Puchapalli Sundarayya Writtings

Chapter-1

 

 

 

Let’s begin with my childhood days rather than with the history of the Indian communist movement, because that requires a lot of time and preparation. Shall we start?


Alaganipadu is a village in Kovur taluk of Nellore district. I was born in a landlord family in that village on 1st May, 1913. My father was Puchchalapalli Venkatarami Reddy and my mother was Seshamma. My father owned up to 50 acres of land in the village and was very influential in the entire region. I was the sixth child in the family. The first one was my elder brother followed by four sisters. Since I was the second male child after four sisters I got a more favourable treatment from my family. Normally, for the families of those times, the birth of a male child after so many daughters was a welcome sign. After me, another son, who went on to become Dr. Ramachandra Reddy, was born.

 

Talking about the socio-economic conditions of Alaganipadu, the village was located in the Pennar delta. It was situated at the tail-end of what was known as the eastern channel of the Kanigiri reservoir. The village had a guaranteed irrigation system for one crop. As we were growing up, my mother used to tell me that we were the biggest among the landlord families in the village earlier. My father and three of his brothers – two of them elder and one younger – belonged to one of...

Chapter-2

 

While in the school at Rajahmundry I joined the Boy Scouts Movement. I was considered as one of the best scouts. In the scouts movement too Ramgopal Rao used to be ahead of me. We had two teachers whom I admired a lot. One was Krishnaiah. He was a mathematics teacher. He not only generated in us the interest for maths, but also made us aware of the biological theorem. He was instrumental in kindling our curiosity in advanced subjects, including the sciences, and a passion to learn more. The respect was mutual on both the sides. I used to go to his house and get plenty of books on advanced mathematics from him though it was beyond my age to really understand them. Similarly, there was a Telugu pundit called Somayajulu. He was really good in Telugu literature. For students of Form I and II, generally, there was a reading class once in a week. It was the time to read general books. He had a library in which, apart from Telugu novels, there used to be books on history of the temples, art and architecture. I would pick up those books and read them. The pundit would often ask me: “why are you so interested in temples, art and architecture.” However, my main interest was in the history of the temples, if not so much about their construction style or architectural splendour. I was interested in the history of art and the historical monuments. I used to share my feelings with him. In that way, the two teachers – Krishnaiah and Somayajulu – had been of great help to me. Not only were they helping me in the regular courses, but were also providing me with books, especially these related to advanced sciences, history and literature and which were outside the ambit of the school syllabus. That was an important aspect of my school education and early life.

 

My advantage had been attending school and attending classes regularly...

chapter-3

 

We didn’t realise the sorrowful nature or the fallout of our anti-toddy campaign. By then, the government had raised the excise duty on toddy tapping and it was difficult for the Gowda community to meet all their monetary requirements. Their income had taken a downward turn. The toddy tappers too were toiling masses, working hard for subsistence. There was tension in society and, added to that, Gandhi’s call to quit alcohol had a deep impact on the masses, especially the poor. Generally, drunkards were looked down upon in the middleclass society. The general public considered consumption of alcohol as some sort of an evil. So, we did not bother much about their (toddy tappers) complaints nor did the people object to our felling of the palm leaves. Actually, in the villages where we took up our campaign, the Congress was very strong and naturally, the toddy tappers did not resist as they should have for fear of reprisals by the local Congress leaders. However, later on, we realised through our experiences in those villages that we did was not right or wrong to the full extent. During the Telangana struggle, those experiences helped us in formulating an overall balanced excise policy wherein the toddy tappers were allowed to carry on with their hereditary occupation and eke a proper livelihood out of it. The Nizam regime prohibited felling of the palm trees and unless there was a prior permission from the local authorities the Gowdas were not allowed to tap the toddy. For doing that, they were required to pay quite a huge amount towards taxes.

