We had a clear understanding on the issue of Andhra nationality and we did whatever was possible to manifest the unity. Later on, when I showed that document to Rajya Sabha chairman S Radhakrishnan he said it projected a very good imaginative picture of the situation in Andhra and Telangana. Similarly, Raghavendra Rao, who later became a High Court judge in Madhya Pradesh, appreciated the picture that was given in the document. That was all about our first manifesto.
Before taking a look at the Telangana struggle, I would like to mention one fact. Immediately after the post-war upheaval, there were a series of struggles in Andhra, especially the Challapalli peasant struggle. There was a general upsurge of the peasantry at all the places. In such a situation, the question that came up before us was whether or not we should occupy the lands of the zamindars. That issue was taken up for discussion even while we continued with the peasant struggles. Similarly, while intensifying various struggles in the Telangana region, we called for a concerted and a united effort to overthrow the Nizam government. Previously, we had mooted the proposal for an interim government with equal representation to Muslims and non-Muslims under the supervision of the Nizam himself. With our new slogan ‘Overthrow Nizam Government’, we mobilised people on a large scale in 1945 without giving any scope for eviction. We demanded that ownership of the land should be transferred to the tiller and that the practice of bonded labour should be put an end to. In the same year, the membership of the Andhra Mahasabha reached a staggering total of over one lakh. The Mahasabha had a strong support base in Nalgonda, Warangal, Khammam and Karimnagar. There were a number of struggles resisting the domination of the Deshmukhs and their oppressive measures, especially corruption and bonded labour. Those struggles were carried out entirely under the leadership of the Andhra Mahasabha. The political and social churning reached its peak during that period. In 1946 July, we had to take up the question of giving a new direction to the peasant and workers struggle. By then, the main struggle was concentrated against Visunuri Ramachandra Reddy who was using his henchmen to quell the upsurge of the agricultural labourers and the small peasants. He opened fire on Doddi Komaraiah and killed him on July 4, 1946. Even earlier to that, our comrades B Narasimha Reddy and Arutla Ramachandra Reddy were arrested for leading a struggle. They were implicated in a false case. While they were being taken to the court some of our comrades waylaid them and dragged them away from the police vehicle. Brutal atrocities were committed against them. After that incident, we came to the conclusion that unless we defended ourselves from the class enemies we would not be able to carry forward the struggle. So we gave a slogan to the cadres to carry lathis and other instruments to protect the leading comrades and the struggle. We organised a peoples’ volunteer force with lathis as well as catapults. We also had other instruments for defence.
When Doddi Komaraiah was shot, we gathered our squads in the neighbouring villages and explained our new line on the struggle. We mobilised people in a big way, drove away the Visunuri Deshmukh and practically seized their bungalow which was called Lal Gadi. The police intervened in the issue and we had to withdraw from the bungalow.
While that struggle was on, in 1945-46, we had to take into consideration the issue of transfer of power for which the Congress and the British rulers were engaged in marathon talks. As part of that deal, it was decided to hold elections to the provincial assemblies and also the central legislature on the basis of the Cabinet Mission Plan. I have already mentioned what transpired during those elections. The actual power was transferred only in August 1947. So immediately after the 1946 elections, Congress ministries were formed in various presidencies and the states. In Madras Presidency, the ministry led by Prakasam Panthulu took office. Some important comrades were still in the jails for organising a massive movement demanding the release of the Congress leaders. In fact, the Congress leaders themselves were released, but not the Left leaders. Thereafter, the British rulers started talks with the Congress on transfer of power. In the interim period we carried out struggles demanding withdrawal of the INA trial and in support of the RIN revolt. However, the main issue after the elections concluded in 1946 was that the provincial assemblies were to meet to elect members for the Constituent Assembly. There were serious differences between the Congress and the Muslim League on the issue of representation in the Constituent Assembly. We need not go into the details of that story.
By the end of 1946 or early 1947, the Prakasam ministry in the Madras Presidency promulgated an ordinance with the express purpose of quelling the peasants and workers upsurge in Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and putting the leaders of the communist movement behind the bars. So we had to go underground once again. I think the central committee met during the same period to discuss the question of transfer of power and our attitude towards the Congress-led ministries. There was a big debate in the party on whether or not Prakasam Panthulu alone was responsible for bringing out the ordinance that sought to put severe restrictions on the communist-led peasant movement in the south. Or, whether it was the bureaucrats who drafted the legislation which Prakasam was merely defending. Those people like me and others took our own time to come to any conclusion on that issue. We were of the view that the ordinance had been drafted without the prior knowledge of Prakasam and therefore, he must withdraw it and allow the communists to carry forward the democratic processes. However, the majority did not agree with our contention. Why they took such a stand I can’t tell unless I refer to the party documents. In any case, the ordinance was not withdrawn and there was a severe repression on our movement. We were forced to lead an underground life.
