Mark this day and be present with all your like minded friends of Ooty
Date : June 15, 2017 (Thursday)
Place: Birla House, Pudumandu ( below Birla Mandir)
Direction: Take Marliamund Road, adjacent to St.Stephens Church near the Collector’s Office. About 3 kms.
Occasion: Centenary of the House Arrest of Dr. Annie Besant during the Home Rule struggle. (see below for details)
Centenary of Ooty’s link to Freedom Movement
The demand for Home Rule or Self Rule in 1917 was an important milestone and a turning point in the struggle for Indian independence. The Home Rule movement was launched by the Irish activist Dr. Annie Besant and Bal Gangadar Tilak.
Unable to silence Dr.Besant , the British rulers decided to arrest her on June 15, 1917. She and her two supporters G.S.Arundale and B.P.Wadia were kept in house arrest at Ooty.
Dr. Besant choose to stay at Gulistan at Pudumand which was built in 1890 by H.S. Olcott, the founder president of the Theosophical Society as his summer home.
The property now renamed Stokebridge Birla House is the property of Gwalior Rayons. A plaque commemorating the historic connection of the building to the historic event is displayed in front of the house.
Dr. Besant designed and unfurled a Home Rule Flag at Gulistan. She also started a local branch of the Home Rule League at Ooty.
Protests broke out across India and abroad condemning the arrest. All top leaders including Gandhi and Jinnah joined the protest. Gandhi suggested a 350 km mass padayatra from Madras to Ooty protest the arrest but the idea was given up due to practical difficulties.
Fearing the spread to the protest, the British declared in August 1917 its policy for “increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progress of responsible government in India as an-integral part of the British Empire”.
Dr. Besant and her supporters were set free in September 1917 by which time Dr.Besant had moved to Coimbatore for health reasons.
The whole of India celebrated her freedom and success. Dr. Besant was made the President of the Indian Naitonal Congress session at Calcutta that year by Tagore.
Besant thundered from her Presidential Chair that, “India shall soon be seen, proud and self-reliant, strong and free, the radiant splendour of Asia, the light and blessing of the world”.
Her dream came true three decades later in 1947 although Dr. Besant passed away in 1933.
It is a proud coincidence for Ooty that nearly a 100 years before Dr.Besant gave the call for Home Rule, a fellow Irishman, John Sullivan, the founder of Ootacamund, had given a similar call at the UK parliament 1832.