1940 September 15
Rejecting the protests of 40 crores Indians and without enquiring their views Leopold Amary, India State Secretary declared in the British Commons that India also was a party to the Second World War.
All India Congress Committee appealed to people of India to protest against forcibly pushing people of India to the war without their permission or knowledge.
KPCC, which was then under left leadership, also give a call to protest that day. Kerala enthusiastically headed the call. On 1940 September 15, people came into conflict with the police at Mattannur, Morazha and Thalasseri. In the police firing at Thalassery Com. Abu and Com. Chathukkutty became martyrs.
Even before the call of KPCC to observe protest day, Karshakasangham had given a call to observe protest day against price rise. It decided to hold the meeting in Keecheri in Chirakkal taluk.
On September 15 many peasant jathas from various parts of taluk and workers of Aron Mill marched to Keecheri. A police team arrived there and declared Section 144. The organizers then decided to shift venue of meeting to Anchampeedika in Morazha village not under 144.
All jathas proceeded to Anchampeedika. Police also arrived there. Meeting was banned there also which peasants were not prepared to head. When police lathicharged, people resisted with whatever they got. In fierce stone throwing Inspector Krishnankutty Menon died. HC Gopalan Nambiar died in the hospital. Then police was let loose on people. A case was charged with 36 culprits. In this case K.P.R. Gopalan was condemned to death. Others were imprisoned for various periods. Due to big public pressure Madras Government reduced K.P.R's punishment from hanging to imprisonment.
Subbarayan, a police constable, who participated in police beating at Kayyur fell into the hands of protesters on the very next day. People were enthusiastic to handle him. But leaders discouraged them. The police man was asked to lead the protest march holding the flag. He did it since there was no other go, when he got a chance he jumped into the river and tried to escape. But he got drowned in the river.
Then peasant movement and Congress were strong in Kayyur and suburbs. Police and vested interests took Kayyur incident as an opportunity to suppress revolutionary movement. They charged a case against 61 people in Kayyur and around. Of them the court decided five to be hanged into death. They were Madathil Appu, Koyithattil Chirukandan, Podora Kunhampu Nair, Pallikkal Abubacker and Churikkadan Krishnan Nair. Others were condemned to imprisonment for various periods. Since Churikkadan was a minor then, his hanging was reduced to imprisonment for life. All effort to save them from hanging failed. These five were hanged on 1943 March 29.
They were the first martyrs of Indian peasant movement.
Comrades P.R. Nambiar and P.P. Sankaran participated in the Taluk Party Committee meeting at Onchiyam. It was the time when the struggle against food scarcity and for agricultural land was going strong under the leadership of Mantoti Kannan. MSP was roaring round all the time to hunt after comrades. Mantoti Kannan who worked day and night among people to fight out small pox, cholera and poverty was the pet of Onchiyam people. MSP went to the house of Kannan on 1943 April 30 via Mukkali in searc of Kannan. He was not at home. They went to a house called Puliyullathil and enquired whether M.K. Kelu or P.R. Nambiar were there. When it was said that they were not there, police threatened them. House owner Choyi Karanavar and his son were arrested. It was announced through out the area using megaphone.
When police were requested to release Choyi Karanavar and son on condition that they would be produced wherever necessary, it was conceded. People followed them led by Com. Alavakkal Krishnan. When they entered the lane from the fields police opened fire on them and eight comrades- Menon Kanaran, Alavakkal Krishnan, Purayil Kanaran, Parollathil Kanaran, V.K. Chathu, K.P. Ravutti, K.M. Sankaran, V.P. Gopalan died on the spot and Mantoti Kannan and Kollanicheri Kumaran in the hospital due to police repression. On the whole there were ten martyrs at Onchiyam. When police tried to bury those killed in firing at Vadakara Purankara, people of the locality resisted. So everyone got separate buriyal.
At the place where martyrs are buried a martyr memorial is erected in which their names are engraved making them immortal.
Punnapra-Vayalar is a bright page of revolutionary memories of Kerala. A red signature in the history of Malayala land which marched ahead along the path of blood and tears. Like Telengana, the struggle became the leading light of working class advances. It was a struggle of resurrection of self righteous workers against all injustices of repressive, exploitative state. Capable of determining the directions of history it was also an advance of history.