During the same period, the Telangana struggle took an unprecedented turn forward. Till such time, no weapons were used in the movement. I think it was only after three or four months following the death of Komariah that the cadres took to arms – not in a big way though. Since the negotiations were going on between the Congress and the Nizam on transfer of state power we had to carry out the movement in a subtle and subdued manner. In fact, there was a clear division in the party on the question of transfer of power to the Congress all over the country. One line was formulated by comrade PC Joshi while the other was supported by comrade BTR and Adhikari. In Andhra, we were in a minority; Rajeshwara Rao and Chandram had the majority support. Joshi’s line proposed that we should advance our movement by supporting the patriotic sections in the Congress as against the reactionary forces in that party since the movement had all along supported the anti-imperialist approach. I was with the Joshi line initially. The other section led by BTR said it (Joshi’s) was a reformist line and gave a call for the intensification of the struggle to capture political power. Though he did not say in as many words, their view was that the post-war upsurge – various struggles by the peasants and the workers – was an opportune moment for the party to go whole hog. There was a general revolutionary fervour among the masses. So, instead of general strike, they preferred armed insurrection. Now, if you ask me whose line was correct, all I can say is both were wrong and far removed from the objective conditions of those times. There were no favourable conditions for carrying out armed insurrection then. Whereas Joshi’s concept that we should align with the progressive sections of the Congress to defeat the right-wing leaders in that party too was flawed. The progressive sections in the Congress did not show any interest in taking on the reactionary elements in their own party. Therefore, the formulation to tone down the revolutionary upsurge was also wrong. In any case, a majority of the central committee members accepted the PC Joshi line. That went on till August 1947 when actual power was transferred to the Congress-led interim government.
We came out in the open just a few days before power (August 15) was transferred. We wanted to take all the chances to advance our movement. The Prakasam government in Madras said though the ordinance banning the communist movement was implemented by him it was drafted by the British authorities and the provincial governments had no power to oppose it. When actual power was transferred to Indians there were celebrations all around and naturally, the Congress governments did not dare to carry out repression against us. There were no further arrests, but then, we were also ready to take the risks. In fact, we attended the flag-hoisting ceremony on August 15. The party centre’s line was that we all should honour the Indian flag since the British were retreating. I differed on that question, but the decision was taken on a majority basis. While we followed the party line in all other places, we continued the struggle in Telangana because the Nizam government was not prepared to give up political and administrative power. In due course, the struggles against the Nizam regime as well as the domination of Deshmukhs got intensified. We were not prepared to let down the guard though the Congress too was trying to put pressure on the Nizam in its own way to merge the state of Hyderabad with the Indian Union.
The Congress was in hectic parleys with the Nizam on the issue of merger on one side while on the other we were able to build up a massive resistance against the landlords and the Nizam with peasants leading the marches in a spate of villages. The landlords could not handle the peasants’ resistance any more and the Nizam police was let loose on the revolting masses. There were armed police every where in the villages and as against their massive force our defence was no where near. Our resistance was not that effective though Yella Reddy and others were bent on strengthening it by arming the cadres. At many places, we had to disperse or withdraw before the armed police could resort to brutal repression. We had to debate and decide the future course of the struggle since our squads were being hunted round the clock. There was no effective defence line to protect the movement. So we decided that our people should take up fire arms, burmar and other explosives like dynamite only in self-defence. We got the approval of the central committee for doing so, because taking up of arms even for self-defence in one pocket would have its own repercussions all over the country. And, taking up arms means not only using dynamite and bur mars, but also capturing the sophisticated arms from the enemy – the Nizam’s police and the landlords. We decided to disarm the landlords first. We were all united in our stand on the question of an armed struggle. The party centre too did not object to our fight. There was also consensus in the party on the question of occupation of land of the rich peasants and the landlords as part of the struggle. Though we did capture lands earlier, we felt that we were overstretching the programme and also alienating the Congress in the fight against the Nizam regime. So we had to give up that issue in the larger interests of the struggle. But with the Congress government at the Centre becoming a supporter of the zamindars and the feudal lords we had no other way but to integrate the land issue with the armed movement.
We raised and trained many armed squads outside Telangana since there was a severe repression in the region. My experience of 1942-43 in training the squads in armed defence came in handy during the Telangana struggle. Kondapalli forest area was also used to train the volunteers. We trained them in using guns, blowing dynamite and making crude bombs. We also taught them some elementary military tactics and how to carry out strategic offensive against the enemy. Basically, the focus was on hit-and-run tactics and the capture of strategic points like bungalows and armed posts. I was not directly involved with the training programme; I was merely supervising it while others did the actual work on the ground taking full charge. It was only a preliminary training and the armed squads developed their own tactics based on the real conditions and personal experiences as the movement progressed. We did not have squads that were sophisticated in thought nor did we have members who were physically fit for military offensives. We relied primarily on the ex-servicemen who by then had settled in villages. However, it was very difficult to keep them under the control of the military command. Many of them used to throw tantrums invoking their superior capability in armed resistance. But those were the only minor pinpricks during the training period.
