The Kallara-Pangode Struggle is one of the 39 agitations declared by the Government of India as the movements that led to the country gaining independence from the British rule. It is listed alongside some of the most important movements of Indian independence such as Quit India Movement, Khilafat Movement, Malabar Rebellion, the Ghaddar Movement and Hollwell Revolt Movement by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. It is ranked 26th among the 39 most revered movements that were part of Indian Independence Movement and culminated in the British rule ending over Indian territories in 1947.
Pangode and Kallara are adjoining villages 45 km northeast of the capital of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram. They had been in the attention of Travancore Royal Family and later that of the representatives of the British Raj because the area was known for spice such as pepper, ginger, areca nut and betel.
Kallara-Pangode Struggle took places as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi (M K Gandhi). People from the two villages who had moved to Thiruvananthapuram and other cities for education and trade, and people who had been in the Army, brought the messages of Gandhi to the villages in 1930s. This led to the people’s desire to have self-rule and the need to get rid of the British Raj. In addition, the oppressive rule of Diwan C. P. Ramaswami Iyer as the representative of the Viceroy of India, has accentuated the situation. Soon after his appointment as the Diwan in 1936, C. P. Ramaswami Iyer’s officers and secret police began enforcing stringent rules.
When the revenue authorities implemented a rule to collect more taxes for selling agricultural commodities in the markets of Kallara and Pangode, farmers began opposing it. Initially, the revenue authorities enforced the new entry tax system with the help of police, but soon they found it difficult to handle. People who have been distressed with the oppressive rule of the Diwan joined the agitated farmers and it soon swelled into a large mass movement. Farmers cutting across religions and classes decided not to pay the increased entry tax for selling agricultural produces in the markets.
The farmers under the leadership of Chellappan Vaidyan, Kochappi Pillai, Plankeezhil Krishna Pillai, Cheruvalam Kochu Narayanan Achary and a few others openly defied the revenue authorities and the police in the Kallara Market on September 30, 1938. This led to the detention and custodial torture of the movement leader Kochappi Pillai in the Pangode Police Outpost. Angered by it, agitators grouped and began collecting arms and ammunition to face to confront the police. They blocked the access from Trivandrum by cutting down trees into the roads to prevent any reinforcement of police to the area.
Kochappi Pillai was released the next day following an effective intervention by Pattalam Krishnan, a retired Army servant. The same day, a policeman who was out in Kallara to clear the obstacles erected on the road by the agitators was lynched to death by the mob. In the afternoon, the agitators marched to the Pangode Police Outpost, with weapons including rifles. They started firing at the Police Outpost with the Police returning the fire. In the ensued crossfire, two agitators – Plankeezhil Krishna Pillai and Cheruvalam Kochu Narayanan Achary – died on the spot. Police reinforcements reached Pangode the next day and began searching house by house to locate the leaders who were behind the agitation. The police cracked down on the movement, arresting all participants of the agitation. The case was investigated and tried; sentences awarded within one year.
First and 13th accused in the case – Kochappi Pillai and Pattalam Krishnan – were hanged till death on December 17 and 18, 1940 after the High Court confirmed the sentences awarded by the Sessions Court. A few of the accused were let off and the remaining accused were awarded rigorous imprisonment ranging from two to nine years. One of the accused, Ramelikkonam Padmanabhan, committed suicide when the police surrounded his house.
Following is the list of agitators whose names appear in the case records of Kallara-Pangode Struggle, besides the agitators who were either killed or hanged.
- Paluvalli Abbas Chattambi
- Madathuvathukkal Shankran Muthalai
- Manacode Haneefa Labba
- Driver Vasu
- Khathakan Gopalan
- Panachakkodu Jamal Labba
- Kallara Padamabha Pillai
- Madhava Kurup
- Kochalummoodu Aliyaru Kunju
- Kunjan Pillai
- Paara Naanan
The Pangode Police Outpost building which has historical significance because of its role in the agitation is kept intact as a heritage building, adjacent to the new building from where the police station currently functions. A martyr's memorial is at the centre of Kallara, where people from all political beliefs pay homage to the martyrs on days of national importance. The 75th anniversary of the Kallara-Pangode Struggle was celebrated by the villagers on September 29, 2013 and was inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
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- Kilimanoor Chandran
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