This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages)(Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Died||17 June 1911(aged 24–25)|
|Cause of death||suicide|
|Known for||Assassinating Robert William Escourt Ashe|
Vanchinatha Iyer (1886 – 17 June 1911), popularly known as Vanchinathan or Vanchi, was an Indian revolutionary. He is best remembered for murdering Robert William Escourt Ashe, the Tax Collector of Thirunelveli.
Vanchinathan was born in 1886 in Sengottai to Raghupathy Iyer and Rukmani Ammal. His actual name was Shankaran. He did his schooling in Sengottai. He married Ponammal and got into a lucrative government job.
Indian Freedom Movement
On 17 June 1911, Vanchi who was just 25, assassinated Robert William Escourt Ashe, the district collector of Tirunelveli, who was also known as Collector Dorai. He shot Ashe at point-blank range when Ashe's train had stopped at the Maniyachi Station, en route to Madras. He committed suicide thereafter. The railway station has since been renamed Vanchi Maniyachi.
Assassination of Ashe
The mastermind behind the assassination was Nilakanta Brahmachari who went around the Madras presidency in 1910 recruiting cadres and hatching plots against the British. In this venture, he was accompanied by Shankar Krishna Iyer, Vanchinathan's brother-in-law, who introduced the men to each other. Along with a few other men, Nilakanta Bramhachari, Vaanchinathan, and Shankar Krishna Aiyar found an organisation called Bharatha Matha Sangam which plots the assassination of influential British men. On 17 June 1911, Ashe boarded the 9:30 am Maniyachi Mail at Tirunelveli Junction. With him was his wife, Mary Lillian Patterson, who had arrived from Ireland only a few days earlier. They had married on 6 April 1898, in Berhampore; Mary was about a year older than Ashe. They were on their way to Kodaikanal where their four children, Molly, Arthur, Sheila, and Herbert, lived in a rented bungalow. At 10:38 am, the train pulled in at Maniyachi. The Ceylon Boat Mail was due to arrive at 10:48 am. As the Ashes sat facing each other in the first class carriage, waiting for the Boat Mail to arrive, a neatly dressed man with tufted hair and another young man wearing a dhoti approached the carriage. The former boarded the carriage and pulled out a Belgian-made Browning automatic pistol. The bullet hit Ashe in the chest and he collapsed. The sound of the pistol shot was absorbed by the howling wind. . 
After the shooting, Vanchinathan ran along the platform and took cover in the latrine. Sometime later he was found dead, having shot himself in the mouth. The pistol recovered from him was empty without any bullets as he just planned to kill himself after killing Ashe and had no intention to hurt anyone other than Ashe In his pocket was found following letter:
I dedicate my life as a small contribution to my motherland. I am alone responsible for this.
The mlechas of England having captured our country, tread over the sanathana dharma of the Hindus and destroy them. Every Indian is trying to drive out the English and get swarajyam and restore sanathana dharma. Our Raman, Sivaji, Krishnan, Guru Govindan, Arjuna ruled our land protecting all dharmas, but in this land, they are making arrangements to crown George V, a mlecha, and one who eats the flesh of cows.
Three thousand Madrasees have taken a vow to kill George V as soon as he lands in our country. In order to make others know our intention, I who am the least in the company, have done this deed this day. This is what everyone in Hindustan should consider it as his duty.
I will kill Ashe, whose arrival here is to celebrate the crowning of cow-eater King George V in this glorious land which was once ruled by great samrats. This I do to make them understand the fate of those who cherish the thought of enslaving this sacred land.
I, as the least of them, wish to warn George by killing Ashe.
— sd/-, R. Vanchi Aiyar, Shencottah
Vande Mataram. Vande Mataram. Vande Mataram
Vanchi was a close collaborator of Varahaneri Venkatesa Subrahmanya Iyer (normally shortened to V.V.S.Aiyar or Va.Ve.Su Iyer), another activist who sought arms to defeat the British. He trained Vanchinathan to execute the plan in all perfection. They belonged to Bharatha Matha Association.
