HISTORIC STRIKE OF JULY 1960 (Continued)
After strike, employees reported for duty, but authorities did not allow everybody to join. Many were issued with termination notices and suspension orders. In some places, authorities insisted for letter of regret for strike participation. Officers were showing their true colours. At Cannanore Telephone Exchange, except me, all were taken back. I was neither issued with suspension or termination orders, neither was allowed to join. In the Postal side, leaders were kept out. After a few weeks I was reinstated, but on basis of charge sheet issued, was brought to the minimum of pay scale. The enquiry was a farce, without allowing Defence Assistant and keeping procedure.
Immediate task was to take on bail arrested and convicted workers. Appeals were filed for cancellation of sentences. Within a few weeks, all were got released, but cases continued for some more time.
There were two very painful incidents in Kerala in connection with the strike. Com.Ekambaram, a young telephone operator at Palghat was terminated for participation in strike. He was very much dejected and heartbroken worrying how he will maintain his wife and small son, without a job. He went to Coimbatore, rented a hotel room and committed suicide. In another instance, Com. T.K.Varkey a Postman at Kottayam HPO with about 20 years of service, was arrested for participation in strike. He was reinstated but became mentally too much worried and committed suicide within one week. Unions took up the cases and wife of Ekambaram and son of Varkey were given compassionate appointments in Telecom and Postal respectively.
In Parliament, opposition M.P.s, including Com. A.K.Gopalan, strongly criticised the government and demanded release of arrested persons, reinstatement and cancellation of punitive punishments. Within few years, situation became normal. Recognition of Unions was restored. Many union leaders were transferred. Com.A.Bhaskaran Nair, Branch Secretary, Telecom Class III Union, Alwaye was transferred to Cannanore. He was very active. Later he got transfer to Trivandrum and was Divisional Secretary there as also president P and T Co-operative society. His wife, Com. Bhagavathy Amma, was also telephone operator.
An incident, which happened after strike, seems to be worth mentioning. I was still not reinstated. One evening, along with Coms. C.Sridharan Nair and Muthukrishnan, two of my colleagues, went to sea shore, just below the Fort maidan. There were many steps to go down. Muthukrishnan sat on a bench in the maidan. We reached the rocks at the bottom, which was protruding to sea, only slightly above sea -level. Lower portion of the rocks were broken by continuous strong beating of waves. We could see the sea through the small holes in the rock. The spot was dangerous, but we did not realise it. We were viewing strong waves coming one after another and smashing against underbelly of the rocks. It was rainy season and waves were strong.
All of a sudden, a great wave rolled much higher, smashed against us and threw us in air about two-three feet and felling with a big thud. Strong waves were carrying us towards the end of the rocks while receding. We thought that the end has come. Fortunately, the wave’s water went down through the holes in rocks and before we reached end of rocks, it was completely drained and we were saved. We got up. Our shirts and dhoties were torn to pieces, including the long handed umbrella in my hand. Blood was coming from many pores in the body, due to rolling on the sharp stones. We lied down in the small tanks dug in the rocks for making salt. It was painful, but we knew that the salt water will stop bleeding. When we got up, could see that Muthukrishnan was lying on ground near the bench. We rushed up. He was unconscious. We learnt from him later that he had shouted to warn us of the coming towering wave. Seeing us being thrown, he lost his consciousness and fell.
Went to nearby General Hospital. Nurses applied medicines on our body. Enquired whether we were fishing. Of course, we said, but did not say that we were staff of Telephone exchange. We went to lodge and lied down. C.S.Nair had to take leave for a few days, but since I was not taken for duty there was no problem for me. Our comrades in the lodge kept all this as a secret. Did not mention to anybody.
But however, after two three days later, a report came in ‘Desamithram’, daily being published from Cannanore, that two dismissed telephone workers tried to commit suicide by jumping in to raging sea but was saved by others. No names were mentioned. Nobody took notice, as it was understood that the news was to discredit workers.
Employees learnt many hard lessons from experience. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who in earlier times supported the 1946 P and T strike as also the 1926 British Railway Strike, showed his true colour while dealing with 1960 strike. All repressive machineries of government were brought in to against the poor workers, who were only putting their just demands before government. Ruling Congress party stood exposed with their cadres working as black legs and helping police to arrest striking workers. Workers clearly understood that it was the left parties, trade unions and their leaders who wholeheartedly supported strike. Many of them were arrested and jailed. They are our true friends. Congress government with its proclaimed socialist ideals changed its colours, when real test came. Workers understood that strengthening their organisation was most important to face these attacks.
The strike, arrests and conviction of our comrades, anti-worker attitude of the government – all were an eye opener. I became fully committed to the organisation. Passing examinations, getting promotions etc. was not my path. Examination books, Postal tuition, everything abandoned. Right course was perusing workers’ cause, I realised. (To be continued).
Photos (1) Mathrubhoomi Daily report on arrest and jailing of V.A.N.Namboodiri (2) K.Krishnan, Calicut (3) K.Bhaskaran Nair, Calicut (4) V.A.N.Namboodiri (5) C.S.Nair