Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty
Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty
A portrait of Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty
|Known for||political activism, publicist|
Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty CSI (1806–1868) was an Indian merchant, Indian independence activist and political activist who founded the Madras Native Association and the first Indian-owned newspaper in Madras, The Crescent.
Lakshminarasu Chetty was born in 1806 to wealthy kavarai/ gazulu balija indigo merchant Sidhulu Chetty in Madras and closely related to T.R.A. Thumboo Chetty. On completion of his initial education, Lakshminarasu entered the family trade and succeeded as a businessman. He entered politics and devoted money for social and philanthropic causes.
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Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty was born in Periamet, Madras. His father Sidhulu Chetty was an indigo merchant. Due to the poor schooling facilities available in India at the time, Lakshminarasu Chetty had little formal education. However, even as a boy, Lakshminarasu Chetty was interested in politics and took part in Debating Societies.
On completion of his education, Lakshminarasu worked as an apprentice under his father whose business was soon afterwards renamed Sidhulu Chetty and Co. The firm mainly dealt in handkerchiefs and soon grew into a thriving corporation. After Sidhulu Chetty's death, Lakshminarasu inherited the firm and expanded its network.
When the American Civil War broke out, cotton trade was temporarily suspended between the United States of America and other countries. Lakshminarasu Chetty took advantage of the situation and made huge profits by speculating on the price of cotton.
During the mid-19th century, Christian missionaries indulged in open proselytisation in public institutions in the Madras Presidency. Their proselytisation activities were allegedly favoured by officials of the British government who preferred native Christians to Hindus in higher appointments in order to entice Hindu Indians to embrace Christianity . The religious stance of the Madras government was frequently condemned by the Hindu population. Lakshminarasu supported their cause and launched agitations against conversions.
On October 2, 1844, Lakshminarasu Chetty founded the Crescent, the first Indian-owned newspaper in the Madras Presidency for the "amelioration of the condition of Hindus". But right from the beginning, the newspaper faced strict government opposition. An advertisement sent to the Madras government for insertion into the government publication Fort St George Gazette was rejected. Further, the government resolved to enact a law wherein a Hindu convert to Christianity would not lose his ancestral right to own property. This was severely condemned by the Hindu community of Madras who under the leadership of Lakshminarasu Chetty, presented a memorial to the Governor on April 9, 1845. The government eventually withdrew its plans after prolonged discussions with the agitators.
Around this time, the Madras government tried to introduce the Bible as a standard textbook for the students of the Madras University. Students were often questioned on points connected to Christian theology and were denied government posts if their knowledge of Christian texts was found wanting. Hindus of the Madras Presidency protested against these measures. Lakshminarasu Chetty presided over a protest meeting at the Pachaiyappa's College on October 7, 1846 in which it was resolved to send a memorandum to the Court of Directors of the British East India Company. Their efforts were successful and moves to introduce Christian theology in the curriculum were disbanded. In 1853, the government, once again tried to introduce the Bible into the educational curriculum by its efforts were thwarted by George Norton, John Bruce Norton and Lakshminarasu Chetty.
Peasants in various parts of the Madras Presidency were often subjected to cruel punishments and made to carry heavy loads on their backs if they failed to pay taxes on time. In 1854, with the assistance of Danby Seymour, a member of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, Lakshminarasu Chetty tried to induce the British authorities to investigate the methods of torture inflicted by these revenue collectors. In July 1854, Seymour tried to introduce a motion in the British Parliament. Sir C. Wood, President of the India Board, responded by appointing a Torture Commission in September 1854, to investigate the conduct of revenue officials. Further pressure was put by petition signed by Lakshminarasu Chetty and other Indians which was presented in the House of Lords on April 14, 1856.
Madras Native Association
Lakshminarasu established Madras Native Association as a platform for educated Indians to protest against any injustice on the part of the British. It was the first Indian political organization in the Madras Presidency. Lakshminarasu, the founder, served as its first President. Initially, his plans had been to establish a branch of the British Indian Association in Madras but later, he decided in favor of a separate organization. P. Somasundaram Chettiar, a close associate of Lakshminarasu, served as the Secretary of the organization. The organization frequently locked horns with Christian missionaries.
In 1852, the Madras Native Association presented a detailed list of grievances to the British Parliament. It was read out at the House of Lords on February 25, 1853 by the Earl of Ellenborough along with a petition from the inhabitants of Manchester that a minister and council for India be appointed and that they be made responsible directly to the British monarch. Lakshminarasu Chetty followed it up with another petition in 1855. This petition signed by over 14,000 beseached the British Crown to take the administration of India directly under its control. These petitions resulted in the curtailment of the powers of the British East India Company eventually culminating in the transfer of sovereignty over India to the British Crown.
As President of the Madras Native Association, Chetty also petitioned the Government of the United Kingdom praying for religious neutrality and tolerance. The organization did not fare well and gradually, faded from the limelight.
In 1861, Lakshminarasu Chetty created Companion of the Star of India. Two years later, in 1863, he was nominated to the Madras Legislative Council on the death of V. Sadagopacharlu who was the first Indian to be nominated to the Madras Legislative Council as per the Indian Councils Act 1861.
- "Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty". Indian Liberal Group. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
- Buckland, C. E. (1906). Dictionary of Indian Biography. London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co. p. 81.
- Seal, Anil (1971). The Emergence of Indian Nationalism: Competition and Collaboration in the Later Nineteenth Century. CUP Archive. p. 198. ISBN 0521096529, ISBN 978-0-521-09652-2.
- Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume, Pg 348
- Srinivasachari, C. S.; S. E. Runganadhan (1939). History of the city of Madras, written for the Tercentenary Celebration Committee. Madras: P. Varadachary & Co.
- Govinda Parameswaran Pillai (1897). Representative Indians. Routledge. pp. 193–207.