Friday, October 25, 2013

Ganapathy’s Execution Echo In India & British Parliament

Indian Daily Mail dated Friday 6th May 1949, reported anger and protest on Ganapathy execution in India and British Parliament.

(My apologies as the copy kept in National Library Singapore was not very clear. But I did my best to extract as much as possible from the copy)

Kamaraj - President of Tamil Nadu Congress

The first portion for the page covered the remarks given by Kamaraj Nadar President of Tamilnadu Congress over the execution of Ganapathy. This could be one of the earliest comments given by Indian leaders on Ganapathy’s death. This may one of the reasons strong protests were filed by Indian government against British administration in Malaya.

“British govt in Malaya have done a great injustice to India by ordering the execution of one of her sons in total disgraced of protest lodged by the Indian authorities in Malaya.” – Kamaraj President of TamilNad Congress.

The second portion covered the news of Philip Piratin questioning Colonial Under-secretary David Rees-Williams in the House of Common on the consequences of Ganapathy’s hanging.

The third news in the page was about shock among Indians in India over the execution of Ganapathy. Definitely the British administration in Malaya kept the Indian leaders in India through formal correspondents over the development in Ganapathy’s case. But surely, Indians in India were not kept informed of the plea for mercy made by Indian people on behalf of Ganapathy to the Sultan of Selangor.

Ganapathy’s Execution Echo In India & British Parliament

It Is A Great Injustice To India By British – Kamaraj Nadar
India Govt. Urged to Protest to Malayan Government

BOMBAY May 5- News of the executed of the Indian labour leader of Malaya A. Ganapathy, was prominently published in Indian evening newspapers yesterday under such headlines as “Ganapathy executed: Malay Sultan ignores India’s appeal”

No immediate reaction was available in the capital but in Madras, Ganapathy’s native province, Kamaraj Nadar, President of the Tamilnad Congress Committee, stated, “British govt in Malaya have done a great injustice to India by ordering the execution of one of her sons in total disgraced of protest lodged by the Indian authorities in Malaya.

Mr. Nadar who to shortly to visit Malaya in a goodwill tour, added: "It is surprising that so soon after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Congress British agents in Malaya should have taken such precipitated action spoil the good effects of the conference”

Feelings Justified

Mr. S.R Venkataraman, member of the Servants of India Society which watches Indian interest overseas, said the execution “justified the mixed reception given in India to the London Conference decisions”

He urged the Indian Government to lodge an emphatic protest with the British military administration in Malaya –Reuter.
Phil Piratin
British Communist Party MP  

Not In Conformity With Western Way of Life – PHILIP PIRATIN

LONDON, May 5 – Colonial Under-secretary David Rees-Williams yesterday made a statement in the House of Commons on the execution in Malaya of A.Ganapathy, a 21-years old Indian former President of Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions.

(Not Clear)
When Mr. Rees-Williams ended his statement Mr.Piratin further asked, “Are you aware that the announcement you have just made will be met with widespread disapproval in the labour movements in this country as Mr.Ganapathy was a leading trade unionist in Malaya? Are you equally aware that this penalty of death for carrying arms in Malaya is something which does not conform with what the Minister has often declared as the western way of life?”

Mr. Rees-Williams made no further reply – Reuter.

David Rees-William
Secretary of States for the Colony

Hansard record between Phil Piratin and Rees Williams 
(taken from

HC Deb 04 May 1949 vol 464 cc1008-9 1008

Mr. Piratin
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the appeal by Mr. Ganapathy against sentence of death in Malaya has been heard; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Rees-Williams
On 1st March last this man, when challenged near Rawang in Selangor by a party of special constables, showed fight and grabbed a revolver which he had in his belt. After a short struggle he was overpowered, and the revolver was found to be loaded with six rounds of ammunition. Mr. Ganapathy was charged and convicted of unlawful possession of arms and ammunition under the Emergency Regulations. Both assessors (one European and one Indian) found him guilty without retiring. His appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed. The Ruler in Council has declined to exercise the prerogative of mercy in his favour, and he was executed this morning.

Mr. Piratin
Is the Minister aware that the announcement he has just made will be met with widespread disapproval in the Labour movement in this country as Mr. Ganapathy was a leading trade unionist in Malaya; and, further, is the Minister equally aware that this penalty of death for the carrying of arms in Malaya is something which does not conform with what he has often declared is the Western way of life, and will he therefore remember what he previously said in this particular matter?

