Remembering Vasantada Ramalingachari: Architect of Srikakulam Girijan Movement

Vasantada Ramalingachari

Vasantada Ramalingachari,was one of the major leaders of the Srikakulam Girijan Movement. and a central Commitee member of the Communist Party Re-Organization Centre of India(Marxist-Leninist) Although martyred 16 years ago in 2003 on November 24th his memories are still embedded in many a comrade’s mind ,like a red light shimmering within it.

.In-spite of belonging to such a humble background he mastered Marxism-Leninism and was champion of the mass line, like few comrades ever in the history of the Indian Communist movement. He traversed the most turbulent oceans; overcoming obstacles at every juncture in his political life .With the tenacity of a rock resisted all counter revolutionary winds. Till his last breadth he was a crusader for the liberation of the oppressed and shimmered the light of Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought like the continuous flow of the water of a river or an inextinguishable light.He blended the organization of an architect with the analytical ability of a professor, foresight of an artist and relentless spirit of a soldier. It was remarkable how in so many junctures he resurrected from the depths of despair, to radiate the spirit of revolution. He possessed the innate spiritual qualities or sacred energy of a revolutionary, enabling him to rise like a phoenix from the Ashes. Many a new rose would bloom under his leadership.

The valiant comrade was born to Shri Vasantada Mallayyachari and Smt.Ramayamma in Vizianagram on December 21st, 1929. He studied upto SSLC in Kappa high school in Vizianagram.He was the 2nd of 4 brothers, and took inspiration from his elder brother, who had already introduced communist features in the family. Comrade Ramalingachari gained baptism from discussions he participated with leaders of the Telengana Revolutionary movement and literature he accessed from them. From 1952 he began to work as a full-fledged communist worker. He moved from Vizianagaram, to Srikakulam district. He started his first party building work in Bobilli. Subsequently he performed a major role in building communist revolutionary political practice and communist revolutionary organizational forces in the Bhadragiri Agency area and in the teachers, youth, students, student and agricultural labour from North Andhra plain areas.

Ramalingachari learnt a lot from the Telengana Armed peasant struggle on mass armed agrarian revolutionary line. He moved from his birthplace of Vishakapatnam to Bobilli in Srikakulam.

In his reign as Secretary of the district commitee of the CPM he played an outstanding role as a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist in inner-party struggle against revisionism in taking the Srikakulam Girijan movement on revolutionary lines and in knitting forces of the struggling people into a cohesive revolutionary unit. His work attacked the bondage of the most ruthless exploitative classes in the very backbone, enabling the Girijans to withstand attacks of the state machinery applying agrarian revolutionary method. This is the principal reason that although the state unleashed untold repression by throwing thousands of girijans into jail or assassinating hundreds of Communist revolutionaries, the spark of the struggle lives even today in our minds.

He was the architect of the massline in the Srikakulam Movement as a member of the Andhra Pradesh Coordination Commitee of Communist Revolutionaries. He invested every ounce of his energy in taking the Srikakulam movement to a higher level and for establishing unification of all Communist revolutionary forces on the basis of the mass line. He prepared its draft of criticism of left deviation in 1969.In October 1969 he was arrested. His major role was exposing the left deviation of Chandra Pulla Reddy.He discharged his responsibilities as a state commitee member of APCRR In 1969.

With the Srikakulam movement becoming a victim of left deviation, Ramalingachari strived towards sowing the seeds for building the Girijan peasant movement in Kondamondalu Agency area and East Godavri district.

Comrade Ramalingachari drafted the foreword of the report of the Kondamodalu peasant movement in December 1970 of the APRCC .It discussed and rejected some wrong conclusions of Chandra Pulla Reddy in a document based on East Godavri experience sent to the outside commitee in November 1969.Here he summarized the distinction between mass people’s resistance and guerrilla armed squad actions. The document explained how police repression was most intense and only because of changing their old methods and with necessary political understanding of the movement. It dialectically refuted the view that “people get prepared only when they gain confidence in the fighting strength of our armed squads .The poor people get prepared for land distribution only when they gain confidence in the fighting strength of our squads which can resist Govts.armed forces.”He gave a fitting reply to the document by the jail leaders of Chandra Pulla Reddy titled “Reject the Document, ‘Left Deviation inside the party.’

In the forward of the Kondamodalu report Ramalingachari explained the importance of assessing the subjective factors prevalent .He narrated the background of the arrest of Poulas in April 1969 with people rushing with arms to the jail Pouals was kept. When the armed police came to prevent the people from tilling the land, hundreds of people resisted encircling the sub-inspector. In October 1969 the girijans stood organized to resist the landlords when they attempted to destroy the crops raised by the girijans.When the landlords retreated to the background and the police came to the fore, the entire people disappeared into the bushes in response to the suggestion to retreat into the hidings. This frightened the police who now proposed to talk and around 5 elders responded. The Police now left the scene. Very few persons expressed doubt whether they could win the battle posessing less weapons than the police. The fact that the villagers moved in with elders to resist proves base of mass line or revolutionary preparedness.

