In the process of consolidating the organisation in Andhra, more particularly in Krishna, we went to Pamulapadu near Ventrapragada to hold a kisan sabha. That was in end of 1942 or 1943. The meeting was also successful considering the fact that the region was the stronghold of the Congress. We took out a huge procession and while we were passing through Dosapadu, the Congress workers pounced upon us. Naturally, we too attacked them. It was a hellish job for me and Ch Rajeshwara Rao to prevent our squads from barging into the houses of the Congress sympathisers to hound them out. In the process, they thrashed up their family members too. That attack became a bone of contention between our party and the Congress. But then, the Congress deserved it (the attack) for carrying out a slanderous campaign against us. They used to spread all kinds of rumours and write nasty things about us, particularly against me personally. They lampooned me that I was a debaucher. My name was Sundayya in that play. Obviously, our cadres were seething with rage. Maddukuri Chandram was so furious that he vowed to kill those rascals who were unleashing a dirty campaign against me – even if the party expelled him on charges of resorting to individual terrorism. Such was the violent reaction to the campaign of calumny by the Congress. Of course, comrade Chandrasekhar Rao wrote a very powerful article titled Rochugunta rebutting all their charges.
Our movement was also very active in the cultural sphere. We carried out the cultural activities on a massive scale. Comrade Basavapunnaiah and others were instrumental in setting up cultural troops and organising the activities at the village level. That way, comrade MB was more connected with literature, arts and culture; he was also a very powerful orator. We organised training camps for various cultural squads and also classes for women. We had classes in fire fighting – in case of aerial bombing by Japanese fighter jets. The Youth League members were active in all those activities braving threats from the Congress leaders. The Congress’s main grudge against us was that we didn’t join their struggle for independence. If we had joined them on a large scale, the government would have been paralysed in the whole of Madras Presidency. They alleged that we didn’t throw our full weight and organisational capacity behind the national movement. We also prevented sabotage by the Congress workers. That’s the reason they were very angry with us and charged us with betrayal of the national cause.
Now, I would explain our work in the Telangana region. During the underground period of 1940-42, comrade Rajeshwara Rao – who was in charge of Krishna – forged links with the Left sympathisers, especially the Andhra Mahasabha activists of Telangana and brought them formally into the communist movement. All those comrades were mobilised and organised into the party fold in a systematic way. Previously, we had only informal contacts with those people. The process started churning only after 1940. Earlier, there was some association of the comrades in 1935-36, but that was mainly related to study groups and discussion forums. We had comrades like Maqdoom doing all those things. They were part of the State Congress Satyagraha and other such movements, particularly, the Andhra Jana Sangh and the Library Movement. It was only after 1940 that all those comrades were organised properly. The younger people from all the sections came into the party fold. Raavi Narayana Reddy, Yella Reddy, Ch Lakshmi Narasaiah, Ramanatham, Arutla Lakshminarasimha Reddy, Devulapalli Venkateswara Rao and others were there in the Andhra Mahasabha. They were all militant in their approach and were opposed to the right-wing group (Congress) led by Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, Mandumala Ramachandra Rao, Narsinga Rao, Madapati Hanumantha Rao and Konda Venkata Ranga Reddy. Even after the ban was lifted finally in 1942, our movement was still underground in the Nizam state. Our only open forum was the Andhra Mahasabha. By then, the landlords were on the offensive against the poor peasants and the farm labourers. We were able to convince the Mahasabha comrades on the issue of a broad-based militant struggle which we guided. Ultimately, Ravi Narayana Reddy, Devulapalli Venkateswararao, Chirravuri Lakshmi Narasaiah and several others came over to the communist movement, but the banner was still the Andhra Mahasabha. So, under our influence, the Mahasabha gave a call for a united struggle against the feudal lords as well as the repressive Nizam regime. We started demanding right from early 1943 that the princely Nizam state (Hyderabad) should be liquidated. We could not put the whole thing across, but the communist party’s line was there. Therefore, slogans like representative government did the rounds.