(From Our Correspondent)

MADRAS May 5 – Report of the execution of Ganapathy had been a great shock to the public here since there had been no information at all whether the Sultan of Selangor in the Council had considered the plea for mercy made by Indian people on behalf of Ganapathy and when the plea had been rejected.
His Majesty Sultan Selangor -Sultan Hisamuddin  

Bandits Have No Political Aims - Dr.B.V Keskar

The Straits Times - 9th May 1949

Statement by Indian Deputy Minister for External Affairs Dr Keskar showed Indian Government’s disappointment over information received with regards to Ganapathy’s case.

This went along with Nehru’s remarks stating folly act by the British administration for hanging Ganapathy and refused to comment over his death.

I am not very much agreeing to the statement that the unrest was just “nothing but bandits having no political aims”. I feel that it is wrong to brandish Ganapathy as bandit in the first place, and totally not agreeing with Keskar as there was a strong political aim to established a socialist soviet state in Malaya. Miners struggle in Batu Arang proved this beyond doubts:

In the vast domain of the Malayan Collieries of Batu Arang in Selangor was a "state within a state": "Here the management saw its elaborate controls over a 6,000-strong workforce as modern and enlightened. But it was… most severe. In March 1937, a soviet was established, and Malaya’s principal source of power was paralysed by strikes. It was part of a wave of protest that enveloped the mines and the rubber estates along the west coast, involving as many as 100,000 workers. The Batu Arang Soviet was crushed ruthlessly by 250 police and 200 Malay troops". But this did not prevent the rise of workers’ resistance which became, at one stage, the major base for the MCP.

There was a fall out between the CPM and Ganapathy as stated by Rajeswari Ambalavanar in her book. This was due to Ganapathy was more interested in fighting for rights of workers instead of political gains. But later years, after the emergency was declared, the struggle path changed. Ganapathy may have realized that political gains will ensure rights for workers.

Interesting also to note broadcast news over Radio Malaya where Ganapathy and Veerasenan were branded as outlaws and criminals. Also to note a photograph of light mobile tanks of Chinese Communist.

“Bandits Have No Political Aims”

DR.B.V Keskar
 Dr.B.V Keskar Indian Deputy Minister for External Affairs, who recently visited Malaya, told Reuter today that Malayan unrest could not be described a struggle for liberation.

He described the insurgents in Malaya as “nothing else but bandits, having no political objective.” He did not think the British were using a “Communist scare to suppress people’s independence.”

Referring to the execution of the former PMFTU president, A. Ganapathy for unlawful possession of arms, Dr. Keskar said,

“We are not trying to question the authorities’ right to try him. What we are concerned about is that they did not have the ordinary courtesy to consider our recommendation.

“If they did, they did not keep us informed.”

In a broadcast talk over Radio Malaya last night, Mr. Alex Josey said: “Ganapathy was a trade union leader who turned bandit. He was ganged last week, because, contrary to the law he carried a loaded revolver. He tried to use it when he was arrested.

“Veerasenan was another trade union leader who turned bandit. The day before Ganapathy was hanged Veerasenan was shot dead after a gun battle.

“Both these men were outlaws. They died because they placed themselves deliberately outside the law.”

Nehru on Anti-India Activities

New-Delhi, Wednesday.

Anti-Indian activities in British Commonwealth should “be kept separate: from India’s relationship with Britain, Pandit Nehru, India’s Prime Minister, said yesterday.

Mr. Nehru, discussing India’s recent decision to remain in the Commonwealth said:

“I think it a good augury for the future that the old conflict between India and England should be resolved in this friendly way, which is honourable to both countries.

“I know that much is being done in parts of the Commonwealth which are exceedingly distasteful to us and against which we have struggled in the past.

“That is a manner to be dealt with by us as a sovereign nation. Let us not mix up things which should be kept separate.”


Following his representations to Lord Listowel on Tuesday regarding Sambasivam, who is now under sentence of death in Malaya, High Commission for India, yesterday called on the Prime Minister Mr.Attlee.

Later he called on Mr.Creech-Jones, Colonial Secretary.

It is understood that Mr. Menon conveyed to Mr.Attlee and Mr.Creech-Jones the feelings of the Government and people of India over the case of Sambasivam and pressed for staying of the execution of the death sentence pending a full re-examination of the case-Reuter

(Statement expected on Ganapathy execution – P5)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

R.G BALAN - The Political Head of Indian Section of CPM

R.G Balan was one of CPM Central Committee Members. He was arrested much earlier than Ganapathy. He was arrested on the 30th May 1948 before the declaration on Emergency in Malaya.

