Dadala Raphael Ramanayya
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Ramanayya was born into a poor family from a tiny hamlet, called Farampeta, about 2 kilometers from Yanam. His father, Dadala Bhairvaswamy, was a farm worker, and his mother's name was Ramanamma. Ramanayya was orphaned at the age of four and was taken under the care of his paternal Grandmother Veeramma, along with whom he had to work for food in the fields of landlords of the neighbouring villages. The French priests of Yanam Catholic Church, Father Artic and later Father Gangloff took him under their patronage and educated him. Father Gangloff helped him to study in the high school of the Petit Seminaire college, Pondicherry and later on to finish his Baccalaureate (B.A.) from the Government's Arts College, Pondicherry.
During February 1932, during his student days, on the occasion of "Mardigras" and during a fancy dress procession, a few European students misbehaved with some Brahmin girls of a high family in open public. The governor dismissed the petitions sent to him saying "The youngsters had some fun in jovial mood. Nothing is offending in it." Dadala was indignant that the sons of the governor and other high officials could escape scot-free without even an apology to the parents of the girls. He raised a student group to rebel against this and beat up some European students in retaliation. He was immediately arrested along with another student, but later due to a great public outcry, the then governor of Pondicherry ordered his release.
In February 1933, he passed a competitive examination of teachers for teaching French and worked for about two months as a teacher in Bahour. Later again he passed in First Class the competitive examination to be appointed as a Sub-Inspector of Police of Mudaliarpet.
French police career
During this period Monsieur Sellane Naicker even though a pro-French leader at that time, had passed a bill in the assembly cutting the salaries of the European officials. This enraged the French who through their cohorts, encouraged terrorization of the voters against Sellane Naicker in the municipal and assembly elections of 1934. Dadala made Mudaliarpet and all communes behind it, bastions against these goonda acts. The French did not like this and as a result he was suspended from service by the order of then Deputy Chief Justice. But after a prolonged court battle, he was acquitted and reinstated three months later.
In 1936 Monsieur André Ménard (who later came back to India on July 31, 1950 as Governor of French settlements in India), then chef de cabinet and Secretary to the Governor's establishment went into Bharati Mills to negotiate a settlement with the workers who were on strike and was instead taken by them as a hostage for fulling their demands.
Monsieur Dadala who was the in charge police officer for that area and who knew that any aggressive act against the French will be a serious affair that could harm the workers' safety, acted deftly and defused the situation. With a surprising and a lightning charge he entered the mills and liberated Mr. Mernard without any harm to either side.
After this incident he enjoyed great friendship of the French leadership in Pondicherry, some of whom even volunteered to be godfather to his children. But however much he was happy with his French friends, in his heart Monsieur Dadala always yearned to be an active part of the nationalist movement surrounding him.
Entry into nationalist movement
After Indian Independence from the British rule and in deference to the feelings of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, France proposed a referendum in India to decide the fate of the French settlements merger into India. The referendum agreement was signed in June 1948. The main clause of this agreement stated expressly that there should not be any internal or external pressure during referendum.
In 1948 the French India Socialist Party, A Pro-French outfit rigged the elections and won all the seats in all but one of the Municipal Assemblies. Dr. P. Subbarayan who was the president of the P.C.C. of Tamilnad and Dr. N. Rajkumar, Secretary for Foreign affairs of the Indian National Congress who saw the farce of these elections sent a damaging report to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The first Consul General of India at Pondicherry Sri Rasheed Ali Baig, did his best to boost the Nationalist movement at that time but little was achieved. In 1950, Sri RK Tandon replaced Sri Rasheed Ali Baig. Around this period Monsieur Sellane Naiker, a Chevalier by title and who was already an influential political figure of Pondicherry, persuaded Dadala to join and lead the existing nationalist movement.
