Comrade DV Rao: Unique Role In  Indian Communist Movement

Prominent communist revolutionary (CR) leader of India, DV Rao (Devulapalli Venkateswara  Rao 1917 June 1-1984 July 12), was  known for his unique role in leading the historic Telangana People’s Armed Struggle (1940-51). Every year  in July he, and his inseparable comrade-in-arms T. Nagi Reddy (TN 1917-1976), who also died in the same month,  are remembered by thousands of people through various programs in Telangana and AP.

DV Rao

The Birth Centenaries of both DV and TN were observed in 2017 in a serious manner involving thousands of activists and followers. This is a tribute to mark his death anniversary on July12. Here in Part-1 we give a brief review of his life and work; and then in Part-2  focus on his views on caste and caste politics.

More on his life and works is available in, which published several articles on and by him. One link is given below:

DV Rao’s Life and work : A Brief Sketch

Born in 1917 in Nalgonda Dt of Hyderbad princely state, he began his political life as a communist revolutionary in 1939  and died as such on  1984 July 12.  He gained a wealth of experience during the early period which saw the inception, growth and development of the Telangana people’s struggle (1940-51) which took the form of armed struggle during 1946-51. He organised the party, to begin with, in the Nalgonda district and learning from the people, embarked on the path of developing class struggles.

DV Rao was a rare theoretical, political, organizational, practical, cultural and military leader who left behind his extensive writings published in English and Telugu.

They were a product of his Marxist-Leninist method of learning from the people and adopting appropriate tactics, whichsaved the local party from the pitfalls resulting from the class-collaborationist policies; by the strength of this method, he could guide the Telangana armed struggle on proper rails inspite of the right and left opportunism practised by the Central Committee of the undivided CPI.

Com DV spent around 17 years in underground activities and about 5 years in various jails (the  ex-MP spent more than 10 years of UG life and all of jail life after the New Constitution of 1950) in his 45 years of political life and work as a communist revolutionary.Together with TN , he in 1975 founded the UCCRI-ML that eversince stood for a revolutionary mass line as different from right revisionist and left adventurist lines. He was its General Secretary from 1975 till he died at 67 in July 1984.

His was an illustrious  life as a CR  cadre, leader,  and organizer as well as a theoretician : He stressed an Indian interpretation  and Indian application of  the universal world outlook  of Marxism-Leninism-Mao’s Thought, reflected in his work and writings. Despite being a very active communist leader, representing the trend of revolutionary mass movement, he was a prolific writer from 1940s till 1984 July 12;  his writings, theoretical as well as journalistic, werereflecting, and never divorced from,  revolutionary practice. 

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DV Rao’s contribution Vs the Official Left

India’s official Left with all their energies and resources – they may not and need not agree with him – did and still do all their best to ignore and undermine him. It is because of their reformist and class collaborationist relations with the semi-feudal, semi-colonial and neo-colonial  Indian State and society. It is a serious dis-service to Indian communist movement, and a grievous loss to generations of Indian communists and Leftists.

DV Rao’s unique and matchless role in Telangana (1940-51), and hence in India,  was well known : he was its Secretary from 1940s when CPI units there  were formed; was a Member of Andhra Secretariat of undivided CPI; was a Central Committee Member from Telangana by 1950 and until CPI splits of 1964-1969 period; post-split, he was a key leader of the revolutionary Left, representing the trend of revolutionary mass line;  was a  key leader of APCCR and Founder-Secretary of  Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India – Marxist-Leninist, (UCCRI-ML) in 1975.

DV Rao  was an MP , Member of the Loksabha,  during 1957-62. DV Rao along with his closest comrade–in-arms, TN—Tarimela Nagi Reddy (1917-1976), who was also a Member of the same  House,  the latter known for his magnum opus India Mortgaged. They represented the trend of revolutionary mass line in the Indian communist  movement.

The undivided CPI had its largest contingent in parliament from Andhra  and he was part of that. He never retired and was very active as a CR leader virtually until his last breath in 1984 July, when he was aged 67,  with over 45 years of active political life.

