During the whole period of 1947 to 1951 – from the beginning of the Telangana movement till its withdrawal – there were many incidents interconnected with each other and from which we can draw proper lessons. From my own personal experiences of the movement, I would like to recall certain instances. First of all, when the people march forward spontaneously many things – which we normally think can’t be changed – can happen. People have to rise to the occasion. In those days, because of the general background of the anti-imperialist fervour and the hatred against the Nizam, not only was there a huge mass mobilisation, but also – as I have narrated already – the objective conditions were very favourable to launch a massive armed uprising of the peasantry. In such a situation, our primary task was to acquire more weapons and ammunition. Technically speaking, we were very far, down in the south, from places where there was a revolutionary zeal among the peasantry and the rural masses, especially Punjab and other places. Practically too, we were hindered by the Arms Act and those who joined the movement lacked the skills to handle the weapons. The military camps or depots were scattered all over the country, but not in the south. So, it was very difficult to get arms and other supplies. At the same time, we organised the arms with whatever little contacts we had. We collected weapons even from the Andhra region, the dockyards and the mining areas.
The farm labourers, who were also employed in the houses of the landlords and the rich, especially in the conflict areas like Nalgonda and Warangal, knew where their masters deposit the shot guns and revolvers. So, they stole the weapons, sometimes pouncing upon the landlords, and handed them over to us. We also manufactured gunpowder and stuffed it into coconut shells along with brass filings to use them as crude bombs. We didn’t have the bores or the fuse to detonate them with big impact. Later on, those things were improved considerably. We even set up small manufacturing units with the help of village smiths. We had to enlist their support. Even the barrels for the ordinary local guns were made at those units. There were many such units at different places. Still, the weapons were meagre and very crude. Supply of various materials to the fighting squads in the interior villages and the forests was quite a risky affair. Coordination and maintenance of contacts with the squads was also difficult. But then, without such arrangements no movement can be carried forward. It was in that connection that our secret hideouts at various places in Krishna district came in handy. They not only served as meeting points, but also as retreating zones for the guerrilla squads. The whole party was involved in making those arrangements. During the entire period of armed struggle, I had my own personal body guards as well as couriers. We had a relay courier system. Normally, leading comrades like me moved from one place to another only during the night. Whatever the distance of travel, we didn’t use any kind of vehicles, not even ordinary buses. As far as reaching the supplies to the squads, we didn’t involve the masses. We didn’t ask them to shift the supplies travelling in buses. There was every chance that the police would search them, interrogate them and ultimately lay their hands on the armed comrades. So we avoided all the transport systems. The supplies were normally delivered on cycles or on foot. Those were some of the general rules for the comrades. Since there were random raids in search of the underground apparatus – the government knew that the supplies were coming mainly from Krishna district – we had to be very careful. The raids were extensive in the border taluks. They also suspected that we were running dens at Gudivada, Vijayawada and Gannavaram and kept a watch. The situation was such that we used to shift the bases within a day or two. We had to take extreme precautions so as to not give any room for suspicion among the neighbours that something was going on at our places. Whatever the precautions there were still chances of people growing suspicious of us, for, in villages, strangers could be identified at the first look. In quite a number of villages the people knew that some strangers had stayed in their areas, but they didn’t have even a faint idea of what their actual intention was. Even in the worst days of repression let loose by the Congress rulers, the general people never revealed to the authorities or report to the police that any stranger was staying in their village. In fact, they would come to our hosts and inform of the police party movements so we could move out. There were number of such instances in my own case. Of course, we were always on the move. At that time, Vasireddy Rama Rao’s brother – I can’t exactly recall his name – was my courier. He was well-educated and one of the taluk committee members of the party. He used to accompany me carrying loads of supplies. Similarly, I had Katragadda China Venkatrayudu as my regular courier. He was shot dead by the police sometime in 1949. He hailed from a village near Gannavaram. Also, there was one Ranga Rao from Savaragudem village. He died after a few months. All those comrades used to accompany me and act as my couriers. Those comrades used to work very hard. I used to have my books, medical kit and other materials for correspondence. Normally, I used to carry my clothes and other belongings. They were all bundled into one waterproof canvas bag. I didn’t allow anybody to carry my luggage which weighed not more than 10-15 kilos. Generally, we used to walk across the fields during the nights. One day, just for a change, a comrade had to take my luggage. Later on, he remarked that it was similar to carrying a small calf. We had such kind of fraternity.