On 14 September 1950, Monsieur Dadala along with Sellane Naicker prepared a memorandum to Dr. Keskar, Deputy External Affairs minister of India who had paid a visit to Pondicherry. This led to immediate confrontation between him and his French Superiors. His meeting with Dr. Keskar was considered Treachery by the then French Deputy Chief of Police Monsieur Lagisqet and Captain Bouhard, Chief of police who confronted Monsieur Dadala with arrest threats and punitive departmental actions. Dadala immediately resigned and expecting reprisals from the French police who now openly showed despise for his turn towards pro-nationalist movement, and for the safety of his family, moved to Cuddalore - a frontier town on the Indian side, situated on the banks of river Pennar separating the French and Indian territories.
Life as a nationalist leader
As his first step he chose the Bahour commune, inhabited by about twenty five thousand people, as his area of operations. He worked hard to enroll municipal members, and especially the youth as members of "French India liberation volunteer corp", an organisation, which he founded in order to fight the pro-French violent activists. He also co-founded along with Monsieur Sellane, A pro merger freedom fighting organization which was named as "the French India merger congress". Monsieur Sellane accepted to be its president and Dadala assumed charge of secretary general. Their primary task was to cancel the referendum, as the French settlements were dominated by pro-French parties who by threats and subjugation of citizens, has retained hold.
Thereafter, his aggressive nationalist programmes in French territories disturbed and enraged the French government, who initially tried to woo him back through influence and gain and later by subjugation and threats. Warrants with extradition demands against him were pressed by the French ambassador to Prime Minister Nehru who deputed Sri C Rajagopalachari, then the chief minister, of Madras (now Tamil Nadu) to look into the case. Rajaji met Monsieur Dadala in Cuddalore collector's rest house and after taking his full statement, approved his actions and promised his support. A few days after, along with Monsieur Sellane Naicker and Advocate Sri Perumal, Monsieur Dadala met Prime Minister Nehru in Bangalore, in the presence of Sri Sheikh Abdullah and the chief minister KC Reddy of Mysore and submitted to him a memorandum requesting his help.
With no visible action was taken by Indian Government, on Monsieur Dadala and other nationalist parties in French Settlements, the French cabinet petitioned the UNO against the violation of the referendum agreement, and by allowing "gangs" to operate against the "Peaceful French citizens". The UNO in turn, deputed a board of observers consisting of Messrs. Holgar Anderson of Holland, Senor Baron Rodolfo Castro of Spain, Montieor Perreard of Switzerland, Mr Chan of Philippines and Mr Krabbe of Denmark to visit the French Settlements and give a full report to the International Court of Justice.
The observers arrived in Pondicherry in March 1951. On 19 April 1951 in the traveler's bungalow on the frontier, Dadala was called for a meeting with them where he had attended with proofs and reports of the Pro-French parties actrocities on the Indian nationalists. After a month of the observers departure from Pondicherry, the press published the report they submitted to the international court of justice and which contained detailed report about the unfair pro-French atmosphere prevalent at that time in French Settlements and that they conclude that in those circumstances a fair and impartial referendum was not possible.
But in spite of the damaging report of the observers against the French government, the pro-French parties went harping on the referendum. These landlords and others who perhaps thought that as far as Sellane Naicker and Dadala existed they would have trouble, had on 29 August 1952, engaged hooligans to shoot at Monsieur Sellane Naicker while he was in his house. Sellane escaped miraculously after receiving two bullet wounds in his left thigh, while four or five bullets entered the wall of his room . He refused to lodge a compliant with the French police or to be treated in a French hospital at Pondicherry. He was taken and admitted in the General hospital Madras. A leader who ruled the French settlements for over a decade, who was a president of the assembly and a knight commander of the French legion of honour, was shot and the local government did not make any arrest. All the Indian leaders in particular Prime Minister Nehru had condemned the attempt to murder sri naicker, in very strong words.
On October 10, 1952, the Prime Minister of India addressing a mammoth public meeting on the Island grounds in Madras referred to this episode and declared "Even a respected leader in Pondicherry only a few days ago was badly attacked and came to the general hospital in Madras. What has the French government in Pondicherry have done about it?. Nothing. I believe that they arrested someone and later released him. Now, am I to understand that there is no government left in Pondicherry and only goondaism rules there?".
