Kizhoor, situated within the Mangalam constituency, served as the backdrop for a tranquil referendum that eventually paved the way for Puducherry’s liberation from French dominion and its integration into India. Despite its pivotal contribution, Kizhoor remains relatively inconspicuous in the context of Union Territory affairs.
Although the French had already decided to release their hold on Puducherry following India’s independence in 1947, it was the historic referendum held in Kizhoor on October 18, 1954, that catalyzed the French decision to relinquish control over four territories—Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam, and Mahe—to India. Subsequently, after the vote on November 1, the territories of French India were effectively ceded to India.
The prevailing choice made by the House of Representatives and local councils during the referendum culminated in the definitive transfer of authority for these territories to the Indian government on August 16, 1962. This transfer was formalized after the French government ratified the Assignment Treaty through its parliamentary process.
Acknowledging the significance of August 16 in the post-independence era, the Puducherry government designated this date as an annual commemoration known as the official transfer day.
A modest structure stands as a testament at the Kizhoor site where representatives cast their votes in favor of merging with the Indian state. Enclosed within this structure is a secluded room housing important photographs of prominent figures, including India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who played a role in the events leading up to Puducherry’s liberation. Adjacent to the structure, a flagpole erected on August 16 proudly flies the flag alongside a commemorative plaque bearing the names of participants in the referendum.
S. Ravichandran, a resident of Kizhoor, expressed his lament, stating, “The site comes alive only twice a year, on November 1st and August 16th. Otherwise, it remains forgotten, with the museum closed to the public for most of the year, being open only on those two days. Various governments have promised to elevate Kizhoor to a distinguished UT landmark, yet nothing substantial has materialized except for the construction of a basic structure. Unfortunately, no active efforts are being taken to promote the site and convey its historical significance to the younger generation of the Union Territory.”
Economist and politician M. Ramadass voiced his dissatisfaction with the inadequate attention given by the government to Kizhoor despite its historical import. He pointed out the absence of even a flag-raising ceremony on such a momentous occasion, attributing the lack of monument upkeep to the Prime Minister’s absence. Consequently, the area presents an abandoned appearance, and its monumental significance is scarcely acknowledged.
Mr. Ramadass championed the rightful recognition of Kizhoor on par with Puducherry and proposed establishing a memorial akin to the Kamaraj Manimandapam.
In line with these sentiments, Ramalingam, the director of UGC-Human Resource Development Center at Pondicherry University, proposed collaborative efforts between the territorial administration and the Union government to attain UNESCO World Heritage Site status for Kizhoor. He recommended rejuvenating the Kizhoor Memorial through restoration endeavors and implementing a weekend sound and light program to attract tourists. He envisioned the village as an idyllic destination for rural tourism and suggested arranging city-to-village tourist transportation.
Another avenue for development, outlined by Mr. Ramadass, involves transforming Sivaranthagam Panchayat into a model village by harnessing the benefits of central and state government programs. By implementing a village development plan reminiscent of the Kundrakudi experiment, Kizhoor could garner attention and invigorate progress. Mr. Ramadass emphasized that development is intrinsic to realizing the aspirations of freedom, and Kizhoor, pivotal in Puducherry’s journey toward independence, should radiate signs of growth.