We had strong ideological differences with BTR because he did not understand the real significance of the Telangana armed struggle. He considered it was some kind of militant struggle against the government and nothing more than that. He rejected the whole understanding of the Andhra committee that we should win over the rich peasants and the petty bourgeoisie to our side and also that we should carry on the armed insurrection not waiting for the working class to lead it. Ours was more of the Chinese approach in that we wanted to continue the peasant uprising till such time the working class gets evolved in the Telangana region and ultimately lead the struggle. He termed the Chinese path as ‘bogus’. He said there’s no such path called the Chinese path and the only path he knew was that of Marx-Engels, Lenin and Stalin. He was of the view that Mao’s line was a flawed one; hence there was no question of recognising it officially by the party. That was in October 1949. The whole issue was debated and we accepted the authority of Marx-Engels, Lenin and Stalin and not that of Mao. Of course, he pooh-poohed us saying how we could organise guerrilla warfare with rich peasants as our ally. All those aspects were there. He said what he was propagating was a socialist revolution and what we were doing was something else. He dubbed our approach as a kind of revisionism. We said: “Yes, it’s a socialist revolution, but the first stage of it in which the rich peasants and the petty bourgeoisie have to be incorporated.”
Theoretically, a socialist revolution brands both the rich peasants and the bourgeoisie as adversaries. So, Rajeshwara Rao, MB and others said it could not be both. In any case, we had to go along with them. I agreed with BTR’s conception of a socialist revolution, but his strategy – to fight the whole bourgeoisie and the rich peasants – was wrong. Nor did we agree with him that the Russian path of a working class leadership of the struggle aided by a general strike was the only path. We said ours was a Chinese path and though it was a socialist revolution, it was necessary to garner the support of the rich peasants and the petty bourgeoisie in the initial stages. The Andhra committee’s advocacy of the Chinese path was ridiculed by BTR. Therefore, we had strong differences with him on that issue. However, he asked us to carry on the struggle till the working class comes and joins it. He felt that the struggle might help in igniting the working class. Beyond that, he didn’t have any illusions. He also criticised our demand for a separate linguistic state saying it was nothing short of bourgeois nationalism. In fact, BTR was there in the PB in 1946 when we brought out the election manifesto entitled Visaalandhra Lo Praja Rajyam which discussed the question of linguistic nationality in its entirety. His argument was that regional aspirations, linguistic nationality and cultural unity were subordinate to the concept of the whole Indian working class movement. Though he did not vehemently oppose the formation of linguistic states on account of the Congress’s rigid stand, he was very much against the idea of making the linguistic nationality a main issue in our struggle. Later, the central committee supported our stand widely and he could not oppose it. In any case, there were a whole lot of controversies on that issue, but as far as the movement was concerned, they were insignificant. In the meanwhile, he advocated some struggles which had a sectarian outlook. He said we should carry forward the struggle against imperialism from jails, also attacking the jail officials and warders and resorting to indefinite hunger strike. Those who would not take up that struggle would be deemed as cowards, he warned. That instruction was sent across to the jailed comrades throughout the country. If it had been a legitimate fight we would have supported it, but then, calling for jail breaks and other such vandalism was not in tune with the objective conditions and we opposed it. Since that line was given by the party centre, our comrades in jails went on the offensive in Cuddalore, Salem and other big jails. There was a massacre at the Cuddalore jail. Comrade Sitarama Rao was killed when the police resorted to firing to quell the jail riot. From the beginning, the establishment was very vindictive against the communists and if they had any chance to pin them down they would do it mercilessly. Tammareddy Satyanarayana’s hand was chopped off in another such incident. Similarly, more number of people were either brutally tortured or wounded by the jail authorities. We would have definitely supported the struggle had there been an exact formulation on the goals that we would achieve by carrying it. But the conception of a fight against imperialism was very vague and abstract. We would not have accepted it, but it was a party line on the whole question of advancing the struggle. Tactically, the slogan for carrying forward the struggle against imperialism was misconceived. The Andhra committee was furious over the new call. However, the comrades at the Cuddalore jail were going on with the struggle and we didn’t have any touch with them since it was in the jurisdiction of Tamil Nadu. The party centre directly passed on the instructions to the comrades in jails, so they went on the offensive without taking into consideration the pros and cons of such a struggle and whether the conditions were ripe for carrying it forward. The main objective was to put a strong resistance against imperialism, but doing that in the confines of the four high walls of a jail would have little or no impact. It was nothing short of a suicidal venture. We were not in a position to go on a prolonged hunger strike. What was it that you were going to achieve through all those (struggles)? Except shout in despair and anguish. We could not have mobilised the people in a big way to break the jails and let our comrades free. Every time you go on hunger strike you would further deteriorate your health. There should have been some sort of a compromise and that was not there. We definitely had the experience of carrying out struggles in the jails. Even the Gadar babas and the prisoners carried out hunger strikes in the Andaman and other jails, but they didn’t brand their struggles as a revolutionary upsurge. Such was the scenario then.