Our militant struggles against the feudal landlords and the Deshmukhs was not to the liking of the right-wing sections of the Congress. They only wanted certain concessions for the poor. There was a clear split on that basis. In such circumstances, Raavi Narayana Reddy was elected (as the president of Andhra Mahasabha) in Bhuvanagiri, which the Congress wanted to recapture later, but could not succeed. They separated themselves totally from our struggle and charted their own path. However, our mobilising capacity was tremendous. By 1945, when we held our conference – the division was still there – in Khamman. The majority of the people were with us. Rajeshwara Rao guided the whole organisation in that connection. It was one of the biggest mobilisations by the Mahasabha. I was there meeting various groups and guiding them. At the public meeting, some of the comrades proposed that some one should address the gathering on behalf of the Andhra committee. Since I was there, they asked me to speak. I told them that I would definitely speak when the time comes, but let others finish their speeches. We didn’t want to openly identify ourselves with the Mahasabha as there was a ban on the communist movement in Nizam state. However, we were a well-knit state-wide organisation (both Andhra and Telangana) with strong pockets of support in Karimnagar, Nalgonda, Warangal, Khammam, Hyderabad, Medak and even Mahabubnagar by the end of 1945. I was there coordinating with various groups and everybody knew it.
Wherever the Mahasabha was active, Left-wing groups sprang up with strong leadership. One thing I would like say here is that had we not won over Raavi Narayana Reddy, Yella Reddy and Lakshmi Narasaiah, the communist movement would not have spread like it did in the whole of Telangana region. The Mahasabha which was built up earlier was virtually converted – not hijacked – into a strong communist front by giving it a proper ideological and organisational direction. Therefore, the moderate sections in the sabha distanced themselves totally from our struggles as we were more militant and it was directed against the landlords and the despotic rule of Nizam. In due course, the Andhra Mahasabha gained nationwide recognition – at least that was the perception of Telangana people. Our slogan was unity against the imperial forces. However, we said we were prepared to go with Nizam until such time a full-fledged representative government was put in place, but Muslims and non-Muslims should get 50 per cent representation each in the interim government. We said the interim government should be set up immediately excluding the Nizam loyalists to work through the war period and mobilise people and resources for the British war efforts. We also said we would not resort to force to mobilise people and resources, there would be no forcible eviction and collection of all kinds of taxes, including the agriculture cess. Later on, we realised that our call for equal representation to Muslims and non-Muslims was wrong; it was too reformist. The Andhra committee had formulated that slogan with the sole intention of setting up a responsible government. The party centre led by PC Joshi too agreed with our contention. We thought equal representation in the interim government would be a great achievement which could bring Muslims into our organisation in large numbers. Unless they too were given representation on par with others, there was no question of their joining our struggle against the Nizam and the landlords. We gave up that slogan when finally we intensified our struggle in 1944.
As we were intensifying our struggle, the landlords and the Nizam government also stepped up their repressive measures. They resorted to brutal torture against our cadres and sympathisers. V Narasimha Reddy was put to severe torture. They beat him up cruelly and passed urine on his face. In some cases, the landlords even murdered the leading comrades employing the services of the dreaded criminals. I have narrated all those incidents in detail in my book on the Telangana struggle. The Second World War ended by late 1945 and in 1946, negotiations on the transfer of power to representative governments started all over the country. There was a post-war nationalist upsurge. In those circumstances, our demand was that the Nizam should relinquish power and hand it over to an interim government. We also demanded that the land should belong to the tiller and the practice of bonded labour should end. Most importantly, we demanded that the Hyderabad state should be reorganised on linguistic basis. The question of I personally leading the Telangana armed struggle comes later. Till that time (1945) comrade Rajeshwara Rao and others were guiding it. Raavi Narayana Reddy, Yella Reddy and Devulapalli were there in the Andhra state committee representing the Telangana districts. Two others – Lakshmi Narasaiah and Ramanatham – were also there. We had elected that committee at our first conference in 1943.