Despite all this,  he is almost never found in the books and journals of official Left that mention scores of other leaders and cadres. It is somewhat  like removal of Stalin’s name by post-Stalin CPSU, including from the famous Book, History of CPSU. Stalin’s name was pushed into some footnotes there, as well known.  

India’s official Left, or Left-overs as some one joked, was particularly guilty of ignoring DV Rao’s contribution. Many collections, and scores of volumes, of Indian communist documents and writings were published, by those associated with CPI, CPM,  like by PPH, by NBA and others, but they omit DV Rao. Many associated with CPI-ML movements, post-Naxalbari, are no exception.

For instance, many had published refutations and criticisms of Andhra Thesis (1948), a very significant but small theoretical work of about 25 pages, that was written based on Telangana (1946-51),  but singularly omitted to publish the Thesis itself until very late, in recent past. DV Rao as the key leader of Telangana was closely associated with it, adopted by the then Andhra Secretariat of CPI, though he was not  its draftsman. It was the first that raised the question of China path and Mao for India, long before Naxalbari 1967.    

DV Rao’s magnum opus, The History of the People’s Armed Struggle of Telangana (1946-51) Volume-I, in Telugu, was published in 1988 July, four years after his death. The Volume covered the period upto September 1948 Police Action. It is regarded as the most authentic, objective, meticulous and detailed, but not personalized, history written by a participant-leader of the struggle.  The book with an edition of 5000 copies running into some 680 pages was soon sold out. It was reprinted in 2014 April, and again in 2015 February, as  a rich Royal Demy volume in Telugu of 420 plus 32 pages. This classic work  was shunned by the book shops associated with the official Left for decades; it was only much later they kept it in their stocks. The faction-ridden  CPI-ML divisions did no better.     

Less noticed, particularly by India’s academics and  arm-chair Marxists, is his immense contribution to Marxist theory in relation to Indian interpretation of communism through a significant and vast body of his writings. He penned valuable writings, even as he led a most active practical life as a CR. They span from 1940s virtually until he died on 1984 July 12. They are no exception to much of India’s slavish, West-oriented research. They quote, re-quote and re-circulate a few writers, including from the West,  without any serious study of DV Rao.      

Interviews by  eminent scholars

Several eminent scholars had a few interactionswith DV Rao, some of them  even when he was underground.

 Several foreign scholars like Tariq Ali, Barry Pavier, Peter Custers came down all the way, had detailed, in-depth interviews with him, despite their differing ideological perspectives. Editors of EPW had some close interactions with him while he was UG, during Emergency 1975-76. The scholars knew that views and writings by the participant leader are a rich material for any student. His  writings bring out some significant features of the historic Telangana struggle. That keenness was missing among Indian scholars. 

 Half a dozen History Professors of JNU led  by Bipan Chandra had an 8-hours-long, rare and deep-going interview with DV Rao, a few days  before DV Rao died (on July 12, 1984), with rich information and deep  analysis. They were  greatly thrilled by the interview, but the largely Nehruite group, close to the Establishment Left, was not happy with his revolutionary views. 

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Com. DV Rao wrote several works on Telangana

– The History, mentioned above.

— including a detailed Review of P. Sundarayya’s early 1970s’ Book, Telangana People’s Struggle and its Lessons that was translated into several languages. DV Rao’s Review, published as a booklet in 1974, in English and Telugu, with the title Telangana Armed Struggle and the Path of Indian Revolution, had raised many questions on crucial facts and interpretations given by Sundarayya, the then General Secretary of CPI(M).  There were no convincing answers.  

— As a member of the undivided CPI’s Andhra Secretariat, he was in charge of conducting the Telangana armed struggle. It was as a part of discharging these responsibilities that he wrote the document  Refutation of Wrong Trends Advocating Withdrawal of the Telangana Armed Struggle (1949) in which he briefly reviewed the Russian path, the Chinese path which he said was nearer to India, but derived and  proposed an Indian path for revolution. The Chinese revolution was yet to culminate  but DV Rao and Andhra Committee were already studying their experiences. A few writings of Mao and Chinese revolution were published in Telugu by the Andhra unit of CPI.