Even when the conditions were not favourable for such a struggle, the party centre labelled those who did not take part in it as cowards and useless fellows. Certain party committees were dissolved without seeking a proper explanation from them. A sense of discipline and a sense of loyalty to the party centre have to be there for sure. In fact, that loyalty turned the comrades into objectively slavish people. We did not like such a situation to continue. In any case, there was nothing we could do about it. While those things were going on, the document came and we said alright. We did write a dissent note, but said we would carry on with our own struggle in Telangana. In early 1950, we read that editorial urging for a lasting peace and people’s democracy. It was a critical piece that was published in Commune journal which was naturally a repudiation of BTR’s line. Earlier, there were articles by Dico and Baloshovich which mentioned various armed peoples’ struggles in the colonial countries and the Chinese boosting up all those literature. That gave us a moral strength that our struggle was in the right path and naturally, BTR’s line had to be reviewed. So a meeting of the central committee was called. We did extend the armed struggle from Telangana to the Andhra area where our party was more organised. Also, many of the armed cadres were being driven out from the forest areas of Telangana. That was in June-July 1949. The landlords and the police too started attacking us though we were underground. Even before the Police Action, terror reigned supreme in the rural areas of Telangana what with the landlords and the police resorting to brutal retaliation against the communists and their sympathisers. A large number of villages which were the strong holds of the armed cadres were raided and the people beaten up badly. So we decided that we too should retaliate. We resisted doing so for a long time, but the conditions only turned from bad to worse. Devulapalli was with us in Andhra and BN joined us later. Therefore, DV began putting pressure on us for some kind of revenge attacks. That was one aspect; the second one was our own comrades in Andhra who argued that when the landlords and the Nizam police were going on an offensive why should we keep quiet.
First, we said the situation was different in Andhra and that masses would not understand the whole concept. They said since the people were being beaten up badly we should also take vengeance. That question came up before us. We resisted the pressure for some time to some extent. Later on, we gave the slogan: ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’. While issuing such a slogan we explained the repression that was being carried out in Telangana to the people and urged them to understand our anguish. BTR had nothing to do with our new slogan; it was entirely decided by the Andhra committee. Ultimately, we combined our struggle in both Telangana and Andhra. But then, there was this question of arms. The Telangana comrades were well-equipped with arms whereas those in Andhra didn’t have any. We tried to get some arms for them, but the main focus was on the mobilisation of peoples’ support for the struggle. We set up our bases in sugar cane fields and other remote places in Andhra. From October 1949 to May 1950 quite a large number of our people were caught and shot dead in Andhra. In Telangana, at least we were able to escape into the forests. Practically, Andhra was a plains region and on the top of it, we had only a few arms. So, the cadres could not resist or escape from the security forces. They also didn’t have the requisite experience of running the underground places. As a result, many of them were arrested and later killed in fake encounters. Such encounters were nothing new to us. I think the first comrade who was shot dead in Andhra was Subba Rao of Kovur taluk in West Godavari or Chintapalli Papa Rao in Gannavaram. He was arrested on the day of Diwali and later shot dead. Later, many were killed in a series of encounters. Therefore, we had to disband the farm squads and other UG dens. Before this happened the news of killings in various jails came to us.
Meanwhile, in January 1950 after the editorial was published a meeting of the central committee was convened. By then, there was an authoritarian terror in the organisation. There was no sense of self-criticism in the party and many committees were dissolved and leaders removed from their positions. So, we were the only people fighting against such tendencies in the party. The CC meeting was held secretly in Calcutta. There we took advantage of the whole situation and started criticising the party centre’s line and its disastrous consequences. BTR accepted mildly that some of his formulations smacked of sectarianism. A new central committee had to be elected barring the members of the politburo. We also had to finalise our future strategy. Only those comrades who had not been arrested attended that meeting. Ghate, Ajay Ghosh and Dange were under arrest and hence could not attend. From Andhra, I, MB, Rajeshwara Rao and Devulapalli were present. Chandram was arrested by then. A decision was taken overthrowing the previous line. A new central committee was elected and the PB reconstituted. We demanded that those who actively supported BTR’s line should not be retained in either the CC or the PB and only those leaders who were victims of it should be taken back. But the PB had to function because leaders had the responsibility to carry on the organisational work. The PB was reconstituted and Lahiri was taken as a member though he was one of the important leaders who actively carried out the BTR line. Of course, he had differences with him later. We included Bhavani Sen in the central committee but later on we had to remove him since he was the chief architect of that sectarian line along with BTR. In the reconstituted PB, there were MB, Rajeshwara Rao, Lahiri and Biresh Mishra from Assam. I don’t remember if Adhikari was also there in the PB. So after that election, Rajeshwara and MB were asked to look after the party apparatus at the centre and we were asked to go back and take charge of the Telangana struggle. Then, the new slogan before the party centre was the ‘Telangana way’. It meant that the party was bound to spread the armed uprising of the peasants throughout the country. Naturally, it was also another deviation from the objective understanding of the Indian conditions. It was immaturity of the party and the poor conception of the struggle by the leadership. The theoretical formulation of the party was that we had to carry on the armed struggle and that might spread contiguously thereby liberating one state after the other. We were asked to just pick up arms and do the fighting. Of course, it took 30 years for the Chinese to bring in a comprehensive socialist revolution. But then, they had their own way and arms. The question therefore was how to carry the struggle in India and in which way. The second conception was that we were already fighting in Telangana and if we could launch an armed struggle there, why not in the whole of the country? The objective conditions in Telangana were quite different in that the struggle had a mass participation and a strong decentralised leadership at all places. We said that struggle can’t be replicated in other parts since they wanted only the working class to lead it. Their path of revolution was from the cities and industrial towns. In their whole understanding of the situation, they underestimated the basic peasant struggle itself though by then, there were armed resurrections by the peasantry in Kakadweep, Tripura and other places in Bihar and UP. I think there was an uprising in Punnapra-Vayalar too. The Tebhaga struggle took place in 1945-46. If the leadership had properly understood the situation and given the call much earlier the peasants would have carried on the struggle and the working class would have joined them at an appropriate time. That was our conception.
