Kancha Ilaiah Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd wrote an article titled “Can Brahmins Bring Revolution: An Assessment Through The Prism Of Tarimela Nagi Reddy”. (countercurrents.org, August 18, 2020).
It is not based on facts, and is prejudiced by his theories. He is free to have his theories, but truth should not be a casualty in the process.
As a mediaperson from Telangana, I feel an independent viewpoint will be useful in this connection. It is useful to see an assessment by Anand Teltumbde, renowned scholar and activist, who delivered the Keynote Address in National Seminar (19th June 2017) on Revisiting the People’s History: Architect of the Telangana Armed Struggle – D.V. Rao.It was the birth centenary year of Com DV Rao, who was a student of Osmania University.
Some of our journalist friends covered the day-long National Seminar, attended also by the Heads of the University, and some from Dr. BR Ambedkar University also. I give below some relevant extracts from the longish Keynote at a time Teltumbde is imprisoned. The keynote includes references to other Indian communist leaders mentioned by also by Ilaiah, and will be of general interest also.
Ilaiah mentioned incidents of student life of T. Nagi Reddy in BHU, Varanasi. Interestingly, during the same period , DV Rao was rusticated, among other students including the future Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, by the Osmania University in the year 1938.
The punishment was for singing Vande mataram in the University Hostel defying the rules there. And they refused to apologize. Hence rustication.
Some students including DV Rao refused to apologize and preferred to be rusticated. The rusticated students wandered all over India, including “nationalist” Andhra and Banares Universities, and no University was ready to give them admission so as to complete their graduation.
They visited MK Gandhi in Wardha who pleaded helplessness to get them admitted anywhere. Yeh bahut kathin samsyaa hai, ( It is a very difficult problem) Gandhi was quoted by DV Rao as telling them. And that set DV Rao thinking about the character of Indian leadership. He later completed his graduation from Nagpur University, but chose to join communist party ( undivided CPI) at a time when it was most dangerous, Hyderabad being not in India!
This episode was covered by me on 2017 May 7, as part of an article ( in countercurrents.org) that had a section on those incidents. See :
Vande Mataram Strike (1938): The First Agitation in OU:
When OU students felt let down by “national” leadership
Inukonda Tirumali, who was born in a landless poor dalit family of Telangana, and became a Professor (Retired) of History in Delhi, who did his doctorate on Telangana (upto 1948 Police Action) and authored a significant book on it, Against Dora, was the other key speaker of the day, and almost compered the program.
He was the unique scholar who could also go deep into official and police and intelligence records of the day, and found out the most critical and revolutionary role DV Rao had played in every phase of that struggle. His father was a participant of Telangana armed struggle and that gave added advantage as an expert on the subject.
Excerpts from Keynote Address by Anand Teltumbde
I congratulate the Osmania University for organizing this seminar in observance of the birth centenary of Comrade DV Rao who just as the architect of the Telangana armed struggle would rank among the top communist revolutionaries India produced. As a matter of fact, his role is not confined only to the Telangana armed struggle, but went far beyond as a committed communist revolutionary, who kept struggling for the cause of revolution until he breathed his last in 1984.
As a communist full timer, com DV organized the party in Nalgonda district and imbibed the method of learning from people and giving them back. He soon embarked on the path of developing class struggles. During the early years of 1940-41, he organized mass mobilization of the peasantry against forced labour, war levies, feudal atrocities and the exploitation of the tenant farmers by the landlords in Nalgonda district.
( DV Rao wrote three historic Reports, published by the Party, by 1946-47 including on Vetti chaakiri (Begar or forced labor), and Struggles of JangaonTaluq, and of Nalgonda district. Teltumbde mentioned but Tirumali explained their significance, and later said many were translated by then Union Intelligence / Police from Telugu to English.)
Com DV explained in his writings that the party was then following a left oriented liberal reformist program towards anti-feudal struggles elsewhere in Andhra and other parts of India. During 1941-45, the Party adopted open class collaborationist policy under the name of people’s war citing the anti-fascist phase of the Second World War. It was a policy of open collaboration with British imperialism, feudalism and landlordism.