Controversy behind the motive
The contents of the letter that was retrieved from Vanchi Iyer post his suicide indicates that the murder was religious and caused great apprehension on the Ashe's activities against social evils. The timing of the assassination indicated a protest against the impending coronation. Many outfits in Tamil Nadu allege that Vanchi Iyer was a casteist and he killed Ashe because he was interfering with the Brahminism.
In recent years, the Dalit (traditionally marginalized groups in India) perception of Robert William Escourt Ashe has been positive and is considered as a hero. Ashe took action to ensure that all people could take a bath in the Courtallam waterfalls, which until then had been reserved exclusively for the upper caste Indians and for the bathing of idols of deities. This action has opened up the waterfalls for the Dalit people. In recent years, Dalit organizations have paid tribute to Ashe on his birthday by offering floral tributes to his memorial and to his grave, which is situated in the English Church, opposite the St. John's College in Palayamkottai.
- In the film Kappalottiya Thamizhan, Actor Balaji played the role of Vanchinathan. Bharathiyar song "Kaattru veliyedai kannammma" was picturised with Gemini Ganesan and Savitri. Sivaji Ganesan played the role of V. O. Chidambaram Pillai.
- The Maniyachchi Railway Station where Vanchinathan shot Ashe, was renamed to Vanchi Maniyachchi Junction Railway Station in remembrance of him.
The Hindu (Tamil) published an article based, what it said, on an interview with Jayakrishnan, who claimed to be the grandson of Vanchinathan. It was said in the article that Jayakrishnan blamed (his grandfather) Vanchinathan for neglecting his wife who was 8 months pregnant at that time. Jayakrishnan has purportedly said "What he (Vanchinathan) did was wrong". Writer Jayamohan has written an article on his website that the article has given wrong information as there were no descendants to Vanchinathan. The only girl child he had, died as an infant while he was still alive. He has stated in the article that in spite of several representations pointing to the untruths in the article, the paper has not published an apology.
For the first time in the history of independent India, a Dalit group paid floral tributes to Ashe. “Since this great Briton was against untouchability and recognised the Dalits as human beings even when the caste-ridden society took all-out measures to oppress them, we pay floral tributes to the slain Collector,” justified members of Aathi Thamizhar Katchi. 
- "Madras miscellany: The Ashe murder - The Hindu".
- "History revisited, but this time with love". The Sunday Indian. Chennai, India. 18 June 2011.
- "Centenary of a historical assassination today". The Hindu. India. 17 June 2011.
- "Nationalist with a revolutionary approach". The Hindu. Trichy, India. 16 August 2006.
- Madras District Gazetteers
- "Memorials-Budget speech". Tamil Nadu government, India. 19 March 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- Frontline-Sep 2009-An Irish link
- பெரியாருக்கு முன் தமிழ்நாடு எப்படி இருந்தது? - சு.அறிவுக்கரசு, retrieved 21 August 2019
- "Dalit outfit pays homage to Ashe". The Hindu. 18 June 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
- "Hindu outfit opposes tribute to British Collector". Business Standard. Press Trust of India. 24 June 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
- Arulolo, M (18 June 2019). "Bid to malign Vanchinathan kicks up row in Nellai dt". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
- Kula. Shanmugasundaram (15 August 2017). ""Andraikku Thaathaa Seydhathu Thappu Thaane ..!" - Pattikkaaga Varundum Veeran Vanchinathanin Paeran" ["Isn't what grandpa did then wrong..!" - Vanchinathan's grandson sympathizes for grandma]. The Hindu (Tamil) (in Tamil). Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017. (Article was modified)
- Jayamohan (16 August 2017). "The Hindu – Naalithazh Arathin Chaavu" [The Hindu - Daily Newspaper, Death of Ethical Code of Conduct] (in Tamil). Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
- Editor (19 August 2017). ""Vanchinathan.. Vaarisu.. Sarchai.. Andha Pertikku Aadhaaram Edhuvumillai!"" ["Vanchinathan .. heir.. Controversy .. No evidence for that interview]. The Hindu (Tamil). Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)