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|Born||15 September 1891
|Died||26 May 1934
|Organization||Berlin Committee, Provisional Government of India|
|Political movement||Indian Independence movement, Indo-German Conspiracy|
Pillai joined a technical institute and pursued a diploma course in Engineering. With the outbreak of the First World War, Pillai formed the International Pro-India Committee and based its headquarters in Zurich; in September 1914, Pillai appointed himself as President. At the same time, an Indian Independence Committee was formed in Berlin by a group of Indian expatriates in Germany. This group was composed of Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, Mahatma Gandhi, Bhupendranath Dutta, Punnackal A. Raman Pillai, Taraknath Das, Maulavi Barkatullah|Barkatullah, Chandrakant Chakravarty, M. Prabhakar, Birendra Sarkar and Herambalal Gupta.
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. Soon branches sprang up in Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Washington, as well as in many other parts of Europe and America.
Pillai was the first to raise "Jai Hind" slogan; he later joined with INC chief Subash Chandra Bose.
The Indian Independence Committee ultimately became involved in the so-called Hindu-German Conspiracy along with the Ghadar Party in the United States of America. The German Foreign Office under Kaiser Wilhelm II paid for the anti-British activities of the Committee. Chempakaraman Pillai and A. Raman Pillai, both belonging to Travancore and both students in German universities, kept interacting with each other on the Committee's activities.
Quite a few of Chempakaraman's letters to A. Raman Pillai, then a student in the University of Göttingen are in the safe custody of Raman Pillai's son Rosscote Krishna Pillai, an author, science writer, media person, and social activist in Thiruvananthapuram. The letters reveal some aspects of Chempakaraman's life in Germany during 1914–1920. In July 1914, Chempakaraman Pillai from Berlin called upon Indian soldiers in the British Indian Army to rise in revolt and fight against the British.
After the end of World War I and Germany's defeat, Chempakaraman stayed in Germany, working as a technician in a factory in Berlin; when Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose visited Vienna, Chempakaraman met him and explained his plan of action.
Foreign Minister of Provisional Government of India
Pillai had the privilege of being the foreign minister of the Provisional Government of India set up in Kabul, Afghanistan on 1 December 1915, with Raja Mahendra Pratap of Kabul 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.
All along, the Germans were helping the Indian revolutionaries for selfish motives. Though the Indian patriots made it clear to the Germans that they were equal partners in their fight against the common enemy of British imperialism and what was expected of them was help by way of funds, arms, and ammunition, the Germans wanted to exploit the revolutionaries for their propaganda work and for gathering military intelligence. In 1931, Pillai married Lakshmibai of Manipur, whom he met in Berlin. It is reported that the Nazis with the instruction of Adolf Hitler killed Chempakaraman by food poisoning on 26 May 1934.
His last wish
Pillai's last wish was that his ashes be carried to his homeland, and 33 years after his death his wife fulfilled this. During this time she endured severe sufferings and hardship, a great deal of which was caused by the Nazis; however, she patiently endured it to fulfill her mission of preserving his ashes, diary, and secret documents, living in Berlin, Italy, and Spain, and later reaching Mumbai. The Indian Navy warship I.N.S. Delhi flying the flag of Free India brought Pillai's ashes to Cochin on 16 September 1966.
- Malayala Manorama Yearbook 2009 (Tamil) pp 301
- Asghar Ali Engineer (2006). They Too Fought for India's Freedom. Hope India Publications. ISBN 81-7871-091-9.