But under the leadership of com DV the Party in Nalgonda district developed class struggles against the landlords and the Nizam’s rule. ( It may be noted Nizam was a vassal of Britain, tied to it by The Treaty of Subsidiary Alliance, 1800). He undertook a survey of nearly 40 villages and noted that people were thirsting for land. Sensing the mood of the people through the Akunoor and Machireddy Palle people’s militant resistance to forcible levy collection, com DV proposed a widespread program of forming volunteer squads, militant demonstration and struggles before the District committee. The committee accepted and implemented it. It is the result of these steps that resulted in the first stage of the armed struggle in Telangana from July to December 1946. These struggles were confined to Nalgonda district while the class collaborationist line of the Party prevailed in all other districts of AP…
This struggle in Telangana developed into an armed struggle during the post-War upsurge (1945-46) under the leadership of Com DV. This period also witnessed upsurge of agrarian struggles in Challapalli of Krishna district, Tebhaga movement in Bengal, Worli revolt in Maharashtra and Punnapra, Vayalar in Kerala. All these struggles were treated as partial struggles and stopped halfway by the Party as part of its policy of compromise with the Congress. The period, August 1947 to September 1948 witnessed the anti-Nizam phase of the armed struggle. This struggle would have fizzled out but for the new struggle for land distribution waged inside the party by comrade DV and enforced it in Suryapet area. With it, the struggle went from strength to strength resulting in the distribution of 10 lakh acres of land, formation of Gram Rajyas (village soviets) in 3000 villages mainly in Nalgonda and Warangal districts and 10000 armed volunteers who conducted the armed struggle against the Nizam’s military and the Razakars.
Nehru and Patel ordered the Police Action at this juncture mainly to suppress the surging revolutionary struggle. The majority of the then Andhra Provincial Committee (of which DV was a member), which was leading the struggle, proposed the program of New Democratic Revolution and the path of People’s War in its Andhra Thesis, (written in March 1948 soon after the Second Congress of CPI in February 1948) submitted to the Politburo in April 1948, five months before the Police Action of Sep. 1948) of the New Central Committee. The Left opportunist leadership rejected this document, calling it right opportunism and asserted its wrong line. The leadership in many areas, thinking that the struggle was over with Nizam’s surrender, disbanded the squads and dumped the arms. The Union military swooped down on the cadres who had disarmed themselves and gone back to their villages. It launched a massacre which caused severe losses to the Party. Com DV, who was in struggle area, reorganized squads and advised them to retreat to the safety of forest. At the same time, arrangements were made to maintain contacts with the people in villages which were Party’s strongholds. Proper tactics were worked out to mobilize people against the Union military which was restoring the rule of landlords in the villages. With this, the armed struggle recovered from the setback and continued for the next three years till it was withdrawn by the capitulationist leadership.
During this severe testing period, most party committees of the struggle areas raised a shrill demand for withdrawal of the armed struggle. The only exception was the Suryapet-Manukota Area Committee which was under the charge of Com DV. It was firm on continuing the armed struggle. Com DV wrote a document on behalf of the Secretariat of the Provincial Committee, refuting all the wrong arguments for withdrawal. After discussing the experiences of the Russian and the Chinese revolutions, it declared that the experiences of the Telangana armed struggle showed a new path of advancing revolution by conducting armed struggle to overthrow the power with people’s army formed on the basis of slogan, “Land to the Tiller” and Gram Rajyas. This document written in 1949 September has played a key role in sustaining the armed struggle in the next two years till 1951 October when the struggle was withdrawn.
The struggle was called off after a CPI delegation consisting of Ajoy Ghosh, S A Dange, C Rajeswara Rao, and M Basavapunniah had visited Moscow and discussed the inner party crisis with the Soviet leaders. The central committee of the CPSU set up a commission headed by Stalin and with Molotov, Malenkov and Suslov as members for the purpose. What Stalin’s advice was to the Indian communists has now become a matter of controversy between the CPI and the CPM and even the ML comrades.
Rajeswara Rao ( the longest tenured General Secretary – of undivided Party 1950-54; and of post-split CPI 1964-90, who was part of Andhra Thesis team but later backed out of it) later-day, said that the CPM’s contention that Stalin had criticized the Indian communist movement for its failure to save the Telangana armed struggle was absolutely untrue. Nor was it a fact that Stalin supported the continuance of the struggle till its withdrawal in 1951.
On the other hand, P. Sundarayya, (later-day, 1964-78) General Secretary of the CPM, maintained that the CPSU commission had felt that in the situation prevailing then it was unfortunate that the Telangana armed partisan resistance could not be defended and continued. The time had come to withdraw the armed struggle, and it was for the leadership of the Indian communist party to decide on what terms to withdraw it and negotiate, how long it had to be continued to secure suitable terms and when exactly to withdraw the armed resistance. Whatever the version of Stalin’s advice, the CPI leadership took the decision to withdraw the struggle behind the back of Com DV, as he writes in Telangana Armed Struggle and the Path of Indian Revolution, refuting Sundarayya’s version.