The life of the workers of north-west Travancore including Ambalappuzha-Cherthala Taluks was consigned to the flames of poverty, hunger and suppression of landlords and their goondas. It was in this period that workers of Ambalappuzha-Cherthala Taluks which were the first industrialized place in Travancore, acquired a high degree of political consciousness.
It was in this background that the first trade union in Kerala was formed in Alappuzha. Travancore Labour Association formed on 1097 Meenam 18 (1922 March 31). The union of workers of Empire Coir Works was formed in order to achieve their demands relating to their work.
Labour Association decided to convince the king in person of the demands pertaining to their lives. The decision of the workers to march to the doors of palace was a lions' roar in the history of Travancore. The regime of the king could not at all digest it. The procession was banned and its intended leader Kollam Joseph was arrested.
Coir factory workers of Alappuzha, Cherthala, Muhamma and Aroor sector decided to strike work against continuous reduction in wages. Their leaders were arrested before the strike. Workers marched to Alappuzha police station. Police unleashed a fierce lathi charge on workers. In the lathi-charge Com. Bava died - the first worker martyr of Travancore.
Coir factory workers of Ambalappuzha-Cherthala taluks started indefinite strike from 1114 Thulam 5 (1938 October 22). Along with the demand for wage hike the strike raised demands like release national leaders and concede responsible government.
In 1946 Dewan Sir. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar declared American Model Government. According to it responsible government will be allowed. Assembly consisting of people's representatives elected on the basis of adult franchise will be recognized. But King's rule will continue. Unchangeable upper house, lead by Dewan will exist. This was the essence of the infamous 'American Model'
State Congress leadership and Communist decided to oppose it.
It was in this period that combined meeting of Travancore Coir Factory Workers Union, Muhamma Coir Factory Workers Union and Cherthala Coir Factory Workers Union decided on 1122 Kanni 27 (1946) to strike work raising 27 demands. The demands included end of Dewan rule and institute responsible government. The Action Committee with Com. T.V. Thomas as convener was constituted. It is this struggle which has found a place in history as Punnapra-Vayalar struggle.
The first incident of Punnapra-Vayalar struggle was the firing at Punnapra. On 1122 Thulam 7 (1946 October 24) armed police reached Punnapra beach. Workers and police were in a mood to fight each other. Police who went there to confront about 1000 workers were preparing to fire on them. Guns of Reserve Police fired at the workers. Workers lying on the grand moved forward towards the police. Some who raised their head got bullet wounds. Some guns were caught by workers. A coconut tree climber Kunhunni knifed S.I. Velayudhan Nadar. Nadar fell down. It was a fierce fight defending and attacking. 27 agitators fell down dead. S.I. Velayudhan Nadar had 196 wounds. 22 police rifles were missing. Next day martial law was declared. Then workers' leaders had to face arrest, lock up suppression and jail lifes.
On Thulam 8 army marched towards Kattur Agitation Camp, 8 km north of Alappuzha. A team of comrades prevented them. Army fired upon them. One fell succumbing to the bullet. Many were injured. Still army withdrew before reaching Kattur camp.
In the mean time Travancore government losing courage had declared martial law in Ambalappuzha-Cherthala taluks. Dewan C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyer took leadership of this. To prevent army moving to the north of Alappuzha comrades of Kannarkadu camp decided to smash the Mayithara bridge in Mararikkulam. It was executed. Army went there and repaired it. That again was smashed. Army fired upon comrades who went there to smash the bridge which was rebuilt there. That was in Thulam 10. Five comrades fell down dead. Many were injured.
Next day was Thulam 11. When there was firing at Vayalar. Army men reached near Vayalar Agitation camp is a boat from their Cherthala camp. They fired upon the agitation camp. Some people there fell down after hit by bullets. Many jumped into the nearby backwater and swam away. It is not known as to the number of people in the camp, how many got shot, and how many died. The reason is that many people in the camp did not belong to that area. It was difficult to get information form those who escaped and those injured due to the police-army rampage in the next few days.
