An old plea in Parliament that is relevant even now, 57 years later
Vol 3 | Issue 3
A Nesamony, who led the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress, spearheaded a mass movement in the erstwhile Travancore – Cochin State for the merger of nine predominantly Tamil taluks with Tamil Nadu. While five taluks were merged with Tamil Nadu, three including Devikulam and Peermedu went to Kerala. The Weekend Leader reproduces the transcript of a debate in Lok Sabha on the Report of the States Reorganisation Commission. The debate that took place on the 14th and 15th of December 1955, witnessed Nesamony presenting his case on why Devikulam and Peermudu should go with Tamil Nadu. His speech assumes significance in the wake of the renewed demand for the merger of these taluks with Tamil Nadu. (The text has been retained as it is and has not been checked for its grammatical correctness.)
Nesamony (right) with former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Kamaraj (Photos by special arrangement exclusive to The Weekend leader)
Shri. Nesamony: Mine is the sole voice that speaks for the Tamilians of the Travancore – Cochin State. I am the only representative of the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress which is referred to in page -83 of the Report of the Commission. The declared objective of the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress is the merger of the nine predominantly Tamil Taluks of Travancore – Cochin with the Madras State. Those taluks are Thovala, Agasteeswaram, Kalkulam, Vilavancode, Neyyatinkara, Devikulam, Peermade, Shencottah and also Chittoor. Of these nine taluks, the commission has recommended the merger of five taluks, Thovala, Agasteeswaram, Kalkulam, Vilvancode and Shencottah. The claim now remains for the remaining 4 taluks.
Before I proceed with our claim to the remaining four taluks, I would just like to reply to Shri. Thomas who has raised certain points. I would like to dispose of them as quickly as possible because they do not deserve much consideration. (Interruption)
Shri Nesamony: You must compare the Travancore – Cochin Territory with the adjoining Trinelveli District. If he had travelled through Aramboli, he would find for himself that there is a vast territory about 30 miles broad from Cape Comorin to Aramboli which is not obstructed by any mountain.
Then he may say the High Court is in Travancore – Cochi. We do not live upon litigation. When Pattom Thanu Pillai wanted to drive us out of the State and let loose a reign of terror, it was the Supreme Court of India that gave us protection. It was the High Court of Mysore that granted us our liberty. So, I would say that wherever we may have the High Court of Travancore, it is of no avail to us. We had to come to the Supreme Court half a dozen times so that it is absolutely immaterial to us where the Travancore – Cochin High Court is, whether it is in Nagercoil in my own village or whether it is in Ernakulam or whether it is in Kailash. It is absolutely of no use to us.
The reference is to surplus district. From the documents and evidence before the Reorganisation Commission it has come to the conclusion that it is not a surplus district as it is claimed by Shri Thomas out of ignorance. We pointed out to the Commission that on a population basis we have got 6 cents of paddy land per head which would not be sufficient to keep an individual going on for a year. That has been accepted by the Commission and they Nanjanad which is said to be the granary of Travancore – Cochin does not show that it is a surplus area.
Then the next is mineral sands. It belongs to the Centre. It is true that we have got deposits if thorium, monazite, zircon, and other sands – an inexhaustible source but it is not exploited simply because of the difficulty of finding labour for those people in these factories at Chavara.
Thovala has to be given up and our candidates failed – that was an argument that was put forward before the States Reorganisation Commission. Shri T S Ramaswami was the representative of the PSP at that time. When Shri. Jaya Prakash Narayan and Shri. Ashok Mehta came down there they said that it must be merged in Madras. Quotations from his speech and election manifesto were produced before the Commission in which he said that this place must go to Madras and it was in that basis that he stood for election and he supported the merger of that taluk with Madras. When this question came up again in the recent debates of the Travancore – Cochin Assembly, we demanded that these nine taluks of Travancore – Cochin State should merge in Tamil Nadu. It was he who first moved the no-confidence motion on the Pattam Thanu Pillai Ministry though he belonged to the PSP at that time, because they did not keep up the promise and it was the no-confidence motion moved by him, that brought down Pattom’s Ministry.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Now there is a change of government there and all will be well.
