Attavara Yellappa! A great freedom fighter from Mangaluru who was known as Kubera of the Indian National Army

One name-Attavar Yellappa– of Mangalore, is sufficient to electrify the feelings and sentiments of people Karnataka particularly Tulunadu. This Greta freedom fighter sacrificed everything for the sake of the convictions he believed in.

He was a proud son of Tulunadu. Undoubtedly one can say that Yellappa is to Tulunadu is what Subhaschandra Bose is to Bangala.

Yellappa was born on May 4, 1912  as the eldest son of farmer Attavar Balanna and Venkamma. Yellappa had his early education at the St Milagres School at Hampanakatta and his intermediate classes at the then Government College, Mangalore, which is now titled University College. He obtained his BA (Honours) degree with distinction from St Aloysious College Mangalore.

Yellappa was just 33 year old when he was last heard of. He was fighting the British in the jungles of Myanmar (Burma) in the midst of second World War. After that what happened to him? Did he die in the war? Nothing is known till date.

Today every mangalorean remember him with pride, honor. And his stories move everyone to tears that their hero met a tragic and mysterious end.

Journey to become barrister.

There is a story behind Yellappa’s journey to London to study Bar-at-Law too. when he was in Madras for higher studies and in search of job , he met with an accident involving a British officer. The kind officer sanctioned a huge sum of money as relief. Yellappa after his recovery invested the money to travel London to fulfill his dream of becoming a barrister.

A short lived marriage

On his return from London, he got married to Seethamma. Their married life lasted only for 17 days and Yellappa left for Singapore to join a legal firm.

and fate played its game and his life took an unexpected turn when he came under influence of INA . He decided to dedicate his life for the freedom struggle of India.

Yellappa was virtually the leading financier of INA Government in exile and was hailed as the Kubera of Azad Hind Fauz.

He was responsible for starting the Azad Hind Bank which even printed the currency notes of the INA Government.

Initially the Japanese Government provided financial assistance in the form of loan to INA but the proud INA minister Yellappa after accumulating adequate funds from patriotic Indians went to the extent of repaying the Japanese debts.

However, destiny had something else planned for the proud patriots of the INA. the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the defeat of axis powers including Japan changed the course of the world war, the heroic attack of over half a lakh of INA army on the British forces through the thick jungles of Burma (Mynmar) had certainly sent chills down the spine of the British Government.

And after that war Yellappa was never heard of. through some say he was burnt alive by the Gurkha mistaking him for Japanese soldiers, no evidence exists which can confirm this.

Death of Seethamma

INA’s setback and news of air crash involving Nethaji reached Seethamma. She worried over her husband’s chances of survival. She was in unspeakable pain ND set out to her parents home in another part of Mangalore. However, that was the last time Yellappa’s family saw Seethamma as the following day her dead body was found floating in a temple pond.

Capt. Lakshmi Sehegal remembers Yellappa

on the occasion of inauguration of NethajiYellappa Memorial Hospital in Thokkottu in 1997, Capt. Lakshmi Sehegal who led the women’s unit of the INA army of Nethaji, wrote a letter to Mr Prabhakara Das, nephew of Yellappa.

The letter throws light on the role of Yellappa as a bright star in the history of freedom struggle and his dedication to Indian National Army.

She writes: “Yellappa Saheb was a great man. He gave his unflinching loyalty and dedication to Nethaji.

He was the President of Indian Independence League unit of Singapore—-but was no figurehead. He single-handedly collected large sums of money from Nattukotai Chettiars in Malaya and Burma and also Sindhi and Sikh businessmen. He was able to start the Azad Hind Bank in Rangoon.”

In her letter, Capt Lakshmi also claims that she was the last person who saw Yellappa Saheb before Nethaji left Burma for Singapore. The letter reads: “Nethaji wanted Yellappa Saheb to accompany him but since he (Yellappa) was in-charge of supplies especially given to INA troops in Burma, he could not leave.

Capt. Lakshmi says she also stayed back to work in a hospital to care for wounded INA soldiers. They located the hospital in the deep jungle where there was no military activity.  But the hospital was bombed heavily. Capt. Lakshmi says that she escaped but Yellappa Saheb received shrapnel injuries, which they thought were not serious. He was evacuated and they hoped take as many wounded soldiers with them to reach Rangoon.

Unfortunately they ran out of medicine.

Yellappa developed tetanus and suffered. The Japanese helped them, but before they could take a sigh of relief, tragedy hit them hard.

They were attacked by British and Gurkha forces. They took all of the INA soldiers but left Yellappa and a Christian boy Muthu in a village. May be because he was already suffering from Tetanus and had very short life in front of him.

After a couple of days,  capt. Lakshmi heard that another group of Gurkha soldiers on seeing the hut with smoke coming out of the kitchen, assumed that there were Japanese soldiers inside and opened fire, which burnt Yellappa Saheb and Muthu alive. But they could never get any written records of the incident.

Nethaji and Yellappa, two leaders- common mysterious end

Although Capt Lakshmi’s letter throws light on the life and times of Yellappa, the end of the great patriot like that of his mentor and idol Nethaji Subhashchandra Bose, is still a mystery.

There are versions that Nethaji spent his last years as a Sadhu(Gumnami baba) in an Ashram in Madhya Pradesh.

A mystery

Prabhakara Das, the nephew of Yellappa, claims to have visited the Ashram and confirms that the Sadhu had intimate knowledge of the life and works of Nethaji as revealed in the scribbling and caricatures left behind in the ashram.

Das also recalls that when he was 10 or 12, two Sadhus had come to Mangalore along with a group of Nath Panth Sadhus from the North and stayed in their house for couple of days. Das has a strong feeling that they were none other than Bose and Yellappa.

An anecdote revealed by Das speaks volumes of the patriotic spirit of Yellappa.

Impressed by his academic performance, the then Madras Government offered the post of an Assistant Commissioner without appearing for any competitive examination. but the young Yellappa refused the offer on the ground that he did not wish to work under a British Collector.

No wonder years later by his own efforts he successfully established himself as a barrister.

Subhashchandra Bose too had succeeded in the ICS examination but declined to work under the British regime and instead jumped into the fire of freedom movement.

Both the leaders were considerably rich but they both gave up every comfort and luxuries of life and  voluntarily join freedom struggle. And for Tulunadu to have a leader who walked with Subhashchandra Bose as an equal is a matter of great pride.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth