December 25, 1968, termed as ‘Black Thursday’, saw the first mass crime against Dalits in independent India, who were fighting for respectable wages under the leadership of the Communist Party.
Image for representational use only; Image Courtesy : Socialist India
P Srinivasan, a veteran village functionary who cremates the dead had, in an interview done few years ago, described the darkening early morning on December 26, 1968, when the bodies began arriving from Keezhvenmani, a non-descript village in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu.
The village functionary, called Vettiyan, who is nearing 60 now, still remembered the number: “There were 42 corpses in all, horribly burnt and mangled. The stench was awful,” Pointing towards the plot of land where they were cremated, he said “All of them were Dalits, burnt to death in a caste clash. I cremated them on these very grounds.”
Srinivasan, then 23-year-old, shared vivid details of that ‘Black Thursday’ in 1968, a day that has remained etched in his mind.
December 25, 2018, completes 50 years of that ‘Black Thursday in 1968’, which is remembered as the first massacre of Dalits in independent India. The Dalits were martyred while fighting for respectable wages under the leadership of the Communist Party. All of these landless peasants had started to organise themselves into a campaign for higher wages following the increase in agricultural production in the area.