Posted by Sandeep Shelke on August 5th, 2011
On 25 December 1968 inhumane gruesome act of terrorism by Landlords torched 44 peasants, mostly Dalits, in a Keezhvenmani village on Cauvery river.
The event and its pre-conditions in simple bulleted format.
- Undivided Thanjavur district has irrigation facilities.
- Undivided Thanjavur district accounted for 30% of Tamilnadu State’s paddy production.
- 30% of cultivable land was in possession of 5% Zamindars.
- Thanjavur district had large presence of agriculture workers. Most of the workers were dalits who were considered slaves by the landlords.
- The agriculture workers were under-paid and under-fed due to exploitative attitude of landlords.
- Due to less wages and worst conditions workers were oppressed economically and socially.
- There was constant struggle by agriculture workers for better living.
- At that time communist party raised a movement by organizing cultivating tenants and agriculture workers.
- This movement was against the oppression and enacted numerous laws to help tenants and workers.
- In 1960s due to war, fall in production and Rupee devaluation by GOI there was rise in the price of agriculture produce and so the demand for higher wages by the workers.
- But landlords were unwilling to pay the higher wages despite minimum wage law. So in opposition they formed Paddy Producers Association.
- The Paddy Producers Association refused to paying higher wages and threatened the others who showed intent to pay higher wages.
- In 1967 Irinjur Gopalkrishna Naidu took control of the Paddy Producers Association and formed a brigade to oppress the workers through intimidation, undertake harvest operations, and let loose terror.
- There was demand for higher wages (i.e. 6 litters of paddy for every 48 litters of paddy production) by the peasants from landlords.
- There was constant struggle by agriculture workers for better living. They were under-paid.
- Upon this demand association brought in outside workers to carry of the harvest work by violating the understanding between disputants under wage accord.
On 10 December, 1968 association threatened workers in Keezhvenmani that theirs huts would be torched if they don’t leave their demand.
- KR Gnanasambandan, wrote a letter to Chief Secretary demanding security to the village labors against the threat by association.
- His doubt realized on 25 December 1968. The goondas of landlords torched 25 huts in the night around 10pm.
- One of the huts had more than 45 workers and it was among the torched huts.
- Few of the workers escaped but the goondas outside threw couple of them back into the fire.
- As a result the inhumane act of landlords torched 44 workers live in the hut which included 14 women and 22 children.
- Ironically the police station was 5Kms away from the village but Police reached only after the incidence.
- Mainstream media downplayed the story supporting the landlords and ruling elites. (So mainstream media is biased since the start.)
This must be studied as a battle of rights in the agrarian crisis. Hats off to the courage and commitment by the villagers in the fight against the oppression and suppression by the landholders. These are workers who laid their lives for liberation of the workers from the clutches of exploitative landowners and Zamindars. We the nation fail to show our gratitude to such martyrs is a SHAME on us. We must remember and celebrate their martyrdom. This wasn’t a lesser act of sacrifice than that of freedom fighters.
A documentary film: Ramiahvin Kudisai (The Hut of Ramiah), was launched in 2006 in Chennai recounting the incident by the survivors.