Now I would like to say something about my personal life. The period between 1942 and 1945 has a special significance for the whole Telangana movement. After the war ended, I went to the party centre to deliberate on the Peoples’ War doctrine and make necessary amendments to it. As I said earlier, though the ban was lifted on the communist party all over the country, it still remained an underground outfit in Telangana with the Nizam government branding us as secessionists. So, I used to visit the houses of Dilsadchari and ASR Chari for making contacts with the UG comrades. I think ASR Chari was under detention then and his wife used to be there at the house. Leela was also there. Though we used to visit their homes we never stayed overnight since there was a police watch. Leela was a graduate and was employed with the Central Bank as accounts assistant or a cashier. She had already put in eight years of service by then. When we set up the organisational apparatus officially after the ban in Bombay, the Charis were one of the main organisers of the party looking after the office work. When Chari was released, he also came and joined the party headquarters as a correspondent and writer. ASR Chari was a very bold and a promising lawyer. He was brutally beaten by the police during the Congress led national movement. Later, he defended many of the freedom fighters in courts. He and his wife became full-time workers at the party headquarters because the whole organisation and the publishing house had to be set up. We started the commune and for the commune our Mai – I don’t exactly know her actual name, but I always addressed her as such – was the in charge of the kitchen and the health unit at Bombay. At the party centre, there were several rooms. Chari and his wife stayed in one of the rooms and Leela and her mother in another. Leela used to work at the party office in her spare time after attending her bank duties. We used to run weekly wallpaper for the communists all over the country. We had a lot of responsibilities on our shoulders and were very busy. In 1943, I wanted to marry Leela and proposed to her. She agreed after four or five days and we got married on 27th February 1943. What attracted me the most in Leela was her hardworking nature. She too was stuck by my robust personality and hard working nature. She used to observe me very keenly, especially while working. I was sleeping on the terrace of the party building. One day, she started cleaning that place. I asked her not to take the pain of doing the cleaning work, but she said there was nothing wrong in dusting up the place where one sleeps. In any case, we were both in 30s and understood each other well. Our marriage was quite simple; we declared ourselves as husband and wife before comrade PC Joshi. We gave a small tea party at the commune and announced our new social status. From a woman’s point of view, I suggested that we should get our marriage registered officially. It’s almost forty years now and we never had even a petty quarrel.
There was no opposition to our marriage from her mother because she herself was a widow when she married a Muslim for the second time at the Arya Samaj. She was from a Brahmin family of Mangalore in Karnataka and was working as a nurse. Later, they settled in Bombay. She was the main bread earner for her family. Though her husband did some job, he used to earn very less. She brought up all her children with the income she derived from working as a nurse. She had two sons – Ananth and Gokarn – and a daughter – I used to call her Akkaiah – from the first marriage and a daughter from the second. Akkaiah is still alive and 72 years old. Leela’s mother died of cancer in 1945 when I was still in charge of the commune. Her father died later in 1953 or 54. I had good relations with all their family members. We moved to Andhra in 1943 and started working in the Prajashakti and the commune. Leela picked up Telugu very fast; she was good at learning languages. Her mother tongue was Marathi, but she learnt Gujrati and Hindi while she was in Bombay. When I asked her to become a whole-timer, she gave up the bank job and joined the party. If she had continued with her job for another two years, she would have got more pension and provident fund. I told her not to bother about all those things, but first join the party. That was only a few months after our marriage. I didn’t inform my mother or other family members that I was going to get married. But later I wrote to my mother that I have got married and that I was bringing my wife to show her. I remember after marriage I once went to my village from Madras where I had some work. It was during that visit that I first told my mother of the marriage. She was naturally upset for not giving her the information before hand. Her only apprehension was whether or not my wife was good looking. I told her that though Leela was not very beautiful she was a nice person.
Later, when I took Leela to the village, my mother was the one who did all the rituals of welcoming the new bride. In fact, she scolded me for my unpleasant description of Leela. She told me what I said was wrong since Leela was good looking, so obedient and disciplined. I said if she liked her it was good and there ends the matter. Since our marriage, we had not regrets though sometimes Leela complained that I was not giving her a chance to become my equal partner. I would tell her that my line of work was quite different from hers since she was more interested in literature, writing, theatre and dance. She had her own choices where I could not help much. I told her that I could help only if she became my personal secretary otherwise I was helpless in sparing too much time for her activities. There were practical difficulties and then, she was supposed to look after cooking and other chores. I even told her that she had got quite a good opportunity to mix with various people in Andhra and become a good speech writer or a prominent orator provided she concentrated more on the political work. I could have definitely helped her in that aspect, but she did not evince any interest. Now, I think it’s too late to remedy the whole situation.