 

As a first step during the Telangana struggle, the Congress as well as our Andhra Mahasabha volunteers called for the mass destruction of the palm trees so as to deprive the Nizam government of any excise revenue and to transform the area into a cultivable land. But the toddy tappers were in large numbers in Telangana and they protested our decision. We had to respect their aspirations and protect their right to livelihood. We had to...

Chapter-4

 

Though my brother-in-law persuaded me to stay back and continue with the studies, I didn’t listen. I told my brother-in-law that I would go back to my village and take up political work. Thereafter, I gave up my studies and decided to leave Bangalore. It was a very serious and a sudden decision. Once I take a firm stand on any issue there’s no question of anybody influencing or changing it. I left Bangalore for Madras to reach my village. As the train was about to move from the Madras central station Amir Hyder Khan appeared on the platform. Earlier, I had informed V K Narsimhan or somebody else that I had stopped studies and was going back to my native place. I also told them I would come to Madras in the month of May, meet all our friends and chalk out a future course of action. I gave all my travel details, including the date, route and trains. Probably, they might have passed on the information to Hyder Khan. So he came to see me. He suggested that I join the movement immediately and take up the party work actively. I told him that I was prepared to come along, but asked him to give four months time so as to sort out all the issues back home and convince the family members, especially my mother, of my decision to join politics in a big way. I also made it clear that there was no question of staying aloof from the movement and that I would work in whatever capacity they want me to and strengthen the movement.

 

My elder sister used to always complain about my ferocious behaviour when I was young, but later – after I joined the Communist Party – she recognised that there was a sea change in my outlook and attitude. In the later years, I became very calm and composed and used to converse with the family members in a convincing manner without trying to put across my views strongly. At least, that was what my sister noticed. However, I was very troublesome in my early childhood. I used to resist all the efforts of my parents to send me to school. If they forcefully took me I would...

Chapter-5

 

As part of our efforts to bring about a semblance of unity among various sections of the village, we began collecting water from various wells located in the areas dominated by the Harijans and other low caste people and educating people on the right to water. First, we brought the potable water from the well which was situated half-a-mile away from the centre of the village, second, from a well in the centre of the locality dominated by the Reddy families, third, from a well in the area resided by the weavers and fourth, from a well in the north-eastern part of the village inhabited by the poorer and weaker sections. The caste Hindus did not object to our withdrawal of water from their well, but boycotted our call for the collection of water from all the wells. In the first instance, they wanted to attack me and our group, but since they feared reprisals from the Harijans, they gave up the idea. However, to sabotage our attempts at forging social harmony, one night they put night soil into the drinking water well. The young boys who were with us cleaned up the whole well the same night. Actually, we were furious over that inhuman act, but did not want to precipitate the matter further. So that issue was settled calmly. Gradually, our campaign picked up and we were able to assert the right to drinking water in the village. Ironically though, neither the Harijans were prepared to fetch water from the wells located in areas dominated by the landlords nor did the latter bother to make use of the water available in the north-eastern part of the village.

 

To put it broadly, the various activities that we undertook in the village, especially the mobilisation of the agricultural labourers, attracted the attention of people in the neighbouring villages also. Many farm workers and the small peasants began to organise themselves under our banner. Finally, they were able to find a platform from which they could raise their concerns, mostly of the economic and the social variety. The issue of wages was a potent tool in their hands with which they could put up a resistance against the exploitation by the rich landlords. Apart from my involvement in the Satyagraha movement,...

Chapter-6

 

