1957 Ramnad riots

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The Ramnad riots were a series of violent clashes that occurred between July and September 1957 in the Ramnad district and in southern Tamil Nadu, India. The violence was between Thevars supporting the Forward Bloc, and pro-Congress Devendrakula Velalar, and was triggered by a by-election held in the aftermath of the Madras Legislative Assembly elections of earlier that year.

Background[edit]

The Congress Reform Committee (CRC) was formed one month before the 1957 elections to the Lok Sabha and the Madras Legislative Assembly, and soon began cooperation with the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) of U. Muthuramalingam Thevar. The CRC-AIFB combined contested 59 seats in the assembly election, 54 candidates from CRC, and five candidates from AIFB. There was also an informal agreement with the Communist Party of India, which did not oppose the CRC.

In the 1957 general elections, U. Muthuramalingam Thevar had contested both the Aruppukottai parliamentary seat and the Mudukulathur seat in the Madras legislative assembly. He won both, 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, to counter the bid of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (which had 16 seats) to hold the post of Leader of the Opposition. Soon five independent assembly members joined the CRC opposition group, and V.K. Ramaswamy Mudaliar was elected leader. After the election, Thevar chose to retain his parliamentary seat, and a by-election was called for the Mudukulathur assembly constituency.

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 Devendrakula Velalar began to occur. Initially these clashes were limited to a handful of villages, but after some time the violence spread throughout the constituency.

Events during the riots[edit]

A 'peace conference' was held on September 10, attended by U. Muthuramalinga Thevar (who had returned day before from Delhi), T.L. Sasivarna Thevar and Velu Kudumbar from the Forward Bloc party, a delegation of six representatives from Devendrakula Velalar from the Congress party and Veluchamy Nadar and Soundara Pandian of Kamuthi (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 Immanuvel Sekaran and the district collector, appealed to Thevar to campaign for peace in all riot affected areas but Veluchamy Nadar did not agree. The conference delegates finally decided to give statements independently.

On September 11, Emmanuel Sekaran, a member of the Congress delegation at the peace conference, was murdered in Paramakudi by unidentified Congress party members. On September 13, clashes erupted at Arumkulam. Five Devendrakula Velalar and three Thevars were killed, and their bodies were thrown into a fire. Two of the Thevars and one of the Devendrakula Velalar were women.

On September 14, a group of armed police entered the village of Keelathooval in order to arrest suspects in the Emmanuel Sekaran murder case. Five Thevars were killed in police gunfire. According to Forward Bloc sources, the five were blindfolded and executed.[citation needed] A police inquiry commission later refuted that claim.

On September 16, clashes erupted in villages including Veerambal, Arumbakkan, Irulandapatti and Sandakottai. In the two latter places sixteen Devendrakula Velalar, including one woman, were killed by Kallars. On the same day, the Thevar village of Ilanchambol was attacked by a Devendrakula Velalar mob; the village had been deserted by the police two days earlier. Two Thevars were killed in the attack. The attack was interrupted as Thevars from the neighbouring village of Keelapanayur arrived, driving off the Devendrakula Velalar and killing four people.

On September 17, police opened fire on Forward Bloc cadres in the village of Keeranthai. Five of those killed was Thevars and one was a Devendrakula Velalar. On September 18, Devendrakula Velalar houses were torched in Thandikudi. On September 19, hundreds of houses, belonging to both Thevars and Devendrakula Velalar, 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 gunfire killed five thevars, four in Uluthumadi and one in Malavavanenthall. In Veerambal, Kallar and Maravar stormed a church where a group of Devendrakula Velalar had sought refuge. Two Devendrakula Velalar were killed and a further 32 were injured. On September 21, more clashes occurred, but from the following day onward there were no reported incidents.

On September 28–29 1957, CRC held a state conference and reconstituted itself as the Indian National Democratic Congress. U. Muthuralinga Thevar, one of the inaugural speakers of the event, was arrested just after having delivered his speech. Later, a court in Pudukottai acquitted Thevar of all charges. The Judge who handled the case called Muthuramalinga 'a lookalike of Vallalar'.[citation needed]

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References[edit]