There is no parallel for the historical and glorious strike of the Railway workers in May 1974, which continued for more than three weeks. The strike was to start from 8th May 1974, but the arrest of top leaders including Com. George Fernandez, Secretary General of AIRF, resulted in the strike a few days earlier. The entire railways system collapsed due to the strike. Thousands of trains were stranded due to the strike.
The government used all its repressive machinery against the workers. 5 comrades became martyrs. Lakhs of workers were arrested, jailed, dismissed and terminated. Railway colonies were closed, family members evacuated, electricity cut and even women and children attacked. It was a saga of struggle and sacrifice.
P and T Employees and other central government employees in Kerala, Bengal etc. participated for three days, but could not continue due to repression.
8th May 2020 is the 46th anniversary of this great struggle. On this day we remember those martyrs and other comrades who challenged the government and fought for their rights including Bonus!
I am giving below how Com. A.K.Gopalan, M.P., the veteran workers leader, reacted when he was informed of the cruel treatment of the Railway workers and families at Calicut during the strike:
It was during the 1974 Railway Strike demanding Bonus. The strike was to start from 8th May but due to mass arrest of the leaders and workers and victimisation, it started two days earlier. The Central government met the strike with utmost cruelty and vengeance. Tens of thousands of workers were arrested and jailed. Railway Quarters were searched and even the family members were beaten and harassed not finding the striking workers. In many staff quarters water connection, electricity connection etc. were cut. In Calicut, the procession organized in support of the strike was attacked and people beaten and two news paper reporters also badly beaten and hospitalised. It was terror unleashed for the railway workers and their families.
It was at this time that Com. AKG along with Com. Suseela Gopalan arrived at Calicut. He was not at all well and the doctors advised complete rest. When I reported to him about the serious situation, he wanted to go to the railway quarters immediately. Though we tried to stop him going, he was adamant. We started for the Railway Colony. He stepped out from the car at the entry to the colony and told that we will walk. Com.A.Kunhiraman Nair, veteran NGO Union leader and some other comrades also reached by the time. We were about 6-7 people and led by Coms AKG and Suseela we started slowly walking in to the colony through the small road. Women and children who were alone in the houses saw AKG and started joining us. Within a few minutes, it became a jatha and culminated in the school premises inside the colony. By the time, police also came to the spot. Party comrades also reached. A loudspeaker was brought and Com.AKG started speaking. One police official, without knowing who it was speaking, came forward and threatened to arrest. AKG told him that ‘I am AKG and you can arrest me’. The poor policeman was dumbfounded and became silent. By that time, senior police officers came and the situation became normal. AKG spoke consoling the families of Railwaymen and told that nothing will happen to them, and also warned the police officers that he will come and sit there in dharna if the harassment continues. Within a few minutes the meeting was over after Com. Suseela Gopalan also addressed.After this incident, there was a halt to the harassment of the families in the colony.