I underwent vasectomy by the end of 1944. We both agreed not to have children and expressed our resolve to PC Joshi. He too agreed with our decision. Normally, I would not have hesitated to have children, but then, my hands were full with organisational and political work. It was not good to have children if you don’t have time for their upbringing. My personal view is that it is the woman who should have a say on whether or not to have children because biologically or otherwise, it is the mother who cares and looks after the children. She has to devote considerable time for the kids. If she is prepared for that she can have any number of children. However, we didn’t have that much time though once Leela expressed her desire of having only one child. The other reason was that many kids in our extended family were born with mental disorders. My father, brother and my eldest sister’s son – the latter overcame the problem and is now happily retired – all suffered from abnormal behaviour syndrome. I was a bit hesitant on having children though Ram said that there was nothing to worry and that we could sort out the problem, if there was any. Ram’s argument convinced me, but I had a huge task of building the organisation on my shoulders. Also, Leela overcame the urge of having children. So there were no complications in our life later. It may not be so in case of other people. I think I was 30 or two months short of 30 when I got married. It’s all wrong to say that I married in my 40s. If I remember correctly, Basavareddy Sankaraiah got married much earlier than me. In any case, I did not prohibit anybody from getting married; in fact, I encouraged everybody to marry barring a few rare cases.
In this connection, I would like to mention that Ram got married in 1940 itself. He married a woman who was his classmate at the medical college. She was from Mangalore. Her parents objected to their marriage, but since both were firm on their decision they could not do anything. It was Ghate who confronted her parents on the question of marriage. Ultimately, both got married and settled. But Ram was very eccentric when it came to work. He was not systematic and was full of jealousy which could be traced to his days as a member in Madras Students Organisation. I liked him particularly on account of his hard work in studies both at the junior college level and medicine. He used to get overcharged with work, going around the city after finishing studies and discussing the issues related to the student organisation of which he was the leader. In fact, it was me who suggested him to take up the study of medicine. He was so intelligent in studies that he got a seat in both medicine and engineering. Even when my brother-in-law asked him to go for engineering – he had every right to suggest – Ram didn’t listen. He told him that he would go by what PS had to say. He ultimately joined the medical college on my advice since he had the ambition to serve people and what better way was there to accomplish it than becoming a doctor. In fact, I too would have become a doctor had I continued with my studies. Once you resolve that you want to serve the people and not bother about making money, medicine is one of the best professions.
After marriage, Ram and his wife Suguna set up a clinic at Nellore and were doing quite well. But in the anxiety of not bearing children too early, she underwent abortion during her first pregnancy without informing Ram. His understanding of the problem was different from mine. He got very angry with her on that issue. However, they patched up later after Ram apologised for his behaviour. He wanted children. That incident might have affected him to some extent, but more than that, he was deeply moved by the Hindu-Muslim riots in Nellore at that time. He went out defending the Muslims and fighting the communalists. It was a very bold act. That’s why he was loved by the Muslim masses like anything. I was underground in Madras then. He used to come and meet me at some discreet location to discuss various issues and also help me in technical matters – money, contacts and political support – with regard to organising the communist movement. So he came one night to a friend’s place to meet me. He started talking incoherently. I told him that he was talking as if he was a mad man and suggested that he better take rest. Actually, by then, he had started showing symptoms of nervous disorder. After a few days I came to know from my contacts that Ram was suffering from some psychosomatic problems and that he was to be put in a mental hospital for treatment.
His first wife Dr Suguna told me later that Ram always felt that something terrible was going to happen to him and that if he went off his mind anytime he was to be moved to a mental asylum. He had given her the entire family history of such nervous disorder and was in fact looking after my elder sister’s son who was suffering with the same problem since 1940. Previously, my sister’s son was in the Christian College pursuing his studies. She resisted sending him to a psychiatrist’s clinic for long, but when she could not put up with his behaviour she finally admitted him to a lunatic asylum. It was precisely at that moment that Ram resented her action whatever he might have told her earlier. He suffered from mental breakdown time and again. Even when I took him to Moscow he refused to get treated saying he was alright. The doctors there told me there was nothing they could do when he was quite normal and it was our responsibility to keep a watch on his mental health and get him treated from time to time. In any case, severe neurotic attacks left him in a bad shape of health. In his anxiety to serve people more – he was good at surgery and used to earn a lot of money from it – he would spend away all the money on providing free medical service to the poor. In the process, he could not keep even a single pie. His wife wanted a respite from such a situation and joined the military. I advised her not to do so, but then she stuck to her decision. I had cordial relations with her notwithstanding the fact that Ram was a big problem for her on account of his eccentric behaviour. Since I was an ardent supporter of women’s emancipation I did not persist with my suggestion that she stay back and take care of her husband. She joined the military and came back after the war ended. In the meantime, she fell in love with another doctor who was in the military camp with her and wanted to marry him. I supported her though Ram was adamant on not giving her divorce. Of course, he later reconciled with the estrangement and got separated in 1946. Such was the mental condition of Ram that one day while we were travelling together with our mother in a car he stopped in the middle of the road and asked us to leave at once. I said okay. We then had to walk quite a distance to catch another vehicle. It was very sad to see him in such a mood. I went underground during the whole period between 1943 and 47 and so it was not possible for me to keep a track of his health.