While walking across the fields we used to stay at some of the scattered houses in which the agricultural labourers lived away from the village. My headquarters was there somewhere near Gannavaram for a few days. To reach the Nizam borders to meet some important comrades, I had to walk through the whole distance. Technically, it was not good to inform the comrades of our arrival in advance because there was a danger of leakage or gossip. If they took extra precautions it would also look abnormal. So, the courier used to go ahead and knock the door. I would stay away at a distance and when it would be signalled that every thing was normal I would go into the house to meet our contacts. However, the whole distance had to be covered by walk or sometimes on cycle. Normally, I would wear dhoti and kurta to resemble a peasant. There was no question of putting on my normal wear because the first principle of underground life is you should look like a local person. You should also not exhibit habits which are new to that place. Once I went to Veerulapadu. I took a cycle on that day from Gannavaram. We had to take a new path to Veerulapadu from Kanchikacherla. We wanted a local person to accompany us. He went ahead and knocked the door heavily. The womenfolk inside the house were very frightened because there was a warning not to open the doors in the nights for the strangers could be agents of the police. They were already suspected by the police of being sympathetic towards the guerrillas. So, they started shouting and the courier came back. That comrade is still alive and is not keeping good health. He came to me and said that the woman inside the house was making too much noise. I said alright, let me go and check. I went to the door and said: “This is Sundarayya here.” However, she still kept on murmuring. How could she open the door when they knew that Sundarayya would not go to any house without prior information? She thought I was faking and could be a police agent. Though the courier belonged to that village she did not mind him. I told her that if she can’t recognise me there was no problem, but asked her not to shout and create a scene in the neighbourhood. I immediately left the place and found our own way out of the village. It was utterly dangerous situation. If the neighbours had come out we would have been in a soup. We didn’t want to take any risk after the woman refused to allow us despite all assurances. Such things do happen in underground life. We didn’t pursue with the matter because we were already tired. It would have been difficult for us to walk through the fields, but fortunately we had cycles. I only needed the local man to guide me through a different route out of the village. Later on, the woman narrated the whole incident to the contact person – he was not there in the house on that night fearing arrest. I asked him to advise her not to talk of that incident with others as the whole area was hostile to the movement. So, the family felt very bad about it and wanted to convey their regrets. I told them it was not necessary since we also committed the mistake of not informing them in advance. The family said they would have given their life instead of shouting at us had there been a prior information of our arrival.
Once when I went to that village it was almost 4 ‘0’ clock in the morning. There was another spot in that village – a house belonging to an ordinary peasant called Malla Reddy – for shelter and protection. There was also Janakiramaiah who was the village elder and our party leader. They used to take all precautions whenever I went there for a brief stay as part of my journey to the border areas. Malla Reddy was quite a sympathiser, so I asked him to join the party as a full-timer. He said he had got some vices which he couldn’t overcome, so there was no use in his joining the party. Whatever he could do he would do as a sympathiser. I asked him why he can’t overcome the vices to which he said it would take time. He was quite a hardworking peasant with a helpful nature. His family provided immense protection to me. Once or twice he himself drove the bullock cart to shift me. That way, Veerulapadu was quite a strong village for the party. The peasant women were also very helpful. When the repression was at its peak we used to stay even in the houses of Harijans on the outskirts of that village. The whole Harijanawada was aware that underground comrades come and stay there, but nobody used to speak about us to others. However, for us to sit in a small hut and discuss things was very uncomfortable. For that reason alone, we used to stay in the houses of small peasants or the medium peasants and at times, in the houses of rich peasants sympathetic to our cause. We had quite a large number of sympathisers among the rich peasants and the landlords. They used to provide us shelter right from 1947 when we launched the uprising. But mainly we used to stay in medium and rich peasants houses. One day I went to Veerulapadu before the night fell. The women rushed out to help me. They recognise me very well. So when they saw that I was tired they took me inside the house. Normally, it was a practice for the UG comrades to rest in houses located on the outskirts of the village since it was easy to slip out if there was a police raid. If we stay in the middle of the village and get noticed the police would naturally chase us. It would be very difficult to run all through the village bylanes. Though the rich and middle peasants had arms they were afraid of confronting the well-trained security forces. We had to take our own protective measures, as a part of which, we always stayed on the outskirts. During the day time, we would never leave the place. Only in case of an emergency, especially, if there was a police raid, we used to go out masquerading as peasants. Generally, when the police raid the village, the Harijans leave their houses and run towards the fields. We would join them in such instances. It was only due to luck that we escaped from the police on many occasions. Even if we join the farm workers while fleeing the villages and even if we camouflage ourselves there was every chance that others would single us out as strangers. Naturally, we can’t go on running up to the fields. So we used to take shelter at some points – under some canal or some bund. There also they would recognise us, but would keep silent. Then, we would shift to the next village, but not before sending the courier ahead to make necessary arrangements. During one such incident, we stayed in a house in the neighbouring village for a night. It was not a political family, but was sympathetic. After a day or two we avoided the area and went to the border villages of River Krishna. We had some relatives there. The womenfolk and other people used to guard us. We can’t move around in the daylight, so we used to make mud toilets to answer nature’s call. The comrades should have a sense of direct in to reach any village during the nights. I used to move around from the Vijayawada centre and Guntur. At that time, the bridge was not there. The road bridge was yet to be constructed. We had to cross the river from Kanchikacherla.