After the training was done with, the movement picked up aggressively in the whole of Telangana, particularly in the rural areas which were more favourable for a guerrilla struggle. Two factors helped us the most in the initial stages of the armed insurrection. First, we joined the flag hoisting ceremonies organised by the Congress in all the villages and towns, at the same time we hoisted our red flag with huge mobilisation. Naturally, the Congress leaders could not object to it since they had only a limited mobilisation. Also, they could not say openly that they were not interested in fighting the Nizam. In that way, we hoisted the red flag on the same day and at the same venue where the national flag was hoisted in presence of a large gathering. If you see it in a retrospective, it is how we have to take the leadership of the movement. If we are a greater force, the leadership mantle would automatically fall us and if we are insignificant in number, the people will not follow you. By that time, we were already a major force and hyper active. So, people rallied behind us in larger numbers than the Congress. Second, we carried out a huge movement against toddy consumption, picketing toddy shops and scuttling the excise revenue of the government. Later on, we did change our stand on the issue as the livelihood of the toddy tappers was at stake. We brought in people from all the sections of society into the movement and it was a real mass upsurge thereafter. The Nizam could not tolerate the resistance anymore and had to send in his armed forces to quell it.
It was not possible for the armed police to stay put in the villages and carry out the combing operations openly. In the changed circumstances, the Congress people retreated to the border areas to facilitate the purging of the communists, more particularly the armed squads that were leading the uprising. They stayed away from the villages so that the security forces could launch raids with impunity. Initially, we marked the border areas of Andhra and Telangana as our retreating points. However, most of the squads were told to defend themselves with arms and if necessary, launch a counter-offensive against the Nizam forces. When finally the raids started, we asked the squads to launch a fierce guerrilla attack, waylay the enemy forces and capture the isolated security outposts starting with the customs posts. There were some customs posts which were armed, so we asked our cadres to raid and capture the weapons whether or not such weapons would be useful in the guerrilla warfare. We also had squads that had been trained in counter-intelligence activities. They were placed in some remote villages to keep a watch on the movements of the security forces, but we had regular guerrillas at strategic points. The squads were thoroughly organised. Therefore, we carried out an effective campaign against the Nizam forces during the whole period between 1947 and 1948 leaving the enemy clueless on our strategic approach. Before 1947, we did take up arms, but only in self-defence and after the armed police intervened we too had to resort to counter-offensive, at times random strikes on security outposts. That offensive continued till September 13, 1948 when ultimately the Indian military entered the rural terrain of Telangana. By then, our armed movement had spread to over 3,000 villages in the whole region. Practically, all the landlords were driven out of those villages by the armed squads. The Nizam’s police and administrative hold too collapsed in all the places where the movement had reached the pinnacle. The leading comrades took charge of the village administration and also the panchayat funds. However, the Nizam government had its own strong points in relation to our struggle, mainly in the towns and major panchayats though we did put up a semblance of resistance there too.
We made good use of the four-month period between August and December in 1947 when we had a legal centre in Andhra. When the repression reached unprecedented levels in Telangana, our squads used to come from there to Prajashakti Nagar (Vijayawada) for respite as well as future planning. Even the Congress people supported our struggle against the Nizam regime when the repression was brutal in 1948. Katragadda Madhusudana Rao and others joined us and helped us financially to procure arms and ammunition. We also collected some arms from sympathetic people in Vijayawada. That way, the overall public response was very good. In a few days, we were able to collect 30,000 to 40,000 rupees. The patriotic sections wanted the Nizam rule to end. That sentiment helped us a lot and the Congress workers too felt that we were carrying out a true militant struggle. We had been demanding that the Indian government should intervene and put an end to Nizam’s rule even while continuing our armed struggle. To say that we were fighting the oppressive regime was one thing, but to really mop up a wide support base and defeat the Nizam was quite another. Notwithstanding such a situation, the armed crowd was much disciplined. We had a well-trained and a determined force. With only mass support behind us and some crude weapons to defend ourselves, the movement was not in a position to really pose a serious threat to the Nizam and to capture power. That we managed to force the landlords out of the villages was only a minor victory. We could not attack the enemy forces where they were hugely concentrated because we neither had arms nor the capability to launch such a huge military offensive. We were prepared to mobilise the people on a large scale, but then, we had lost many of our comrades in the attacks by the security forces which had better weapons and modern communication systems. Of course, there was sabotage from the side of Congress which was more inclined to protect the interests of the feudal lords.
Though such conditions were there, the Indian government, instead of pressuring the Nizam to quit immediately and to accede to the Union, signed a Stand Still Agreement with him. Previously, the British government used to supply arms and ammunition to the security forces of Hyderabad state. Therefore, in the Stand Still Agreement too, it was decided to uphold that tradition. In any case, no action was taken in that regard barring the provision of some funds. Munshi was sent to Hyderabad as Agent-General. Even Munshi – the union minister – was prepared to have a commissioner at Hyderabad since the British government had a resident commissioner. Imagine the Indian government thinking on the lines of sending a high commissioner to a state which had been part of the dominion for ages! Of course, the British commissioner was not that effective as the princely state was very shaky. There were only two options before the Nizam regime – one to declare independence through Goa or Pakistan and the other to accede to the Indian Union. If he had acceded the Nizam would have got more powers than any other ruler of a princely state though later on he might have been squeezed of all such powers. But Nizam was not prepared to do that; he was aiming for an independent state.