On the same day, Sri Naicker, Dr. Ambrose, Advocate Perumal, Sri Srikanta Ramanujam, Advocate Xavery, Sri I K Kumaran, Sri Baradan and Monsieur Dadala met Prime Minister Nehru in the Rajbhavan, Madras, while all the top leaders of Madras were also present. Prime Minister Nehru called upon the Tamil Nadu Congress Leaders to extend all material help to the refugees of Pondicherry who were under Monsieur Dadala's care. late Sri Raghunandan Saran, Managing Partner of Ashok Leyland Automobile Factory of Ennore, Madras, extended great help to the refugees and provided for their maintenance. He also introduced Monsieur Dadala to Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri for whom he they shared great respect.
About 10 December 1953, Consul General RK Tandon was transferred and Sri Kewal Singh took his place. He stood behind Monsieur Sellane Naicker and Monsieur Dadala . He was able to detach the pro-French leaders and members of the assembly from the French camp and took them to New Delhi. A provisional Government with Edouard Goubert, as the head, was formed in the enclave of Nettapacom. The Indian Armed Reserve was posted round its borders.
In the meanwhile, negotiations were going on between the two governments in Delhi and Paris. Sri Kewal Singh met all the leaders of the provisional Government at a conference in Kandamangalam in the night of 11 April 1954. He explained that the French authorities were making fun of the petty provisional government of Nettapacom. He suggested that if the leaders wanted real liberation of all settlements they should occupy any of the big four settlements. While Dropping Dadala at his home from the meeting, Sri Kewal Singh requested Dadala what he thought of the plan and if he had any ideas. Subsequently, a plan for Dadala to try to liberate Yanam was formed.
Struggle for creation of a pro-merger atmosphere in Yanam
On 13 April 1954, Dadala arrived in Yanam for working out a possibility of its liberation from the French. On arrival he realised that Yanam was dominated by Pro-French atmosphere and hence, there were no living nationalism signs. On 14 April 1954, He proceeded to Kakinada, a border town to Yanam and coming under "East Godavari District" of Andhra Pradesh State in India, and met all the district leaders and officials for help and aid. He didn't find any encouraging response from them.
Likewise, in Yanam, his handful of friends and relatives warned him, that he shall be captured and killed if he ventured to start a nationalist agitation there. Everybody in Yanam seemed to have stood four square behind the French administration. The following day when Monsieur Dadala stepped in to meet some of his followers in Farampeta village, he was ambushed by the French police. He pulled out his revolver, fired in the air, and escaped over a nearby flood bank. He then hastily retreated to the Indian territory.
Returning to Kakinada he purchased a large number of Indian National Congress flags and started a house to house campaign, requesting students and their leaders to organise a meeting in the town hall grounds. He along with his new nationalistic recruits hired lorries bedecked with congress flags and loads of people, made tours in the streets of Yanam, inviting them to the meetings. Once the meetings were organised, he urged the people to help him in his struggle for liberation of Yanam and incited patriotism in their young minds. Within a few days he was able to create an anti-French atmosphere in all surroundings.
Then the French police committed a blunder. They raided some of the villages on Indian territory. Monsieur Dadala sent a telegram to Sri Kewal Singh complaining about the high handedness of the French police. He installed loudspeakers around Yanam town, played patriotic songs and explained to people the reasons for merger with India. Inside Yanam, the pro-French leaders organised daily meetings and processions against the merger and normally ended them with effigies being burnt.
In the beginning of June, the secretary general of the French administration from Pondicherry met Dadala and informed that the government were transferring the two European officials who were residing in Yanam. He requested safety of these officials from the nationalist volunteers while leaving the place. Dadala followed the two officials till Kakinada from where they departed by train to Pondicherry.