One day I was going ahead with a courier who did not know swimming. The river was in spate though not heavy. So I asked him to stay back on the bank and wait so that I could go and check the depth and the speed of flow and decide whether he too could come around with me. The depth was up to the breasts and the flow a little heavy. So it was not a big problem to cross the river. We reached the other village early in the morning. Such adventures were quite ordinary. On a number of occasions we had to cross the river to reach the villages in Guntur. Then we used to move across the fields to avoid the major routes. There were some villages like Nunna and Duggiralapadu near Vijayawada where we had sympathisers. We used to take shelter in their houses. Recently, I went to Duggiralapadu to attend the funeral of my host at that time. His son sent me a message. Though the whole family was not involved with any kind of politics, it was very helpful to me on several occasions during the armed struggle. It had sympathy for our cause and respect for the leaders. We were more like one family. From Duggiralapadu I had to go to Veerulapadu one day. I reached Veerulapadu by 3 or 4 ‘0’ clock in the morning. Staying there was not good, so I had to proceed to some other village. There was a police task force in the village on that occasion. It would have been a risk to stay for the whole day in Veerulapadu. So I had to avoid that place and find shelter in the nearby village. Janakaramaiah’s house was on the outskirts of the village. I changed my plans and decided to stay in his house, but he was not there. Even to move further I should have a courier, but I didn’t have any one with me. What happened on that day, I can’t remember, but normally a courier used to accompany me. I might have sent him to another place. So I was walking alone. By the time I reached Janakiramaiah’s house I was very tired. His wife was awake and I told her that I would sleep for an hour or two and leave the village early in the morning. I asked her to wake me up by 5 ‘0’ clock if I failed to do so. However, I was able to get up as it was my usual habit. My mental clock goes on ticking even if I sleep fast. I got up and saw that Janakiramaiah’s wife was still awake. She was full nine months pregnant then. She was going around the house and the neighbouring area to keep a watch while I was asleep. I was surprised over her extra cautious guard. I asked whether she had just woken up or was keeping a watch. She just laughed and kept silent. I thanked her profusely. I knew she had been keeping a guard all the time I was sleeping. Though it was not a forest area, it was quite a safe place for the UG comrades. There were many such incidents of womenfolk taking all the precautions during my stay.
Similarly, one day, I had to cross to Munagala area from the border village of Anigellapadu or some other place. From that place I had to go to Siripuram near Munagala via Cheruvu Madhavaram. We had a legal office at Siripuram. It was the place where I used to meet the comrades from Telangana and guide them. I, comrade Pullaiah and Dendukuru Gopaiah started from Anigellapadu. The path we took was quite confusing and two comrades – Pullaiah and Gopaiah – accompanied me only to guide me through it. The instruction for us was not to use the village path or approach anywhere near it. We took the route through the paddy fields and joined the main path avoiding the village. We knew that there was a customs post on the way. The outpost was equipped with automatic weapons and shot guns. Though we bypassed the main village cutting across the fields we landed just in front of the check post. Of course, one courier used to go 50 yards ahead of me. He turned back seeing the armed guards. He suggested that we should take an alternative route. I said there was no sense in going ahead and that we should retreat. While we were retreating the vigilance personnel noticed and started running towards us. In fact, I had a loaded revolver with me, but then, I was also carrying some important leaflets in the canvas bag. Only in extremely dangerous situation, we were supposed to use our revolver; otherwise the whole area would erupt. It was a tactical retreat and not an armed retreat as such. We had to disperse at once. So I took the first turn to the right without bothering whether the couriers too were following me. There was a small barbed barricade and I jumped to the other side. Precisely at that moment, the customs guard pounced on me. I caught hold of his neck and threatened to shoot him down if he shouted. Since I had his neck in a tight grip he started begging for life. I asked him not to shout and get lost. I also didn’t want to take the risk of harming him in any way as that would further deteriorate the situation and get out of the place as early as possible. The guard was in a daze and ran away. I too left the place.