Despite being clearly aware of his intentions, the Centre kept the negotiations track open and did not take any serious action. In fact, when some of our comrades were shifting the people who were wounded in action at the Munagala enclave, they were arrested by the Nizam’s police at the Kodada crossing. We highlighted the arrests and wanted to know from the Indian government whether we had any freedom at all to move between the enclaves. We demanded prompt action on the whole incident, but the Centre ignored our outcry since it was locked in discussions with the Nizam. We did not have any illusions that the Indian government would protect us or ensure peoples liberty in Telangana by sending its own forces. We had to make our own arrangements instead of openly shifting the wounded cadres from the protection enclave at Munagala to the borders of Andhra. To reach the borders we had to pass through Kodada. And, we could not move openly. Therefore, the only option was to go underground to cross the area. People were trained in methods of secretly shifting the wounded comrades from the Nizam-ruled areas to safe places on the Andhra border. I was one of the supervisors of that training camp. Similarly, to procure modern arms we set up a high-level committee of the party. I don’t think it’s necessary to go into the details of how and from where we got the modern arms, but they gave a tremendous boost to our fighting capability. The Nizam government was jittery over that new development; it didn’t know how many such modern weapons we were carrying. The armed struggle was thus intensified thereafter in the latter part of 1948.
It was already well-known that there were serious differences in the party over the line to be adopted towards the Congress after the transfer of power in August 1947. When political independence – whatever we called it – was achieved finally, there was again a big debate in the party on what should be our approach towards the new government and the ruling classes as well as our future course of action. The majority was for BTR’s line. He had conceptualised the independence as a bogus one that would serve only the interests of the big bourgeoisie and called for the intensification of the struggle to achieve political power for the real masses. The Congress government and the imperialist forces were identified as the two main adversaries in the struggle. He termed the new government as just a shield for the imperialist forces. We have to go through those resolutions to make a detailed comment on BTR’s arguments.
Based on BTR’s thesis, the struggle was to be intensified. Joshi was still formally the secretary of the party when the second congress was held in Calcutta in 1948. Before the second party congress, we organised the third conference of the Andhra committee at Buddhavaram. We discussed BTR’s line in that meeting which was held towards the end of 1947. We were legal then. At the meet, I backed the PC Joshi line to some extent. I was not in full conformity with his argument since everyone felt that there was need for a militant struggle. Nor did I accept BTR’s formulation. Our movement had to advance and for that, we needed the support of the petty bourgeoisie. In any case, the official conception was rejected comprehensively and a new line came up. Rajeshwara Rao, Chandram and MB too did not fully endorse BTR’s argument. They were for incorporating the petty bourgeoisie as well as the rich peasants in the movement. However, there were differences on defining the character of the Congress. The question was not whether the Congress as a whole was progressive. Gandhi was progressive, but did not believe in communism and Vallabh Bhai Patel was a reformist. There was a small coterie of reactionary leaders within the Congress. We could not classify Gandhi and Nehru as progressive and others as reactionary. There was no clear differentiation. There were a lot of discussions on that whole issue. In fact, I wrote a long note defending the earlier line and circulated it. The rationale of the PC Joshi line of 1946 was taken up for discussion, but it was rejected. At the same time, the Andhra committee felt that we should not distance ourselves from the petty bourgeoisie. That way, the Andhra leadership was unified on those aspects though there were differences at the central level. But before we could accept the changes in the party line, the earlier documents had to be reviewed thoroughly.
The second party congress was held in February 1948 in Calcutta. All the comrades from Andhra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu were underground since there was a ban on the party in those provinces. However, we attended the congress. The point of debate at the national meet was the drafting of the political resolution. I don’t want to analyse the tactical mistakes we committed in the previous years, but we did rectify them at the next conference in 1951. At the second party congress, comrade Pramod Das Gupta was not taken into the central committee or the politburo. Comrade Ismail and comrade Muzaffar Ahmed were in the CC. We have to go through the party documents to list out the leaders in the CC or the PB. After the second congress, Pramod Das Gupta was said to have commented sarcastically that he was not taken into the CC since he was not from a working class origin whereas comrade Ismail was from that class. He argued that he had worked in a factory and therefore he could have been recognised as a worker. However, his father was a middleclass man and that weighed down his candidature. PDG wryly commented that he was disqualified by Ismail. He also explained his story to me, but I felt it was a crude conception of a leadership role. That disease has not gone from the party even now. The main issue at the second congress, notwithstanding the sulking of some leaders, was that PC Joshi was left out of the central committee. In fact, he was defeated since BTR wanted to eliminate him from the central leadership. Formally, Joshi was not there in the CC, but he was co-opted in the panel. Mohan Kumara Mangalam proposed the name of Raavi Narayana Reddy in place of Joshi as the Telangana movement was going on. Rajeshwara Rao, Chandram and MB were taken in the panel. Because of they were supporting BTR line.