Though it caused a temporary set back to the party in Alappuzha and suburbs, the contribution, courage and people support made by Punnapra-Vayalar struggle to the growth of working class movement and the Communist Party in Kerala are immense.
1946 December 20
A time when rice and paddy were dearer than gold. The landlords granaries were filled with paddy. This would fully reach the black market. The police and the state machinery were colluding with the landlords. The colonial Government unleashed the MSP to suppress those who raised their voice against black marketing.
Karivalloor was also a deficit region. The chirakkal king was one among the big landlords in Malabar.The natives of Karivalloor pleaded to the King, many a times not to take away paddy from Karivalloor. He did not heed to this request and his caretaker came to collect paddy with the support of MSP. When the people resisted MSP fired on them. In that incident Comrades Keeneri Kunhikkannan and Thidilil Krishnan became martyrs. 191 people were arrested on various charges and send them to jail for various terms.
Kavumbai was not a continuation of the sequence of events at Morazha, Kayyoor, Karivalloor and Thillenkeri. Kavumbai was recorded in the history of struggles with the resistance on 1946 December 30th. However with the formation of Kisan Sabha and the communist party, the broad contours for the fight against imperialism and feudalism had been set. Local units of the Kisan Sabha had been established by 1937 itself around Malappattom, Ellaranji, Aruvassy, Payyavoor, Chuzhali, Nidyenga, Chepparambu regions. It was because Comrades KPR Gopalan, Vishnubharatheeyan and Keraleeyanhad been actively involved in the activities that the organization could be established in the highland Farkha of Chirakkal Taluk. The congress communities formed in this area transformed themselves earlier in to activity centres of the Kisan Sangh and later in to those of the communist party.
There had been several happenings in this location which contributed to the gain in strength of the organization in this region. The big assembly of tenants and the demonstration against the decision to levy fine from a peasant from Payyavoor who had cut down a tree from the forest, the big assemblies against the atrocities of the Kaliyat landlord at Bilathoor, the peasants public meeting against the tyranny of the Kottur Village Officer, the educational programmes which were organized at Kavumbai Swami matt-Ellurithi School and Bilathur School, cultural programmes and activities centred around the library and reading room, the attack on the peasants drama troupe at Oorathur, the direct instructions from Comrades Krishna Pillai and AKG, the study classes organized by KPR Gopalan, A.V. Kunhambu , K.P Gopalan, Subramanya Shenoy, Arackal Kunhiraman and R. Othenan, the formation of the volunteer corps and marches, Anti Japanees gatherings, the stores run by the local co-operative societies formed by the local people's food committees organized during the famine, the burning down of the schools at Billiathur, Ellarinji and the reading rooms at Ayicherry and Billiathur, the illegal confinement of the leader of the peasant movement MCR on baseless and false charges-many many historic incidents like these, several criminal cases and false cases were as testimonials of these events- The case against stabbing on the head of Cheekal Kannan the goonda of the local baron, the case that the house maid of the landlord was molested, Malappattom paddy case, Kottoor Pannikkoran case, Nuchiyathu thappumutti case, Malappattom Kattamuri case, Mathur idol burning case, Kayiloor Vanathimattu case and Ellirinji Kattumuri case all belonged to this category.
It was during the defense and resistance activities against famine and starvation that the kisan sabha leader P. Narayanan became a martyr. It was the instructions issued by him to confiscate the paddy, hoarded by the Kalliyat landlord and his supervisor that lead to the martyrdom of comrade Narayanan who was the member of the Irikkoor PCC director board, in the third week of 1946 September. His dead body was located in a well.
The resistance build up in the eastern regions of the erstwhile Kottayam Taluk in Kannur district started with the police firing during the protest day campaigns at Mattannur on 15th September 1940. Even though our comrades survived the police firing a policeman was killed during the resistance. During the period of transition of the congress socialist party to the communist party the call for organizing protest day campaign was given by the Indian National Congress. The protest day was actively organized by the communists. With the death of the policeman a manhunt was organized against comrades and the Malabar Special Police (MSP) was brought in. Magisterial orders banning the illegal gathering of five or more people, organising processions and keeping in possession weapons was issued.