The guards were not policemen; they were just watchmen. Their idea was to find out what I was carrying in the bag and extract some money, but not to catch hold of me as such. Smuggling was rampant in that area then. Later on, they might have realised it was not a routine smuggling act but much more dangerous than it. After overpowering the guard, I walked across the fields. I had to go to the same place from where we started with a sense of direction. I was able to reach that place. I went to that village and that particular spot. I asked the woman in the house whether her husband had come. She shot back the query saying he hadn’t return and that he had accompanied me. She asked me how I came. I told her that the customs people obstructed us, so we had to disperse. I assured her that there was nothing to worry and that her husband would return by morning, if not earlier. I told her the situation was not that dangerous because I waited and watched for sometime to ascertain whether there was any firing. I don’t know whether she was really content with my assurance on her husband’s safety, but she didn’t show any anxiety on her face. She asked me to get inside the house, took all the precautions and looked after me. The next morning, the two comrades found themselves on the other side of the customs post (naka chowki). They waited there for sometime in the anticipation that I would join them. When it was late and I didn’t join them they thought that there was no sense in going ahead. They came back to their house at around noon to find out what has happened. When they found me in the house they were quite happy that nothing has happened to me. They regretted that they could not follow me in the pitch darkness since I moved very fast. I told them such things do happen and they should not bother about it. In fact, what they did was right; instead of shouting for me they managed the situation quite well. I too felt relieved that they didn’t have to face any danger. If I remember correctly, that Dendukuru Gopaiah was caught by the Indian Army in one of the raids and then shot dead. That happened a year or so after the above mentioned incident. The other comrade, Pullaiah, was also shot in one of the raids carried out by the Nizam police. He was wounded in the leg, but he recovered from it. I don’t know what has happened with him after that. However, I got a medical report from the UG dens later that he was shot dead by the army sometime in 1949. I have to verify with the Telangana comrades as to what exactly happened with him. Similarly, there are plenty of comrades who fell to the bullets of the army.
Then I went into the Telangana area walking across the fields. Once we cross the border there are a number of villages like Banapuram, Makthapuram, Bodalabanda, Gokinepalli and Nelakondapalli on the other side (in the Nizam state). Normally, we didn’t stay in those villages though there were some headquarters. The important squad there was led by Machcha Veeraiah. When the Indian Army came in they had to retreat to the forests. The armed squads used to escort me through those villages because it was also my responsibility to meet the cadres and find out what kind of problems they were facing in their struggle. As I told you earlier, the army was carrying out a brutal campaign against the communists in the villages. There were at least ten people in Veeraiah’s squad. Of them two or three were from Krishna and Guntur, but the remaining were all native farmers and agricultural labourers. We organised a session of that squad to discuss the course of the struggle. Such sessions generally dealt with all the aspects of the armed struggle, including public support, tactics of the enemy and discipline among the squads. The cadres – the educated as well the ordinary boys – were very prompt in pointing out some of the grievous mistakes or the lacunae of the struggle.
Comrade PS cassette-10 Side-B
Comrade Machcha Veeraiah was not a person who would resent criticism from his squad members. He talked over the various issues with them and tried to give a reasonable explanation. He didn’t reject the negative observations of some comrades outright, but took them in his stride. That’s the reason why he was respected a lot by his team. Though he came from a well-to-do and quite an influential family he used to mix with cadres from the weaker and poorer sections very well. Also, he was one of those leading comrades who did not run away from the struggle when the repression was brutal. He used to face the risks and try to move around the areas motivating the cadre and the people. Janakiramaiah’s approach – who married a girl from Malkapuram – was quite opposite. He used to stay put in the village but not enter the Telangana area. He practically avoided going to the conflict zones, so I had to warn him once. I warned him that if he didn’t go and lead the armed cadre he would be stripped of all his organisational responsibilities. In the meanwhile, many events unfolded and Janakiramaiah joined the legal committee after 1952. However, Machcha Veeraiah was shot dead later by the Indian Army during one of the raids on the area.