BTR did not like to have me in either the CC or the panel, but then, the three leaders from Andhra insisted that I should be taken into the CC since I had changed my line and was not supporting Joshi anymore. They also found fault with some of the changes suggested by BTR in his thesis, especially with regard to the rich landlords and the petty bourgeoisie. They said Sundarayya alone can’t be held responsible for the failures and that the whole party had to share the blame. They argued that I was the builder of the movement in the south, especially the Telangana peasant movement, and any act by the central leadership to keep me away from the CC would send a wrong signal to the cadres. They said it would be very hard to explain the party position to the lower rung cadres if I was excluded from the leadership. They made it clear that it was not the way to elect the leadership. BTR did not want to antagonise those people, so he accepted me in the CC. The same attitude was taken towards comrade PC Joshi too. The list of leaders was there for the delegates to vote and elect the CC. There was a clause which permitted any delegate to propose an alternative name to the listed candidates and seek a vote. In that vote, Joshi got defeated and RN was elected in his place. I remember very clearly that it was Mohan Kumara Mangalam who proposed the name of RN. Of course, we all voted for PC Joshi, but then, RN was elected to signify the Telangana struggle. RN was there at the congress. He was in the CC for quite a long time; he was removed only after he left the underground apparatus in Telangana. One thing I can say certainly is that I was not aware of the whole intrigues behind the move to get RN elected to the CC in place of Joshi. There had been some talk of persuading the leadership – especially MB and Kambhampati Senior – not to put up RN as he was not that sophisticated or skilled in organisational affairs. It was quite possible that they might have thought on those lines – I can’t say anything more on it. It was an entirely different matter and they could not have persuaded the leadership against RN’s name since there was a severe struggle in Telangana. I don’t know whether Kambhampati voted in those elections or not. Since I have already referred to RN’s continuation in the CC, I would like to say that he was taken back at the third party congress which was held in Madhura. So, the attitude of the leadership at the second congress was a big political mistake. Unfortunately, comrade PC Joshi instead of taking the defeat in the CC elections in his own stride began to express his ire subjectively. Of course, we knew clearly that BTR was bent on eliminating him from the leadership position. In fact, BTR told me in as many words. He said he can’t vouch for the organisational and political discipline of PC Joshi. Naturally, it appeared that he was for pushing forward an entirely new line for the party. It was clear from his pronouncements that the new line had the majority support and that any panel that opposed his line would be defeated. And, the result was Joshi’s defeat at the hands of Raavi Narayana Reddy. In the normal circumstances, BTR would not have made that mistake, but the Telangana movement was very strong and Raavi emerged as a strong personality from it. ‘Telangana (movement) would show the way for the whole country’ was the slogan that was rampant then though it was not put in that way at the congress. In such a situation, no delegate would have voted against RN who was the representative of the Telangana struggle.
After his defeat in the CC elections, Joshi emotionally owned up all his mistakes. His explanation was too much in the sense that he tried to create an impression in the organisation that he was purposefully thrown out of the central leadership. I told him that it does not matter if he was not there in the central committee and asked him to continue his work to spread the movement. He did not listen; he went on complaining and grudging against the new leadership. A new politburo was elected after the Calcutta Congress. MB, Rajeshwara Rao and Chandram of Andhra were elected to the PB as the Telangana movement was so strong. Utmost priority was accorded to the Andhra committee in that way. That was how the changes were brought to the party’s political and organisational line in a swift manner. We have to understand them from the angle of the Telangana armed struggle and its further development. When we returned from the Congress, the movement got intensified. From as early as 1946, I had been supervising the functioning of the Andhra committee – not as the secretary – and also the training of armed guerrillas. On that basis, I asked the leadership to let me take charge of the armed struggle as well as guide the party centre on the movement. My proposal was thoroughly discussed in the Andhra committee secretariat and finally it was given assent. In fact, I could have worked from another front as there was a ban on the party, but the movement in Telangana had a special significance for the whole communist movement in the country and therefore, it needed a separate guiding centre of the party. We put such centre in place and all the decisions regarding the course of the movement were taken in due consultation with the Andhra committee. As regards my position in the party, I was the only member to have continued in the central committee till date (1985) since 1934. Of course, BTR, PC Joshi, Ghate and others were there earlier. EMS Namboodripad was taken into the central committee after the first party congress in 1943. We have to verify the records to see who were there in the CC or the politburo from the beginning.
I took charge of the party centre in Telangana under the guidance of the state secretariat. From then onwards, my main centre of activity was Telangana. However, we had the party centre in a number of villages of Krishna district. We used to shift the command centre from one village to other constantly to ward off any potential threat to the leadership. Veerulapadu, Pindiprolu, Anigellapadu, Penuganchiprolu, Kanjerla, Chintala, Gannavaram and other places served as the revolutionary command quarters at different points of time. We had to take every precaution during the whole underground period. We also had staging points in Godavari districts.