Another aspect was that the Telangana struggle was going on. We hesitated initially and could not take up arms in 1946 whereas we gave a call for armed insurrection only in 1947. If we had gone on an offensive much earlier also things would have been no different. We started the struggle in early 1947, made some strategic gains, but then the Indian army intervened in 1948 and we had been fighting it for over two years. Of course, we were overwhelmed by it. That’s a different matter. And now, what was the way out? If we lay down the arms they would massacre us brutally. There was no other way except go on fighting till more and more people join it. We could not fight only in Telangana; people in other areas too should take up armed struggle. Though I was actively involved with the Telangana struggle right from its conception I was not taken into the PB because I didn’t join others in opposing Joshi’s line earlier. After BTR’s line was set aside and a new PB was elected in 1949 I didn’t show any interest in getting into it because the PB had to function from a certain permanent venue. My presence was very much required in Telangana. The second and the most elementary reason was that the whole PB can’t be filled with comrades only from Andhra though there was a suggestion that PS should be incorporated. And, Chandram was in jail. To say that the whole struggle in the country should be carried by only Andhra comrades – as they have the experience – and nobody else would have been utterly preposterous. Therefore, we wanted to associate others from Kerala, Bengal and other places with the PB to spread the movement in the country and it was agreed unanimously that the struggle should be on the lines of Telangana.
India was pronounced as a Republic on January 26, 1950 and the government started releasing many of our comrades from jails. The releases materialised after the government came to know of the differences within our party, the jail struggle, correspondence between the leaders outlining the ideological deviations, particularly from Ajay Ghosh, Dange and Ghate. They wrote many letters criticising BTR’s line. In any case, it was good that the comrades were out from jails though the differences in the party became public. Many comrades, who were out on parole, including Chandram, came back to the underground apparatus. The politburo then had four or five members while BTR, Adhikari and Bhavani Sen were removed from the central committee. There was a strong demand for the expulsion of BTR from the party and we had to discuss the issue. We resisted any move to throw him out from the organisation. Whatever the Andhra committee said was accepted by the PB and the CC, so we could subdue the demand for stringent action against BTR. While BTR’s issue was settled amicably we had to face a serious challenge from Ajay Ghosh, Dange and Ghate. They opposed the party’s new slogan of the Telangana path. In fact, they brought out a three P’s critical document in which they challenged the new line. They had their own contacts and one of their students went to London to brief RPD (Rajani Palem Dutt) on the whole issue. Later, RPD criticised the whole understanding of the Telangana struggle by the party as sectarian. RPD had sent a letter expressing his views on the party’s new line to the PB for active consideration, but those leaders published it openly. Ajay Ghosh managed to get hold of a copy of the letter and got it published. That (letter) impacted the Telangana struggle to a certain extent, so we had to repudiate it. We said RPD had no clear idea of the struggle; hence his comments were not worth debating. Thereafter, there was a war of letters between the leaders espousing two divergent lines. There were open discussions which led to intensification of the inner party struggle. The bone of contention between the two sections was whether or not to carry on the Telangana armed resistance.
While the differences in the party were evolving with rapid pace, there was a severe repression on the Telangana movement. A large number of cadres were being killed or arrested. Also, there were differences of opinion between the leading comrades on the future course of struggle. As early as 1949, Raavi Narayana Reddy and Yella Reddy raised the question of whether or not to carry forward the movement. They were opposed to the further continuation of the struggle since the squads were being liquidated on a large scale by the all-powerful Indian army. They said the only option left before the party was to withdraw the struggle. However, their argument was rejected by the party centre and they had to go by the majority decision. Then Yella Reddy was arrested while he was on his way to the UG place in Jangaon sometime in 1949 or later. Though RN didn’t agree with the party line he was carrying on with the struggle from underground. We had to take all precautions since there was a dissenting opinion on the movement. When the repression intensified even in remote villages and forest areas, especially in the Manukota area, there was no one to command the squads. BN moved out from there due to differences with leaders like Tirumala Rao. In fact, Rao shot dead some people during a quarrel. The Andhra committee discussed it and directed him not to shoot anybody whatever might be the levels of suspicion. We told him to just throw out the unfaithful elements and take corrective measures. However, Rajeshwara Rao argued that there should not be any leeway for the traitors – if they were left alive they would destroy the party. Despite our clear instructions, one or two such incidents took place.
When Raavi Narayana Reddy saw that though such damage was being done we were not in a mood to withdraw, he began calling for a review of the situation. He left the underground apparatus without informing us. He only left a note at the UG den that he was leaving for Bombay to meet Dange and others to change the party line on the struggle. So I was in charge of the whole trek and it was very risky. One might argue that it would have been very dangerous for RN to leave from the UG den. The government could not have taken the risk to shoot him as it would definitely have serious repercussions. He was a well-known and popular leader of the struggle. For instance, when the security forces tracked down the squad of Raj Bahadur Gour he was not shot whereas two others accompanying him were liquidated. Whether or not Gour surrendered was entirely different, but the government knew that killing a person of his stature would only bring bad reputation to it among the common masses. It was more for propaganda reasons that he was left alive. What actually happened during the encounter, we don’t know. There were no eye witnesses.
