P.C. Joshi, Labour Monthly, August 1943
Source: Labour Monthly, August 1943, pp. 251-253;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
[We print here the account given by the Secretary of the Communist Party of India of his interview with the Kayyur Heroes on the eve of their execution. – Ed. L.M.]
We are the most influential party in Malabar. There the Red Flag is not confined to towns alone, but flies proudly over hundreds of villages. An overwhelming majority of our 3,000 members are sons of peasants, and out of them sixteen are serving life sentences, four were awaiting the gallows. When the Party Centre asked me to go to Malabar as its representative for our Provincial Conference, it came as the fulfilment of a long-cherished desire to see with my own eyes Communism in action in our countryside. When the Party Centre also commissioned me to meet and give our last greetings to the Kayyur comrades, also to go to Kayyur and pay the Party’s homage to the families of these four Party brothers, I knew I was going on an errand of honour.
As soon as the Party Conference concluded at Calicut we rushed to Cannanore, covered a rally of 6,000 workers and citizens in the midday sun and amid deafening shouts of “Kayyur Sakhala Zindabad,” motored straight to the Central Jail. For a long distance the echo of the slogan followed us. Krishna Pillai, our Malabar secretary, had announced that we were going to the jail!
We pulled up before the jail gate. It looked like any other jail, and the iron gate was opened for us just the same as everywhere else. We bent ourselves low and passed through, signed up the register and were taken charge of by the jailer.
We went round and round the gravel path, till another small gate opened into the condemned cells. There they were in the first four cells, all standing at ease, pulling themselves to attention, and their clenched fists went up as they said “Lal Salam.” After passing in front of all the four cells I came back to the centre and looked up.
They looked so young and clean, their bodies had grown thin after a whole year inside the condemned cells, but light and courage shone on their faces. The very first glance convinced me that these lads will mount the gallows with a firm step and “COMMUNIST PARTY ZINDABAD” on their lips.
We had carried a big packet of postcards and letters, written in all the languages of our vast land. They were greetings to them written in an informal and intimate manner, by workers, peasants, students, of all ages, and of both sexes, from all over. They smiled broadly when they saw them. The jailer was bothered how he would, get them translated to censor them, and felt relieved when I told him that the English translation of most of them was attached therewith.
They understood neither English nor Hindusthani and I could not talk Malayalam. With the jailer’s permission, Pillai translated me sentence by sentence. The flood of tears over my cheeks, made the flow of words out of the mouth possible, or I would just have got choked up and collapsed. This is the substance of what I told them on behalf of the Party.
“The Party is prouder of you four than it is of any of its members. You came to us when we were mere hundreds. To-day we are over 9,000 Party members and 8,000 candidates. All 17,000, of us vow to you that we will hold high the banner you held worthily and continue fighting the battle you fought so heroically.
“You are dying for an immortal cause, freedom and prosperity for our country, and the whole world. Ours is the cause of justice; it must triumph; you are giving your lives to see that it shall triumph, We know you are fulfilling your dream, not dying.
“You, our beloved four, are being lost to the Party. But it is the work and example of comrades like you that have made the Party what it is to-day. When you joined the Party in Malabar it was a group of young patriots; to-day we are the major political party in your province. All over the country the best sons of the people are joining the Party. Wherever the Party is known, your names are uttered with love and veneration. Patriotic young men and women consider it an honour to join the Party, because it bred young martyrs like you.
“The Party is not losing you, but gaining four martyrs, Let them send you four to the gallows, that we can’t help to-day. But inspired by you four we will win four hundred, four thousand ... new Party Members. This they can’t prevent, this we will work for. And rest assured, comrades; we will win. As our cause is immortal, so is its instrument, our Party. Persecution never weakened, but only strengthened us. Your martyrdom brings not only glory, but strength to the Party. No Communist can desire a better end.
“You are being lost to your families. We know when you joined the Party you accepted the people as your parents and worked to see that no Indian father or mother suffers from what your own did. Rest assured, comrades, that we, all 17,000 of us, will look after your families as our own. We will do all we can to make your parents feel that the Party is their family, every Party member their son.
“To get the chance to meet you has been the greatest day of my life and bring you greetings from the Party you love more than your life. I am going to your village from here and will meet your families. Is there any message for them?”