–His polemical writings were objective, sharp in analysis but always decent in language. They constitute a body of writings that was called as India’s Great debate.

— By summing up experiences of Telangana, he formulated a General Line for Indian revolution; and stood for Agrarian Revolution with Abolition of Landlordism and Land to the tiller as the central slogan, and as the principal task. While upholding  People’s War Path, he consistently opposed Left Adventurism and individual terrorism, from the beginning. He represented Revolutionary Mass Line trend among CRs.

His classic work  People’s Democratic Revolution in India – An Explanation of the Programme, 1971, explains the General Line (briefly PDR) 

PDR is Rao’s  Court Statement ,  originally written during  1970-71, and  was  read out in full  as a Defence Statement, on  December  14 to 18, 1971,  in the Special Court that tried DV Rao  T. Nagi Reddy and 40 others in the famous  Hyderabad Conspiracy Case , the  first of its kind after 1947.

 ( The  Proletarian Line Publications,  5-5-1022/107, Mallikarjuna Nagar (North),  Chintalkuta, LB Nagar, Hyderabad-500 068.)

They are given in two parts.  


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Part-2 : DV Rao on Caste question

There has been a debate about Indian communists ignoring the caste question, and many theories were weaved around it. There were accusations and confessions too, with degrees of bitterness on both sides of the divide, both well known. But DV Rao was conscious of caste question quite early and his emphasis was on uniting the oppressed, irrespective of caste, into militant class struggles.

He dealt with the caste question at some length in his classic work PDR.

As a keen student of Indian history, mythology and society, as a man of the masses who lived with them for years, he studied the caste question very closely and deeply. He was not constrained by past theories, or even by communist dogmas, many of them imported from West, but looked it objectively in the course of his practice. He did not write a treatise on caste separately, but his writings are imbued with his understanding of the question.

About origin of caste system he says that castes “ From a historical point of viewpoint, we can say that they are all tribes and sub-tribe of the primitive tribes. ”  P.xxxviii, PDR).

This is a significant observation that needs to be more focused….this view he had for long, though we find it written in his Foreword of May 1981. It debunks some other theories of origin of caste that are unscientific, and not based in historical facts.He dismisses ossified thinking and versions about Four Caste system : He mentions there were kings and rulers from all castes , including dalit communities, and STs.

Then he says how British rule encouraged caste organizations and caste-reforms movements.

DV Rao saw caste dynamics, caste in its motion, social  as well as political  casteism.

As a revolutionary leading the movements for decades, in particular agrarian revolution involving millions of rural people, where caste is  more naked and brazen, and as a politician who was a Lok sabha Member  (1957-62),  and later as a close observer of India’s  electoral and  political systems, over the decades,  DV Rao saw caste dynamics, caste in its motion, social  as well as political  casteism.

As one who applied Marxism to India’s concrete  conditions to develop a Program and Path for Indian Revolution, unlike various revisionists and trade unionists with their narrow experiences and outlook , he very much reckoned with the caste question on a larger canvas. His writings from 1940s reflect that.

Based on his revolutionary mass work, as the movement spread from Jangaon taluq into a Nalgonda district-wide movement, DV Rao wrote and published detailed Field Reports, a trend-setter in that genre, as  early as  1944-46. Heroic Struggles of  People of Jangaon (taluq) 1944-45 (about 100 pages in print), Heroic Struggles of  People of Nalgonda (district)  1946,  and other Reports, like on Vetti/Begar(1946-47), (as many pages), are some examples.

These Reports of 1940s contain specific and vivid reports of how rural poor of various castes were exploited; in Telangana’s feudalism , across the entire caste spectrum, top to bottom, they were exploited and oppressed by feudalism. Notably, he saw caste more deeply than with a reformist Gandhian approach. DV Rao saw caste and casteism are much more pernicious than untouchability, which is the most heinous explicit feature and forms.