School teachers V., Ananthan and K.K. Balakrishnan in Pazhassi were the key organizers of the Mattannur incident. They were teachers at the Ayyallur L P School. Active workers of the kisan sabha and communist party, they were prominent leaders of the agrarian struggle in the forties.
The Thillankeri village is 8 KM to the east of Pazhassi. One distinguishing feature of all the agitation centres in Malabar is the overarching presence and participation of communist leaders from the teaching community.Kunjappa master from Karivalloor working in Modakkozhi school near Thillankeri and K.V. Chathu Master from Chambad working in the Thillankeri school triggered the legacy of revolutionary struggle in the locality. Two brothers emerged as leaders from Thillankeri- C. Ananthan and C. Gopalan. Ananthan was teaching in Tholambra school. It was during this period that he got an opportunity to join as the Assistant Manager of Thillankeri School which was a more lucrative assignment. He was a firebrand revolutionary full of youthful zeal and commitment. On, May 12, 1948 a gang of goonda elements who reached Pazhassi went to the house of Balakrishnan Nambiar, but they could not get hold of him. They moved from there to Edavelikal the nerve centre of the party. They vandalized the tapioca plantation as in a wild boar attack.
On May 18th goondas came back to Pazhassi. They were brought in the lorry owned by the PCC society formed by Shri V. Ananthan and Balakrishnan Nambiar against hunger. They were on the look out for Balakrishnan Nambiar. They caught hold of him and started beating him up before his parents. He was dragged along the ground to Sivapuram MSP camp. He was beaten up all the way up to the camp. He was asked to shout “Inquilab Zindabad” through the megaphone. When he shouted “Inquilab Zindabad” loudly he got a heavy slap on his face. When he tried to take rest at a landlords house enroute he got a massive kick. By the time he reached the camp he was dead. The dead body could not even be traced. It should have been buried in some unknown location.
Another ghastly incident happened during this period. It was a normal practice during these days to burn down houses and assault families which gave shelter to comrades. The police force which reached the house of Karai Paithal looking for V. Ananthan took in to custody Paithal's wife. Learning this Paithal reached his house and waited for his wife. She did not return till it was late in the night. Crest fallen the poor peasant committed suicide by hanging himself on the branches of a tamarind tree in front of the Akavalloor L.P School. The peom “ The story of the tamarind tree” by Ponkunnam Damodaran is based on this incident.
Two more comrades had attained martyrdom due to police brutality in Pazhassi viz Athikka Unni Gurukkal and Vayali Damu. The Salem martyrs include martyrs at Thillankeri and Pazhassi.
Legendary past of Sooranadu
“There need to be a land by name Sooranadu anymore”. The Chief Minister of Travancore-Cochin, Paravoor T. K. Narayana Pillai made such a declaration about this small village in the northern portion of Quilon District. He was trembling with anger because of the heroic struggle against feudalism by the poverty stricken masses in this small village under the leadership of the communist party.
The landlords in central Travancore were awestruck by this revolutionary upheaval. Peasants and workers in this area were aroused by the strength of the organization and consciousness of their rights.
The male worker was nicknamed 'Kuzhiyan' and the women worker as 'Kuzhiyathi'. Their abode was small hutments. Their daily food was not boiled rice or rice porridge (Kanji), instead they drank 'Karikkadi' a juice made out of boiling rice. Even this was given to them in a tumble made from leaves or a sheath drawn from areca nut trees (Called 'Pala'). This was due to their financial and social backwardness and discrimination towards them. The marriage of kuzhiyan were organized in the night. If the ceremony was in the morning days work would be affected. The punishment for coming late to the work was very harsh. Ploughing the paddy field carrying the plough on the shoulders replacing the cattle was a very frequent punishment. The kuzhiyathi were all the disposal of the feudal lord.
After the second congress of the communist party and the Calcutta thesis, the attacks and assaults on communists increased substantially beyond those in the past. It was at this juncture that the democratic youth movement was formed in Sooranad. It was the responsibility of the Kayamkulam Taluk Committee of the communist party. When Puthuppally Raghavan and Peroor Madhavan Pillai reached sooranad, it was not those among the downtrodden backward classes that came forward to complain about the cruelties and atrocities of the Thennala feudal barons. Along with the tenants of Thennala landlords, the Parayas, pulayas, Kuravas, there were poor Nairs and Ezhavas as well. The democratic youth movement decided to organize a procession in Sooranad. Posters were pasted requesting farmers, youth and agricultural workers to rally. These changes disturbed the feudal landlordism. They brought police from Adoor rousing false propaganda of communist tyranny in Sooranad. It was in this context that there was a massive confrontation of the people of Sooranad with the police and the manhunt by the police.