If you take the period between 1934 and 38 or rather 1939, we have to evaluate the activities in Andhra Pradesh as well as other states with which I was connected. Earlier, I have given a broad outline of my activities, including the formation of an agricultural labourers union in Alaganipadu, and how the union spread to places in Guntur and Krishna districts in 1935-36. I have also narrated how we started the Youth League and made it a state-wide organisation. However, the Youth League was relegated to the background after 1936 when we all decided to join the Congress Socialist Party. I would explain the context behind the formation and the growth of the CSP in Andhra. Tactically, an overwhelming majority of the CSP members joined the Communist Party of India in the later period. I would narrate all those incidents a little later. Before doing that I would like to recall the period of 1932-34 when I was in my village carrying out various socio-political activities. One of the purposeful activities I took up on the personal front was to toughen my body for revolutionary exigencies. It was also necessary to equip myself. There was a distant relative of mine in Buchireddypalem by the name Dodla Muddukrishna Reddy. He came back from America or Europe. He had a very good library comprising books on politics, economics, literature and social sciences. I used to walk from my village to his place which was some 18 miles away. I would get up early in the morning and reach there by 8 or 8.30 am, spend three or four hours reading books, take food with him and come back to Alaganipadu by 5 ‘0’ clock in the evening. Even after returning home, I still had the capacity to walk another five or six miles. Similarly, I used to go to Nellore which was some 16 miles away. Walking to Nellore was part of the routine to harden myself and also to meet various groups involved in revolutionary politics besides purchasing essential commodities. There was no bus service then. Going by walk was the only option. Of course, later on I purchased a cycle. That’s another aspect; I would come to it later. So, I was confident of walking about 50 to 60 miles a day by that time. In 1936, I went to Madras twice or thrice from my village on a cycle only to test my cycling capacity. The distance was some 110 miles or so. It was...

Chapter-7

 

Another important thing about Navasakthi was Tummala Vekatramaiah, Chandram and Kondepudi Lakshminarayana were there to look after the editorial responsibilities. We used to get our blocks done at one of the synthetic block maker in Tenali. Block making was nothing but development of images. We brought out a special issue on the Soviet Union with photos collected from different nations. There were very good images of the top Soviet leaders. It was the first and the most qualitative and comprehensive issue ever brought out in Telugu on the achievements of the Soviet Union in those times. The weekly journal had to be brought out in time and circulated in all the villages and towns. Sometimes, the printing machine would give trouble and sometimes, the mailer would not come. So we used to deliver the papers on our own on bicycles besides of course, doing the packing work. Tummala Venkatramaiah was the editor and we were all members of the editorial board. The whole day we would write the articles and edit the copies, proofread them, and later supervise the printing work, pack the bundles and deliver them. Unless we did all those things, the paper would not have come out in time. In any case, we were able to manage the whole affair related to publishing and printing of the paper. The circulation part was also done by us. At that time, I felt that to educate the ordinary village reader and the cadre a brief summary of the happenings on the political, social and economic front was enough and that too in a week. In my view, a weekly paper was the best tool for propaganda. It would also be quite cheap and the cadre could afford it once a week. Also, the postal services were not that evolved as is the case today. That was the way in which we used to carry on our publicity campaign.

 

We also brought quite a large number of pamphlets on political and economic issues. Maddukuri Chandram and Kambhampati Senior were the main contributors to those special issues. They were also the main translators. During the same time, Kambhampati...

Chapter-8

 

Venkatrama Sastri, husband of Dr Atchamamba was also arrested in connection with the Madras Conspiracy case on the charge that he had been providing us with cover addresses and that he was one of the organisers of the underground apparatus. As I told you earlier, they were all defended by Batchu Jagannadham, a leading advocate of the Madras High Court. He had been defending our cases from the very beginning. Later on, he became a High Court Judge and retired as such. Another important activity of mine during that period was my visit to Kerala. It was in the middle of the year 1940. The main purpose of the visit was to explain the party policies and programmes to various socialist groups in that state. Most of the comrades were underground from Kannanur to Palghat. First, I contacted comrade EMS Namboodiripad who was taking shelter in a fisherman’s or a poor peasant’s family. Since he was a very well known leader, he was prohibited from even moving out of the small hut. He used to confine himself to the thatched house the whole day. He used to take bath and wash his clothes only during the nights. For that, he used to take only a few hours; the remaining period he was limited to the hut. It was like a solitary confinement where sometimes he had to urinate and answer the nature’s call. One remarkable feature of EMS was that though he hailed from an orthodox Brahmin family of Namboodris and was very much a scholar of Sanskrit and puranas, he was able to mix with the people from the weaker sections, observe their rituals and even take the food prepared by them, including the fish curry. Another important feature which I found out there was about a young boy aged around 12 or 14 years, who used to act as a courier for us. It was he who took me from one place to other linking up the comrades. His name was Kunhi Anandan. Later on, he became one of the organisers of the party. Later, He left for Berlin where he mastered the German language and became a correspondent. Even now, he contributes articles on international relations from GDR and to the Blitz.