As regards to RN’s visit to Bombay, he circulated a document from there saying that the Telangana struggle was nothing more than a terrorist campaign now. He claimed that the path of the struggle till 1948 was correct; only later it took a violent hue. He said that though he wanted the struggle to be withdrawn, the party centre did not agree and he had to honour its decision. Now that the struggle had lost the mass support and was left with only the terror squads, it should be withdrawn immediately. He apprehended that any comrade who denounces the struggle as a terrorist campaign would be eliminated physically. Of course, MB wrote a detailed document explaining the party’s position and the real situation in Telangana. The question of RN’s came up for discussion in the party and he was removed from the central committee. The leadership felt that it was improper on the part of RN to have brought out a document abusing the Telangana struggle, but since the whole atmosphere was quite different he could be readmitted to the CC at some point of time later. In May or July 1951, our delegation went to the Soviet Union to discuss the issue of Telangana with Stalin and seek his advice as part of efforts to forge unity in the party. That delegation comprised Rajeshwara Rao, MB, Ajay Ghosh and Dange. Though the three P’s document was there, Ghate could not be accommodated in the delegation since it was felt that he was not capable of discussing theoretical or organisational conceptions with the Soviet leaders. I don’t want to go into the details of the delegation’s visit to Moscow and what it discussed with Stalin. When they came back, the question of Telangana was clinched. Everybody agreed that it was not a liberation struggle, but only a partial bourgeois struggle. And, that we should explore the best possible way taking into consideration the correlation of all the forces associated with the movement. The main issue therefore was on what terms – minimum or otherwise – should we withdraw the struggle or continue it till we could extract maximum concessions for the people from the government. We realised that it was not a question of sitting in the dens and organising the struggle. We had to convince the cadres who were fighting with the army. So we were asked to do all the explaining to the cadres that it was not a liberation struggle as a whole and was confined to only one pocket of the country and forge a consensus on the maximum terms on which we could withdraw the armed insurrection. I and Devulapalli had to come back after the meeting. I think MB was also here since the PB was reconstituted with only Rajeshwara Rao from Andhra. Ajay Ghosh was made the secretary and Dange was taken back into the PB. MB had to come to Andhra and take up the responsibility of the revision campaign.
The question thereafter was we had to go back to the armed squads in the conflict areas of Telangana to explain the party’s new line and convince them to withdraw the struggle. It was sometime in the month of May in 1951. Meanwhile, RN unleashed a campaign calling for an immediate withdrawal of the armed struggle. We said immediate withdrawal was not the central committee line. First, we had to educate the cadres and elicit their opinion on the maximum conditions that could be put before the central government for withdrawing the movement. Second, there should be no more arrests and encounters. The arrested comrades should not be prosecuted. Third, the issue of lands which were occupied by the farm workers had to be settled. Without any guarantee on all those issues we could not have withdrawn the struggle immediately. If we had withdrawn immediately we would have been at the mercy of the Indian government. Therefore, we called for a minimum resistance – only in self defence – until the terms of withdrawal were finalised by both the sides. However, RN and others were so anxious on that question. Letters and statements started flowing from the jails that the struggle should be withdrawn. Arutla Ramachandra Reddy, Maqdoom, VD Deshpande, Chandu Chowdary and all other leading comrades who were in the jail carried out such campaign. We denounced them saying they had no business to interfere in the process. Ultimately, they formed a separate Telangana state committee.
At the same time, Ajay Ghosh kept complaining that there were reports that we were continuing with the struggle. He asked us to make a statement that we were withdrawing the movement with immediate effect. If that was not done, he would disown the party from the struggle. Chandram got wild over Ajay’s ultimatum. He said the party’s decision was to go back to the squads and explain things and not to ask them to give up arms immediately. He warned that if Ajay’s disowns the movement, then we would disown him and continue with the struggle. He made it clear that it was our job to decide how and when we should withdraw taking into consideration the real conditions and the understanding of the cadres.
Any struggle – leave alone the armed struggle – if it is to be withdrawn there should be some minimum terms. If the organisation as a whole retreats, say from a general strike or a peasant struggle, following an inevitable compromise, a minimum guarantee for life and work. When you retreat without any pre-conditions then you are giving in to the whims and fancies of the establishment. If we had withdrawn the Telangana struggle immediately and without imposing certain conditions for doing so, the Congress, in other words, the Central government, would have victimised the whole movement, especially its active participants. We could not have given a chance to the Union government to victimise the comrades. We managed to secure a major concession that henceforth victimisation and repression have to be stopped if there was to be a withdrawal on a full scale. Such a demand was quite elementary. We would definitely not have withdrawn the movement had the government resorted to continuous victimisation; we would have continued our struggle whatever its scale of mass participation and its effectiveness. When you reach a stage where you can’t carry on the struggle further and when there’s an opportunity to seek maximum concessions, the fight should be given up after hard bargaining with the government. For doing that, one has to wait for a better day. Naturally, we could not have withdrawn the struggle with immediate effect as was demanded by RN and others. When large number of cadres and the ordinary people die in an armed conflict with the government, it becomes entirely necessary for the leadership to explain the hard circumstances that have led them to contemplate withdrawal of the struggle and say that it was the best possible position. Even if repression comes in the wake of withdrawal, the leadership should be resolute enough to stand by the cadres and the masses and not let them down. It should be ready to re-launch the fight, if necessary, if the repression continued. The leadership should be able to instil a sense of confidence among the masses once it takes some hard decisions. A set of concrete assurances has to be provided to the people. You can’t just declare the pullout with immediate effect and leave the organisation and the masses to fend for themselves.