Ram continued with his practice and married Dr Rajyalakshmi in 1948-49. In fact, Rajyalakshmi was a friend of Dr Suguna and it was he who came with the marriage proposal. I don’t know how Ram and Lakshmi met, fell in love and later got married. I could not move around places since there was a severe repression all around – so much so that even the sympathisers of the communist party were shot dead by the police at some places. I was being hounded by the security forces like anything. I came to know of Ram’s second marriage only when I came out of underground in 1952. My elder brother too had passed away in 1949. I was there in the thick of the Telangana armed struggle and did not bother much to find out about my family. There was no immediate news of my brother’s death. I also came to know of my mother’s death (in 1951) very late. Practically, I was cut off from my family during the entire Telangana struggle.
By the time I came out of underground, Ram and Rajyalakshmi had their first son – Dr Mitra who has now set up his own practice in England. When I came out in the month of May in 1952, I went to Ram’s house and saw his child. Even after having a son from his second marriage, Ram could not overcome the trauma of separation from his first wife. On and off, he used to get excitement, but he recovered from all those problems gradually. Another reason for his getting overexcited was his desire to become a full time worker of the communist party whereas I had been telling him to concentrate on his medical profession and help the poor whose impact would definitely create a favourable opinion for the party. I did not advice any doctor to help the party that way. As regards Rajeshwara Rao, he gave up his medical studies on his own since he was a communist from his early student days at the Benares University. There was no question of my giving advice to him. The issue was of commitment and capability of a person not his professional or academic qualifications. Ram did not feel let down by my advice to continue his practice, but time and again he argued with me that he would join the party as a whole-timer. He was there doing all the activities and helping the people. He took an active interest in civic administration to improve the basic facilities in Nellore town. Prior to that, he started a film venture – Puttillu – in the hope of making big money and donating it to the party. It was a wrong advice on the part of Raja Rao and others. He lost Rs 5 to 10 lakhs in the venture. Dr Ramdas, who was working with Ram in the hospital was his advisor in all his financial ventures. He suggested Ram to make some other film. It was the period when I just came out of my hibernation. I took a strong line and dissuaded him from making any film. I told him clearly that it was not the proper way of making money though the film might become a success. I asked him what would be consequences if the film failed. By then, he had already invested Rs. 5 lakhs in the film. I said it was alright; that he should make that money in the course of his practice and that he should completely distance himself from filmmaking. He heeded my advice, but Ramdas was very angry with me. I shouted at him saying what the fun in asking a doctor to become a filmmaker was. I asked him in-the-face whether he would do the same instead of advising Ram on it. Naturally, Ramdas didn’t like my words and he left the place.
There was another aspect to Ram’s public service and finances. The government was of the wrong conception that Ram was my main source of finances. Ram and Dr Sesha Reddy used to run the peoples’ clinic together from 1954-55 onwards. So the government thought that if both Ram and Sesha Reddy were arrested, the clinic would shut down thereby depriving me of any money. That’s the reason why they arrested them along with me in 1965. Ram took it as a challenge saying who those people were to arrest him. So he went underground. By then, he was a chronic diabetic patient. He never used to take proper precautions invoking the theory of ‘what is diabetes?’ He would say that he would go on taking insulin and that would be enough. If he had taken insulin regularly he could have controlled diabetes, but he neglected it. So his condition deteriorated within six months while he was underground. He never recovered from that state (of bad health). In fact, I asked him to come over and look after me when I was bed-ridden at the Osmania Hospital serving a jail sentence. He came out of underground only for that reason; otherwise he would not have come out in the open fearing arrest.
As regards to Ram’s role while I was underground during the Telangana armed struggle between 1948 and 1951, he went to Gopal Reddy who was the minister for home affairs in the Madras Presidency then to demand a halt to the orgy of violence against the communists. Hunting and gunning down of the Leftists was the order of the day in those times. He threatened Gopal Reddy with dire consequences – to the extent of killing him – if anything happened to me. He accused him of arresting people in false cases and shooting them down in fake encounters. “Normally, you should be shot since you are allowing the killings, but if anything happens to my brother, I will definitely shoot you. You may do whatever you like, but take this as my word,” Ram reportedly warned Gopal Reddy. However, the home minister pacified Ram that no harm would be done to Sundarayya even if he was caught – though it was an impossible scenario. In any case, I would not have looked up to Gopal Reddy if I had been caught, but the fact was thus.
