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October - November 2004


Spotlight

Memorial to Indian Patriot: Shyamaji Krishnaverma

On the 15th of August this year, while the Indian nation celebrated its 57th year of independence from British rule, a solemn and unique event took place in Muswell Hill Road, Highgate, London.

As the sun shone bright in the late afternoon , a group of UK-based Indians – men, women and children - assembled at No 60 for the unveiling of a plaque in memory of a remarkable Indian patriot Pundit Shyamaji Krishnaverma, who lived at this address at the turn of the 20th century.



The plaque with the inscription ‘Revolutionary Pandit Shyamaji Krishnaverma, 1857-1930, Indian patriot lived here 1900-1907,’ was ceremoniously unveiled amidst a joyous outburst from the audience.The special red-yellow-green ‘Vande-Matarum’ banner earlier covering the plaque was the original flag of the Indian Home Rule Society formed by Shyamaji in London at a time when such political activity by an Indian was frowned upon by British authorities and targeted by the secret service of that era.

Besides being a relentless revolutionary and a strong advocate for Indian independence, Shyamaji also had the distinction of being the first Indian to be called to the bar as a Barrister.
The colorful Hindu ceremony, conducted under the supervision of Hemantkumar Padhya from Milton Keynes who had organized the entire proceedings of the day, was performed by Ravinder Ranger, UK-based businessman who came to Britain in 1970 and was recipient of the prestigious Queen’s Award for Export in 1999. Mrs Ranger also took part in the ritual.

Hemantkumar Padhya, who has worked for seven years for this memorial, in his tribute to the late Shyamaji Krishnaverma, spoke of the latter’s ‘vision’ for freedom from British rule and his contribution to the struggle for India’s independence. Padhyaji also announced the launch of a special commemorative 60gm silver coin in memory of Shyamaji, as well as a 22-page colour souvenir on his life.

Raminder Ranger, following his unveiling of the memorial plaque, in his reference to Shyamaji said that it was a matter of pride that in the 19th century there was such a dedicated Indian who devoted his life for the emancipation of India and the Indian people from foreign domination.
A vote of thanks was offered to the present owners of the property, Colin McIntrye and his family who, when earlier approached by Hemantkumar, not only readily agreed to have the memorial plaque installed on the front of their residence, but also were most helpful in obtaining the necessary permission from the local Council.

Shyamaji Krishnaverma was born in the year 1857 in the small town of Mandavi in Gujarat, India, and though of humble beginning strove for higher education and became a scholar in Vedic philosophy, international affairs, Sanskrit and English. He was ‘discovered’ by Professor Williams of Oxford University in 1876 who, on his visit to India, happened to be in Bombay and attended a lecture by Shyamaji. The visiting professor was so impressed with the young Indian’s speech that he arranged for Shyamaji to come to England as his assistant!

However, Shyamaji returned to India in 1885 and came under the influence of Lokmaniya Tilak and other revolutionary leaders and the Indian Nationalist Movement. But as the political climate in India at that time became increasingly intolerable for ‘Freedom Fighters’, Shyamaji decided to go back to England in March 1897, studied law at the Inner Temple in London, and became a Barrister.
In 1905 Shyamaji formed the Indian Home Rule Society and became a political activist, setting up headquarters in Highgate. He also spoke at Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner, demanding the ending of British rule in India.

When things became too hot for him, Shyamaji took refuge in Paris in early 1907 before his imminent arrest in London, eventually to land up in Switzerland in 1914 where he passed away in 1930. His wife Bhanumati died three years later. Both were cremated in Geneva, and their ashes were eventually taken to India on 23 August 2003.
As he was hounded out of London, little could Shyamaji Krishnaverma have imagined at that time that a hundred years later his name would be on permanent display in front of Highgate Woods where he occasionally had his evening stroll.



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