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948. At that time, we were all open. In fact, we mobilised over 10,000 people in Vijayawada to condemn the brutal act on the same day. The news of his death reached all over the country by 5 ‘0’ clock in the evening and a big condolence meeting was organised. There was a spontaneous response and we addressed the gathering. We also brought out a two-page special issue of Prajashakti. However, there was an attack on the RSS supporters at the meeting. In fact, they were the ones to first attack us; we merely retaliated. The government was only waiting for an excuse and it took the attack seriously to book strong cases against our leaders because we were supporting the Telangana uprising. It took undue advantage of the situation even though the ordinance promulgated by the Prakasam ministry was put on hold after August 15, 1947. The repression on the communist movement was intensified from early 1948. There were large scale arrests of Left sympathisers. We knew the repression was coming, so we asked the leading comrades to disperse immediately after the meeting. We already had a plan to go underground in the event of an attack by the government. As the police were approaching the meeting venue from a different direction we slipped through the Moghalrajapuram barrens. All the leaders escaped; nobody was arrested. We were well prepared and had our own guards. While dispersing we gave necessary precautions to other comrades. There were some people who did not heed our advice and they got arrested. Some of them escaped from the Rajahmundry jail later.
After our escape from Vijayawada we stayed for a few days in the house of one Annapurnamma in Anigellapadu, a border village in Krishna district. There were number of such border villages which served as contact places for us during the underground movement. Various issues like how to purchase arms, guide the squads and meet the people came up for discussion. In the course of procuring arms, medicines and food materials, we raised squads for their supply from one place to another. A few weeks before the Police Action, I went into the Telangana areas to meet our comrades. At that time, our headquarters was at Pindiprolu village. Chirravuri Lakshmi Narasaiah, BN, Devulapalli Venkateswara Rao, Hanumantha Rao, Chandram and others were there in the state secretariat. Khammam and Suryapeta areas had a combined leadership for administrative reasons. Raavi Narayana Reddy had a different base while some of the leaders were in the city (Hyderabad). In fact, RN and Yella Reddy were in the interior villages of Telangana. By the time I went into the Telangana areas to supervise the struggle we had a clear understanding of the Union government’s political and military strategy. We also had internal discussions on whether or not to continue the armed struggle if the Union military enter into Hyderabad State. When finally the Indian government resorted to Police Action on September 13, 1948, we issued a circular from Pindiprolu welcoming the armed intervention as far as putting an end to the Nizam regime was concerned. At the same time, we expressed the apprehension that the Police Action could be turned towards us. We suggested that the armed squads should not come into open conflict with the Indian military immediately, but take advantage of the prevalent anarchy to fight the Rajakars and the Nizam’s armed police and seize as many arms as possible from them. By doing so, they should be prepared to defend the movement if the Indian military turns its guns on us. We took that line after detailed discussions much earlier. We did expect the Police Action as the preparations for it were underway discreetly. There were no differences on what should be our approach in the worst possible scenario – an attack by the Indian government on the armed revolutionaries. We were clear in our understanding that we should not oppose the Police Action as its first goal was to throw out the Nizam administration. I would explain the circumstances that led us to take such a line. From the very beginning, the Nizam had been refusing to accede to the Union, so we kept calling on the Indian government to intervene militarily and overthrow his regime. There were no two thoughts about it. Intervention of the central forces would have definitely helped in taking our struggle against the Nizam to its logical conclusion.
Precisely when the Indian military was about to enter the Hyderabad state, Raj Bahadur Gour issued a statement on behalf of the Hyderabad city committee of the party. He said Hyderabad should be an independent state and that the Indian armed forces should not intervene for the explicit reason that the Union government was being led by the big bourgeoisie. Based on that conception, he demanded that there should be peoples’ raj in Hyderabad. Gour’s statement was exactly like playing into the hands of the Muslim chauvinists. We immediately disowned his statement saying Gour’s views don’t reflect those of the party. Raavi Narayana Reddy and Maqdoom Mohiuddin issued a strong denial on behalf of the party. In fact, Maqdoom was not there in the town (Hyderabad), but he did not concur with Gour’s formulation. Citing Gour’s statement as a basis, the Union and the state governments in their official history textbooks charged the communists with joining hands with the Rajakars to fight the central forces. That malicious campaign is continuing even now. But then, everyone – including the governments – knew that the truth was otherwise. Many of our comrades laid down their precious lives fighting the Rajakars even after that pernicious campaign by the Nehru government. It was also very clear that we had been demanding the intervention of the Indian military to liquidate the oppressive regime from the beginning. Gour’s statement went against our persistent stand.
