1957 Ramnad riots

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The Ramnad riots were a series of politically motivated violent clashes that occurred between July and September 1957 in the Ramnad district and in southern Tamil Nadu, India. Congress Reform Committee (CRC) was formed just one month before the 1957 elections to the Lok Sabha and the Madras state legislative assembly. Soon CRC began cooperation with the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) of U. Muthuramalingam Thevar. The combined, the CRC-AIFB contested 59 seats in the assembly election (54 candidates from CRC, 5 candidates from AIFB.) There was also an informal understanding with the Communist Party of India, which did not oppose the CRC.

Background[edit]

In the 1957 general elections, U. Muthuramalingam Thevar had contested with both the Aruppukottai parliamentary seat and the Mudukulathur seat in the legislative assembly of the Madras State. He had won in both cases, defeating the Congress candidates. The combined CRC-AIFB formulated a 12-point election manifesto and emerged as the major opposition alliance in these elections, but could not defeat the Congress government. CRC won 14 seats and AIFB won three. Half of the seats won were from the Ramnad and Madurai districts. Following the election, a joint 'CRC opposition' group was formed in the legislative assembly. This was done to counter the bid of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (which had 16 seats) to hold the post of leader of opposition. Soon five independent assembly members joined the CRC opposition group. V.K. Ramaswamy Mudaliar was elected leader of the CRC opposition. After the election, Thevar chose to retain his parliamentary seat, and a by-election was called for the Mudukulathur assembly constituency.

1957 by-election[edit]

The by-election was held on July 1 and when the results were released on July 4, the situation in the area grew tense. The Forward Bloc candidate T.L. Sasivarna Thevar won the election. Gradually, incidents of violent clashes between Thevars (who generally supported the Forward Bloc) and pro-Congress Devendrar began to occur. Initially these clashes were limited to a handful of villages, but after some time the violence had spread throughout the constituency.

Timeline[edit]

  • A ‘peace conference’ was held on September 10. It was attended by U. Muthuramalingam Thevar (who had returned the preceding day from Delhi), T.L. Sasivarna Thevar and Velu (a Dalit assembly member) from the Forward Bloc party, a delegation of six Devendrars from the Congress party and Veluchamy Nadar (a representative from the Nadar caste). The conference was convened by the Ramnad district collector. The peace meeting was held in a nearby village called Mudukulathur. Initially all delegates including Emmanuel Sekaran Devendrar and district collector appealed to Thevar to campaign for peace in all riot affected area but veluchamy Nadar didn't agree. The conference delegates finally decided to give statements independently.
  • On September 11 Emmanuel Sekaran Devendrar, a member of the Devendrar/Congress delegation at the peace conference, was murdered in Paramakudi. He was murdered at age 33. He was Married to Amirtham Grace and he had four female children, Mary Vasantha Rani, Poppin Vijaya Rani, Sundarai Prabha Rani, Jansi Rani.
  • On September 13 clashes erupted at Arumkulam. Five Devendrars and three Thevars were killed, and their bodies were thrown unto fire. Two of the Thevars and one of the Devendrars were women.
  • On September 14 a group of armed police entered the village of Keelathooval in order to arrest suspects in the Emmanuel Sekaran Devendrar murder case. Five Thevars were killed in police firing. According to Forward Bloc sources, the five were blindfolded and executed. A police inquiry commission later refuted that perception.
  • On September 16 clashes erupted in villages like Veerambal, Arumbakkan, Irulandapatti and Sandakottai. In the two latter places sixty Devendrars, including one woman, were killed.
  • On the same day the Thevar village of Ilanchambol was attacked by a Devendrar mob, the village had been deserted by the police two days earlier. Five Thevars were killed in the attack. The attack was interrupted as Thevars from the neighboring village of Keelapanayur arrived, driving of the Devendrars and killing two.
  • On September 17 police opened fire on Forward Bloc cadres in the village of Keeranthai. Five of the killed were Thevars and one was a Devendrar.
  • On September 18 Devendrars houses were torched in Thandikudi.
  • On September 19 hundreds of houses, belonging to both Thevars and Devendrars, were torched in the villages of Piramanur, Vadi, Tiruppuvanam, Nallur and Tiruppachatti. On the following day police opened fire on a Thevar mob, but with no casualties.
  • On September 20 police firing killed five Thevars, four in Uluthumadi and one in Malavavanenthall. In Veerambal, Thevars stormed a church where a group of Devendrars had sought refuge. Two Devendrars were killed and a further 32 were injured.
  • On September 21 more clashes occurred, but from the following day onwards, there were no reported incidents.
  • On September 28–29, 1957 CRC held a state conference and reconstituted itself as the Indian National Democratic Congress. Notably, U. Muthuralingam Thevar,one of the inaugural speakers of the event, was arrested just after having delivered his speech.

See also[edit]