So, after the session with Veeraiah’s squad, one or two armed cadres escorted me through various villages to reach Pindiprolu. During the travel, I had to walk during the nights and sometimes across the fields in the day. The pathfinders – all local people – knew which path and which spot was dangerous since there were swamps in the fields. Though the whole area was not marshy, there were some deep spots of mud. If you are not careful enough while walking and step on to those spots you would be dragged down into the muddy whirlpool. To get out of those swamps would be very difficult; it was fraught with danger. So it was an extremely dangerous path to tread, especially during the nights, unless you were aware of such spots. However, our pathfinders used to take extreme precautions. There was a possibility to take rest in the fields and the groves in the day, but during nights there was no chance to halt. We used to find rocky terrain outside the fields and spread the blankets to take rest even while two or three comrades kept vigil by turns. Of course, there was threat from reptiles and snakes. In fact, comrade Erra Satyam from Huzurnagar was bitten by a cobra during one such halt. We used to carry snake venom as an antidote for any bite and also anti-septic lotions. Such medicines were of limited quantity; we had to get them all the way from Bombay and other far-off places. Naturally, every squad didn’t have the anti-venom injections and other medicines. We used to have them at nearby headquarters for every three or four squads. So, Erra Satyam was taken to one of the nearby dens for treatment. By then, he was frightened and almost lost his consciousness. He handed over the gun – he was one of the leading comrades – saying he was going to die anyway.
There was also another such incident in the Amarabad forest area where Krishnamurthy was the in charge. One of the comrades there was bitten by a snake and his whole leg was swollen. We didn’t have anti-venom injections with us. We went on rubbing his leg with penicillin ointment. Since the reptile was not that poisonous, he recovered after a few days. The comrades used to take very good care of any person bitten by reptiles attending on him all the time. It was not a question of the leaders ordering them to do so; they used to serve the patients on their own. Such was the spirit of camaraderie, discipline and a sense of mutual respect among the armed squads. Fortunately, I was never bitten by a snake or any poisonous creature. I went to Pindiprolu and met Chirravoori Lakshmi Narasaiah. Some of the squads from Suryapeta were also there as the repression was severe. Pindiprolu was a safe area for the squads. Devulapalli Venkateswara Rao, BN, Swarajyam and Tirumala Rao were with those squads. We discussed the various aspects of the struggle and the organisational problems they were facing. Pindiprolu served as a major headquarters from where we used to send the armed squads to different places in Telangana. We also had enough arms and other supplies stocked there. The squads would come there, rest and go back after securing the necessary supplies. There was a river a mile or two away from the village. It was the same routine in the hilly terrain and on the banks of a river. We used to stay at different spots in the area, prepare food, eat and disperse. The villagers did not reveal our presence to anybody. The police knew that quite a number of revolutionaries were using the terrain as a resting point, but they didn’t have the wherewithal or the courage to attack us. Had the modern army reached there the situation would have been quite different.
I recall one incident while I was at Pindiprolu at that time. One day two strangers trespassed into our safety zone. They wanted to join the armed squads. I asked them how they knew that we were there and apprehended that they might be police agents. However, they narrated their own sob stories and expressed the desire to join us to fight injustice and exploitation. Generally, there were a number of poor people who wanted to join the squads and fight all kinds of socio-economic exploitation. Their only aim then was to fight. Sometimes, they would come to the local squads, but if they found their way to the headquarters it would be very dangerous for us. There was an all-round suspicion that any stranger may come and join the squads only to betray later. So, we grilled the two strangers thoroughly on their background. Though we had a strong suspicion that they might turn out to be betrayers we could not possibly take serious action against them. So we took them away from our zone to some other place. We decided that they should not be admitted to the squads in any case and since there was no adequate proof to brand them as agents they should not be harmed. There was every possibility that the word about our huge presence in the area would spread through gossip if we left the two immediately. In fact, we were in search of another safe zone, so we decided to shift the entire base gradually. And, in the meanwhile, we decided to keep a watch on the movements of the strangers and keep them in the squads so that they may not go anywhere. That was one of the rare experiences at the headquarters.