Comrade Ramlalingachari was imprisoned for three years from a result of the Hyderabad and Paravatipuram conspiracy conspiracy cases .In 1971 he gave a statement with regard to the 3 conspiracy cases in the Hyderabad sessions court. This statement summarized the conditions of the girijans,development of the girijan movement and its significance and the reactionary conspiracy of the ruling classes..This was one of the most insightful documents on the Srikakulam movement. He also wrote another document “Leadership’s criticisms regarding the resolution of Regional Commitee which analyzed the mistakes in a most dialectical or logical manner of the serious mistakes committed from 1970-72.This has tactical relevance even today .Even on bail he blazed he light of revolution and during emergency from 1975 went underground.

He joined the Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India in 1975, taking on the responsibility of the secretary of the State Commitee of the organization. The party made remarkable strides within Andhra Pradesh till 1977.Regretfully differences cropped up and In 1977 he left the Unity Center of Communist revolutionaries of India to form the Andhra Pradesh Communist Revolutionary Organizing Commitee.(APROC) In this time virtually single-handedly carrying the brunt on his shoulders with scant resources he performed the invaluable task of re-organizing the Srikakulam Girijan Movement at its very base. He critically refuted left and right deviationist trends, particularly the mistake of the “annihilation of class enemies and strived to establish re-organization of the Communist party. Seeds were sown by him in various fronts to develop revolutionary mass work which had great significance in later times. Some of his popular writings in this period were “Naxalism does not mean individual annihilation and it is not Marxism to oppose Naxalism in the same of opposing individual annihilation”, and “Problems of unification and organizational tasks being faced by Communist revolutionaries.”.Somehow I always ask myself what prompted Ramalingachari to leave the original UCCRI (ML).

With great perseverance and patience he combated opportunist trends within the movement and was one of the architects of the Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India in 1988 when his group merged with the UCCRI (M.L.) sections led by HBS and Anand. He played a major role in shaping the politics of the new Unified Organization which eventually merged into the Communist Party Re-Organization Centre of India(Marxist-Leninist) .Significant that both these organizations were the main catalysts of the proletarian revolutionary mass line .Ramalingachari played the role of a Central Commitee member of the Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India and later as an associate central Committee member of the Communist Party Re-Organisation Centre of India(Marxist Leninist) , due to ill health .

He played the role of a catalyst in not only guiding his own organisation but activists of other organizations, nurturing many comrades. His approach was most un- sectarian recognizing and supporting revolutionary democratic work of other groups and establishing a liason with them. Although staunchly believing that the C.P.R.C.I. (M.L.) was the leading protagonist of the massline he would go out of the way to initiate solidarity actions from groups following other trends be it C.P.I. (M.L.) New Democracy or the erstwhile C.P.I. (M.L.) Peoples War Group. In a most fair or balanced manner he pointed out the glaring weaknesses existing within the concerned leaderships of various struggles and strived to establish political solidarity with them on the basis of people’s revolutionary practice.

To develop practice of Communist revolutionary massline he wrote the booklets “Political situation of Vizianagaram-Srikakulam districts and the necessity of the Communist revolutionary Political force ” and published magazine ‘Diksuchi.’ He made serious efforts to consolidate the base of the erstwhile Srikakulam movement and re-organise it. With great ingenuity he analyzed the problems and formulated methods in context of the revolutionary massline and guided the struggling masses to sharpen their revolutionary practice to combat the state machinery who endorsed the exploitation and atrocities perpetrated on the masses. Few comrades could balance the deviations of left and right variety with such exemplary skill.Ramalingachari was a master in stitching the wounds and knitting the scattered forces into a cohesive unit. With great political insight he built the united front of the adivasis,peasants and workers weaving their struggles together. In the agrarian revolutionary front no comrade was a better pupil of the teaching of Nagi Reddy and DV Rao.Above all he most creatively applied Marxism-Leninsm. Few comrades better grasped or practiced concept of building base areas.

The great strides made by the C.P.R.C.I. (M.L.) in the agrarian revolutionary movement in Malkangiri in Orissa,owe a lot to the political guidance of Ramalingachari.He played the role of a pivot in consolidating the party forces. Few comrades were more adept in educating cadres or could as painstakingly conduct political classes. His mastery of wedging the political gap between the workers, peasants and tribals was remarkable. Few comrades better grasped or practiced concept of building base areas.

Till he died he made serious efforts to assist the inner organizational forces as well as forces outside the organization to establish communist practice to weave the people in emerging as a conscious political force that could thwart the ruling class attacks and confront the mighty state machinery.

Sadly health took its toll in the last years of his life and crippled his activity. Still he tugged on relentlessly with the spirit of a true soldier.

His memorial meeting was held on 14th December in Bobbili in Vizianagaram on 14th December in 2003 .It shimmered the comrade’s indomitable, creative and determined spirit at its zenith with comrades participating from West Bengal, Orissa and Punjab ,apart from many local state level leaders. All groups upheld his great contribution to the Girijan movements and the Communist revolutionary camp as a whole. I can never forget the words Comrade Viswam had for him praising Ramalingachari’s contribution sky-high. Even Comrades from the erstwhile Peoples War group stream hold him in great esteem.

