People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 30, 2007
VENMANI MARTYRS’ DAY OBSERVED
ON December 25, 1968, 44 agricultural workers including 20 women and 19 children were burnt alive by landlords. The workers were in the midst of a struggle for wage increase. Later part of the sixties decade saw struggles of agricultural workers rise in the whole of the then East Thanjavur district of Tamilnadu. Strikes took place in several hundred villages in this area. During these days the police shot dead Comrade Pakkiri of Poonthazhangudi village. Ramachandran of Kekkarai village and Pakkirisami of Sikkal village were attacked and killed by the goondas of landlords. The situation in the entire district was tense.
The landlords demanded that the Red-flags hoisted in the villages should be brought down and that the flags of the landlords association should be hoisted in their place. Besides, they said any increase in wage will be given liberally, only if they do this. The agricultural labourers organised under the banner of the CPI(M) did not relent. They organised meetings in each village and declared that it was the Red flag which brought them honour and recognition and they would never allow the Red flags to be brought down – come what may.
Keezha Venmani, a tiny hamlet in Nagapattinam taluk, was chosen by the landlords to attack the agricultural workers. Hired goondas of the landlords entered the village on the night of December 25, 1968 armed with guns, petrol and other weapons. They shot at every person they came across even as people ran helter skelter to protect their lives. Women, children and elderly men who could not run away took shelter in a small hut (measuring 12’ x 12’) These goondas finding that they were all inside bolted the door outside and set fire to it. They poured petrol all over and ensured every one inside was burnt to death. A total of 28 huts were burnt. This incident shook the conscience of the world.
After this incident, the state government announced a commission for deciding wages for agricultural workers.
A memorial has been raised in the same place where the hut was located. This memorial looked reminds one of Jalianwalabagh with people from many parts coming to pay their respects to the martyrs.
Since then, the CPI(M) has been observing 'Venmani Martyrs Day' each year stressing the peasant-worker unity. On this day, thousands of people from various parts of Thanjavur district and Tamilnadu come and pay their respects to the martyrs.
This year the CITU Tamil Nadu state committee has started construction of a memorial for Venmani martyrs just in front of the hut where 44 agricultural workers were burnt alive. This project is to cost around one crore rupees. This would consist of a building with 44 pillars. The height of the building would be 44 feet. The construction work is progressing. It is planned that by next year Martyrs Day, the memorial would be opened.
A meeting was held on December 25, 2007 in Keela Venmani. A V Murugaian, CPI(M) Nagapattinam district secretary presided over the meeting. G Veeraian, president, AIAWU, Tamilnadu unit and Party state committee member hoisted the Red flag. K Balakrishnan, G Ramakrishnan, A Soundararajan and N Srinivasan spoke on this occasion.
Mathivanan, minister of Dairy Development, government of Tamilnadu, Adhiyaman, state president, Tamilnadu Arundhathiyar Association placed wreaths in respect of the martyrs.
V Marimuthu, MLA, G Neelamegam, CPI(M) Thanjavur district secretary, I V Nagarajan, CPI(M) Tiruvarur district secretary also participated in the meeting. Kathamuthu, union secretary proposed a vote of thanks.