My first impressions about Telangana

My first impressions about Telangana

My First Impressions About Telangana, Telangana Movement of 1946-1951. During my school days in Kerala, Telangana was in the news for all wrong reasons. Wrong reasons, because it was then the hotbed of the Communist movement with all its frightening fallout across south India

During my school days in Kerala, Telangana was in the news for all wrong reasons. Wrong reasons, because it was then the hotbed of the Communist movement with all its frightening fallout across south India. That was the time when they spearheaded the armed revolt of the peasantry in the region. It had its impact even in Kerala with Communists from underground striking at frequent intervals in villages. People were scared of Communists because of the barbaric methods they used to eliminate their opponents. They thrived on murder, loot and extraction of money. Even the police were clueless about their hideouts and the manner in which they struck in villages during the nights. Things have changed in Kerala. The Marxist-led Left Democratic Front is a strong contender for power in the state for alternate terms.

The Telangana movement of 1946-1951 was an armed revolt of peasants under the leadership of the Communist Party of India against the oppressive feudal landlordism patronised by the autocratic rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad. The sufferings of the peasants intensified during the II World War, as they were subjected to increasing number of exploitative taxes and levies and asked to do ‘vetty’ (forced labour). Many of them were unable to bear the increasing burden of exactions, losing their land to the village money lenders. At the ground level, while the peasantry was dissatisfied, the youth suffered from lack of education and jobs. Literacy was just 10 per cent, of which literacy among Telugus was just 2 per cent and 8 per cent in Urdu. There was a potential ground for a revolt. The society needed a trigger and the Communists who came from the coastal region seized the opportunity in feudal Telangana.
Men, women and children from discontented villages were organised by the Communists into armed guerilla squads to fight the exploitative landlords and battalions of the Nizam, called Razakars, who were increasingly deployed to crush the movement. P C Joshi, the then general secretary of the Communist Party of India, together with P Sundarayya provided inspiration for the armed struggle and arranged for the supply of arms and ammunition to the struggling peasants. They were supported in their endeavour by military officers who gifted weapons free of cost. The revolt started in 1946 in Nalgonda district and quickly spread to Warangal and Bidar districts. They claimed to have liberated 4,000 villages and the lands were distributed to landless peasants. Around 4,000 peasants lost their lives in the struggle fighting feudal private armies. The landlords were either killed or driven out. The well-known leaders at the forefront of the movement included Ravi Narayana Reddy, Chandra Rajeshwara Rao, Pillaipalli Papireddy, Suddala Hanumanthu and several others.
The rebellion and the subsequent police action led to the liberation of Hyderabad state from the Nizam’s rule on September 17, 1948. During the brief military administration, Gen J N Choudhary put down the rebellion to some extent. The violent phase of the movement finally ended in 1951, when the last guerilla squads were subdued in the Telangana region. The Communists, however, retained their hold in Telangana and there was even a talk that they would come to power in the 1952 elections. That was one of the reasons for the merger of Telangana with Andhra Pradesh in 1956. The feudal landlords felt insecure in Telangana, hence they wanted to be part of united Andhra Pradesh.
The peasants’ condition, however, remained the same, though all landlords were driven away from Telangana. In 1967, Charu Mazumdar founded Naxalism at Naxalbari in West Bengal. Revolutionay leaders from Srikakulam visited Mazumdar and reactivated the movement. They were followed by old guards in Telangana who became active and organised armed squads. Kondapalli Seetharamaiah and K G Satyamurthy, both teachers from Kazipet, became followers of Mazumdar. They organised the peasantry again. The campuses of Kakatiya, Warangal, Gandhi and Osmania were full of youth, fired with revolutionary zeal.
During the Emergency in 1975, there was a crackdown on the Communists. Seetharamaiah and Satyamurthy went underground in Dandakaranya and founded the People’s War Group (PWG), also called CPI-ML. Eventually, it emerged as the foremost revolutionary group in the entire country. The activists from Telangana migrated to Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha and formed CPI-ML-Maoist in the year 2004, leaving the peasantry in their home state leaderless. Both Seetharamaiah and Satyamurthy and other senior leaders are also no more.
There is a possibility that the new state of Telangana will be dominated by the Communists. It is also a fact that most of the top leadership of Naxal movement in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha is from Telangana. According to Col (retd) Anil Athale, a Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow at the United Services Institution for the Study of Insurgency, the Naxalite leadership is likely to relocate themselves to Telangana and abandon their fight in other states. If a state is politically underdeveloped like Jharkhand, then there is no positive takeaway from the formation of a small state. The danger is real in the case of Telangana as the spearhead of the movement, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, is less of a political party and more a ‘family concern.’ There is a lot of sympathy for the Naxalites from the civil society and human rights groups. Conditions still remain bad for the peasantry. The youth are restless. But they are leaderless. If the new state fails to address the problems, it may result in revival of the Naxalites.
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