Madurai Conspiracy Case (1945-47)
Madurai Conspiracy Case (1945-47)
August 05, 2021
A & F Harvey mills was the biggest mill in Tamil Nadu. Its unit in Madurai had about twelve thousand workers and Ambasamudram and Tuticorin units, about six thousand workers.
Madurai Labour Union (MLU) was the only union in the mill which was led by S.R.V. Naidu, a confidant of Harvey mills management. An anti-Communist by nature, he refused to enrol Communist workers in his union. Ramamurti at the beginning did not want to start a rival union. He insisted in the democratic functioning of the MLU by enrolling all workers irrespective of their political affiliations. But Naidu was adamant and resorted to violence on the Communist workers. In 1943, Naidu made an agreement with the management to keep the bonus of the workers in the saving fund. Workers protested against this agreement and 7 Communists who led this struggle were arrested and sent to jail for six months. Left with no other alternative, Ramamurti decide to start the All India Trade Union and it started functioning from the month of October with Ramamurti as its president. Its branches were started at Tuticorin and Ambasamudran also. In 1946, Harvey mill management dismissed 27 workers stating that they worked against the recognised union. The union started a strong resistance movement against the dismissals. The Government referred the matter to arbitration. Ramamurti himself represented the union and argued against the dismissal. During the course of this argument, he demanded secret ballot to determine the representative character of the union and said if his union did not get the majority, he would dissolve his union. During this period, an attempt was made on the life of Ramamurti by the goons of Naidu. He was saved by the Communist workers and the management’s lawyer Barrister P.T. Rajan. Finally the arbitrator ordered the reinstatement of 27 workers, and also to hold elections through secret ballot to find out the representative character of the union. In the elections Communist union won with a thumping majority and got recognition. This victory became a morale booster for the Communist Party in Madurai district and its influence began to spread to other areas. The British Government wanted to curb the Communist movement in Madurai. They arrested Ramamurti, N. Sankaraiah, K. T. K. Thangamani and many others and started Madurai Conspiracy case. The main charge was that Ramamurti and other leaders were hatching a conspiracy at the party office to physically eliminate other trade union leaders; this was overheard by a cart puller who reported it to the police. Ramamurti and others were kept in Madurai central jail. Ramamurti argued the case for himself, and others were represented by leading lawyers of Madurai. During the enquiry, Ramamurti proved that the main witness was a cheat and a case for himself, and other were represented by leading lawyers of Madurai. The special judge, who enquired the case, came to the jail premise on the 14August 1947, on the eve of Independence and released all those involved in the case and severely criticised the Government for launching this case against respected leaders of the workers. Ramamurti and others were released from jail and thousands of workers with red flag who waited outside the jail gate took them in procession. Ramamurti and other leaders addressed a vast gathering.