2 days ago
For the Communist movement in Kerala, Vayalar holds a hallowed position. Nearly seven decades ago, here in this tiny village and in Punnapra, 30 kilometres away, in October, 1946 workers of mainly coir factories, emboldened by Communist dogma, turned against then-prime minister of Travancore Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer over their rights and the region’s autonomy. While Iyer advocated an independent Travancore, the Communists saw this as a move to align with American and British interests. As peace talks failed, clashes erupted between workers armed with ‘varikuntham’ (spears fashioned out of stems of areca nut trees) and the army of Iyer, consisting of British and Travancore troops. Official figures are not available but rough estimates suggest a few hundred workers were mercilessly gunned down by Iyer’s troops, turning the paddy fields red. The violence dealt a blow to the workers’ strike, but also turned the public against his administration. A year later, Travancore ceded with the rest of India with Sir Iyer fleeing Kerala after an assassination attempt. For the Communist party, however, the revolt became a pivotal point in deepening its base among coir, beedi and agricultural workers, a large segment of voters who were disillusioned with the Congress’ proletariat pitch. Seven decades on, the faith of the working class in the Left remains undisturbed to a large extent in Vayalar.