Shri. A. Nesamony: No, Sir. I will come to that later. My friend Shri. Thomas, is not in the know of things so far as these problems are concerned. So far as shooting is concerned, what is it that we did? All that we wanted was that the people in Devikulam must be protected against the repression of the police, against the atrocities of the police. We went on a deputation to Shri. Pattom Thanu Pillai when he was Chief Minister – Not I but representative members of my party, who are members of the legislature.
They went to Devikulam and Peermade and made a study on the spot and then saw the Chief Minister. But he scorned and said, ‘Are you coming to dictate me?’ All we wanted was the transfer of a sub-inspector, who was causing havoc there. Then we declared the Devikulam Day on June 30, 1954, to bring popular opinion to bear upon the Government to reverse its policy of repression, The Government did not yield. On the 4th of July, the day was observed in Devikulam and responsible members of my organization including myself and a member of the Council of States and ex-Minister went to Devikulam to speak to our people to see that a calm atmosphere was brought about there. We felt that it was our duty not to act like cowards and run away. We disobeyed that illegal and most arbitrary order, and in the statement issued we said that it was an illegal and arbitrary order and it was our duty to disobey it. I was very glad that people followed us, members of the municipality, members of the legislatures, presidents of panchayats, business men and leading citizens all over to accept that challenge that we set, namely that this repression must cease. He let loose all his engines of oppression on us. The very fountains of justice were polluted, the whole executive, which is absolutely manned by Malayalees, the Police, the Magistracy and the Judiciary were corrupt.
Shri. A. Thomas: Is it proper for the Hon –Member to mention that the whole judiciary there is corrupt?
Shri. Nesamony: I say that half a dozen cases were taken to the Supreme Court of India against the decision of Travancore – Cochin High Court.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: It is rather difficult. Generally no aspersions ought to be cast on judges of any High Court. These people are now building an argument that they do not have any confidence in the Travancore – Cochin high Court and that is one of the grounds for them to get separated. The judges are all honourable, but language seems to weigh not with these judges but generally in the abstract, judges from the area may be different from the judges from Tamil Nadu area. Is that what the Hon-Member means?
Shri. Nesamony: Yes, Sir. The Supreme Court wanted the Advocate General to have the case transferred and tried at Tirunelveli. But he stated that the State of Travancore will not get justice at the hands of Madras as there is tension in Tirunelveli between Malayaleees and Tamilians there. The case was finally transferred from Madras to Mysore, from where we got our liberty and our freedom.
Shri. C. K. Nair: Not because the judges are corrupt but because the feelings were running high.
Shri Nesamony: That is why I say it is corrupt. Having disposed of that matter, I come to Peermade – Devikulam. People speak of mountains and rivers: people speak of colonization; but the human problem is not taken account of anywhere. As I observed, it is because of repressive policyfollowed by Pattom Thanu Pillai’s Government that we disobeyed its order and went to jail. 434 persons including 20 women, were arrested because security proceedings were started against them. You should go and see those 20 women who spent their days in the lock-up with men, 60 miles away from Devikulam – Mooattupuzha and other places. You should interview these women to know how they were treated. Any man of common sense and decency will revolt against it. That is highly revolting – 434 men and 20 women. When these people were arrested and kept in lock-up, we tried our best to bring pressure upon the government to stop it.
An Hon – Member: How did you do?
Shri Nesamony: There is Kerala INTUC and there is the Tamil Nad INTUC. The South Indian Planters Workers Union is affiliated to the Madras INTUC. The High Range Workers Union supported by the Government and the Kottayam District Congress Committee was functioning there. The present Hon. Minister for Labour, when he was President of INTUC cancelled the affiliation of the Kerala High Range Workers Union from the INTUC. It was supported by the interested capitalists of Kottayam and the local capitalists to break the solidarity of workers. In spite of the order of the President of the INTUC, this High Range Workers Union crops up like a mushroom now and then.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: May I know if the House is willing to sit for another half an hour?
Several Hon. Members: No
Mr. Deputy Speaker: How long will the Hon. Member take?