Ram used to always heed my advice however unpalatable it was – even in his most excited mood. That kind of attachment was there. My eldest brother died in 1948 after he was operated for the third time. He was suffering from gastric ulcer. Though he was operated twice earlier, he had the problem of severe pain in the abdomen. When the pain was unbearable, Ram took him to Madras and consulted eminent surgeons. They said the problem was out of buonds and operating on him would be too risky. Ram told the doctors that if they didn’t have the guts to perform the surgery, he would do on his own. So he brought Ramana Reddy to Nellore and operated on him. I was not aware of all those developments since I was deeply involved in the Telangana struggle. Ram had tremendous confidence in himself, so he took the risk to operate. For two or three days Ram was successful, but later my brother developed serious complications and passed away. That’s the reason why he came running to me when I fell sick in 1956 and was admitted to a private hospital where I was to be operated upon by Dr Ramesh Pai. Ram did not allow him to carry out the operation. He said he had lost his eldest brother for the basic reason that he was operated by him with little experience in treating gastric ulcers. Though Dr Pai was an experienced surgeon, he was very young. So Ram did not have full confidence in his capability. Ultimately, he decided on Dr Subramaniam whom he knew very well. He said he too would be present during the operation. Similarly, he did not allow Dr Ramesh Pai to operate on me in 1965 – it was my third operation. He suggested that I go to Moscow and get it done. He also accompanied me. In fact, Ram did join the course in MS earlier, but one day his professor asked him a stupid question related to surgery with which he was very angry. He denigrated the professor for asking such a useless question and claimed that he had enough expertise in surgery. Ultimately, Ram was disqualified for insulting the senior faculty.
My elder brother’s wife passed away in 1956 or 57. My mother’s death was in 1950. Though my mother was not that mature to understand revolutionary politics, she loved me immensely for the political activities that I was carrying out. After my first imprisonment in 1931, she never objected to my political work because she knew that I would not listen. She would only advice me to come now and then to see her. Beyond that, she never had any objections or reservations. My sister-in-law too didn’t say a word. She was very affectionate towards me since I looked after her very well while she was pregnant. I also took care of her elder daughter. All my sisters too showered affection on me. They passed away one after the other except the eldest one. Govindamma was my father’s younger brother’s last daughter. She was close to me. She used to attend the classes when we started a school as part of our social activities in 1931-32. There she fell in love with Pusapati Narasimha Raju and they wanted to marry. She was 17 or 18 then. Her elder brother Pola Reddy and elder sister Kameswaramma opposed their marriage. Raju and Govindamma got married despite their opposition. In fact, I encouraged her to marry though her brothers and sisters did not agree with her choice on caste grounds. Also, Raju was not very much educated though he could read and write Telugu. He did not learn English nor was he sophisticated. He had only two or three acres of land for sustenance. Earlier, in the division of property, Govindamma had got five to six acres of land. So when they married, her brother Pola Reddy said he would not give the land. I intervened and questioned him. He did not listen and leased the land to some Harijans. Previously, he was managing all those lands. When the Harijans were preparing to plough the land I went there and prevented them. They said Pola Reddy had leased the land to them to which I said he had nothing to do with the property which was the legal share of Govindamma and asked them to get lost. There was a special police picket in the village to keep a watch on my activities. I informed the police before hand that I was going to prevent the Harijans from ploughing the land. They too agreed that Pola Reddy had no right to lease the land, but said the issue had to be settled by the court. Thereafter a case was filed in the court to decide the rightful owner of the land. The court granted an interim stay on the petition and directed the receiver to deposit the agriculture produce with the court. The issue was finally settled in 1940 in favour of Govindamma, but unfortunately she passed away after giving birth to a child before the ruling came out. She was quite well after delivery, but she developed some complication later on from which she could not recover. Now, the land is in possession of her husband Narasimha Raju. I don’t know whether her child was alive after her death. Of course, Raju married again. He did not take part in political activities later. Unless there is a continuous consciousness, people generally would not react to political developments or take an active part in it. There should be someone to guide them on all the issues. Raju was jailed earlier for taking part in the Congress-led Satyagraha movement. Even now, the communist party gets majority votes in my village, but we lack a proper organisational setup there. Only four or five activists are left in the party.