Ostensibly, the people who had been experiencing all sorts of repression would definitely welcome the liberation of Hyderabad by the Indian armed forces whatever might be the real intentions of the central rulers. So, we gave a call to our armed cadres not to confront the Indian army so early, but first allow it to overthrow the Nizam government. By then, the Rajakars and the Nizam forces were already demoralised. Taking it as an advantage, we intensified our attacks against them. In fact, the task became easier for the central forces with our offensive during which we were able to capture or collect huge caches of modern arms and ammunition. We had quite a large number of weapons, so we did not ask our armed cadres to disperse or disband. We suggested that they keep a close watch on the developments – political and strategic – as they unfold since we had no illusions on the Indian government’s real intent though outwardly it might appear to be noble. We directed the armed squads to lie low for a while and prepare for the ultimate battle to defend the peoples’ movement and their right to land since the Indian army may train its guns on the peasantry after its stated objective of defeating the Nizam forces was accomplished. We asked them not to get carried away by the fact that finally liberation has come from the tyrannical rule. It was a mere illusion. The Indian army would try to defend the interests of the rich and the feudal landlords and for that it may even resort to repression against the agricultural labourers and the poor peasants. Gradually, disillusionment would set in among the people which would create a more favourable atmosphere for confronting the army on behalf of the oppressed masses. Though we did collect sophisticated arms, it was not our intention to launch an outright frontal attack on the armed forces. Our cadres were no match for the sheer number of military personnel, so we formulated hit-and-run tactics – true guerrilla type warfare. That broad outline was put forward before the leading comrades. I had to personally go into the conflict areas to explain our new line to the cadres and the armed squads. In any case, I had to supervise all the strategic arrangements and prepare the squads for the eventual task.
I crossed into the Telangana areas from Pindiprolu in early September and was there for nearly three months meeting the cadres and the people. I used to always go by walk during the whole underground movement, especially during the nights. First, I went to Kothagudem where our Kondal Reddy and BN were leading the struggle. From there I went to Keshavapuram and later to Janagaon where SVK Prasad was in charge of the movement. I visited Ramannapeta and Bhongir areas where we had Arutla Ramachandra Reddy, Kamala Devi, Katkuri Ramachandra Reddy and from there to the Bhuvanagiri sharky area where Peddanna, Pitchi Reddy, Kodandarami Reddy and Ramachandra Reddy were the leaders. I reached Hyderabad after meeting all those comrades in early October – exactly after a month of hectic tour. In the meanwhile, our armed squads were disbanded at different places with the wrong understanding that the Nizam police and the Rajakars were no longer there to fight. Our people turned complacent after driving out the feudal lords from the villages. That was one aspect. The other important aspect was that we had to reorganise all the armed cadres. Of course, the leading comrades were there to take charge, but we had to raise new squads recruiting only the enthusiasts. However, by that time, the new establishment intensified the repression by deploying the central forces. The armed squads were purged and thousands of our supporters were arrested. The landlords too came back to the villages to settle scores with the leading comrades and take back the occupied lands from the poor agricultural labourers.
In the changed circumstances, a new slogan had to be formulated on how and what was to be done. The state secretariat sent word that I should come immediately to Vijayawada to chalk out the future course of action. I was in Hyderabad for a few days and left for Vijayawada by a late train. I alighted at a station somewhere on the outskirts of Vijayawada while it was still dark. From there I walked to our meeting place. We reviewed the whole struggle and the changed objective conditions. We decided to continue the armed struggle to mark the beginning of the nationwide movement on the lines of the Yunan uprising that ultimately led to a socialist revolution – Mao’s long march – in China. The secretariat meeting was attended by Devulapalli Venkateswara Rao, Rajeshwara Rao, Chandram, Basavapunnaiah and me. We could not have more leaders at the meet since they were all underground. Meanwhile, the party centre was toned down in the aftermath of the repression in Bombay. A skeletal office was under the command of Adhikari. The publication of Peoples’ War was stopped and in its place we brought out The New Age for some time. That too was stopped and Ramesh Thoper became the legal editor of Cross Roads which continued during the whole underground period.
Then the headquarters was shifted to Calcutta. BTR and Bhavani Sen were there in Calcutta and Adhikari joined them later. Those were the three main politburo members while others were not so influential in the organisation. Of course, Rajeshwara Rao, MB and Chandram were in the PB, but had no role at the party centre; they were preoccupied with the movement back in Telangana and Andhra. Precisely at that time, the question of further intensifying the armed struggle came up before the central leadership. BTR pushed forward his sectarian line from the underground that there should be armed insurrection throughout the country coupled with a general strike. However, the general strike fizzled out in no time. Giving a call for a general strike was alright, but the people were not ready. The conditions were ripe only for ordinary struggles for economic rights. They did not take into account the fact that the big bourgeoisie was in a dominant position after the post-war nationalist upsurge followed by the transfer of political power. So to think that we could advance the armed movement comprehensively citing the revolutionary upsurge of the masses was quite wrong on the part of BTR and others who supported his line blindly. His whole line was inherent, but was also so exclusive in that it wanted to keep the bourgeoisie away from the struggle.