I was never a witness to any exchange of fire by our squads. I never saw them in action because we were more of the leaders. However, BN and VN were the only exceptions. Comrade BN led the squads on the ground; VN was a squad leader in the Nellipaka area bordering Suryapeta. I can recall some instances where VN and Devulapalli came across the enemy forces and exchanged fire with them. One Rayala Veeraiah was there. He was an elderly person (40 to 45 years of age) at that time, but quite an influential and hardworking comrade. He used to bring news of such adventures by the leading comrades. He also used to go to the forests and villages to find out if there was any movement of the security forces. Once while I was there news came that the Indian armies have entered the area and were advancing fast towards Suryapeta. I did anticipate such a trouble and had, in fact, mentioned as much in a circular issued to the squads earlier. We had to formulate a strategy on how to disperse in the event of a heavy onslaught by the central forces. I personally went into the forests to survey the geographical terrain and devise a plan for tactical retreat. One day I and Veeraiah both went to the Kandikuppa hillock. Though it was too high and a safe place for retreat, if it was surrounded from all the sides by the army it would be not only difficult to get adequate supplies but also very difficult to escape. Ultimately, we decided that it was not good enough. However, compared to the Pindiprolu headquaters the Kandikuppa hillock was a better place. But then, we had to finalise a much safer place in the interior forests bordering the River Godavari. For that, we took maps and other survey drawings. At the same time, we had to face many problems with the squads though the members were very much disciplined. I had to settle some personal problems also. For instance, in Balapala village one Sesha Reddy and his wife – later she divorced him and married Mohan Rao of Warangal – were having a running feud over his alleged extra marital affairs. I tried to advise him and warn him against any such misadventures at that critical juncture. When he didn’t listen, I said the only resort for them was to file for divorce and lead separate lives. Of course, we did encourage them to patch up and settle their differences. There was no question taking any disciplinary action in cases of marital discord. Similarly, Mallu Swarajyam had some problem with her husband. Venkata Narasimha Reddy said hereafter he would behave properly. Later on, when he did not change his attitude, she had to take divorce. There were many such cases of discord between man and wife in the squads. In such instances, we had to take the side of the women after all our efforts to unite them fail and encourage them to file for divorce. Squads had got their own problems, especially their differences in the villages. So I had to go into the interior villages to sort them out.
I had a heavy-battery radio – made by Zenith – with me all the times during my travel through the forests and remote villages. I think that radio is still there with Joga Rao. My courier and I used to carry it all the time in the anxiety to know what was happening in the world outside. My luggage was quite heavy, but not more than 10 to 15 kilos. Obviously, there was no possibility of getting newspapers into the forests every day. In fact, our comrades at the underground dens demanded that we should have radios of small size to keep a track of the events. We tried to purchase as many radios as possible. I think Dayam Raji Reddy and some other important comrades were there at the UG places. I had to take a well-trained courier instead of the personal courier of Raji Reddy. Normally, they had poor and uneducated agricultural labourers as their couriers in the remote areas. Only later, they picked up education at the guerrilla squad camps. When they joined the squads the couriers were all illiterate. Most of the leading comrades were the educated boys from the rich families of the landlords or hailed from the middle class households. We did not analyse that factor properly, but we knew that they were all from well-to-do families. So, I along with the courier reached Kothagudem where the BN and Kondal Reddy squads were active. When I went there the squads were camping outside the village. But it was already late; they had finished taking food and were about to retreat. After my arrival, they said they would cook food for me and the courier. I said there was no need to cook again and check out what was left. They had only some rice and no curries with it. I told them to give me some salt and water so we could have the rice. They said: ‘No-no. How can you have rice with only salt and water?’ I explained it would be a safe bet rather than make a bonfire and send a signal of our presence. For me, it did not matter how tasty the food was; all that mattered was some kind of food to beat the hunger. Why I am recalling that incident is I had to go further from there – after spending a day or two – to contact the Ramannapeta and the Bhongir squads and we could not have been very lax on security precautions. That way, I had to reach up to Hyderabad in stages meeting the squads on the way to urge them not to disband in the face of oppression or without the prior approval of the leadership. That was in late 1948 and early 1949. The next halt was Jangaon where we had some military base. We had different commanders for different areas. At Hyderabad too, we met the available comrades to discuss what should be done. We had to personally meet the leading comrades and the squads; only issuing circulars was not enough. The Police Action was impending and disillusion had set in the ranks by then on the future course of the armed struggle. We had an efficient messenger system to convey the arrival of leaders before hand to squads based at different UG places.