We had two main bases – one is the base bordering the Krishna River in the Nallamala forests which was the centre for activity concerning Kurnool, Nellore and Guntur and the other was on the other side of the river covering Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda. Hyderabad city as such did not have any armed squads, but it was the main transit point. The whole area – Nalgonda, Mahabubnagar and other places – was called the Amarabad area. The second area was in the Godavari belt. In the Godavari belt, there were two sub-areas of which one was the Khammam area. For over a year, we didn’t have any contacts with the Khammam comrades. Nallamala Giriprasad, Bombay Prasad (Veeramachineni) and others were in charge of that zone. The comrades who retreated from Nalgonda and went to the Manukota area and from there to Sirpur Kagaznagar were in charge of the two places. We had been in touch with the Manukota and Warangal comrades as well as Karimnagar, Nizamabad and Adilabad. Those were all the sub-areas, but still we had effective contacts with them. We had a very small force in the Adilabad-Nizamabad area. Esireddy Narasimha Reddy and Amruth Lal were there to guide the struggle, but the main fighting squad was based in the Warangal-Manukota area. Even before the disruption process set in, we sent BN back to the area from where he hailed. He had moved out of the area following an inner party conflict during which our comrades killed each other suspecting sabotage. There was no leader to reign in the erring comrades. We asked BN to go and unify the groups. But when the decision was taken to withdraw the struggle, we used to go to various bases to explain the party’s stand. As part of it, we sent Devulapalli to Manukota area to establish contacts with the armed squads and explain the new political line and also on what minimum terms we would withdraw the struggle. The responsibility of taking that campaign in the Amarabad area was mine. We had a deadline to wrap up the explanation campaign and take a final decision sometime in October taking into account the views and suggestions of the armed cadres and the masses. Thereafter, Ajay Ghosh, Muzaffer Ahmed and other comrades would negotiate with the Central government on behalf of the party centre. In the meantime, a campaign had to be launched throughout the country to explain that the Telangana struggle was not a liberation struggle as such, but only a partial bourgeois revolution. That campaign was to be done in defence of the party’s new understanding. Then, we had also decided to participate in the general elections. However, to make the comrades to participate in the elections the legal conditions had to be restored. For that, we had to announce a final decision on the withdrawal of the Telangana uprising by October. We had only four months time – June, July, August and September – to negotiate with the armed comrades and convince them. Therefore, I went to the Amarabad forest area to explain and prepare the ground for withdrawal.
As regards to Devulapalli’s campaign, it was very trite. He was a dirty liar in spite of his years of association with us. I would come to his activities later. At the same time, I had a great respect for Raavi Narayana Reddy and Yella Reddy despite their campaign for the immediate withdrawal of the armed resistance and the ideological differences that cropped up between us in the later years. It was unfortunate that Rajeshwara Rao created an impression in the party that Devulapalli was a big leader for the only reason that he could read and write. The fact was that he did not have that much intellectual capability to absorb or understand theoretical formulations nor did he have stature to influence the cadres. It was a case of His Master’s Voice. In any case, I don’t want to comment much on him. In fact, when I wrote a long reply to Devulapalli’s document (on the struggle) listing out the facts, BN did not appreciate me. He said that I should have exposed DV as a useless person rather than merely replying to his questions and that I should have explained that the real struggle was carried out by him (BN). It was true that BN was the field commander who inspired the armed squads. All the strategic gains of our struggle have to be credited to BN and all the failures to the party. So, there was no need to highlight the exploits of individual leaders or their betrayal. The leading comrades later wrote books on how they fought during the uprising and what their personal contribution to the struggle was. Despite the prompting by Hanumantha Rao and LBG, I did not say a word against RN and Yella Reddy in my book on the Telangana Armed Struggle. It would have been improper to put them in poor light– their contribution was very much there. I only wrote that they left the UG dens without prior information. It’s also a fact that Yella Reddy refused to let any critical information out when he was under arrest though he strongly differed with us on the question of continuing the struggle itself. The jail authorities and the government were appalled by his silence. Yella Reddy said it was not his job to issue a statement that would harm the whole movement outside though he had differences with the leadership. He was not among those people who issued appeals from the jail for the immediate withdrawal of the struggle. We should end this matter here. As I said earlier, Devulapalli went to Manukota to do the explaining. I went to Amarabad. Devulapalli tried his best, but it was BN who was more influential with the cadres. Unless he personally took up the campaign, there was no way for the party to convince the people. Also, the links were being broken over and again. When I set out for the forests, Chandram and MB were given the responsibility of managing the technical affairs and also the party headquarters in Andhra. Rajeshwara Rao was there in the centre negotiating with the government. A concrete decision was to be taken by us sometime in October and for that, all of us should return early.