Heroic Struggles of People of Jangoan (1946), about 100 pages in print,  which was banned by the Nizam a few months later,  had a few explicit references to some dalit rural poor, among other castes,  being exploited and helped out. It refers to a bitter armed clash (with native arms) with Nizam’s armed forces in Mallareddy gudem village, wherein five people were killed… DV specifically names, and salutes, three dalit women martyrs there :  Guravamma, Tondamma, Ankalamma …DV wrote : they are Telangana’s  Jhansis and Chand Bibis… along with one Appi Reddy   and Mungi  Veerayya,  of  yadav caste. (Jangoan, 1946)


The samebook on Jangaon mentions cases from a few villages where ‘Harijans’, (dalits), got converted to Islam to escape vetti-begar etc…that was mostly before the AMS organized them…Ramavaram village of Kadaru Ramachandra Rao, a feudal Mali Patel; Mundrai is another such village. The report mentions conversions also by ‘other castemen’, ‘so as to contend feudals’.

It is notable that caste politics even of those days were discussed then :


Another contemporary Report of 1944 mentions how the Nizam administraton promoted conversions of ‘Harijans’  into Islam hoping it would strengthen pro-Nizam forces in the event of elections that were contemplated as part of reforms. It was a politically motivated attempt made after Congress elsewhere won in provincial polls  after 1938.


He saw caste in its link with class and found  that  even the poor from among Brahmins, priests, vyshyas were being victimized including being forced to render vetti (begar, unpaid labor and services), And there were dalit elite who stood with the Nizam, and with reformism. Hence his views, very briefly stated here, are not academic; he adopted the method of seeking truth from facts; his observations are rooted in concrete reality. They merit  and call for serious and deep study.


In 1971 Court Statement also he names women, mentions dalit  woman Nagamma was among those who led resistance and was killed while fighting.(p.52,  PDR)

 It is notable that DV discussed caste politics and caste  theories, even if briefly, in his seminal work,PDR, ie., Court Statement, written, and read out in a special court, in 1971, including in a special section devoted on caste.Then he added a review, a Re-look, of caste system in his Foreword of 1981 May to PDR’s Second Reprint.

 He saw the close connection between the caste and class.  In 1971 itself he wrote :


“In our countryside, the caste system is linked with landlordism. While the landlords belonged to certain castes, the overwhelming majority of poor peasants and the agricultural labourers belong to certain other castes. Thus the landlord domination turned into upper caste domination also. These landlords are able to prevent the middle and poor peasants and agricultural labourers from uniting with the same belonging to other castes, against themselves, ie., landlords. They are able to divide them. This is the case with all castes, wherein the mass of the people are under the influence of the upper strata of their own castes. The class of landlords is using the caste system for political purposes. They purchase the elders and the top strata of other castes…. (p.171-172.  PDR, 1971.)

His was not a doctrinaire and static view. He also discussed caste dynamics influenced and engineered by ruling classes.

DV Rao wrote how political casteism is there, strengthened by Constitution, law and casteist  and  electoral politics. He did not equate casteism and untouchability, as implied by some writers.

He wrote in 1971  : “The caste system continues to exist in Indian society even today. As a climax of this, there is untouchability.” In fact his  section on caste in PDR opens with these words.  (p171, 2014 Reprint)

A sentence  later,  he wrote : “ The caste system , in addition to religion, has been a hindrance for unification of people against feudalism and imperialism.”  That is a hindrance …also in the struggle against imperialism, he wrote, going beyond feudalism ( in villages.) … Did DV  dismiss the necessity of consciously taking up anti-caste struggle?

And he asserted Reforms– religious, social, political, legislative-  legal, cultural  etc — over the decades and centuries failed to abolish not only  casteism, but also its worst manifestation of untouchability. 