By the time the struggle was withdrawn in October 1951, 10 lakh people were tortured, one lakh jailed and 4000 peasants, labourers, cadres and students were shot dead. As Nizam’s jails were not sufficient, military barracks and open jails were set up to accommodate the arrestees. This was the depth and extent of the struggle. This struggle also had accomplished commendable feats like abolishing begar (vetti) or forced, free labour; almost toppled Nizam’s feudal regime by the time Indian armies arrived in the name of Police Action in September 1948; established Gram Rajyas (village Soviets) in 3000 villages where Nizam’s administrative writ ceased to operate; feudal dictat in respect of levies, extortions, zurmanas, fines, nazranas, were abolished; scaring the tyrants to flee villages; introduced the concept of land ceiling and tenant rights much before the Government of India enacted them; distributed 10 lakh acres of land along with attached cattle, carts and farm implements to the landless peasants; developed small irrigation systems for them; revised farm wages and labour rates; raised an armed force of about 10000 volunteers by late 1948, Guerilla tactics were developed and implemented; controlled petty crimes, usury, liquor consumption by establishing people’s court run on new principles of justice.
The period from 1951 to 1967 saw the predominance of the parliamentary path. Com DV was elected as an MP during this period(1957-62). The fire of revolution, however, still burnt in his mind. He was in forefront of the struggle against revisionism and neorevisionism of the CPI and CPM respectively and reviving the revolutionary line again in 1968-69 through the circular “Lay foundation for a struggle–oriented mass movement”, and the famous “Immediate Programme” of the communist revolutionaries.
It took no time for com DV to realize that building the party of communist revolutionaries means relentless struggle not only against revisionism and neorevisionism but also against the left and right opportunism prevalent among revolutionaries. In this prolonged struggle com DV tried to enrich revolutionary theory by applying Marxism-Leninism-Mao’s MLM) Thought correctly to the Indian condition. He, along with com T Nagi Reddy, founded UCCRI (ML) in April 1975 to carry on efforts for unification of communist revolutionaries. He continued his ideological struggle against opportunist, careerist and destructive forces as also the efforts to unify all genuine communist revolutionaries even after the death of com TN in July 1976.
It was a part of discharging the responsibilities that he wrote the document in 1949, “Refutation of the Wrong Trends Advocating Withdrawal of the Telangana Armed Struggle”. He was taken into the Central Committee which was formed after the resignation of BT Randive. Later, he continued either as a member of the National Council or the Central Committee till he left the CPM in June 1968. He served as a member of Parliament (LS) representing the Nalgonda double member constituency winning by a massive majority. In the 1969 April convention of Andhra communist revolutionaries he was elected as the secretary of Andhra Pradesh Revolutionary Communist Committee. He continued in this responsibility till 1975 when he, along with com T Nagi Reddy formed the UCCRI(ML). He was elected as the General Secretary of the CC of the UCCRI(ML) continued in this responsibility till he breathed his last.
( It may be noted that both APCCR and UCCRI-ML were banned in July 1975, during Mrs. Gandhi’s Emergency of 1975-77 period.)
Com DV’s work as a communist revolutionary spanned nearly five decades. It is interesting to note that the first criminal case foisted against him was in connection with his role in the land struggle of the Lambada peasantry of the Mundrai village. It was the Nizam government which foisted the case.
It is the first tribute by the autocratic regime to a revolutionay who would become the father of the theory and practice of agrarian revolution in the country.
A considerable part of his revolutionary work was occupied by underground activities. During the Telangana armed struggle he led nearly seven years of underground life (1946-52) and after 1968, again 10 years of underground life (1969, 1975-1984). He was arrested under the Defence of India Rules in 1962 (November 1962 to July 1963) for opposing Government of India’s War of aggression against China, and in 1965 (December 1964 to May 1966), during India’s War against Pakistan. In 1969 he was arrested along with com Tarimela Nagi Reddy and others and kept in detention from December 1969 to May 1972. A conspiracy case based on the indictment of the revolutionary ‘Immediate Programme’ drafted by Com DV, was foisted against them. This is known as the Hyderabad Conspiracy case. He was then released in May 1972 along with com Nagi Reddy and others on conditional bail which they jumped in June 1975 to resume underground activities when Internal Emergency was proclaimed by Mrs Gandhi. Com DV along with Com TN and some others were sentenced to four years of rigorous imprisonment in the Hyderabad conspiracy case. However, com DV was leading an underground life all these years, due to which the government could not carry out the sentence. Thus, com DV spent nearly 17 years in the underground activities and about 5 years in various jails. They testify to his indomitable revolutionary spirit and depth of his revolutionary convictions and practice.