“Buck them up. Ask them not to worry,” all of them said together.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“You have already said all that was welling up inside us,” one of them said.
“No, no, you must speak as long as there is time for the interview. Comrades outside will tear me up if I don’t report back every word of what you say I have a good memory and I will carry it all back,” I said, trying to smile.
Jailor Saheb began looking at his wrist watch. I asked them to hurry up.
KUMHAMBU, who was in the first cell, began:-
“The Party made me capable of doing whatever I did for the people. If the Party thinks I have done my duty, that is all I ever desired.”
APPU said: –
“You have brought great news of the growing strength of the Party. We will now mount the gallows with added strength. We joined the Party to fight and die for the freedom of the country.”
“We are only four kisan sons. But India’s millions are kisans. We can be hanged, but they can’t be destroyed. This is what has sustained us all through. These letters from all over the country make us feel sorry that we can’t live longer to serve them. We have known no other regret. If we had more lives we would have died over and over again for our cause.” He had taken a leading part in two kisan struggles.
ABU BAKER was in the last:-
“We have drawn inspiration from the life of our martyrs. We never dreamt that we will share the honour of being one of them, Tell all the Comrades that we will mount the gallows, fearlessly. My mother, is very old. Cheer her up. My brothers are very young. Educate them for Party work. I was the eldest member of the family. They have nobody left to look after them.”
The moment he stopped the jailer said that time was up. I asked his permission to shake hands with them. He agreed. Not only the iron grating of the cell, but the verandah had separated us from them. Jail rules!
It was a thrill to go near them and clasp their hands warmly. They had been volunteers, and, immediately after the handshake, they instinctively drew up to attention and gave the Lal Salam with their clenched fists.
Appu held on to my hands a few moments longer and quietly whispered “Comrade,” but no other word came out of him. I looked into his eyes – they were moist. I looked away; across the verandah – there was a sort of flower bed. Without a thought, what was inside me got formed into a sentence. “Those flowers are perishable. You, Comrades, are the flowers of humanity that will never perish.”
Pillai promptly translated me. Young Appu blushed deeply.
When it came to Abu Baker I did not feel like letting his hand go. I thought of the great Moplahs and their heroic past. They had contributed one out of the four martyrs And there are Hindu patriots who doubt the patriotic bona fides of our Muslim brothers. As I tarried, he went on repeating “Lal Sulam, Comrade!” He had a very finely chiselled face and patriotic fervour glowed in his eyes.
As I finished, clenched lists went up again from both sides, and we marched out with much lighter step than we had marched in. We all felt easy within ourselves, brimming with pride for having comrades, like these.
When we were left to ourselves, Sundarayya, who had been silent all through, sunk in thought, spoke “You were supposed to buck them up, and they have bucked you up instead.”
The only answer I could give was “They are our martyrs, they need no bucking up, I am their comrade being left behind. I needed it and got it.”
The car sped its way to the railway station; where we had to catch the train to Charvattur and then go up the river on boat to Kayyur, where the families of these comrades were expecting us the same evening. I will write about my visit to Kayyur next week.
I finished my Malabar tour on the 26th and at Calicut our Madras Secretary Mohan’s telegram awaited me “Whitehall refuses to intervene, date of execution will be fixed shortly.”
As I am writing this, a comrade from Malabar has come with the news that these four comrades were hanged on the 29th morning. The previous night they learnt that they would have to walk to the gallows the next morning. They spent the night singing in chorus patriotic songs and shouting slogans, “COMMUNIST PARTY ZINDABAD,” being the most frequent and the loudest. Not one prisoner, political or non-political, slept that night in the Cannamore Central Prison.
Early in the, morning, 3,000 citizens gathered at the jail, gates demanding their bodies. The request was refused and they were asked to disperse.
Malabar kisans produced immortal sons like these young, heroes. Our Party nurses patriots who take martyrdom easy with a smiling face. We dip our Red Banner to our Kayyur martyrs.
[The Fund for the relief of the dependants of the four Kayyur peasants now stands at a little over £300. The target is £1,000. Donations from persons or organisations should be sent to the Treasurer, Kayyur Fund, c/o Colonial Information Bureau, 9, Southampton Place, London, W.C.1. – Ed. L.M.]