The party’s line could have supported the establishment of a people’s democracy instead of straight away propagating the cause of a socialist revolution. At some point of time later, both the causes could have been integrated. How much time it would take to integrate them was a different matter. Such integration would have followed by the establishment of a proletariat dictatorship which ultimately would have paved the way for attaining the goal of a socialist revolution. However, BTR strongly advocated his thesis for bringing in a socialist revolution at once through struggles against the whole bourgeoisie and the rich. His understanding was that both the causes were one and the same. As per the previous line, it was imperialism that was deemed as a potential enemy to the advancement of the communist movement, but BTR argued that it was not imperialism that was the immediate threat; it was the big bourgeoisie that was standing in the way of a socialist revolution. He branded the Nehru regime as a stooge government of the imperialists, so our fight should be directed more towards the bourgeoisie and the rich than the imperialist forces. Going by his explanation, the bourgeoisie included the rich peasants too in the villages. That meant the struggle should be carried out against the whole bourgeoisie, the capitalists, the imperialists and the rich peasants. That was the gist of his whole line. There are documents of huge volumes on all his arguments. He propounded that the situation was ripe to carry on the armed struggle quoting the peasant resistance in Tripura, Kakadweep and some places in Uttar Pradesh. He wanted to aid all those struggles with a general strike to achieve the final goal. Those armed peasant struggles were isolated ones and, in any case, he did not care much about the peasant struggles. His document clearly demonstrates his stand on the peasantry. At that time, the Andhra committee sent a document quoting Mao and the Chinese experience and its relevance. It was argued that it was a very viable model for our own struggle though it would take a long time. Our aim was to carry forward the Telangana struggle on the lines of Yunan uprising though it was a prolonged one. They criticised it, but not from the angle we did. We clearly said that the Telangana struggle was not a liberation struggle and asked how they thought they could carry out a guerrilla struggle with the rich peasants and the bourgeoisie as enemies and without the leadership of the working class. That’s why we said his (BTR) whole understanding was wrong. Then, we were also advocating the reorganisation of the Hyderabad state on linguistic basis. They said our demand reflected the bourgeois nationalist chauvinism. We had a consistent line on that issue. In fact, he did not understand quite well how strong the factor of linguistic nationality in the Telangana movement was. It was definitely a big struggle compared to the Indian standards. His conception was mainly based on the consolidation of the working class on a nationwide scale. That conception could be thought of only in the advanced stages of the struggle. Our contention was that we were a set of different linguistic nationalities and if we ever wanted to consolidate our movement on a large scale we should give primacy to the linguistic nationality in pockets of armed resistance. As we develop the struggles we could merge them in the overall movement. If they didn’t consider that factor along with that of the working class leadership there could be no further advancement of the movement in Andhra. We said it in as many words. Even now, there is a division in the whole working class. Generally, the working class thinks in terms of its own country, linguistic nationality and cultural unity. The question of a unified struggle comes only later. We have to take that factor into account and try to build up the national movement by overcoming those classifications gradually. How to overcome those classifications is a different thing, but we should not ignore the ground realities. In any case, we need not go into BTR’s whole philosophy.
The politburo’s new tactical line was out by early 1949 for implementation at all levels. Though we were very critical of the new line we clearly said one thing: that we would go ahead with the Telangana struggle and that they should not be under any illusion that the whole of Telangana would be turned into a liberated zone. We said if the peasants continued with their armed resistance the workers could come and lead the struggle. So, it was a ginger mechanism for a revolutionary outbreak. The working class itself was not a very significant force in Telangana. But any resistance in any part of the country would naturally galvanise the working class into action. Recently, the CPI has brought out a 1500-page bulky document on the arguments and counter-arguments during whole period between 1949 and 1952, during which we openly decried BTR’s line, formed an interim central committee and our visit to Moscow for discussions with Stalin which led to a change in the party line and the leadership. They brought out the documents with the sole intention of highlighting the differences between us and BTR over the latter’s sectarian line. It was good that they brought out the documents so early. The whole Andhra committee was united in its opposition to the central leadership’s line. Then, Rajeshwara Rao went to Calcutta to discuss the ideological differences with the party leadership. He came back later, but I don’t know how much BTR was convinced of Rajeshwara Rao’s argument on the whole question of advancing the armed struggle throughout the country, especially in Telangana. Meanwhile, the party suffered one setback after the other in the entire country on account of BTR’s highhandedness and wrong line. He was very autocratic when it came to dealing with organisational affairs dissolving the party state committees at his will. During such time, a lot of comrades were arrested in Andhra, including Chandram. I think he was arrested even before the PB documents came out. Hanumantha Rao was arrested after we had a detailed discussion on the party’s new line. He was on the way to his UG den when he was arrested. Other leaders were underground since the repression was severe. We had to shift from one place to another to avoid arrests. The situation was favourable in the villages to carryout underground activities. To beat the repression, we spread out to quite a number of states – Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and even to Hyderabad city. I was roaming from one state to other giving necessary guidelines to the leading comrades on the strategy to be adopted during the course of the struggle.