...

Chapter-9

 

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...

Chapter-10

 

We had a clear understanding on the issue of Andhra nationality and we did whatever was possible to manifest the unity. Later on, when I showed that document to Rajya Sabha chairman S Radhakrishnan he said it projected a very good imaginative picture of the situation in Andhra and Telangana. Similarly, Raghavendra Rao, who later became a High Court judge in Madhya Pradesh, appreciated the picture that was given in the document. That was all about our first manifesto.

 

Before taking a look at the Telangana struggle, I would like to mention one fact. Immediately after the post-war upheaval, there were a series of struggles in Andhra, especially the Challapalli peasant struggle. There was a general upsurge of the peasantry at all the places. In such a situation, the question that came up before us was whether or not we should occupy the lands of the zamindars. That issue was taken up for discussion even while we continued with the peasant struggles. Similarly, while intensifying various struggles in the Telangana region, we called for a concerted and a united effort to overthrow the Nizam government. Previously, we had mooted the proposal for an interim government with equal representation to Muslims and non-Muslims under the supervision of the Nizam himself. With our new slogan ‘Overthrow Nizam Government’, we mobilised people on a large scale in 1945 without giving any scope for eviction. We demanded that ownership of the land should be transferred to the tiller and that the practice of bonded labour should be put an end to. In the same year, the membership of the Andhra Mahasabha reached a staggering total of over one lakh. The Mahasabha had a strong support base in Nalgonda, Warangal, Khammam and Karimnagar. There were a number of struggles resisting the domination of the Deshmukhs and their oppressive measures, especially corruption and bonded labour. Those struggles were carried out entirely under the leadership of the Andhra Mahasabha. The political and social churning reached its peak during that period. In 1946 July, we had to take up the question of giving a new direction to the peasant and workers...

chapter-11

 

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...

Chapter-12

 

During the whole period of 1947 to 1951 – from the beginning of the Telangana movement till its withdrawal – there were many incidents interconnected with each other and from which we can draw proper lessons. From my own personal experiences of the movement, I would like to recall certain instances. First of all, when the people march forward spontaneously many things – which we normally think can’t be changed – can happen. People have to rise to the occasion. In those days, because of the general background of the anti-imperialist fervour and the hatred against the Nizam, not only was there a huge mass mobilisation, but also – as I have narrated already – the objective conditions were very favourable to launch a massive armed uprising of the peasantry. In such a situation, our primary task was to acquire more weapons and ammunition. Technically speaking, we were very far, down in the south, from places where there was a revolutionary zeal among the peasantry and the rural masses, especially Punjab and other places. Practically too, we were hindered by the Arms Act and those who joined the movement lacked the skills to handle the weapons. The military camps or depots were scattered all over the country, but not in the south. So, it was very difficult to get arms and other supplies. At the same time, we organised the arms with whatever little contacts we had. We collected weapons even from the Andhra region, the dockyards and the mining areas.

 

The farm labourers, who were also employed in the houses of the landlords and the rich, especially in the conflict areas like Nalgonda and Warangal, knew where their masters deposit the shot guns and revolvers. So, they stole the weapons, sometimes pouncing upon the landlords, and handed them over to us. We also manufactured gunpowder and stuffed it into coconut shells along with brass filings to use them as crude bombs. We didn’t have the bores or the fuse to detonate them with big impact. Later on, those things were improved considerably. We even set up small manufacturing units with the help of village smiths. We had to enlist their support. Even the barrels for the ordinary local guns were made at those units. There were many such units at different places...