In such a situation, I went to Amrabad. I and Rajeshwara Rao came back to our UG den where Chandram and MB were present to discuss the strategy. DV could not come in time. I think it was on October 18. Meanwhile, there was pressure from the party centre that we were delaying things and that we should speed up the decision-making process. At the same time, Raj Bahadur Gour, Maqdoom and others were claiming from the jail that they were the real committee. Ajay Ghosh did recognise that committee. I told Ajay that he can’t recognise their committee since we were the official committee. I asked him who was he to take a decision on the issue. I agreed that theirs was a legal committee, but made it clear that it should function under our command. It was natural that they would not agree to work under our leadership. However, Ajay Ghosh went ahead with his decision invoking the principle of legality. I protested saying what the term legal really meant and what purpose would it serve. We made it known on behalf of the Andhra committee that we would not recognise the legal committee. The real comrades were there in the forests and in the villages fighting and facing all kinds of hardships. Unless they stopped their struggle nothing was going to change drastically whereas the legal comrades were confined to only issuing statements from the secure walls of the jails. We were the ones who had the capability to convince them to lay down the arms and assure them of adequate protection in the aftermath. Both the issues were interlinked. In a sudden turn of events, the legal committee declared that it was withdrawing the struggle immediately. However, the Central government said there was no use of such a statement when the Bezawada clique holds the key and does not allow the field cadres to withdraw. It said that their statement would not convince the armed squads to withdraw; they were totally with the other group. If those leaders ask them to continue the struggle they would accept as they had been doing for the last three years. So, the government suggested the legal committee to first negotiate with our group. Then, Dr Jayasurya and others intervened and tried to establish contacts with us. However, the main question before us was Nehru’s assertion time and again. He said: “If you withdraw, I assure you. There’s no question of cases, trials and hangings. We will release the legal comrades and allow them to contest the elections. Of course, I assure you that there will be no eviction of the poor from the occupied land, but you withdraw first. That’s my demand.” We said unless there was an assurance that there would be no sort of repression or retaliation from the government, there was no question of withdrawing the struggle. At the same time, there was immense pressure from the party centre to take a final decision on the whole issue. In such a situation, what else we could have done. Devulapalli was yet to return. We knew that there would be trouble in the Manukota area since BN and others were not part of the campaign. So, without waiting for D.V., we four – I, MB, Chandram and Rajeshwara Rao – took a decision because I was able to convince the cadres in the Amrabad area and Vasudeva Rao did the same in Adilabad and Karimnagar areas. We had no contacts with Khammam. We did not know how successful DV was in convincing the comrades in Manukota. By that time, Yellamanda Reddy took his squads back to Nellore and the Kurnool squad led by Madduri Subba Reddy also left the base without obtaining permission from the leadership. We asked them who were they to decide the withdrawal unilaterally. When they needed protection they went to the forests and since they wanted to contest the upcoming elections they left. Any way, there was not much we could do to restrain them other than saying that they had betrayed the Telangana squads. That retreat showed that they were not enamoured by the armed struggle anymore carried as they were by the illusions of elections. Without leadership, how could we organise the struggle? That was the whole question. When we went to the squads, we had to explain to them patiently. For that reason, I went twice to the forests, first, in July, and later in October after we announced the withdrawal of the struggle.
When I went to the forests for the first time, the party did not explicitly say that the fight has to be withdrawn. We only said that we would wait for the opportune time – after obtaining maximum concessions from the government – to give up. We had to explain comrade Stalin’s observation that ours was not a liberation struggle, but only a partial bourgeois struggle which needs to be continued on a minimum scale until after a favourable agreement was reached with the Indian government. We told them that we were not letting them down and that we would definitely carry on the fight. After convincing the area committees and the squads, we said we would take a final decision on what terms the struggle could be withdrawn. We assured them that once a decision was taken, we would come back to take other steps – how to protect the squads and where to retreat – and also discuss the party’s programme for the elections. We asked them to put up a minimum resistance, but not go on an offensive in the interim period. That was in the July campaign. D.V. was also went forest. How far DV succeeded in that campaign, we didn’t know. BN was resisting any move to give up arms notwithstanding the party document. Ultimately, we were able to prevail on him. When we took the final decision, we could not contact the Khammam centre. Later, when I met those comrades – Nallamala Giriprasad and Bombay Prasad – at a secret convention of all the Telangana leaders immediately after the elections, I explained the reasons behind our decision. They also agreed that they had reached the point of exhaustion. They said that they had been fighting desperately and that they were happy to learn the party’s new position.
After the withdrawal decision was taken, Rajeshwara Rao said he would go to the Manukota area and convince the cadres to lay down arms, make arrangements for their retreat and if necessary, help DV to carry out the campaign. He left for Manukota and came back after the elections were over. We did contest the elections where we were legal. After elections, Rajeshwara Rao went back to the party centre. As regards to DV, he said he did not agree with our decision. It was true that he was not there in the committee which took the final decision, but he went there (Manukota) to explain the conditions to the cadre. Later on, we came to know that he carried out a campaign there quoting Stalin out of context. He alleged that we put our own words in Stalin’s mouth. It was a big lie. Stalin clearly said that we had misconceived the Telangana movement as a liberation struggle. And, if it was only a partial bourgeois struggle, it can’t be fought till the end. For such a struggle to end there has to be some compromise and that comprise would always be the correlation of forces and the best possible terms to withdraw. Of course, he did not say ‘go and withdraw.’ And, we didn’t ask the cadres to do so. In fact, Stalin said it was for us to decide when and how to withdraw, but suggested that the Telangana battle can’t be continued as a liberation struggle. It’s an elementary conception that once you start a partial struggle you can’t carry it forward for long; it has to be withdrawn at some point of time. When that was the case, how could DV claim that Telangana was a liberation struggle and that it had to be carried till the end? It’s true that Stalin did not ask us to withdraw; it’s not his job to say so. In fact, no communist would ever say to withdraw a struggle; it’s the job of the people who lead the struggle. The central committee resolution itself said that it was up to the Telangana comrades who were leading the cadres to decide whether or not to withdraw. And, if they want to withdraw they should consider under what situation and under what terms they could do it and how and where to retreat thereafter. The resolution made it clear that it was not the responsibility of the central committee to decide all those aspects of withdrawal.
