Venmani Martyrs remembered

Chennai, December 26: 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 ear
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.

This year the CITU, Tamilnadu state committee has started construction
of a memorial for Venmani martyrs just in front of the hut where 44 were
burnt alive. This project is to cost around Rs. One crore. This would
consist a building with 44 pillars and height of the building would be
44 feet.

The work is progressing. The same day next year, the inauguration of the
memorial will be conducted.

A meeting was held on 25th December in Keela Venmani. Comrade A.V.
Murugaian, district secretary, Nagapattinam district presided the meeting.

Comrade G. Veeraian, President, AIAWU, Tamilnadu unit and state
committee member of CPI(M) hoisted the red flag. Comrades K.
Balakrishnan, G. Ramakrishnan, A. Soundararajan and N. Srinivasan spoke
on this occasion.

Thiru Mathivanan, Minister of Dairy Development, government of Tamil
Nadu, Adhiyaman, state president, Tamil Nadu Arundhathiyar Association
placed wreaths to the martyrs.

V. Marimuthu, MLA, G. Neelamegam, district secretary, Thanjavur
district, I.V. Nagarajan, district secretary, Tiruvarur district,
participated in the meeting. Kathamuthu, union secretary, gave vote of

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