He wrote in the very next sentence  : “ The legislation banning untouchability has never seen the light of the day. It met the same fate as the efforts of Gandhiji to remove untouchability.” (p171, 2014 Reprint)

He was explicit :  “ The caste system is rooted in the towns as well as in the villages”  (p.193, ibid). It was not just a feudal relic, obviously.

And he stressed the dynamics and resilience of caste. He even wrote how it entered into and survives even in the communists.

As to impact of the Indian Constitution and laws, he minces no words and writes:

“The legislation banning untouchability has never seen the light of day. It met the same fate as the efforts of Gandhiji to remove untouchability…”

Ruling classes claim  so many  dignitaries  from among SCs  are there. Notably, united Andhra Pradesh  had a dalit  Chief Minister, Damodaram Sanjivayya,  as early as 1960-62. Later on, there was a dalit President of India, a Deputy PM, many CMs including a dalit woman CM, Union  and state  Home Ministers, top police officers,  judges in highest Courts, top academics  like VCs  and   UGC chiefs  etc. There  was  an iconic personality,  Dr BR Ambedkar who , they extol, helmed the Indian Constitution, and  was a Law Minister etc. In this context, referring to a ground reality, the character of the Indian State, and contrasting reformist attempts  with  the need for a revolutionary alternative, DV Rao writes:

“The provisions in the Constitution, regarding the removal of untouchability and the economic improvement of the backward classes, are not being implemented, as far as the mass of the people are concerned.”

One can see an echo of what was developing in universities from DV Rao of 1981  who writes:

Caste frenzy is growing rampant among the educated. It has become a common spectacle for students to be divided and to clash on caste basis. Caste organisations are being formed among university teachers (lecturers and professors). If anybody says that they are being formed on class basis, it must be said that they don’t know what class struggle is. Is it not clear that, instead of forging into a united force to struggle against the ruling classes, they are aiding the government by getting splintered along caste lines? What has this to do with classes?

The government has dragged the people into the mire of casteism in order to divert the people away from class struggles. It is with this purpose that it is extending monetary help to caste institutions (hostels etc.). How then can they be class organisations?

Not only caste-based housing, hostels  and scholarships for SCs, BCs, minorities  etc, which DV Rao mentioned, but separate schools for SCs STs and BCs,  in the name of Gurukul Pathsalas etc are being set up in recent past. If students  are segregated like that for 10-12 years of schooling, what message is sent thereby? Is it the way for  abolition of caste or  its consolidation , aided by the State ?

He wrote :

Likewise, if a particular caste comprises (mostly) of the exploited in a village, in another village (or villages) the same caste comprises of the dominating and the exploiting sections. And they are not in ones and twos but in considerable number.

( Though DV Rao did not give examples here, he elsewhere mentioned, as we  can see Yadav Sena, Kurmi Sena, Vanniar hordes etc hunting rural poor, of SC as well as non-SC castes,  and related  bahujan poltics in this context.)

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DV Rao on politics of caste and casteism,  and on  Dalit Panther movement

DV Rao, while dealing with politics of caste and casteism, commented on Dalit Panther movement, and  wrote way back in March 1974 issue of Proletarian Path,  a journal published for sometime from Calcutta  and edited jointly  by DV Rao and Moni Guha. Some extracts from that comment are given below.

Caste system, a survival of slavery and feudalism, is linked with the present-day political system in India. …

Behind the ideological-political frame work, there is the economic foundation of semi-slavery and semi-feudal relations in our country. The over whelming majority of rural and urban poor, in which agricultural labour, poor peasants and industrial labour are included, come from certain castes in which the so-called  Harijans ( untouchables ) constitute considerable number….

The backbone of the casteism consists of this upper strata of society which is exploiting it for its ends, political as well as economic. Therefore abolition of landlordism is the first essential task to root out the caste division and untouchability. Hence the need of an agrarian revolution….

