As the main issues involved in the Abstention agitation had been resolved, the question of release of C. Kesavan from jail assumed importance. Even as early as December 30, 1935 the Executive Committee of the Joint Political Congress had decided to submit a ‘Kesavan Memorial’ to the Diwan. A mass petition signed by thousands of persons was submitted on September 17, 1936 demanding the release of Kesavan. However, the issue remained undecided for a year. The question of Kesavan’s release was discussed between the Maharaja, the Maharani and the Diwan on September 16, 1937. It was well known at the time ‘that well prepared spectacular demonstrations’ were being planned to accord a tumultuous welcome to C. Kesavan on his release from jail. It was decided that in order to thwart such attempts the release should take place without much fuss and without giving undue importance to the prisoner. The interview note on this issue dated September 17 makes interesting reading and it is reproduced below;-

“Another subject that I wish to bring forward is the question of Kesavan’s release on which I have been bestowing considerable thought after my conversation with Your Highness and Her Highness last evening. The two main aspects to be kept in view are (a) that the attempt must be foiled of having processions from outside the jail and also of having well-prepared spectacular demonstrations, (b) nothing should be done to differentiate the case of Kesavan from that of any other convict so far as the Government are concerned. The tentative suggestion that I put forward yesterday was that Kesavan should be released early morning on the 1st October (remitting the fine) so that it may not be open to the organizers of the entertainments to pay the fine at a favourable moment for the purpose of the demonstrations the result being that Kesavan has to be kept in prison until the fine is paid. If it is paid at 12 O’ clock after arrangements for this demonstration are made, he must be released forthwith and the demonstrations will take place. Notices have been accordingly distributed and elaborate preparations have been made with this end in view. The plan that I suggested is that if Government remit the fine and take Kesavan in a car to some selected place, say his own native place in Mayyanad, he may be released without any fuss. The subsequent demonstrations in Thiruvananthapuram would be somewhat stale and would not differ in any manner from such celebrations on behalf of any political agitator. This scheme undoubtedly offers some advantages hut one disadvantage that presented itself to my mind was that it gives special importance to Kesavan and, so to say, sets him on a pedestal.

Confronted with a similar problem when the Romans wanted to punish Jesus Christ for sedition and disloyalty, they got him convicted and as Your Highness knows, crucified him along worth two thieves in order, as a Roman historian says, to make it clear from the point of view of the Romans that Jesus was not different from any other malefactor.

Pursuing a similar trend of thought it struck me that the release should not be of Kesavan alone but one or two other selected prisoners”.

C. Kesavan was released, as proposed, a week before the expiry of his term of imprisonment. The release coincided with the birthday of Princess Karthika Thirunal that fell on September 25.

- A. Sreedhara Menon
Triumph & Tragedy in Travancore