The fundamental line he developed for the Indian revolution and interpreted the MLM thought applying to the realities of our country are commendable contributions. By writing “The History of the Telangana People’s Armed Struggle (1946-51), Vol. I”, com DV has placed a treasure house of experience before the revolutionaries and people at large. The contributions of com DV are indeed amazing. One wonders how through the turbulence of such intense revolutionary practice he could manage to continuously produce copious commentary and theoretical reflections on the revolutionary strugle.
What I find particularly noteworthy of DV is his attempt to grapple with the Indian reality, a unique exception to the general picture (of copying from Russia and China)…
Another point is DV’s insistence on mass line. Without creating mass base for the movement, thinking of revolution is putting a cart before the horse. His insistence on this stands out among the communist revolutionaries. The objective conditions for revolution have always been there but they lacked what is called congeniality of subjective factors.
The professional revolutionaries coming mostly from petit-bourgeois background also do not acquire the consciousness from vacuum but working among the masses. Although they do not actually undergo the life experiences of the working class, they get closest it so as to reflect upon it with people. I find DV’s formulation more plausible when he says learn from people and give them back. This dialectical process may be the answer for developing revolutionary class consciousness in people. Which means only through working among people the requisite revolutionary consciousness can be created. That can be possible only through mass work, which in turn can happen through mass organizations. While proposing ‘annihilation of class enemy’ Charu Majumdar thought that it would create confidence in the masses of peasants that they could vanquish their tyrant, the feudal lords. While it does so, it creates a false consciousness that killing individuals could bring in the systemic change. When in return it meets with reprisal by the state, the confidence evaporates and movement gets setback. If there is a mass base for any revolutionary action, it acts as a shock absorber and instead of buckling with fear could get further steeled in its resolve.
I also find the insights of DV on caste question very valuable.
With my scanty knowledge gathered through secondary sources about Telangana and Tanjavur movements, I have been saying that caste gets eclipsed during revolutionary practice. It is true that Telangana struggle had overcome caste differences among people when the Telangana struggle was on. People of different castes ate together, slept together, fought together and died together…
He has some interesting observations on caste that coheres with mine: He says that caste “… are all tribes and sub-tribes of the primitive tribes. They gradually developed into castes.” Then he says how British rule encouraged caste organizations and caste-reforms movements. His observation that classes are found in all castes is also correct …
Caste is the system that has tremendous resilience; it effortlessly adapted with changes in its environment. But either it recoiled back to its old status or transformed itself into new form of hierarchy, when those conditions are removed. In revolutionary times, castes appeared to have been overcome but when these conditions ended, castes came back alive again in their elements. In urban settings, the caste easily shed off untouchability but adjusted itself in subtle forms of discriminations in modern capitalist setting. No one can say that they do exist therefore in cities as well as Nalgonda, which had been the hub of Telangana armed struggle.
Therefore, what is needed is to understand caste in its complexity. It was possible to think of caste in the manner in which comrades in Telangana struggle thought or on the other side, Babasaheb Ambedkar thought in his own way. But the castes need to be rethought as they have gone far more complex than they ever were in the post-independence period. The caste blindness of the communists or the caste obsession of the Dalit movement is wrong. Caste as a life-world of people that lived through millennia is not to be assumed away in a revolutionary strategy nor can the struggle against them in the cultural realm is going to annihilate them.
I have been saying that the contemporary castes are more of constitutional castes than the ritual ones ordained by the Hindu Dharmashastras.The ruling classes dexterously replanted them into the modernist soil of the constitution and gave them new lease of life. Passing these intrigues in the name of Babasaheb Ambedkar was their stratagem.
Untouchability is mere aspects of caste and cannot be dealt with unless caste is annihilated. In the context of the communist movement, this issue must go back to the class analysis of the Indian society. Castes as the life-world could not be kept aside in class analysis. They should have been incorporated within classes and struggles against them should have been an integral part of class struggle. It takes care of DV’s point that classes being present in castes, they need to be seen only in terms of classes. This itself will lead to creation of subjective ground for revolution. ..
Com DV aspired to bring together all communist revolutionaries. This dream remains unrealized. The things have gone worse than what he had seen. We are living practically at the doorway of the Hindu Rashtra, which would deny people even the right to express their dissent, leave apart the right to struggle against. This specter is no more hypothetical, it is a palpable reality.
But it should in no way discourage us. The memory of revolutionaries like DV should rather inspire us to rush forward to carry on their legacy, legacy of struggle, a revolutionary struggle.