Such incidents are often described as atrocities committed by upper castes on the so-called lower castes. True, the landlords, by using their political power and economic domination are able to divide the poorer strata. They are able to use the poor of the upper castes—often their own castes—for the purpose of committing such atrocities. Though the element of casteism is present in all these classes, they are essentially the atrocities by the landlords on the  rural poor… To characterise the clashes as inter-caste rivalries is to divert the attention of the people from the agrarian revolution for which conditions are matured….

(Then DV Rao mentions Dr BR Ambedkar, his successors, their  opportunism, and a militant trend  that was emerging in the form of Dalit Panthers in Maharashtra. He continues 🙂

The latest event, which has drawn the attention of the entire people in our country is the resistance put up by Dalit Panthers against the police and the poorer strata of upper castes in Bombay. Maharashtra is the birth place of Dr. Ambedkar who has fought against untouchability in his own way, with the help of social reformist movement. He advised his followers to adopt Budhism as their religion which is opposed to caste-division. A sizeable section has readily agreed and adopted it. They are called new-Budhist. The Republican Party consists of Dr. Ambedkar’s followers. As a parliamentary party, it has become a victim of opportunism and careerism which the ruling Congress Party could utilise to split it so that it is no longer a force to reckon with. A section of the younger genera­tion has organised itself into Dalit Panthers on the pattern of Black Panthers in U S A, which is a Negro movement against the racial discrimination practised by the whites in that country.  (Taking note of the just emerging Dalit Panthers, their policy statements and  activities, DV Rao continues: )

Dalit Panthers are for the unity of the oppressed, irrespective of caste or creed. They are putting up a militant resistance to the   atrocities of the upper caste Hindus and the police, a major part of whose officer-cadre belongs to the former. They have boycotted the parliamentary elections in the Central Bombay. For this they have to face the wrath of Congress in the form of police repressions. These are welcome features of their policy. They are yet to clarify their attitude towards ruling classes and the democratic revolution.

Experience has shown that social reformist movements and statutory safeguards can never emancipate the oppressed castes as long as the present political system continues because it defends the foreign interests and their native agents among whom landlords occupy an important position. One must adopt a revolutionary programme and policy and unite with all revolutionary forces which are working for emancipation of the oppressed people, to achieve abolition of casteism.

Agrarian Revolution- forms the axis of Peoples Democratic Revolution in India, for which revolutionary communists are working. Agrarian revolution alone can emancipate the rural poor from landlordism. A revolutionary working class move­ment uniting all the oppressed in the urban areas, irrespective of castes or creed will have a leading role not only for the emancipation of the urban poor but for agrarian revolution also. Untouchables, being the most oppressed and forming the major part of the poor, have a key role to play among the poor.

Ruling classes and their party, Congress  is  not sitting idle with folded  hands.   They  are  wooing the  leadership of the Dalit Panthers. They  do desire to  retain  its  reformist  and caste character,  while the overwhelming majority of the Dalit Panthers are for a  revolutionary line.    This demands vigilance on  their  part against  the  machinations of the ruling party…

(We can today  see, more clearly than ever,  how this wooing by the ruling classes, which DV Rao mentioned in 1974, increasingly enticed and entrapped the later-day Ambedkarites, in UP, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamilnadu etc., who  joined hands with forces they called as reactionary and brahminical.  BSP  joined hands not only  with Congress but also BJP in UP, more than once. RPI factions, as well as some successors of Dr. BR Ambedkar, joined hands alternatingly with Congress-led UPA as well as NDA led by BJP. Some of them even merged into BJP. Ram Vilas Paswan and Manjhi of Bihar were typical opportunists. Udit Raj is another. Even some leaders from Dalit Panthers joined chauvinist, rabid  Hindutva  tigers of Shiv Sena. Both Congress and BJP played Hindutva card in relation to reservations that were extended to converts into Budhism and Sikhism, but denied to those who converted to Christianity or Islam. Some Ambedkarites fell in line and opposed reservations for such  converted dalits.

In such a context, one can examine DV Rao’s suggestions for unity among genuine forces on both sides. He continues and wrote:)

All the parliamentary parties have their own share in encouraging casteism for the sake of votes, representation in parliament and legislatures,  jobs and other facilities etc. To expect abolition of Casteism from such parties is nothing sort of hoping against hope.

