Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 25 : Venmani Martyrs Day

On 25 th December 1968, 44 agricultural workers including 20 women and 19 children were burnt alive. They were in the midst of a struggle for wage increase. Later part of nineteen sixties
saw struggles of agricultural workers in the whole of the then East Thanjavur District. 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. Situation was thus tense in the district as a whole.

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, if they do this. The agricultural labourers organized under the banner of CPI(M) did not relent. They organized 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 to attack the agricultural workers by the landlords. Hired goondas of the landlords entered the village on 25.12.1968 at 8.30 p.m. with guns, petrol and other weapons. They shot at all people there and everyone ran away 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. Totally 28 huts were burnt. This incident shook the conscience of the world.

After this incident, the government announced a commission for deciding wages for agricultural workers. A memorial has been raised in the same place where the hut was situated. This memorial looked like one at Jalianwalabagh. The people used to come and pay their respects to the martyrs. Since then, the CPI(M) has been observed a Venmani Martyrs Day each year stressing the peasant – worker unity. On this day, thousands of people from various parts of Thanjavur district and Tamilnadu used to come and pay their respects to the martyrs.

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