Shri.Nesamony: Such time as the Chair is pleased to grant me. But I would like to have my full say. Probably I am the only person to speak on this from Travancore – Cochin.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Then he may continue tomorrow Thursday 15th December, 1955. (The Lok Sabha then adjourned till Eleven O’ Clock on Thursday, the 15th December 1955)
Mr. Speaker: The House will now proceed with further consideration of the motion moved yesterday that the Report of the States Reorganisation be taken into consideration.
Shri Nesamony was on his legs yesterday. I might remind the Hon. Member that he has already taken 15 minutes. He may cut short his remarks. Otherwise it is difficult to accommodate the large number of members who want to express their views in this House.
Shri. Nesamony: I represented to the Deputy – Speaker yesterday that the point of view which I am voicing would be voiced by me along from Travancore – Cochin and that I should be given sufficient time to explain my point of view. I will crave the indulgence of the Chair also to give me an extension of time, if necessary, if the Chair is pleased to do so.
Mr. Speaker: I believe Hon. Members from every State wish to lay before the house as fully as possible their view points. But that will not be possible within the time at our disposal. Therefore he may just be short. He need not drop any of the points but he may cut short his remarks or arguments.
Shri. A. Nesamony: I was submitting yesterday that the problem of Devikulam and Peermade is a human problem, and nobody has addressed himself to the solution of that problem. I gave instances of repression by the police. I gave the instance of the starting of the High Range Workers’ Union, even though the president of INTUC cancelled its affiliation to the INTUC. I say that this organization will crop up like mushrooms at every election to break the solidarity of the South India Plantation Workers’ Union which vindicated the stand of TTNC and its objective.
In the two taluks of Devikulam and Peermade, there is only one High School. That was started by the Kannan Devan Hill Products Co., and it is managed by them, There are about 300 boys belonging to the Scheduled Castes and hill tribes who enjoyed all fee concessions upto May 1954. From this year those concessions are denied to those boys. These boys will have to discontinue their studies if these concessions are denied to them. It is a matter of serious import to the 63, 000 and odd Scheduled Caste people who inhabit that area because it concerns their next generation. In spite of all the efforts that this government is making to ameliorate their condition, the Travancore – Cochin Government is not prepared to help them, the next generation of the Scheduled Castes. Instances can be multiplied even upto the present moment.
(Sardar Hukum Singh in the Chair)
From reports that we are getting – both from the papers and otherwise the policy of repression and discrimination continues throughout Devikulam and Peermade. I am not going to multiply instances because the time at my disposal is very short, but the will of the people of Devikulam and Peermade, as successive elections have demonstrated, is that the area must merge with the Madras State.
During question hour in the Madras Legislative Assembly, Shri C Subramanyam, Finance Minister, Madras Government, stated that the Madras Government had submitted a memorandum to the States Reorganisation Commission demanding the merger of the 9 predominantly Tamil taluks including Devikulam, Peermade with the Madras State. Shri. Pattom Thanu Pillai, who was then the Chief Minister of Travancore Cochin stated at Ernakulam at a public meeting that if there were no Central government – the Government of India – Shri Kamaraj Nadar and Shri Subramaniyam would have invaded Travancore – Cochin. That was the attitude that was taken up by the Travancore – Cochin Government when the Madras State made a demand that these predominantly Tamil areas merge with Madras.
Now what is this demand? It is now interpreted to be a monstrous demand, opposed to all facts and history. I would just like to mention that this area did not form part of Travancore – Cochin Legislative Assembly…. The historian of the Tavancore – Cochin State says that the Raja of Punjar was the descendant of the Pandyan kings and that he used to sign as Meenakshi Sundaram. It is in evidence that tax was being collected by the Raja of Punjar through petty Chieftains called Manadirs, and receipts had been used under the seal of Madurai Meenakshi Thunai. So this area had been under the sway of the Naiks of Madurai, under the Pandyan kings, and it had never been a Territory of Travancore till 1889. The precursors of the modern KDHP – Kannan Devan Hill Product Company – when they first entered into an agreement, executed the agreement with the Raja of Punjar. That was in 1879. The Secretary of State for India when he executed the agreement on behalf of the Periya Lake Project executed it in favour of the Maharaja of Travancore. When the agreement was renewed and the lease was extended in 1889, it was executed in favour of the Maharaja of Travancore. So it is clear that during the period 1879 -1889 this change took place. It is said that the Maharaja of Travancore got it on lease from the Raja of Punjar. Whatever that may be till 1935 there was absolutely no access from the Travancore area to this area of Devikulam and Peermade. It is borne out by the Census Report of 1951, that this area approachable from the Madurai district through the passes of Thevaram, Kudalur, Kumli, Bodinayakkanur, Kambam and Shivagiri. These are the passes through which trade flowed. That is admitted. As it formed part of Madras State, these people came and settled there and have now their habitation there.
