People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 04

January 23, 2005

Strengthen Workers-Peasants Alliance

Workers March To Venmani

A K Padmanabhan


VENMANI – a tiny village in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu came to the attention of the whole world on December 25, 1968 with the cruel killing of 44 dalit agricultural workers’ family members – including women, children and old men. For committing the “sin” of demanding increase of wages by half a measure of paddy, these 44 persons were locked up in a small hut and burnt to death by the landlords of the area.


This area, which was part of the Old Tanjore district, had witnessed successful struggles of agricultural workers demanding human dignity wages and land reforms. These workers under the Red flag have been resisting the cruel and brutal attacks against them by the landlords. These struggles were always combined struggles – both against the social oppression and on economic demands for wages and land.


The agricultural workers and other toiling people from the present day districts of Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam assemble at Venmani village every December 25th to pay homage to the martyrs, at a memorial built  in their honour. Every year it is a programme which begins with flag hoisting in the morning and concludes with a public meeting late in the night.



This year, the CITU Tamil Nadu state committee, decided to organise jathas (tour processions) to Venmani and conduct extensive campaign among the rural people of the three districts.


It is a fact that the present generation in the state, especially in the Tanjore belt, are not fully aware of the atrocities of the landlords of the area. Vested interests in the name of dalit organisations have been distorting history and stooping to the extent of attacking the Red flag movement as anti-dalit. These 44 martyrs had taken shelter in the hut when the goondas under the cover of policemen had entered the village to attack the people who were on a struggle path. The landlords of the area had formed an association of paddy growers and the attack was led by them. Today, the result of the struggles led by the Red flag movement in this area is there for all to see and understand – the inhuman practices of untouchability and  other oppressive practices are negligible in these areas, while in other areas of Tamil Nadu, they are still rampant. Moreover, this granary of Tamil Nadu in the Cauvery delta has been facing continuous drought for the last 3 years and this year, when the agricultural work started, it was heavy floods which damaged almost all that the peasants had.


It was in this background the CITU, as part of its campaign during the BTR centenary, decided to open up a new chapter, by organising jathas.



One hundred squads of men and women workers representing all the sectors – organised, unorganised and service sectors – from all over the state participated in the campaign. There were 24 squads from state transport workers and 16 from electricity workers.


These squads led by state and district office bearers and leaders of state level federation, including T K Rengarajan, A Soundararajan, R Singaravelu, P Marimuthu, T N Nambirajan, Malathi Chittibabu began their march to Venmani on the morning of December 22 from various districts and reached the outskirts of Venmani on the night of December 24.


All along the route, covering more than 3,500 villages and 5,000 km these volunteers were given enthusiastic reception by the people and various mass organisations. While 3 lakh handbills, published by the Tamil Nadu state committee of the CITU were distributed by the jathas in the three districts, another one lakh were distributed in other districts. More than 10,000 posters were published. The volunteers addressed street corner meetings and public meetings touching on various issues facing the peasants and agricultural workers and rural poor. They particularly highlighted the issues of social oppression, including untouchability; comprehensive bill for agricultural workers; implementation of employment guarantee; compensation to the flood affected peasants etc. They also explained the anti-people policies of the state government affecting all sections of toiling masses and pressed upon the necessity of united struggle by workers, peasants and agricultural workers. The essence of worker-peasant alliance, as taught by Comrade BTR, was also explained in these meetings.


Warm send off meetings were held when the squads left for Venmani from their respective areas. Gate meetings and explanatory meetings were also held in various districts as a run up to this programme.


The AIKS, AIAWU and other mass organisations in the three districts had planned the routes and other arrangements for the jathas. T K Rengarajan, A Soundarajan and others addressed these preparatory meetings.


By the time the squads reached Venmani on the morning of December 25,  thousands of men and women had assembled near the Martyrs Memorial to pay homage.  N Varadarajan, state secretary of the CPI(M) hoisted the flag at the memorial. V Thambusami secretary, Nagapattinam district committee of the CPI(M) presided. The leaders and volunteers paid homage to the martyrs.


Even as thousands and thousands of people from all the districts assembled there to pay homage, cultural programmes and seminars were taking place elsewhere.


The public meeting in the evening was addressed by N Varadarajan, R Nallakannu, (CPI), T K Rengarajan, A Soundarajan (CITU), Sudha Sundararaman,  (AIDWA) and various other leaders from the three districts.


A book containing the details of the agricultural workers struggle from 1940 to 1968 – actually a collection of oral history was released in the meeting.


The news of CITU organising jathas to Venmani has been received enthusiastically not only by CITU members but also by members belonging to other organisations in the state, including those from middle class organisations.


The CITU in Tamil Nadu, has made a new beginning in reaching out to the rural masses with its ‘March to Venmani’, and has resolved in this year of BTR centenary to continue to take up campaigns and struggles on the social and economic issues of the rural masses, spreading widely the message of unity of the toiling masses.