Kannur district has played an important role in all the political movements of recent times. The Indian National Congress, which was founded in 1885, captured the attention of the people of this district from its very inception. A district committee came into existence in Malabar 1908. A branch of the All India Home Rule League, founded by Dr. Annie Beasant, functioned in Thalassery during this period and among its active workers was V.K. Krishna Menon.
The decision of the Nagpur Congress to give up constitutional methods of agitation and resort to Non-Violent non Co-operation as a mean of achieving Swaraj, led to widespread boycott of foreign goods. Courts of law and educational institutions in Kannur.
Mahatma Ghandhi and Maulana Shaukat ali toured the district to carry the message of the Non-Co-operation and Khilaphat Movements. The Khipahat movement coincided with the famous Malabar Rebellion of 1921 which was put down by the British with an iron hand.
- Salt Sathyagraha:
- Morazha Incident
- Payyannur Conference:
- Famine and Peasant Struggles
Kannur district came into the lime light of Kerala politics in May 1928, when the fourth All Kerala Political Conference was held at Payyannur under the auspices of the Kerala Provincial Congress. This conference was presided over by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The Payyannur Conference passed a resolution requesting the Indian National Congress to adopt “Complete Independence” instead of “Swaraj” as its goal at the annual session which was scheduled to take place at Calcutta during that year.
Payyannur was the main venue of the Salt Sathyagraha in Malabar. On April 13, a batch of Congress volunteers under the leadership of K.Kelappan started on foot from Kozhikkode to the beaches of Payyannur and broke the salt laws there on April 21. The Satyagraha camp at Payyannur was raided and the campers were beaten up. There were widespread demonstrations in Kannur, Thalassery and other parts of the district and a number of Congress workers were arrested. The district was always in the forefront in Civil Disobedience Movements and all along Congress workers broke salt laws and picketed foreign good dealers and liquors ships.
The period following the withdrawal of the Civil Disobedience Movement witnessed the emergence of a tradical wing in the Keral provincial Congress. Some of the radical elements in the Kerala Provincial Congress organized a Kerala unit of the Congress Socialist Party in 1934 and functioned as a separate group within the Provincial Congress. The leadership of this group was in the hands of persons like P. Krishna Pillai, A.K. Gopalan and E.M.S. Namboothiripad. An extremist group of Nationalist Muslims also emerged within the Congress during this period under the leadership of Muhammad Abdur Rahiman. The Congress Socialists and the Nationalist Muslims made common cause against the Ghandhian group known as the Right Wing which was led by such leaders as K.Kelappan, C.K. Govindan Nair and K.A. Damodara Menon.
A notable development in the politics of Malabar during the thirties was the rise of the Kuslim League as a district political part. It was the Muslim leaders of Kannur and Thalassery who played the lead role in forming this organization.
The leftist elements in the Kerala Provincial Congress were also active in the politics of Malabar in the late thirties. They took active part in organizing the workers, peasants, students and teachers of Kannur district under their banner. In the election held to the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee in January 1939, the Rightists suffered as severe set back. Muhammad Abdur Rahiman was elected as the president of the KPCC and E.M.S Namboothiripad as its general secretary. Towards the end of the same year, a branch of the Indian Communist Party was formally founded in Malabar. The Congress Socialist Party workers joined the Communist Party block.
The K.P.C.C. gave a call to the people of Malabar to observe September 15, 1940 as Anti-Imperialist Day. The action was disapproved by the Congress High Command, but there were meetings and demonstrations all over Malabar on this day. Kannur district was the centre of this agitation. There were violent clashes between the people and the police at several places and lathicharge and firing were resorted to by the police to meet the situation. Two young men were killed in a clash between a mob and a police party at Morazha. In connection with the later incident, K.P.R. Gopalan, a prominent communist, was arrested on a charge of murder and later sentenced to death. But, owing to the intervention of several top ranking political leaders including Mahatma Ghandhi, the death penalty was not carried out.
The “Quit India” Movement of August 1942 also had its echoes in Kannur district. A socialist group among the Congress workers under Dr. K.B. Menon, provided leadership to the movement.
In 1945, at the end of the War the Congress leaders were released from prison. The Muslim League had by this time become a decisive force in Malabar politics. It supported the demand of the All India Muslim League for the partition of India.
Famine and Peasant Struggles
The War period, especially from 1943 to 1945, had its ravages on the district. Famine and cholera epidemic took thousands of lives from the lower strata of society. On the initiative of the people under the leadership of the Kisan Sabha, commendable services were rendered to tide over the crisis.
The “Grow More Food Campaign” organized at Mangattuparamba by the Kisan Sabha was a new chapter in the history of mass movement. More than fifty acres of government land was brought under cultivation. But the government suppressed the movement by force and destroyed the farm.
Though the War ended in 1945, famine continued to haunt the people. Karivellor, the northern most village of the present kannur district, made a historic stride in the struggle against poverty and famine. The transporting of paddy from Karivellore to Chirakkal Kovilakom was blocked and distributed to the people of the village. The movement was led by peasant leaders like A.V. Kunhambu and K. Krishnan Master. One Kannan and Kunhambu became martyrs in the struggle when police opened fire.
During the month of December 1946, the people of Kavumbayi, an eastern village of the district, raised their demand for punam cultivation. A strong police contingent was sent to the spot. The peasants resisted the armed forces which led to the killing of five peasants in the firing.
The rise of the organized working class in the industrial sector was another important phenomenon of the period that changed the course of the anti-imperialist movement. The struggle of Aron Mill workers in the year 1946 is noteworthy in this regard.
Even after independence, the struggles of the peasantry formed an important part in the history of the State. They fought against landlords and their exploitation. Places like Thillankeri, Manayankunnu, Korom and Paddikkunnu are memorable in the annals of the peasant struggles in the post independence era.
The All India Conference of Kisan Sabha, held at Kannur in 1953, resolved to initiate struggles for new tenancy legislations. The movement for Aikya Kerala (united Kerala) also got momentum during this period and all sections of the society rallied under the movement.
Our esteemed visitor Mr. Mohanan adds the following through an e-mail.
Arakkal Kunhiraman Who has suffered two life sentence in connection with freedom struggle – identified as hero of Morazha by KPR Gopalan. He died after the miseries faced by him by British Police and the weakness suffered after a long imprisonment. Without the name Arrakkal you cannot complete the freedom struggle in Kannur.
“One of these days is none of these days.”