It was on Christmas day 44 years ago (1968), in a gruesome incident at Keezhavenmani, a small village in Nagapattinam district, 44 dalits, mostly women and children, were burnt alive after local farmhands demanded wage rise for agricultural work.
The CPM, which observes the day as ‘Venmani Martyrs Day’, has arranged a host of events at the village to stress the peasant-worker unity.
Recalling the gory incident, members of Communist parties, said that when harvest was going on in 1968, agricultural workers of Keezhavenmani demanded six litres of paddy as wage for every 48 litres harvested.
The Paddy Producers Association, who refused to heed their demand, carried out the harvesting work by engaging labourers from a neighbouring village.
In this situation on December 25, 1968 two agricultural workers of Keezhavenmani were beaten up at a landlord’s farm. After the news about the incident spread, hundreds of labourers marched to the farm and rescued the labourers.
Later, in the night, a 200-strong group, allegedly hired by landlords, marched to Keezhavenmani and torched the huts of labourers.
The inmates of the huts ran out and were said to have taken refuge in a single hut. The violent group set fire to the hut in which 44 persons, mostly women and children, were burnt alive.
The gruesome incident sent shock waves all over the country. This day, December 25, is observed by the Communists as ‘Venmani Martyrs’ Day’ every year.A memorial has been erected in the place of the burnt hut in memory of the victims.
Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI(M), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and other parties will observe the 44th Venmani Martyrs Day on Tuesday at the memorial.
CPI (M) state secretary G Ramakrishnan, District Secretary AV Murugaiyan, CPI state deputy secretary Palanisamy, district secretary Selvaraj, Vivasayigal Sangam leader Balakrishnan, anti-untouchability front state leader Sampath and other leaders are expected to participate in the service.