Skip to main content

"Nothing" has changed 50 yrs on after 44 Dalits were charred to death in Tamil Nadu

By Qurban Ali
Fifty years ago 44 Dalits, mostly women and children belonging to the agricultural families, were charred to death by landlords. This massacre took place on the Christmas night of 1968, an inconspicuous hamlet Keezhvenmani (also known as Kilvenmani), now in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu.
The Kilvenmani massacre or Keezhvenmani massacre was an incident in Kizhavenmani village, 8 km from Kilvelur, Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu on 25 December 1968 in which a group of 44 women and children, the families of striking Dalits village labourers, were murdered by a gang, allegedly led by their landlords.
Gopalakrishna Naidu, a landlord from Irinjiur near Keezhvenmani(Kilvenmeni) Nagapattinam (once part of Thanjavur) and he was the president of the Tanjore Congress Party Area Committee and formed a Paddy Producers Association with Narayanasamy Naidu, a former MLA. Gopalakrishna Naidu was the architect of Keezhvenmani Massacre and killed 44 farmers.
The incident occurred when the landless peasants were influenced by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to organise themselves into a campaign for higher wages following the increase in agricultural production as the result of Green revolution in India.[8][9] The lands were controlled by powerful families, while the labourers were from a Dalit community.
In 1968, the agricultural labourers of unified Tanjore district formed a union seeking better working conditions and higher wages. To mark their union the workers hoisted red flags in their villages, irking their landlords. The landlords formed a separate union with yellow flags and started laying off workers belonging to the Communist unions.
This led to tensions and finally a boycott by all labourers. The peasants withheld part of the harvest as a negotiating tactic. The Paddy Producers Association, representing the local landlords, organised external labourers to continue the harvest. Matters became fraught when a local shopkeeper who supported the protesters was kidnapped by supporters of the landlords and beaten up. Protesters attacked the kidnappers, forcing them to release their hostage. In the clash, one of the landlords' agents was killed.
44 people burnt alive
According to eye witness accounts, on December 25, 1968, at around 10 pm, the landlords and their 200 henchmen came in Police lorries and surrounded the hutments, cutting off all routes of escape. The attackers shot at the labourers, mortally wounding two of them. Labourers and their families could only throw stones to protect themselves or flee from the spot.
Many of the women and children, and some old men, took refuge in a hut that was 8 ft x 9 ft. But the attackers surrounded it and set fire to it, burning them to death. The fire was systematically stoked with hay and dry wood. Two children thrown out from the burning hut in the hope that they would survive were thrown back into the flames by the arsonists.
Of six people who managed to come out of the burning hut, two of whom were caught, hacked to death and thrown back into the flame. Post this heinous crime, attackers went straight to the police station, demanded protection against reprisals and got it. The massacre resulted in death of 44, including 5 aged men, 16 women and 23 children.
Reacting to the carnage, the then Chief Minister C Annadurai, sent two of his Cabinet Ministers – PWD Minister M Karunanidhi and Law Minister S. Madhavan to the site of the incident. He also conveyed his condolences and promised action.
In the subsequent trial, the landlords were convicted of involvement in the event. Ten of them were sentenced to 10 years in jail. However, an appeal court overturned the conviction. Irinjur Gopalakrishnan Naidu, leader of the Paddy Producers Association, was accused of being behind the massacre. The Madras High Court acquitted the landlord in 1975, quashing the Nagapattinam district court judgment awarding him 10 years of imprisonment in 1970, but was murdered in a revenge attack in 1980.
The condition hasn’t changed much over the years. According to a ministry of social justice and empowerment report in 2016, a total of 5,131 cases have been registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act (1989) against SCs and STs between 2013 and 2015 in Tamil Nadu as compared to the BJP-ruled Rajasthan which tops the list with 23,861 cases.
An examination of cases with the police under the POA Act, read with Sections of the IPC, show that between 2015 and 2016, reported crimes against Dalits increased by 5.5% (from 38,670 to 40,801), and those against STs by 4.5% (from 6,276 to 6,568).
Rape and “assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty” constituted the largest number of cases of atrocities against SCs and STs. In 2016, the largest number of reported rapes of Dalit women was in UP (557), while rapes of Adivasi women in Madhya Pradesh (377), Chhattisgarh (157), and Odisha (91) accounted for 10% of all crimes committed against STs throughout the country.
Some of the better known cases of Dalit atrocities, all in Bihar’s Patna High Court, are the Bathani Tola massacre (1996, 21 Dalits) in which all 23 Ranvir Sena accused convicted by the lower court were acquitted in 2012; the Lakshmanpur-Bathe massacre (1997, 58 Dalits), in which 26 Ranvir Sena men were let off in 2013; the Miyanpur massacre (2000, 32 people, including Dalits), in which nine of the 10 accused were acquitted 13 years later; and the Nagari Bazaar massacre (1998, 10 CPI-ML supporters, mostly Dalits), in which 11 accused walked free in 2013.

Comments

TRENDING

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk  More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

RSS love for 'killer' Myanmar junta behind Indian military presence at Tatmadaw Day?

By Shamsul Islam*  If a shameful act means an action which is criminal and nauseating, it would be an understatement to describe the attitude of the present RSS-BJP rulers of India towards the demolition of democracy and large-scale killing of the people of Myanmar by the military ( tatmadaw ) junta which took power through a coup on February 1, 2021 after renegading the election results in which the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, was a clear winner.

Chhattisgarh’s Apra riverfront imitates Sabarmati: 'Devaluing' water, environment

Sabarmati riverfront By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  This year’s #WorldWaterDay (March 22) focus was on ‘Valuing Water’. My school friend, Pragati Tiwari from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, called that day knowing my interest in water matters. We were remembering our childhood days as how we used to play on the banks and the bed of the Arpa Nadi (River) during the summer holidays and as how the river would swell like Anaconda to flow happily during the monsoon.

Bihar massacre on Holi day: Brahminical, casteist mindset behind 'uneasy' silence

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Several people were killed in Bihar amidst Holi festivities, but not much response has come in from the media. The silence of the government and the society as a whole is also appalling. We seek to romanticise these festivals, yet we forget that every year they take so many lives. This despite the fact that Holi appears to be the best time for 'avenging things'.

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar*  India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.

Recalling Jallianwala martyrs' communal amity as BJP 'warns' of Sitalkuchi everywhere

By Shamsul Islam*  The RSS-BJP rulers declare India to be a battle-ground between Hinduism and Islam. Muslims have been declared as ‘internal threat’ by RSS ideologue MS Golwalkar (“Bunch of Thought”, Chapter xvi). Behaviour of many of their leading cadres, including those who hold high constitutional posts, is such that they seem to be conspiring over-time to ignite a civil war between the two communities. They are under the impression that this would help divert attention from failures of the Hindutva rulers on developmental front.