They (Dalit Panthers) must unite with the   revolutionary  forces,   which are working in our country.

The first   and foremost task of the revolutionaries in India, is to organise these oppressed sections into a revolutionary  movement  and unite with them wherever they are    organised    on   the  basis of genuine anti-imperialist, anti-landlord programme.    Revolutionaries will not only oppose but organise resistance against all sorts of oppression either by  the upper  strata or upper  castes  and  help  the oppressed realize  that the path of the emancipation lies in the path of  revolution.

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DV Rao contemplated the need for proletarian dictatorship in relation to casteism.

DV Rao was well aware of the deep roots of casteism. Even while he narrated experiences of unifying oppressed masses and revolutionary classes, dalits, adivasis, as well other rural poor, through revolutionary  movements and struggles, with agrarian revolution as the principal task, he saw the possible need for the use of revolutionary state power when, in the same passage,  he wrote:

On the other hand, a revolutionary power, which enforces the abolition of caste system with all the force at its command can alone do away with it….

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Casteism is operating among communists too ?

DV Rao gave a rare media Interview, to Telugu Daily  to Andhra Jyoti in May 1984, shortly before his death. Its English version was published in Proletarian Line No 47-October-November 1984.(p.No.9). Excerpts from it are given here:

….Dealing with the problems one encounters while mobilizing people into armed struggle, Com. DV explained as follows:

The important aspect of our line is that the struggle for land is inseparably linked with the armed struggle. People take up arms only after they shed illusions on the Constitution.

There was and is division among the people. We cannot wage armed struggle basing on any single caste or section of people.

The divisions in people are of two kinds. One political, and secondly, based on castes. Caste division (social division is bad enough but) by itself is not dangerous. But casteism is dange­rous. This Casteism increased in the last 35 years. James Boswell, the biographer of the eminent English literary giant Samuel Johnson said, “Politics is the last resort of a scoundrel”. In our conditions we should say,“Casteism is the first resort of a political scoundrel”.

As an example we can cite the contest in 1962 to the Khammam Assembly Constituency…. The party candidate, who won in the two preceding elections with a good majority, was defeated because the votes were cast on the basis of caste. Now there is a division within castes also. For example, in Bandar Constituency the main parties chose persons from ‘Kapu’ caste. This is leading to division in the respective castes. There is a theory which says, because there is casteism, it will not be possible to unify people. This is wrong. We can overcome casteism by people’s movements.

The reporter asked whether casteism is operating among revolutionaries also. Com. DV explained as follows:

…Everybody knows that casteism is operating openly in CPI, CPM. The revolutionary groups are no exception to this-

…CP utilized casteism during and after the split.

…The problem exists even in Kondapalli (Seetaramayya) group  (PWG). There are even theories to this effect. Their theory is that because there are poor people in backward castes, all the people belonging to these castes are revolutionaries, whereas those of upper castes are not revolutionaries. In their view, a landlord means a person of upper castes and the revolutionary classes mean the lower castes. They are building up the party with this theory. This is wrong. …After the advent of capitalism, a brahmin will no more be a brahmin. A kamma will no more be a kamma. There are all classes in any caste. One can see landlords even in backward castes and scheduled castes. We will not equate classes and castes. In terms of numbers, one caste may have less and another may have more.

…Radicals theorized this where as CP did not. But In practice, they are implementing it in the same way. We are not supporting these theories. Even if a person is a landlord, if he declasses himself, he can become a revolutionary. Our path is arduous. With caste division among the people, it is becoming difficult to unify them. Particularly over the last 35 years the ruling classes have greatly increased casteism. …In Telangana the Harijan hamlets used to be adjoining the villages.  But the Government is .removing them and constructing houses far away from the village. …In spite of caste division we will be able to unify people on their problems. Besides this, there is also a political division among the people – Congress, CPI, CPM etc. All these parties are exploiting casteism.