The question of rehabilitating the comrades or their families did not arise in 1949: it was only after the 1951 that we had to explore ways and means to protect the UG comrades as well as their kith and kin. Even during the Police Action the issue of rehabilitation was not on our minds. At Kothagudem, Kondal Reddy himself accompanied me along with his small squad for two or three days as we didn’t want to have a large force with us to go to the next area. From there, I and my courier started our onward journey. As I said earlier, my luggage – the radio and the canvas bag – was very heavy. I asked my courier – who had only a light load – to share the burden after walking for a while. He shot back: “why should I carry? Why can’t Kondal Reddy do it?” I said Reddy was already carrying a lot of weight and I could not ask him to bear further luggage. Later I said: “Alright. I don’t want either of you to carry the load. I would carry my luggage myself.” After walking a few miles, Kondal Reddy went on requesting me to part with my load. I refused because his hands were already full. I told him that it would not be proper if I asked a squad leader to carry the load. It was the responsibility of the courier to help the leaders in their journey. I wanted to teach that courier by example that leaders don’t depend only on the cadres to get things done. Our movement had not reached the stage of shooting down the cadres who do not obey the leadership at that point of time. Comrades used to help the leaders voluntarily and not through diktats. Reddy could have taken disciplinary action against the courier for disobeying his order, but he was afraid to take a threatening posture because I was there. In fact, the courier belonged to the Raji Reddy squad; so he did not obey Kondal Reddy.
After walking a few miles further, the courier started regretting his haughty action. He begged pardon for having committed a grievous mistake. He was ready to carry the luggage all through the journey. I told him clearly that I would not part with my load. I asked him whether he thought that I would not be able to carry the heavy luggage and since I was able to bear the load there was no question of transferring it to any one. I did not give him the luggage with the sole intention of teaching him a perfect lesson. I also wanted to create a lasting impression on his mind that when he himself was not willing to bear further burden despite being light on the load how could he suggest that Kondal Reddy be given the additional baggage. There was no doubt in my mind that he could bear further weight when I asked him to do so for the first time. He wanted to walk like a lord. That agitated me a lot and I decided to give him a reply befitting his awkward suggestion to hand over the load to Kondal Reddy. Such examples would have a tremendous impact on the erring cadres. After reaching the next stage, Kondal Reddy went back to his base. He narrated the whole incident to his squad. That courier too went back. When I reached there, I found Ramachandra Reddy and others. Before the Indian Army’s intervention, a lot of comrades had their family members in their squads. Ramachandra Reddy’s wife Suseela also worked as an active cadre. Both hailed from an ordinary family. I think Suseela contested the elections later. Reddy passed away recently. I stayed with their squad for two or three days. When I once saw that he was moving huge loads on a bullock cart I told him it was fraught with risk as the Nizam police were keeping a close watch on transport of goods. I asked him to drive the cart personally only on rare occasions. I also asked him not to have huge families, especially spouses, in the squads. There was every possibility that the security forces might try to molest them if they were caught in the raids. If their spouses stay back in the villages, they could be shifted in case there was a danger. Also, the cadres may resent if the leading comrades had their wives with them. I asked him to be careful on that issue. After a few days, Ramachandra Reddy was arrested due to leakage of information.
SVK Prasad too was arrested in a similar fashion. He was not married by then. He was leading a protection squad in the forest. I went and discussed with his squad. From there, I moved to Bhongir. After a few days of my stay in the Bhongir, I got the news that Prasad had been arrested on account of sabotage. He had sent someone from the local village to procure rations for the squad. The village informer followed that person and tipped off the police. The police surrounded the forests. There was no other go for Prasad except to surrender. Of course, there might have been exchange of fire prior to the surrender. He was shifted to Hyderabad CID headquarters and brutally tortured for information on the armed squads. In any case, the leading comrades had only limited information on the organisational structure. Even if they were to spill out the beans under duress the police could not have made any significant gains. Such precautions helped us a lot during the whole uprising. In many instances the leading comrades withstood the torture and did not reveal anything. In some instances, the police were able to coerce the comrades to open out, but could arrest only a few others in further raids. It was very easy for the comrades to escape in the forest areas. That way, the damage to the squads was quite less.
