final member of the Dresden class of light cruisers built for the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine). Named for the town of Emden, she was laid down at the Kaiserliche Werft (Imperial Dockyard) in Danzig in 1906.   Emden was armed with ten 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns and two torpedo tubes.   At the outbreak of World War I, Emden captured a Russian steamer and converted her into the commerce raider Cormoran.   Emden was attacked by the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney on 9th  Nov 1914. The more powerful Australian ship quickly inflicted serious damage and forced Müller to run his ship aground to avoid sinking. Out of a crew of 376, 133 were killed in the battle.   Emden's wreck was quickly destroyed by wave action, and was broken up for scrap in the 1950s.

Movie is only a form of entertainment, yet there are some films / some scenes that move us. Shankar directed ‘Indian’ [Bharatheeyudu] was a good film.  To many the hero was not the young Kamal but the older Indian Senapathy. The flashback in black & white was really moving taking us to older days, especially the footage of the great Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose.  The story shows Senapathi as a young valiant fighter joining  Bose’s army with the full support of his wife Amirthavalli. The handful of Nation’s soil to be smeared on forehead daily is poetic.  Senapathi gets captured,  survives the brutalities and comes to back in free India riddled with corruption, and he fights that !!

Today the Nation should remember Shenbagaraman – a great martyr.  Chempakaraman Pillai, alias Venkidi, (15 Sept 1891 – 26 May 1934) was revolutionary freedom fighter.  Born in Trivandrum, Kerala, to Tamil parents, he left for Europe as a youth, where he spent the rest of his active life as an Indian nationalist and revolutionary.  He was involved in a   squabble with Adolf Hitler too – most importantly, Shenbagaraman   is credited with the coining of the salutation and slogan "Jai Hind"in the pre-independence days of India. 

Remembering the real 'Emden' - Shenbagaraman Pillai - the great freedom fighter

 

தென்னாட்டு போஸ் என்றும், ஒவ்வொரு இந்தியனின் உள்ளத்தையும் கிளர்ந்தெழச் செய்யும் ‘ஜெய்ஹிந்த்’ என்னும் கோஷத்தின் தந்தையாகவும் போற்றப்படுபவர் மாவீரன் செண்பகராமன். இந்தியாவை அடிமைப்படுத்திய வெள்ளை ஏகாதிபத்தியத்தை நடுநடுங்க வைத்தவர்களில் செண்பகராமன் முக்கியமானவர்.

Pillai attended ETH Zurich in  1910 until 1914, pursuing a diploma in Engineering. After the outbreak of the First World War, he founded the International Pro-India Committee and based its headquarters in Zürich, appointing himself President.   During the same period an Indian Independence Committee was formed in Berlin by a group of Indian expatriates in Germany. In October 1914, Pillai moved to Berlin and joined the Berlin Committee, merging it with his International Pro-India Committee as the guiding and controlling institution for all pro-Indian revolutionary activities in Europe. Lala Har Dayal was also persuaded to join the movement. Both of them cooperated with the German Intelligence Bureau for the East and helped creating German propaganda directed at Indian PoWs in German camps, particularly the Halbmondlager.

The Indian Independence Committee ultimately became involved in the so-called Hindu-German Conspiracy along with the Ghadar Party in the United States. The German foreign office under Kaiser Wilhelm II funded the Committee's anti-British activities. Chempakaraman and A. Raman Pillai, both from Travancore and both students at German universities, worked together on the Committee. Pillai later allied with Indian National Army chief Subhash Chandra Bose. After the end of World War I and Germany's defeat, Pillai stayed in Germany, working as a technician in a factory in Berlin; when Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose visited Vienna,  

Pillai was the foreign minister of the Provisional Government of India set up in Kabul, Afghanistan in Dec  1915, with Raja Mahendra Pratap as President and Maulana Barkatullah as Prime Minister. However, the defeat of the Germans in the war shattered the hopes of the revolutionaries, and the British forced them out of Afghanistan in 1919.  During this time, the Germans were helping the Indian revolutionaries from their own motives. Though the Indians made it clear to the Germans that they were equal partners in their fight against the common enemy, the Germans wanted to use the revolutionaries' propaganda work and military intelligence for their own purposes.

In 1907, Pillai coined the term "Jai Hind",  which was adopted as a slogan of the Indian National Army in the 1940s. After Nation’s  independence, it emerged as a national slogan.

In 1931, Pillai married Lakshmi Bai of Manipur, whom he had met in Berlin. Pillai fell ill presumably showing  symptoms of slow poisoning. He died in Berlin on 28 May 1934. Lakshmibai brought Pillai's ashes to India in 1935 where they were later ceremonially immersed in Kanyakumari with full state honours. 

On 22 Sept 1914,  SMS Emden, a German warship commanded by Captain Karl von Muller entered the waters off the coast of Madras, and bombed the facilities near the Madras harbor and slipped back into the ocean. The British were taken aback in this sudden attack.  Though official records did not name Shenbagaraman, it was believed that he was one of the masterminds of the attack aimed at destabilizing British governance.  

Em Magan movie was written and directed by Thirumurugan.  Emden would mean : strict and authoritative. The word has entered Tamil usage to describe someone very strict by nature – and that came after the ship masterminded by Shenbagaraman, - the Emden.   

On this day, we remember that great patriot – who fought from Overseas for the removal of British – sad, our History books were more of merciful Cawning, reforms of Dalhousie, sathyagraha of Gandhi and letters of Jawaharlal Nehru from Allahabad prison !

With respects and regards to all the martyrs
S. Sampathkumar
15th Sept. 2021. 

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