On 27th December when Sankara Narayanan Thampi, Puthuppally Raghavan and Thoppil Bhasi came for the party cell meting at Sooranad, they were received by a large crowd. They had assembled to report their plight to their leaders. On 30th December, people gathered to catch fish from the pond in the revenue land, they re-established their right of fishing from common lands. Thunder struck by this, the Thennala landlord retaliated by filing a complaint with the police. The next day by 3 O Clock in the evening a big police team under the leadership of an inspector reached Sooranad. They enjoyed sumptuous meal and camped in the landlords' residence. At around mid night they started going around looking for the accused in the incident. Chelakkodan Kunhiraman recollects that the men in the village had camped at a distance in Payikkalil Gopla Pillai's house. The police and goondas started attacking the women folk who were alone in the houses. Screaming of women and children resounded in the locality.
On 17th January Thandassery Raghavan was arrested by the police. His neck was broken and was hanging by the time when the police had finished their questioning in the police station and was returning him to the lock up. The next day morning on the way to the hospital he died. He was first martyr of the Sooranad struggle.17th January is commemorated as the Sooranad martyrs day.
1960 June 28 to July 24
The three party alliance which came in to power in 1960 was purposefully trying to sabotage the agrarian relation bill. Nearly one year had passed after the bill was sent to the president. There were rumours that changes were being made in the bill. It was in this context that the Kerala Kisan Sabha organized a padayathra from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram. The Padayathra under the leadership of AKG started on 28th June. C. H. Kanaran, Panthalam. P.R and Madhavan Pillai were also members of the team. The march reached Trivandrum on 24th July. On 26th the memorandum was presented to the Governor.
The Jatha covered 680 KM by foot and took 26 days to reach Trivandrum. Raising voice against the wrong policies of the Government and echoing the popular demands of the farmers and interacting with a large section of the masses, 35,000 pamphlets were sold as part of the campaign. The march played a major role in arousing and reactivating the masses who had gone in a slumber following the liberation Struggle ('Vimochana Samaram”). The bill was sent back by the President within a week after the Jatha.
It was during the heavy monsoon in May 1961 that 1800 families were evicted from Ayyappan Koil. Their eviction was without providing even temporary shelter for them from the rain or without any arrangements for rehabilitating them. The gruesome act was done by precisely the same people who had positioned them in the forest.
Those who actively participated in the liberation struggle, those who had day and night toiled to bring the three party alliance to power, they were evicted by the same three party alliance government. Eventhough the media gave extensive coverage to the eviction and several leaders came out with protest statements nothing happened.
It was at this juncture that A. K. Gopalan reached the arena and started his fasting. The media spread stories about AKG's fasting and allegations of taking political advantage. But, nobody bothered about the miseries of those who were evicted.
During the liberation struggle the people Kerala had been drawn in to two polarized groups- the communists and the anti-communists. There was a hue and cry that the communist leader was trying to address the woes of the rank and file of the anti communist three party alliance who were affected by their own Government.
The vested interest knew the impact of the struggle. This was precisely why they started with the misinformation campaign. However this did not bring any result. The towers of lie built up by them melted down like snow in the bright sun. Leaders like K. Kelappan, C.K Govindan Nair, Father Vadakkan and P.T. Chacko reached Amaravathy where AKG was staging the fast and later at the Kottayam hospital.
Several Concessions were given to the evictees
The struggle had realigned several relations in Kerala politics.
1961 November 25 – January 5
The Kisan Sabha decided to launch an agitation raising sixteen demands,
1. Prepare a registry of ownership of farmers who do not have titles for ownership of their paddy fields.
2. Create land tribunals- one land tribunal to handle 2000 petitions each.
3. Settle the disputed of ownership of farmer on forest land
4. Annul the earlier title rights on Kottoyoor Devaswom land etc.
The agitators started with picketing in collectorates throughout the state on November 27, 1961. On December 4th Jatha started from Kottiyoor under the leadership of AKG. The members of the Jatha were arrested at Alwaye and jailed. The agitation prolonged.