All my sisters – second, third and fourth – died of diabetes. My third sister had no children, so she handed over her property – the house which doubled as Peoples’ Clinic –to Ram’s children. Dr Shyamala Reddy was the second daughter of my father’s elder brother’s son. She married a person whom she loved. Her father did not like him, but they got married after he passed away. He had four daughters. The first one Dr Suseela Reddy married a High Court advocate Venkatrami Reddy and settled in Hyderabad. The third one did not marry. The fourth daughter was also a doctor; she married a rich landlord from Nellore. My elder brother’s son Sagar died in 1968 a year after Ram passed away. He had some perforations in stomach and was to be operated at the Madras general hospital. The doctors at the hospital delayed his surgery and that led to his untimely death. Of course, the family members could have got him treated at Nellore itself, but they were extra cautious. Unfortunately, they could not save Sagar though they shifted him to Madras in time.
My elder brother had two other children. I took care of his son, got him educated in medicine. Now, he has settled in London. He is apolitical. His daughter too studied medicine and married Shyamala Reddy’s son who is also a doctor. They are now in England. They have not come back after that. They are all well-off. The only person who is interested in politics is Dr Mitra. Let’s see whether he would come back to India. My fourth sister had four daughters. They too are doing well. In fact, my mother gave all her property to my fourth sister. My elder brother had enough lands and a house. That was the story related to my extended family.
I and Leela were both together during the legal period, but when I went underground for the second time, she was looking after the work in Prajashakti Nagar at Vijayawada and meeting different people. She went to Bombay for a few months and came back to help me in setting up the underground party apparatus at various places. She was with me all through the period between 1948 and 1952 when there was a severe repression on the communist movement in Telangana. The last time she went to Nellore was in late 1947 or early 1948 to settle the issue of my house which had a school and library. She struck a deal with somebody and transferred the property. Earlier, she used to look after Ram whenever he visited us. There was nothing she could do to change Ram’s behaviour. She used to share my deep concern for Ram. Then she came back and stayed with me. She looked after the comrades and the upkeep of dens at various places. However, she was my main den keeper. We used to rent out a house in places where we were least known. She used to run the house fetching all the essential commodities. In earlier days, we used to settle some families, mainly in Madras, for using their houses as our secret dens, but after marriage I had no such problems. We both were a family and did not find any difficulty in taking houses on rent. At places, where I was recognised, Leela used to go out and keep in touch with our contacts. She had to go through all the pangs of an underground life.
As soon as I came out in 1952, I was asked to go the party centre and take charge of the central apparatus. I was there for three years from 1952 to till the end of 1954. Leela was in charge of the parliamentary party office. She was with me practically whether in underground or open life. As far as my advice to the comrades on the issue of family relations is concerned, I would only say that they should try to lead a normal life maintaining contacts with all their family members. They should intervene if their sisters or brothers had any problems and try to counsel them. They should be very liberal in their outlook towards the family members. And, if they turn hostile to the party, the comrades should make it clear that they have got nothing to do with their kind of politics. If you can’t win over the family members to the side of the party, leave it. That should not be taken very seriously. In fact, most of the communists can’t force even their family members to work for the party, but you should try to keep normal relations without falling prey to their whims and fancies. If they want you to come back, you should take a very strong attitude in defence of the people and in defence of the communist movement – as I have done in case of my younger brother, brother-in-law and my sisters. It would be very irrational if you think that your relations with the family members could be of a great help in your political work. It would also be very abnormal if you think that being a revolutionary you should not maintain any relations with your family. No communist should do it. At the same time, we should not yield to their wrong notions or suggestions.