Nesamony, a top lawyer in those days, was a three time MP. He is with his wife
The Commission has stated that the population there is migrating, that it is a floating population. I say it is not stated as to who stated that view point before the Commission. It is not stated how they got the figures whereas in the case of other matters they have indicated such and such State or such and such organizations have stated a certain view point. We are led to believe that interested capitalists who make themselves rich by the labour of this population, and the anti Tamil Praja – Socialist Government, which was then in power in Travancore – Cochin might have submitted these things to the Commission. They say that this will relieve congestion in the littoral area. The area of the Kerala State has now been increased. It is 14, 080 sq miles. The area of Travancore – Cochin is 9, 154 sq miles and more that 5, 000 sq miles of territory is being added to this area. There is no room for colonization of Devikulam and Peermade. In the northern portion of Devikulam is Anjanad.
This Anjanad consists of the villages of Maraiyur, Kizhanthur, Kottakomber, Vattavada, Kanthalur and Nachivayal consisting of 112 sq miles, and the KDHP Company 215 sq miles, the Cardamon area 215 sq miles, the Game Sanctuary 305 sq miles and the tea gardens 97 sq miles and the Periyar lake has water – spread area of 13 sq miles, the Catchment area being 305 sq miles and that constitutes the Game sanctuary as well. It is a very small area of forests and the grass land that remains and so the argument that the people living in the littoral area will be relieved of congestion is absolutely unfounded. On the other hand, the PSP Government started a colonization scheme in Maraiyur in Anjanad with the evident intention of ousting the Tamil population from there. The same government started a colonization in the cardamom area with the intention of ousting the Tamil people there – at Kallar – so that all these things have been doen with the idea of ousting the Tamilians and that has been made clear on the floor of the Legislative Assembly by the then Chief Minister, when he said, “If that programme of the PSP Government had been pushed through Shr Kamaraj Nadar would not have claimed these for Madras.” That was the attitude of the Praja Socialist Government then in power. It did not stop with that. In the debate on the States Reorganisation Commission’s Report in the Travancore – Cochin Legislative Assembly, Shri Pattom Thanu Pillai had said that the labourers from Madurai must be stopped, not now, but for ever, because the Malayalees and the people from Travancore – Cochin must secure work there. That is the attitude that prompted them to demand the Devikulam and Peermade taluks.
Now, I would just refer to what made these protagonists of Aikya Kerala to start this movement for Aikya Kerala. Our Hon. friend Shri. Kelappan, as President of the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee and the Aikya Kerala Committee presented a memorandum or an exemplary note on the answers to the questionnaire of the Linguistic Provinces Commission. I will refer to a certain passage which will show the animosity that dominated the Keralites at that time against the Tamilians.
“The multi – lingual miscellany called the madras Province will have to be liquidated. It is a mere accident of British Indian history. It was never meant as an area for Parliamentary Self Government. Its recent history must teach us the lesson that Parliamentary autonomy ill suits its incongruous being. The competition among the linguistic groups transcends all part alignments and endangers its efficiency and usefulness. A Tamilian majority cannot continue for all time to be the arbiter of the destinies of the people of Kerala.”