A Tribute paid in Frontier weekly to DV Rao and T. Nagi Reddy
(Extracts from an article that may be useful)
Frontier founded by Samar Sen was mostly supporting Charu majumdar-led CPI-ML. After him, and as situations changed, it changed its scope. It was a rare article to find in that weekly.
2017 marked the centenary year of the two greatest architects of the mass revolutionary line in India. Significantly they were celebrated in the 50th anniversary year of the Naxalbari armed struggle. Tarimela Nagi Reddy’s centenary was celebrated on February 11th while Devullapali Venkateswara Rao’s took place on 1st June. They sowed the seeds and shimmered the torch for the building of the revolutionary mass line combating left adventurism and right deviations in the communist revolutionary camp.
Historically the CPI (Maoist) still atrributes that leaders like Tarimela Nagi Reddy and Devullapali Venkateswara Rao practised the stages theory or deferred armed struggle from 1967-72. Today whatever the positive achievements of the CPI (Maoist) the line and practice even if implementing mass line in certain respects is vitiated by the left sectarian errors of the past decades. They have not sufficiently supported D V Rao’s critique of Andhra Thesis which he propounded in the late 1950’s or the ‘Immediate Programme for the Srikakulam Movement’ chalked out by the Andhra Pradesh Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries from 1969-73.They negate positive contribution even of Nagi Reddy influenced Punjab Co-Ordination Committee or PCRC led by Harbhajan Sohi from 1969-75.It hardly gives credit to the work and analysis of APCCCR.
Since the death of Mao tse Tung no Communist leader made such a sound and concrete analysis and thesis of the agrarian revolutionary line or massline as D V Rao in his lessons of the ‘History of the Telengana armed Struggle’ and ‘Path of Indian Revolution’. He most dialectically explained how base areas were made and volunteer squads created to link with mass movements. He differentiated the nature and practice in plain areas and forests. Arguably no practice or line was so close to the Chinese path as practised by D V Rao in Telengana and later with TN in Srikalulam. DV brilliantly defended the polemics of protracted people’s war as against insurrection. He explained how deploying strategy of insurrection would be suicidal in the Indian context and did not blindly copy the Chinese or Russian path. Today what is needed is to imbibe the teachings of TN and DV in accordance with the prevailing conditions.
Tarimela Nagi Reddy gained his baptism in Commmunism in Benares University in 1939 when confronting the British colonialists and being exposed to the reactionary politics of the RSS. From then on he illuminated the ideology of Communism treading the most hazardous paths with unflinching commitment in spite of being born in a very rich landlord family and guaranteed of a lucrative practice as a lawyer. But Nagi Reddy chose the life of a Communist revolutionary. He was associated with the then existing communist party ever since he started his political activities. He was a good orator, agitator and organiser. He had organised and led many a struggle of the rural poor against the atrocities of the landlords. He led the underground life during the period of 1947-51 when he was the leader and Secretary of the Regional Committee of Rayala Seema in Andhra Pradesh (then the composite Madras province). The authorities could not arrest him in spite of the best efforts till he himself had come out in 1952. Ever since he was either a member of Legislature or the Parliament, till he resigned from the Legislature of Andhra Pradesh in 1969..
Some sections have tried to dissect the line and practice of TN and DV from 1972 itself which is grossly incorrect attributing left adventurist mistakes to DV, contravened the ideology of TN. All what TN practised was based on the theoretical writings of DV. However TN played the greater role as a mass leader and propagator of the line giving it concrete shape being a considerably better orator than DV. He played a major role in the formation of the Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India in 1975 with his letter written to the central committee of great historical relevance. His ‘India Mortgaged’ was a true classic which has relevance even today when even in the era of globalisation—the semi-feudal, semi-colonial character of the Indian state has not changed and trends of Brahmanical casteism and Hindu fascism have accentuated themselves.
The impact of the Nagi Reddy line was felt in Andhra Pradesh when a struggle oriented Democratic Rights Organisation, the Organisation for Protection for Democratic Rights (OPDR) was formed in 1975. This upheld the practice that Democratic Rights Organsiations must uphold the right to struggle against Economic oppression as a Fundamental Right and also identify with the class struggles of the toiling people. It fought against the trend where the democratic Rights platform was used as a platform for promoting political ideology. This is what differentiated the OPDR from the APCLC (Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee). It was OPDR that was the founder of the slogan ‘It should be broad-based, pro-people, and recognise the right to struggle of the people as the fundamental right’, in contrast the APCLC propagated that the democratic Rights Movement should uphold the path of armed struggle. The first major work of OPDR was the report on the Srikakulam Girjian Movement of 1977 with regard to police encounters.
( The writer is a media person who worked in print and electronic media, and contributed to countercurrents.org)