Very seldom do we hear about Christian freedom fighters who toiled day and night for the emancipation of our Mother Land, one among them was T.M. Varghese. His contributions towards freedom struggle is commendable. He was born at Pallikkal,Mavelikkara,formerly known as Travancore State in 1886 in a Mar Thoma Syrian Christian family.It was his maternal uncle, P.K John, who supported his education after the death of his father. He was one of a distinguished lawyer of those days. Under his uncles’ counsel, he earned a degree from the Government Law College, Trivandrum and began practicing at Kollam.
Maharaja Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma issued a proclamation on 21 October 1932 to constitute a new system of legislature in Travancore. This came into effect on 1stJanuary 1933. According to this order, the seats were divided among the community as given below: Community Population (in ten thousands), (No. of representatives in the Assembly):- Christians (160.4, 10); Ezhavas (86.9, 3); Nairs (86.8, 36); Other Hindus (47.9, 15); Muslims (35.3, 3) Low Caste (91.7, 1) Europeans (578 people, 2). Total population 5,090,000. Total seats in the Assembly 70. This new system did not adequately represent the Ezhava, Christian and Muslim communities who greatly contributed towards the economic structure of the society.
In order to put forth their demand for equal seats, the leaders of each community, with Mr. T. M. Varghese as the representative of the Christian community, decided to meet the Divan who responded in an obscure manner. Having realized that their demands wouldn’t be justified, the leaders met at the LMS Hall on the 25th of January, 1933 and initiated the Joint Political Party. It was decided that they would confederate under the leadership of T. M. Varghese and abstain from elections. This movement is called as the ‘Abstention Movement’ or ‘NivarthanaPrakshabhanam’ in Malayalam.
The Joint Political Party, having received the acknowledgement of the government, was introduced to communal reservation in appointments to the public service. In August 1936, when a new constitution was propagated where elections for the Travancore State Assembly were held during April–May, 1937, T. M. Varghese won the election as a candidate of the Joint Political Party. He was elected as Deputy President in the Sreemulam Assembly, which was one of the highest position attainable by open elections.
Kesavan, a devoted leader and T. M. Varghese’ close associates, chastised the then advisor of the Maharaja- C.P RamaswamiIyer, calling him a ‘pest’ and stated that ‘the country will go to the dogs unless this man leaves.’ On 7 June 1935, C Kesavan was arrested and T M Varghese was one of the three lawyers who appeared to defend him and was released in 1937 after the elections. Varghese welcomed him saying, “In the name of and on behalf of the 5.1 lakhs of people of Travancore, I accord with pleasure, a hearty welcome to the most-self-sacrificing individual C. Kesavan.”The Dewan (the ex-officio President of the SreeMoolam Assembly) was furious and, following his directive, a no confidence motion was moved against Varghese. In the voting that followed, 42 supported the motion, 24 were against, and 2 abstained. Thus Varghese was removed from his position as Deputy President.
Varghese was also the founder member of the Travancore State Congress party. He was the most important leader of the (Responsible government Struggle) struggle against C. P. Rameswamy Iyer, the Dewan of Travancore State. Travancore became a state of Indian union at the dawn of independence in 1947. In the first general election to the Travancore legislative assembly, Varghese was elected as the Home Minister after the unification of Travancore and Cochin. He was also the first Speaker of Travancore-Cochin Legislative Assembly. In 1951, he was re-elected as the home minister. It was in 1955 that relinquished from politics.
He died peacefully on the 31st of December, 1961.
The Modi government, in 2015, decided to commemorate the Muslim, Christian and other national icons from various minority communities who strived for the liberation of our country, which included Ashfaqulla Khan, TM Varghese, George Joseph and others.
Written by: Sophia Joseph