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Salient features and achievements of Telangana’s Agrarian Revolution (1940-51) 

DV Rao, the grass-roots activist who evolved into the chief leader became the Secretary of Telangana Party that in turn was a part of Andhra Provincial Party Committee. He emerged from inside Telangana, unlike top leaders like  Sundarayya and C.Rajeswara Rao (later-day General Secretaries of CPI-M and CPI respectively) who were from outside the Hyderabad State. He played a crucial and leadership role in the development of the Telangana Struggle, in all its aspects and at all important stages right from the inception of the party in Telangana — commencement (1940) and development of the class struggle, the struggle taking the form of armed struggle (1946), opposing the demand (1948-49) for the withdrawal of the armed struggle, and continuing the armed struggle against Union armies (1948 September to 1951 October).

New Social Life in Struggle Areas  (1946-51)

The above is the title of a section in Chapter 12 of  his History book that narrated concrete gains and features. Gram Rajyas and a New Democratic Culture of Social and Gender  Equity could be seen in it. Some aspects related to caste  are given below :

— millions of people of various castes including dalits and adivasis were united and mobilized into struggles; and were represented in Gram Rajyas. A New Democratic Culture of Social and Gender  Equity was being developed.

— Elected Sarpanches from SCs are discriminated against in modern India, post-1950 Constitution, even in Tamilnadu, but not in revolutionary Telangana, which had elected village Sangham committees, irrespective of caste, which were rudimentary power structures, stronger and empowered than today’s village panchayats.

– it had established people’s courts wherein speedy, fair and free justice was rendered, even while giving a fair opportunity during trial to the accused parties; new principles of justice replaced old, feudal, casteist ways of village bigwigs .

— Hindus, Christians, Muslims, including dalits, together participated in resistance activities in various degrees ;

      — they ate, slept, and worked together (i.e., no untouchability) as part of  the activities of the Sangham (Andhra Maha Sabha) and armed struggle; (It was different from experiences elsewhere…in trade union offices in Bombay (now Mumbai) separate  pots were kept for SCs for drinking water.

–poor people including dalits and women, unlike in the past and unlike elsewhere, wore clean and  decent dresses, hair dressing,  with a  sense of freedom, equality and dignity ( significant because  in vast feudal areas across India there were restrictions regarding dress, footwear and upkeep for lower and dalit castes);

people irrespective of caste and creed  lived with self-respect and dignity, for the first time in 2000 years of history;

women’s issues were addressed in favor of women : abuse and wife-beating totally stopped, marital justice, right to divorce, extra marital affairs complained by women, prostitution, formation of mahila sanghams, free and regular participation in public meetings, cultural programs, volunteer squads  as well as armed  resistance activities, dress freedom,

— respecting women, including not harming in any way, even those of enemy classes and sections, even during raids by armed squads, etc; (these standards were not followed by Nehru-Patel armies who indulged even in rapes and third-degree tortures, as mentioned elsewhere.)

— hundreds of people’s writers and artists emerged, also from among the unlettered people, art and literature flourished;there were dalit-born lyricists, singers and artists who were popular among people.

–night schools for illiterates were conducted, also for women, where  revolutionary content  was taught; there was no caste segregation. By early 1950s, so many dalits got educated, and became assertive in Telangana. In many villages they were village leaders followed by those of upper castes too. Humiliation of dalits never arose in struggle areas.

DV Rao played a crucial, pioneering  and leading role in each of the above  aspects.

( The above details are based on The History of the People’s Armed Struggle of Telangana (1946-51) Volume-I, by DV Rao , published in 1988 in Telugu. They can also be seen in several of his writings in English on the subject. Most of the details of his life and work are drawn from the Foreword by the Editors of this book.)

***                         ***

See more on DV Rao in like :

Problem of Nationalities in India: DV Rao’s views

QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT- Role Of The Communists: Telengana Followed A Revolutionary Line

MA Krishna is a mediaperson.



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