After we announced the withdrawal, I went to the forests again in November. Withdrawal was one thing and taking steps to enforce it at the field level was quite another. And, enforcing a complete cessation of hostilities was not that easy; it would take time to settle the frayed tempers on both the sides. The armed squads had to be redeployed to assert our legality. We had to go to the masses gradually, but our squads and leading comrades were being hunted by the landlords and the security forces like anything. Those comrades who faced life threat and couldn’t stay in Telangana had to be shifted. We also had elections on hand. All those aspects were there to be settled. We just can’t take a decision and leave it to the cadres and the organisation. The masses would definitely ask: “Now that you have withdrawn, what do you want us to do.” So many such questions would come up and we had also the task to unify the groups. Withdrawal meant that we should not only protect the squads, but also rehabilitate them. We should decide who can come out immediately, who needs to be shifted and who should wait. By that time we were all underground; hence there was no question of us dealing with the government on the post-withdrawal measures. That’s why our earlier understanding was that the underground and the legal comrades should coordinate with one another on all those issues, but the direction would be ours. However, the legal comrades wanted to function under their own committee and also tried to usurp our powers. They unilaterally declared that they were withdrawing the struggle. So, we asked them who were they to take such a decision. We also issued a circular that their committee had no locus standi to take any decision regarding the struggle or speak on behalf of the Telangana comrades. That’s the reason why the government did not take the legal committee’s pronouncements seriously; it knew very well that we were the leading comrades. Rajeshwara Rao was the only other person who took the explanation campaign seriously. He was in the Manukota area for three full months. While he was there we got the news that he was surrounded by the police and was shot at. It was reported that he escaped from death narrowly. Later, when I asked him what really happened, he said though he was surrounded and shots were fired the danger was not much as was made out to be. DV’s campaign fizzled out because he was not that capable. Being a member of a high-power committee does not mean that a leader can put across the party line to the cadres effectively. The cadres did not hold him in high esteem. Since he failed to convince them, he claimed that our understanding was wrong and that the struggle had to be carried forward. When Rajeshwara Rao and MB were in Moscow, they decided that the movement has to be withdrawn. Under what conditions it should be withdrawn was debatable, but earlier the better. Actually, when the discussion started in the central committee we were there on the field and we wanted to continue provided the whole country supported it. We said withdrawal could be thought of if the party centre was able to get better terms. Once comrade Stalin has said that it was not a liberation struggle there was no question of arguing on it. The question therefore was of better terms before withdrawal and that was to be judged by the central committee. But the Ajay-Dange group said that the struggle should be withdrawn immediately. We opposed it citing lack of concrete guarantees from the central government. So, a majority of the central committee agreed with our stance and decided to give us considerable time to frame a charter of demands. In all those consultations, Rajeshwara Rao suggested that we should continue the struggle for a long time. That made MB very angry since from the beginning they both were mulling with the idea of garnering maximum concessions from the government to settle the withdrawal. Later, Rajeshwara Rao said that we should secure better terms even while continuing with the struggle. In any case, the trouble was not on the question of continuing the struggle further; the trouble was with the party’s dictum to withdraw immediately.
After the withdrawal was announced, there was a problem with regard to the authenticity of the committees. The legal committee started putting up candidates for the elections some of whom were not to our liking. Though the struggle was given up, we were still underground then because the government was bent on liquidating the leading cadres. We had to wait before the conditions turned normal. Taking advantage of our absence, the legal committee started taking decisions at its will. Naturally, we opposed all such decisions, including their choice of candidates. We could not fight the elections under the banner of the communist party since there was a ban. So, the Peoples’ Democratic Front was floated for electoral purposes. Though we did not oppose a majority of the PDF candidates, people like VD Deshpande and some muslim journalists were put in areas where we had a strong influence. Those were the people who had been opposing our line on the struggle from the beginning. In fact, I got the first list of candidates and we approved it. We did not bother who was standing in other places. There was a lack of influential candidates since many of them were underground, so some leaders were fielded from many constituencies. For instance, Pendyala Raghava Rao was asked to contest from three assembly segments and a parliamentary constituency. I think he won in two assembly constituencies and was also elected to the Lok Sabha. Anybody who stood up under the banner of PDF was elected. Another reason for that victory was the PDF struck an alliance with the Scheduled Castes Federation and the socialists. Since we supported the socialists, they won, especially in Karimnagar. Our movement was not so deeply spread in Karimnagar as was the case with Nalgonda or Warangal. Our support was very crucial for their victory. Their support too might have given us some boost in other places. There used to be some double constituencies and both of us won from such segments. Dr Jayasurya was more or less a pro-communist. He was not a socialist. He contested on behalf of the Peoples’ Democratic Front. We were defeated only in the Hyderabad city, but in the neighbouring Medak district we won handsomely. Maqdoom contested from the city and he got defeated. In Warangal, we lost in one constituency. That was also a city segment. There was nothing much to object to the candidature of persons whomsoever the legal committee selected, but we strongly opposed VD Deshpande who was most vociferous against the struggle. He was put up from the strongest constituency Jangaon. Raavi Narayana Reddy and Yella Reddy too contested and won. We did not oppose them. Even if we had objected there was nothing we could have done. We were engaged in saving our squads and rehabilitating them. Our committee was not confined to only Telangana, but the whole of Andhra Pradesh and we had the responsibility to look after the comrades who took part in the armed struggle. In fact, some people who came out after the withdrawal like Tamma Reddy started demanding a change in the leadership on the grounds that the whole struggle was led with a sectarian outlook. It was true to some extent in the latter part of the movement. Sectarianism and individual terrorism brought disrepute to the struggle and we got isolated from the people. There was a loss of life and property on a large scale. So, Tamma Reddy wanted a change in the leadership. Our contention was that though we might have made some mistakes, it was for the party to sit and ponder over the whole question. We said we were right in carrying on the struggle which we did not call as a liberation struggle. Of course, we realised that the ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’ slogan as a wrong move. We learnt it from our experiences. However, it was the people who went out and fought not because we asked them do so. They themselves were convinced that it was the only way out to establish a just and egalitarian society.