From Bhongir, I contacted the squads at Ramannapet where Nandyala Srinivasa Reddy was the area commander. He understood the line which I explained, but he warned me that the manner in which I was travelling and meeting the squads was extremely dangerous. He said there was a likelihood of my getting caught by the police if I travelled continuously. Of course, he agreed that what I suggested to his squad was good, but expressed severe concern over my own personal safety. I told him that if I bothered about my own safety neglecting the very survival of the squads how was I going to lead the movement. I did assure him that I was taking all the precautions. I suggested that it was not a big deal if I took risks when the armed squads were facing constant threat from the enemy forces. I told him not to worry about my safety since I was moving very fast from one place to another changing the couriers at different stages. Though precautions were necessary to keep the communication chain in tact, it was absolute necessary to meet the squads and guide them. There I also met with Arutla Ramachandra Reddy and Arutla Kamala Devi. The couple had a wide influence in the region and were very hard working in nature. What impressed me a lot was the way in which they moved with the common people. Instead of hatred towards the landlords for keeping them as bonded labour, the weaker sections showered immense affection on Arutla and his wife. I remember we shared plenty of custard apples with the Harijans. One day Kamala told me that her relatives would bring her two-year-old child to the forests in a couple of days. I did not enquire how many children they had till that time, but I appreciated her for being able to stay away from her young child and work for the movement. I suggested her to take necessary precautions because the informers might follow their relatives into the forests. I told her that there was nothing wrong in seeing a child after a couple of years. After seeing her child she immediately sent her relatives away and got immersed with the struggle. From there, I went and met the squads led by Ramachandra Reddy and Padma Reddy. Both of them were shot dead by the armed forces later. I also met Kodandarami Reddy’s squad at Brahmanapalle near Bibinagar (between Bhongir and Ghatkesar). From there, he sent another courier to accompany me to Hyderabad after giving him proper instructions. He was very much revered and respected in the region. He was fondly called Peddanna by the people. I met Krishnamurthy only in the third round – in July 1951 – when the problem of retreat came up. I remember his exploits during the Muthukur battle.
In the first round, I also met Raavi Narayana Reddy and Baddam Yella Reddy at their underground dens near Jangaon. RN was entrusted with the responsibility to look after the combined area of Warangal and Karimnagar. Yella Reddy was the commander of the Jangaon area. I don’t exactly remember the date and place where I met them. It was not a scheduled programme; I randomly selected the places of visit. All the leading comrades were in their respective areas with their squads. I had to go in search of them. I remember having met RN and Yella Reddy in different villages. Immediately after the Indian armies came, they dispersed and shifted their bases first to Bangalore and then to other far-off places. Of course, Yella Reddy was arrested in the village itself. RN retreated to Hyderabad. In fact, we shifted our underground apparatus to one of the secret hideouts in the city when the central forces intensified their repression. Though there was a hunt by the Nizam police earlier, we could save ourselves taking adequate precautions, but the situation was quite different when the government mobilised the armed forces in a big way. After the army intervened the weather was very cool in the country side from October or November. The cadres had blankets to protect themselves from cold. I also had a blanket with me. Some comrades didn’t have blankets, so we used to share ours with them. Normally, we used to spread jowar or bajra on the ground and sleep on it. As a precaution, we used to cover our blankets with leaves. The only threat was from the chilly weather. Since I was accustomed to cold conditions I didn’t feel uncomfortable. In fact, I had quite a warm blanket with me. The Telangana peasants normally used to carry blankets wherever they moved. That protected them well from cold and also rain.
By the time I reached Hyderabad, Mahendra was in charge of the party centre. Raj Bahadur Gour was also there, but in a different place. We had bases in the households of some factory workers and railway employees located on the outskirts of the city. However, the main den was at Mahendra’s house. His wife was also underground. Raj Bahadur and Brij Rani were not married by then. Earlier, she was only sympathetic to our cause. There was an artist called Rangachari. He was quite active in the movement. There was also another comrade from Kamareddy whom we called Purushottam. Rangachari was arrested in 1949 and lodged in a jail. Later, he was taken out and shot dead along with Raji Reddy of Huzoornagar. It was a common practice to kill the comrades whether they were in jail or court or out on bail. There were large scale arrests of communists and their sympathisers during the short time I was there in the city. I want to mention here that I met comrade Rajanna – whom we call Venkata Narasimha Reddy – on my way to Hyderabad. He was with the Bhongir squad. Though he hailed from a middle class peasant family he was very influential among the underground cadres. He was a strict disciplinarian. His way of mixing with the common masses impressed me a lot.