Liberation of Yanam
Now with all white French leaders out of fear of any mob fury, the merger leaders, decided, it was right time to strike. Monsieur Dadala made required arrangements to take the administration of Yanam after consultation with the officials of Kakinada and other local Yanam leaders Sri Maddimsetti Satyanandam, Kamichetty Sri Parasurama Varaprasada Rao Naidu etc.,
In the early morning on Sunday 13 June 1954, Dadala marched at the head of a few thousand volunteers from Kakinada towards the bungalow of the administrator of Yanam, in order to capture it and hoist the Indian Flag. Bayankar Achary, another famous Indian revolutionary and patriot was also a member of the volunteer corps. Marching 50 Yards ahead of his volunteers with a megaphone, he requested the French police and other officials to cooperate and surrender. The French police retaliated and threw a few grenades which fell at 20 meters from Monsieur Dadala and exploded harmlessly. Then they started firing on the volunteers. The volunteers took shelter behind the Manyam Zamindar's choultry and fired many rounds against the French police who were in open place and in front of the police station. About four policemen were wounded and fell. The remaining policemen stopped firing and ran away to lock themselves inside the police building fearing mob fury. Monsieur Dadala surrounded them and had them disarmed. The volunteers combed the town and arrested all the pro-French leaders and conducted a court martial against them. When they admitted to their guilt, clemency was shown to them. The coup d'état of Yanam was announced by All India Radio and Press.
Return to civil life and last days
The Yanam coup d'état had enraged the French authorities of Pondicherry. Rumours were spread to the effect that the French government were despatching a cruiser to Yanam to capture merger leaders and to re-establish their authority. Towards the end of June 1954, Sri Kewal Singh paid a visit to Yanam and requested his return to Pondicherry to continue his activities there.
On 3 July on Kewal Singh's request, Monsieur Dadala left Yanam, after making all arrangements for its proper administration. Once back in Pondicherry, he took the agitations alongside the followers of Sri V Subbiah, Clemencedu Goubert, Venkata Subbareddiar, to its peak and from all sides of the entire pondicherry territory. One day when Dadala, was returning with a hundred volunteers from the Bahour commune and heading towards Cuddalore, he was ambushed and fired at by a dozen French troops. He was then at the rear of a column of volunteers. A volunteer beside him was shot dead and another was wounded.
One fine morning in October, the Government of France had agreed to the de facto transfer of power to India after holding a nominal vote of members of the Assembly and the municipal members. Monsieur Edouard Goubert also a trusted friend of Dadala, had played the most important role in these elections. The defacto transfer of power took place on First November 1954. Prime Minister Nehru had visited Pondicherry on 16 January 1955. Messrs Edouard Goubert, S. Perumal, Sri Dadala and Sri Pakirisamy Pillai presented addresses to Pandit Nehru in a public meeting in the maidan of Gorimedu.
After the French left Indian shores, Dadala wanted to come out of politics which he always despised and was anxious to settle in his home state of Andhra Pradesh, and to provide his children with education through his native regional language-Telugu. For his sacrifices to the nation and from intervention of the central cabinet, he was resettled as a high-ranking officer in the then excise department of the state of Andhra Pradesh from where he has finally retired on June 29, 1963 and led a peaceful farmer life, until his death on May 5, 1991.
He was buried alongside his wife Subadramma and other family members, and near the Grave of Father Gangloff, in the Catholic cemetery of Jagannaickpur, Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh. In 1993, He was honored by the Pondicherry Government who gave him a befitting salute by installing a lifesize bronze statue in the Yanam town square near the regional administrator building and the Catholic Church. His family consisting of six sons and two daughters settled themselves in Kakinada, London and Chicago and did not show any interest in politics or administrative affairs and went out of public eye.
- Municipal Administration in French India
- Coup d'État de Yanaon
- Colonial History of Yanam
- Kamichetty Sri Parasurama Varaprasada Rao Naidu
- Inde française
- My Struggle for freedom of French Provinces in India, autobiography written by Sri Dadala Raphael Ramanayya