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Jenmi is the term used to refer to the landed aristocracy of Kerala.[1] In the past the majority, if not all the land was owned by these Jenmis (landlords). They belonged to Nambudiri and Nair caste, and it was not unusual for an aristocratic family to own up to 20,000 acres (81 km2) of land. The Maharajas of Cochin & Travancore and many Rajas such as those of Punjar (Travancore) were well known.[2] Proprietors of temples like the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum controlled by the Maharaja of Travancore, the Koodalmanikyam Temple controlled by the Thachudaya Kaimal and the Guruvayoor Temple of M. R. Ry. The Zamorin Raja of Calicut were also jenmis in their own right owning st least 60,000 to 90000 acres. The title of the land goes back into antiquity and normally ceased its absolute proprietorship and became subject to tax upon alienation.

Today, however, there are restrictions placed on the amount of land one can own in Kerala. [3][4] A token pension is paid to Jenmis who ceded their lands but the Government has refused to do so from time to time. [5]

The largest landlords of Malabar included the Vengayil Nayanar family which owned 200,000 acres (810 km2) including forest lands, which was more than the Chirakkal Raja who owned about 30,000 acres (120 km2).[6] Other major Jenmis included the Kurumathoor Namburidipad (5,615 acres), mavila nambiars (20,000 acres) besides seven forts, Kalliat Nambiar (36,779 acres),[6] and Kavalappara Mooppil Nair owned 47 villages.

Organised Communist Violence against Jenmis[7][edit]

Kayyur Incident: Kayyur is a small village in the Hosdurg taluk. In 1940, peasants there under the leadership of communists rose against the two local jenmis, Nambiar of Kalliat and the Nayanar of Karakkatt Edam. Several people were killed and four communist leaders were found guilty and hanged by the government,(Madathil Appu, Podavara Kunhambu Nair, Koithattil Chirukandan and Pallickal Abu Bakr)being the guilty. A fifth instigator (Choorikadan Krishnan Nair) was sentenced to life imprisonment and spared from the death penalty, since he was under the age of criminal liability.[8]

Mattannur Incident: Mattanur witnessed large scale communal riots between the Moplah tenants and their Nair landlords during 1852. The riots started when an armed band of 200 Moplahs entered the house of the local landlord, Kalathil Kesavan Thangal and massacred his entire family of 18 members. The rioters then decided to eliminate the most powerful jenmi in the district, Kalliat Yejamanan (ruler), at that time Kalliat Anandan Nambiar. However their plans somehow leaked and the landlord fled to safe areas with his family, leaving his nephew Kalliat Kammaran Nambiar to defend the land. Kammaran Nambiar organized a militia of 300 Nair warriors and waited for the rioters. The unsuspecting rioters were ambushed and massacred, and the tenants were forced to abandon their campaign and disband.[9]

Korom Incident: Another historic movement was at Korom village of Payyanur in 1948. Unlike Karivellur, this fight happened after the independence of the country. Farmers of Payyanur Farka marched to the rice-godown of the landlord (jenmi), Aalakkat Mavila Kunhambu Nambiar and took control of it and distributed the rice stored there among them. The notorious section of the Police, MSP (Malabar Special Police) force arrested the volunteers including KP Kunhikkannan, the leader of the "Karshaka Sangham" upon the request of the landlord. To protest against these arrests people marched to the spot where the volunteers were kept under police custody. Police started firing to the procession, which resulted in the death of a harijan youth called Pokkan. Pokkan was the first martyr in Payyanur Farka in the 1948-movement. This historic incident happened on 12 April 1948.[citation needed]

See also[edit]