(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 18, 2011
Saga of Golden Rock & the Story of
Two Communist Leaders
I was in Tiruchirappalli
Tamilnadu to attend a public meeting which was unique in many ways. The function had two purposes and both were
equally significant. The meeting was
held on September 5 in the union ground of the Golden Rock railway
in Tamil is known as Ponmalai. On
this date in 1946, five railway workers
were shot dead by the police in the very same ground.
Every year the martyrdom of these five workers
is observed and this year was the 65th anniversary. The second purpose of the meeting was to
felicitate two outstanding leaders of the Communist movement who have
90 years of age – R Umanath and
HEROIC SAGA OF
GOLDEN ROCK WORKERS
There is little knowledge of the history of the working class movement among even the members of the Communist party today. Awareness of the heroic struggles of workers in the early period is confined to the area or state concerned and is not known to the activists of the working class and Communist movement in the rest of the country. The Golden Rock railway workshop workers movement which was well known around the country in the nineteen forties and fifties is a heroic chapter which should be made known to the post-independence generations.
At the September 5 rally, some of the glorious history of the railway workers movement was recalled. The Southern Railway Labour Union (SRLU) was formed in 1918. The central workshop was first set-up in Nagapattinam and it became a centre for organising the workers in the southern railway. Gandhiji laid the foundation stone for the union office in September 1927. This workshop was shifted to Golden Rock in Trichy in 1928 as it was more central. Thousands of workers were retrenched all over the southern railway around this time. This led to the first major strike action – the ten-day strike of the southern railway workers in 1928; an event noted by the international Communist movement. Scores of workers were sentenced to prison for participating in the strike. The Golden Rock Railway Union became the hub for unionising the southern railway workers. Jeevanandam and P Ramamurthi, who later became prominent Communist leaders, helped in the organisation of the railway workers.
The history of the railway
struggle was intertwined with the freedom struggle. The railway workers
participated in all the major struggles launched by the Indian National
Congress. The pioneering leader of the
Subsequently, the union
was led by M
Kalyanasundaram and K Anandan Nambiar, both Communists who later became
prominent leaders of the CPI and CPI(M) respectively.
Anandan Nambiar became the first
Communist legislator to be
elected in 1946 from the railway workers constituency just like Jyoti
In 1946, the workers of the southern railway went on a strike against the withdrawal of some rights. The workers of the Golden Rock workshop were at the centre of the strike activities. On September 5, the police led by an officer, Harrison, attacked the workers. Anandan Nambiar was brutally beaten up and the police fired on the protesting workers which led to the deaths of Thangavelu, Thyagarajan, Raju, Ramachandran and Krishnamoorthy. A memorial for the martyrs stands in the ground next to the union office. The historic strike of the railway workers in 1946 should be seen in the context of the post-war upsurge sweeping the country when there was a wave of working class struggles along with the militant peasant struggles against feudalism.
The railway workers of Golden Rock became the vanguard for a series of struggles of different sections of the people on the eve of independence and the years subsequently. Both Kalyanasundaram and Anandan Nambiar were elected to the state assembly. Nambiar was elected to the parliament in 1952, 1957 and for the last time in 1967. A number of leaders of the Communist party emerged from the struggle at Golden Rock. Pappa Umanath was one such who as a young girl participated in all the struggles of the workers. When she died last year, she was buried in this ground, where the ashes of the five martyrs and Anandan Nambiar are also interred.
The Dakshin Railway Employees Union (DREU) became the successor to the SRLU. It has become a major force in the southern railway and won recognition as a union in a ballot held in 2007.
The September 5 rally brought out vividly the heroic history of the railway workers movement of Trichy.
This meeting also was the
for felicitating two leaders who have spent seven decades of their
organising the working class movement and building the Communist party. Both Umanath and Sankariah are 90 years old
with the former being a few months older.
Both joined the student movement against imperialism. The former in
Sankariah was among the 32 members of the National Council of the CPI who walked out and later formed the CPI(M). Of them, only he and V S Achuthanandan are alive today. He was also a member of the first Central Committee of the CPI(M) formed in 1964. He is at present the chairman of the Central Control Commission of the Party.
Umanath became an
important leader of
the CITU of which he was the all
Both these leaders had their association with the events surrounding the railway workers movement and in organising the Communist party amongst them. Both these comrades are unable to actively work as before, but their spirit and the commitment to the cause is strong and enduring.
It gave me great pleasure
felicitate these two veteran comrades of ours on behalf of the Central
Committee and the entire Party. A
biography on Sankariah written by