In any case, the people were not cowards like some leaders who surrendered to the police and spilled out crucial information. I gave a list of such leaders. Whatever might be the mistakes of the movement, it was not a justification for any revolutionary or a communist to go and surrender before the police. First of all, they surrender and second, they leak out the organisational secrets. So, we said such people should have no place in the party. There was no question of taking them back. But we did not object to those leaders who were arrested during the struggle or ran away from the terrible repression. We did not remove anybody for merely expressing their dissent, but we had to take action against those comrades who were in responsible positions in the party for breaching the disciplinary norms. It was not a vindictive stand. We said they could be taken back into the party committees at a later stage. However, we strongly resisted any attempts to bring in leaders who surrendered to the police and passed out critical information on the armed squads. Of course, there were bitter differences with some leaders on that issue. The other section claimed that since ours was a sectarian struggle fraught with tactical mistakes the surrendered comrades should be taken back. We were not prepared to accept their conceptualisation of the struggle as a whole and their justification for readmitting the betrayers of the armed uprising. As those differences were reaching a dead point, all those leaders said let’s first fight the elections. They put up quite a large number of candidates. We analysed the political conditions objectively at our UG dens and predicted that we may win 25 to 30 seats, but actually we won some 45 seats. That was the influence we had among the general masses. I never imagined that we would win the double-constituency of Kovvur or even in Nellore town because I knew the actual organisational strength of our party in those places. We won there as there was a strong resentment against the established ruling classes among the people. Another reason was the tremendous repression that the Congress government let loose on the communists all over the state. That made the people to revolt albeit in the elections. Also, the Congress was a divided house when the elections were just round the corner. Prakasam Panthulu and NG Ranga came out of the Congress and floated the KMP and KLP. Some of the socialists too moved out of the party. There was no united front between us four. Only in a few places we had understanding with the socialists. Beyond that, we contested on our own strength. In fact, it was a triangular contest. We got over 33 per cent of the total vote share. I have got the electoral statistics of the 1952 general elections with me. Out of the total 140 seats in the Andhra area, we were able to win 42 or 45 seats. In the Telangana area, there were some 103 seats of which we got 45. If we combine both the areas, our effective strength was 85. The Congress got only 84. The other seats were won by the KMP, the KLP and the socialists. We also had the support of some SC representatives from Telangana. Obviously, we also won the LS seats in a big way. We won a total 17 seats from both the regions – six in Telangana and 11 in Andhra and Rayalaseema. The one great factor, as I already told you, was the public anger against the brutal repression of communists. We got a good percentage of votes where our movement was active. At other places, the Congress vote got divided and in the triangular contest we emerged as winners. In Telangana we won only because of our struggle. The Congress was not a force to reckon with. It had only the rich landlords – the rightwing that was with the Andhra Mahasabha earlier – as its support base and they were driven out from the villages during the struggle. They had a strong propaganda point that the Nehru armies came and liberated the region from the Nizam rule, but that did not work in the face of the terror campaign the government launched after the Police Action. Though the landlords came back to the villages they had to cope with the communist who led the struggle. The Congress lost deposits after deposits and we won with a thumping majority wherever we were strong. The Congress could not win even a single seat in Nalgonda. It won only one seat in Khammam. It was a straight contest in Telangana between the Congress and the PDF. Other parties too were there, but had only a marginal support base. We got vote share anywhere between 50 to 70 per cent in the segments we won. The Congress could not get even 15 per cent of the vote share in such places. Three factors played a dominant role in our victory. One was the people in the rural areas were able to exercise their franchise freely without fear of reprisals from the landlords and the rich. Second, there was some semblance of social justice during the entire armed struggle. So people belonging to the weaker sections voted for us overwhelmingly. Three, lands were under the occupation of the poor labourers. Of course, the general masses were aware of the experiences of the struggle and the fruits they gained from it. Though we committed some gross mistakes mainly due to our sectarian outlook, our sacrifices during the movement did not go unnoticed. Also, we used to deliver raw justice against the people’s enemies. Now, one might say that it was a wrong move. Yes, it was definitely a wrong move, but under those terrible conditions instant justice was the only resort. The organisation as a whole could not be held responsible for individual acts, but the leadership should have taken some corrective measures. We did not take any decision on that aspect. Though our party takes decisions now, it is not capable of implementing them against the reactionary forces at the ground level.