Maintaining cordial relations with family members and relatives might help you at some point of time in the long run if not the whole movement. As long as you are there in the movement it is necessary that you maintain contacts. I used to do it and whenever I visited their houses they used to take good care of me despite knowing that I am being hounded for political reasons. I even used to visit the families of distant relatives. But then, you have to judge which relative is safe because some relatives may betray you out of personal grudge. Therefore, it all depends on your understanding of the well-wishers. If any of your family members or relatives take an anti-people stance you better boycott them. That should be our attitude. Neither should you seek any favour from your families nor try to misuse your organisational strength to help them. You should not give room to such backroom allegations. We should not bother though other people might indulge in such activities, but personally you should be able to assert that you are not doing any favour to the family or seeking its help. Of course, when the family is in need of a genuine help, you should be very careful while extending any favour and how others would perceive it. You should be in a position to explain that you are not going out of your way to help the family. I don’t know how people get the wrong understanding as if they have nothing to do with the family members or their own personal life. I don’t know from where they learnt all these morals and principles from. How can a family become an obstacle in your journey through politics? If you consider that family is an obstacle then there is something wrong with your way of dealing with them. Subordination of your family and your personal concerns is one thing, but negation of all the relations is quite another. There’s a huge difference between the two. There’s logic that since you are a revolutionary you should not marry and resort to all kinds of tricks. Who told you to do all these things? A normal life would give you more strength – morally and emotionally. That’s the reason why I don’t advise anybody not to marry. If you want to marry, go in a proper way. Think of all the pros and cons of a married life before taking a firm decision on it. Don’t get carried away by emotions at first and then repent.
Now, I would come to the Telangana struggle. In 1946, the elections were due after the Cabinet Mission plan and the Constituent Assembly election schedule was approved by all the national parties. By then, we moved away from the Congress all over the country. As you know, there was only a limited franchise and not general adult franchise. To consolidate our political influence and test where we were in the scheme of things, we decided to contest the provincial elections. Because we had wide contacts we put up a number of candidates in Andhra. I think we contested nearly one-thirds of the seats in the Andhra region which was still a part of Madras Presidency. I and Katragadda Narayana Rao also stood as candidates on behalf of the united front led by the communist party. At that time, we had symbols with red and yellow colours. Though we did not win any seat, except the one reserved for the labour council, and though the franchise was limited to only a few we got over 30 per cent of the vote share. Pillalamarri Venkateswarlu won the labour constituency. An independent, Wilson, whom we supported in one of the seats reserved for scheduled castes in Krishna district, also won, but later on he defected. We also had Anand Nambiar from Tamil Nadu. He was elected from the railway workers constituency. So we had only three supporters in the provincial assembly. Based on proportional representation, one person had to be elected to the Constituent Assembly. I was fielded as the party candidate. I would have won if all our four members were together, but Rajaji lured Wilson and made him a Rajya Sabha member so that he could not vote for me. Wilson had the ambition to become a Rajya Sabha member, so he defected. Therefore, with only three votes we could not win the seat in the Constituent Assembly. In any case, we did not bother about victory. However, Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramaiah commented that despite limited franchise the communists were able to put up an impressive show in the entire Andhra region and that had there been an adult franchise they would have been in a very threatening position to the Congress. Prior to the elections, the party manifesto had to be drafted. In that connection I prepared a draft titled Visaalandhra Lo Praja Rajyam (Peoples’ rule in Andhra). The state committee approved it without any modifications and it was put before the electorate during the elections. It was a very small document running only fifty pages. We printed over 20,000 copies of it for distribution among various sections. First, we brought out only 10,000 copies and all were exhausted. Then we had to print another 10,000 copies. There were so many printing and proof mistakes in the copy. I found them out when I wanted to update and send it for a reprint. Most of the copy needed corrections except the declaration on what we could do if people’s rule was ultimately established. It was not a conception of some districts or councils but the whole of Andhra Pradesh where the people would decide their own fate.
There was an integrated outlook in the party manifesto notwithstanding the fact that the Congress too raked up the issue of a separate state for Andhra as early as 1938. Their campaign fizzled away in the latter years since they did not press for a combined state comprising all the Telugu-speaking regions. There was an urge among the people for a united state on the basis of common culture and common language, but that was not formulated by the Congress. We have to refer to the writings of the Congress leaders of those times to find out what was their exact stand on the issue of integration. However, from the very beginning, we tried to build up a common movement and a common party in both the Andhra and Telangana regions. It was only after the Telangana struggle was withdrawn in 1952 that the demand for a separate committee for Telangana came up. We had to concede it for the sake of maintaining unity in the party. I was later made the secretary of the Telangana committee while Rajeshwara Rao used to supervise the state committee from his position as the secretary of the Andhra committee. All kinds of permutations and combinations were carried out to keep the movement in tact. That was entirely a different story. That’s why in our party the Telangana movement is still recognised as a landmark not only from the angle of peoples’ movement, but also from the organisational point of view. The division that came in 1964 was the clear manifestation of the differences that persisted after the struggle was withdrawn. That way, you can conclude that the communist party’s first manifesto Visaalandhra Lo Praja Rajyam was a clear demonstration of our faith in the united destiny of the Andhra people.