According to Prof Cheah Boon Kheng (taken form his unpublished work - Memoir of R. Balan, Vice-President of the Malayan Communist Party)

"In the spate of published memoirs of leaders and officials of the Malayan Communist Party that began appearing following the end of their armed struggle in 1989, the voice of R. Balan, the vice-president of the MCP, has been noticeably absent. English-educated and Chinese-speaking R. Balan was the nom-de-guerre in the party of R. Raja Gopal.

During the period 1946–8 Balan was a prominent trade unionist. He had organized workers on rubber estates in Perak and was a representative of the Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions. In this capacity he helped organize a series of strikes, and the authorities arrested and detained him on 30 May 1948, just before the Emergency Regulations were introduced. In The Communist Insurrection in Malaya. 1948-1960 (London: Frederick Muller, 1975), a semi-official account of the Emergency, Anthony Short describes Balan as an exceptionally skillful and successful trade union organizer who was within six hours of taking to the jungle when he was arrested.

Balan had joined the propaganda unit of the Malayan Communist Party during the Japanese Occupation, editing its Tamil news-sheets and serving as a member of the party’s central committee. After the war, he emerged into prominence as one of three MCP representatives who attended the British Empire Conference of Communist Parties in London in 1947, the other two being Wu Tien Wang and Rashid Mydin. In 1955, while still in detention, he was elected vice-president of the MCP. In 1960, after being held for 12 years, he was released under certain restrictions, one of which was that he should forthwith eschew politics. Since then many friends and scholars had urged Balan to tell his story, in particular to explain what had led him to communism, his experience of the jungle life, his relationships with MCP leaders, and his activities as a labour leader. He began recording his memories in three sessions with me in 1974, but we were unable to complete the project because shortly after those sessions he fell ill and passed away. The truncated manuscript of his memoir then got lost among my papers, and I only found it again recently.

Abdullah C.D., Suriani remember R.G. Balan

When I met them, Abdullah CD and Suriani Abdullah remembered well one of their Indian comrades R.G. Balan who worked underground in Tapah-Kampar area as a Communist Party of Malaya's Tamil publicist during Japanese occupation. After the war, R.G. Balan became a labour organiser until he was detained without trial by the colonial authority on 30 May, 1948 and not released until 1961.

In 1955, while he was under detention, R.G. Balan was appointed a vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Malaya. They first met R.G. Balan in Ipoh immediately after the war had ended and when most of the underground party members emerged as victors of the Pacific War in Malaya.

In  'Pursuit of Mountain Rats', the author Anthony Short who was a former British soldier stationed in Singapore during the early Emergency period acknowledged and attributed R G Balan as 'the great strike promoter'.

According to Short,

"By mid-may 100 police were disposed on another estate in Johore where another big strike was in progress, but the most serious development was reckoned to be in lower Perak where R. G. Balan, a skillful communist union organiser, was running government officers ragged.

Eighty-five strikes were recorded in Perak during 1948 and nearly all of them in the first six months of the year and the most serious of these were attributed to Balan, but the strikes and wholesale evictions of Klapa Bali and Lima Blas estates were reckoned to be Balan's last success when he was arrested on May 30th.
- In Pursuit of Mountain Rats, page 91-92. Published by Cultured Lotus 2000.

John Brazier, the Trade Union  Adviser to Malaya was said to face uphill task to convince the estate workers to return to negotiation table as long as R.G Balan was in-charge of the strike. The British needed to get rid of Balan in order to allow them to persuade workers to return to work.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

PMFTU Denies Ties With Communist - The Malay Mail -17th February 1948

I received this precious newspaper cutting of The Malay Mail dated 17th February 1948, from a friend of mine, Janarthani Arumugam. The paper carried news of 2nd anniversary meeting of Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Union which was held at Lucky World in Singapore. Ganapathy, who spoke in the meeting denied ties with communist. Calling two Singapore edited English newspapers as “author of rumours”, for unnecessarily condemning that PMFTU as “communist influenced” in their editorials.

Note: Thank you Jana, for allowing the news to be posted here

Jananayagam - 5th May 1945 - Ganapathy's Short History

Jananayagam (Democracy) published on the 5th May 1949 carried the life story of Ganapathy on its first page - "Thukkilidapatta Ganapath...