Minister P.T. Chacko called E.M.S for conciliatory talks. Minister K. Chandrasekaran held discussions with the representatives of Kisan Sabha.
On 5th January, after 41 days the struggle was called off. 75,000 volunteers participated in the agitation.
Churuli – Keerithode
1963 November – December
4000 families were evicted in the name of protection of forests. The newspapers justified the eviction in the name of protection of forests. Gutting down of huts and destruction of household items were staged here also as in the case of Police action every where.
A.K.G came from Delhi. He visited the site of eviction along with E. Gopalakrishna Menon, K.T Jacob, Panthalam P.R and Madhavan Pillai. They went around the site for three days. A.KG staged a fasting protest. The Government tried to defeat the struggle through various means. The masses particularly the evictees resisted. The government had to trace back their stance to a certain extent. A.K.G withdrew the agitation at the instance of E.M.S on behalf of the party. The Communist Government which came to power in 1967 finally addressed the grievances of the evictees.
On January 1, 1970 tenants fenced the 10 cents of land adjoining their houses and started enjoying the fruits of their toil. In Alleppey alone more than 2000 people declared their rights. More than 200 people occupied the Marthandam lake and established occupancy rights.
In this manner one and half lakh tenants established occupancy rights within the first three days. The first act had made a provision only for not evicting the tenants. However in the new act, the right for occupying 10 cents of land around his settlement was given to the tenant. The land owner was bound to give this. The cost of the land was estimated as one fourth of the market price of the natural produce existing. Half of this was to be borne by the Government and balance in 12 instalments by the tenant. If the land owner had land under possession more than the land ceiling the cost of land would be one eighth of the market price of the produce. Thousands of tenants intimated their land owners that they will not pay their lease any more.
“Several people were killed as a part of the farmers struggles. In the firing incident at Alappuzha two persons including a women was killed. Sahadevan was shot dead in Kuttanad. All together 15 people lost their lives in the clashes. Several more were living as if dead due to brutality.” (A.K.G)
The tenancy struggle which was demeaned by terming it 'coconut revolution' and 'fencing revolution' provided new hopes to a large section of the masses.
“The fact that tenants could muster their tenancy rights at one stroke was a unique achievement which no other agrarian struggle could achieve.” (A.K.G)
Surplus land Struggle
The Surplus land struggle was taken up 29 months after the land reforms amendment act came into being. During this long tenure the Kerala Government did not take any steps to confiscate surplus land or action against land lords who refused to give surplus land. That the total land taken over by the government during the period January 1970 to May 1972 was less than 400 acres speaks volumes about the policy of the Government. It was in this context that the Agricultural workers union decided to launch an agitation to seize surplus lands; CPI (M), KTP and KSP gave leadership to the struggle. Massive campaigns were launched throughout Kerala under the leadership of A.K.G, Manjooran and Father Vadakkan.
A campaign procession was initiated from Kasargod. The KPCC and the ruling government unleashed a massive misinformation campaign when Kerala was gradually moving into the reverberation of a new struggle; they came up with the proposal of People's Committees for solving the Surplus land issue. They organised a force to reduce the mass support for the campaign and to facilitate illegal transactions of surplus land by land owners.
The encroachment of the land owned by the erstwhile king of Travancore by A.K.G and volunteers in Mudavanmugal brought lot of visibility to the agitation. The struggle lasted for eighty days. 2.5 lakh people courted arrest and more than 15000 people were jailed.
The agitation bought to the notice of the government surplus land of the order of two lakh acres. “A review of the eighty day long agitation would bring to light that there has been a new awakening throughout the state. Much more than this, there has not been an agitation with popular participation like this; more than two lakh people participated in the struggle. More than 15000 people were convicted. More than 2 lakh acres of Surplus land was brought to the notice of the Government. The argument of the Government that there is not much surplus land in the state was disproved. Last but not the least this was the most widespread agrarian struggle in the state of Kerala” (A.K.G)