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A.V. KUTTIMALU AMMA (1905-1986)


Kuttimalu was a freedom fighter and campaigner for swadeshi, an active member of the Indian National Congress, twice a member of the Madras Legislative Assembly before Independence, and a tireless social worker. She belonged to the Anakkara Vadakkath House in Koottanad, which has produced several famous women freedom fighters and social workers, including Ammu Swaminathan, Captain Lakshmi of the INA, dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai and the former Lok Sabha member Subhashini Ali. Her husband, Kozhipurathu Madhava Menon, was President of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee and Minister in the Madras State.

Kuttimalu volunteered to be part of the movement to promote khadi, or handloom cloth against foreign imports, in 1930. She picketed shops selling foreign cloth in the city of Calicut the following year. In 1932 during the Civil Disobedience Movement she marched at the head of a column of women, holding her two-month-old daughter in her arms. She was arrested for illegal public assembly and jailed. She appeared before the British magistrate at Kozhikode court where she was ordered to give up her baby, but Kuttimalu refused to let her daughter leave her side, quoting laws to support her arguments. Finally the court had to let the child remain with her even as she was sentenced to a jail term stretching to 1934.

In 1936 she was elected to the Madras legislative assembly, but in 1940 she again courted arrest during a satyagraha and was imprisoned for a year. Some months after her release she was again active in the Quit India Movement of 1942 and was jailed for two years in the Amaravathy jail, Tamil Nadu. Once released, in 1944 she was elected President of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee. She served on the All India Congress Committee and the Congress Working Committee. She also served on the Kozhikode Municipality. In 1946 she was once again elected to the Madras Assembly. She is remembered for her efforts to set up model orphanages to rehabilitate abandoned and destitute children. Her work was deeply appreciated by M.K. Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and C. Rajagopalachari.

In March 2007 a year-long programme of celebrations in her honour was inaugurated in Koottanad, and in 2008 the Kerala government commissioned a documentary film on her life, directed by Melilaa Rajashekhar.
 
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