It is that spirit that dominates the colonization scheme that dominated the request that was made that Peermade and Devikulam must go to Kerala State. It is said that Kerala would not be a viable State, if Devikulam and peermade are taken away. It will be a deficit state or economically backward. In the Five Year Plan that is now proposed for Travancore – Cochin State the revenue surplus for the coming five years is estimated at Rs. 14. 7 crores. I say that the anticipated deficit or the statement that it will not be viable is absolutely unfounded. It is said by the Commission that the Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress granted that the two pakuthis – especially this area – are absolutely necessary for the economic well-being of this place. May I be permitted just to quote a line or a few sentences from the memorandum which was submitted to the States Reorganisation Commission which has now turned out to be an argument against us?
“The Assembly Constituency of Devikulam comprises the whole of Devikulam Taluk except Pallivasal Pakuthy where the Hydro – Electric Works are located. It comprises also the whole of Peermade Taluk except Peruvanthanam Pakuthy which includes the township of Mundakayam and the rubber estates owned by Syrian Christians mostly. The Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress has no objection to exclude these two pakuthis from the area that is now sought to be merged with the Madras State for purpose of a settlement.”
This passage is now being taken hold of by the States Reorganisation Commission and that is being used as an argument against us to say that we have more or less granted that this area is absolutely necessary for the economic development of the proposed Kerala State. I submit that it is twisting of the facts that we have put forward before the Commission. This area is absolutely necessary for the development of the projects of the Madras State.
As I submitted, the Periyar Dam has 13 sq miles of water spread area plus a catchment area of 305 sq miles. It becomes an absolute necessity for Madras because it pays a royalty for the waters that have been impounded at the Periyar lake to irrigate 190 thousand acres of paddy land in the Madurai District. The Government of Madras wanted to start a Hydro –electric project in the Periyar headworks near Peryakulam but the Praja Socialist Government in charge at the time would not give them sanction unless they paid another royalty for the Periyar Hydro electric scheme to be laid at Peryakulam. There are two other Schemes which are to be included in the Second Five Year Plan of the Madras government - the Alady Dam, Upper Periyar Project at an estimated cost Rs. 7.75 crore and the Pambaiyar Scheme at an estimated cost of Rs. 14.5 crore and the Periyar hydro electric project for which the foundation stone has been laid is estimated to cost Rs. 7. 98 crore. There is yet another project, the Parambikulam Upper Alayar project or to make a survey and for the site to put up a dam within the Madras territory itself. I find on the other hand the Travancore – Cochin Government has absolutely no scheme included in the Second Five Year Plan for the development of the waters of any of the streams that are flowing down from this area. Therefore, it is an actual necessity for the Madras State and I submit that these two taluks should be merged with the Madras State.
There are two other taluks which I have mentioned, the Chittoor taluk which is an enclave within Coimbatore District in the Madras State. Claim is made for this taluk on behalf of the villages which border the Coimbatore District; and it is now being proposed to be part of Kerala.
So far as Neyyatinkara is concerned, there is one Assembly constituency where our candidate has been elected and he represents us. We have constituted Panchayats in various villages. We challenged the correctness of the 1951 Census figures. We tried to educate our people to make proper enumeration when our leaders were arrested and a case was launched under the Police Act. That is the way Government has been dealing with that area and I therefore submit that these taluks should be merged with the Madras State.
Finally, it is the human problem in this area that we want to be considered in this matter. You go and ask the tea bushes of the Devikulam taluk and they will tell you how they were planted by the tender fingers of the Tamilians fed by the bones and ashes of their ancestors, nurtured by the blood of the Tamilians and watered by the sweat of their brow. They would say that this is Tamil Nad. So far as the Southern taluks are concerned, my friend, Shri Thomas, was saying that Thovala did not return a Travancore Tamil Nad Congress member but the fact is that the candidate set up by the Travancore Tamil Nad Congress from the Nagercoil constituency, which includes Thovala, was returned as a member to Lok Sabha with a thumping majority and I can say that my friend has not a candidate to put up for that area as against the Tamil Nad Congress Candidate. So it is a human problem and I request the House to take note of it and take a decision consonant with the true facts of the case.
Shri A Thomas: Wanted to tell the Tamil people that they have got the benefits of a High Court, better facilities for Education etc..
We want Kerala and when Kerala will be formed, the Tamil speaking areas will have the right to go to Madras.