His political teachings and practice are all the more significant today with right capitulationist trends infecting the Indian Communist movement as well as shades of the left sectarian tendencies of the past. Even with its phenomenal sacrifices and development in Dandakaranya surpassing achievements of arguably any organization worldwide the C.P.I.(Maoist) still has inherent weaknesses in practice of agrarian revolutionary mass line .This year we mark 52 years since the great para -military police attack in October 1969 in Srikaulam on Girijans and the 22nd h anniversary of the staged encounter of Comrades Murli, Shyam and Mahesh  of the erstwhile C.P.I.(M.L.) Peoples War group in December 1999 in Koyyur.In both cases sustained and heroic retaliatory actions were undertaken against the enemy but eventually both the movements succumbed  to the might of the state. This brings to light the teachings and practice of Comrade Ramalingachari on relationship between agrarian revolutionary and military line and subjective factors and how heroism of armed squads cannot substitute people’s role. After the execution of the 3 erstwhile PWG comrades great protest rallies were held by many sections of the Communist revolutionary camp which was heartening but in a self -criticism circular the PWG itself admitted that often it could not educate or involve the broad masses and mobilized only their cadre in their protests,. Only by linking people’s war with agrarian revolutionary movement as its axis and not by mere armed actions of guerrilla squads can the reactionary state be defeated. Nevertheless Comrade Ramalingachari had all but admiration for the relentless spirit expressed through counter-retaliatory actions of the C.P.I. (M.L.) Peoples War Group who he felt made the state and ruling class forces shiver in their spine.

The Communist revolutionary camp is still fragmented in different groups and the building of the party is still in the rudimentary stage, with re-organization still to take place. With the Communist revolutionary camp so splintered his teaching and practice are like a fulcrum in uniting scattered forces. Cadres have to meticulously study the writings of Comrade Ramalingachari in order to illuminate the Chinese path of people’s war in India. It was a deep regret that he expired a year before the formation of the C.P.I.(Maoist) as his experience would have been a boon for other groups in how to develop a proper liaison with the C.P.I.(Maoist) even if not engaging in armed struggle .He was also a deep loss to the leadership of the C.P.R.C.I.(M.L.) in terms of sharpening practice of agrarian revolutionary practice .Whatever great sacrifices  in regions like Orissa or earlier in Lalgarh  Maoists waged depradationist armed squad actions, not giving due respect to subjective force s prevailing or sufficient agrarian revolutionary movement.

Today the Communist revolutionary movement lacks a coherency which comrades like Ramalingachari could instill,similar to guiding or steering  a ship in the choppiest of waters. Few Comrades could better reset a movement on the correct course.. I can’t express what an asset he would have been in guiding tribals and democratic forces into the mainstream of the farmers movement. No comrade was better illustration of how Marxism-Leninism cannot be learnt from books and how even a person not studying beyond high school and master revolutionary ideology. Ramalingachari’s life was testimony to how revolutionary ideology could only be imbibed from practice in class struggle. His very evolution from an embryo in revolutionary path could constitute a book in itself. His teachings and practice were a most illustrative example of practice of massline practice and path to overcome stagnation in agrarian revolutionary movement.

Report on Kondamodalu Tribal peasant Movement by the Andhra Pradesh Communist Revolutionary Commitee.

The movement in Kondamodalu reached the level of land seizure. Defying the landlords and govt. Machinery, people rose like a tornado.

However in it’s document, “Reject the Document, ‘Left Deviation inside the Party,’ sent by jail leaders the rival committee outside made some wrong formulations. There were some hurdles as well as weaknesses in the Agency movement as a whole. However the rival committees evaded the main lessons to be absorbed from the advance of the movement in Kondomodalu area. They agreed in the document itself that “It is true, the people in East Godavri district had come into more militant struggles than in this area. “Does it mean to say that it is a special feature of the people in Kondomdalu area than those in other areas? If it is not so, should we not think about the difference in approach and methods adopted in this area to move people into more militant struggles? One cannot draw correct lessons if one attempts to write a review of entire movement to answer the questions raised by one committee member who refused to self critically realise his weakness in implementing the decision of Agency Commitee and think to concretely apply the same and twist to suit the formulations already made.

Here are 2 examples from the review.

“In some areas, we faced the problem of cadre maintenance because from the beginning we did not develop the habit of shouldering this responsibility financially. among the people.

This was not the attitude adopted by our comrades in Kondomodalu area .Anyone with an experience of people’s movement can easily understand that it would not have been possible to build up this kind of movement in that area  had we carried on work there with this understanding.

“Commitee members did not change their old methods which they adopted in the past. They did not adopt secret organisational methods and take precautions needed for the same. They lacked a correct political understanding about the movement. All this caused harm to the advance of the movement.”

This too does not apply in Kondomodalu area.We started our work here in 1969.It was in march, 1969 that a police camp was set up. In Kondomodalu. Reserve police camp came in April. Our movement was within half a mile to 4 miles distance to these camps.Kondomodalu was included in this. Here, the shifting cultivation, loan evasion, farm servants strike and land occupation had taken place. Tilling of lands had begun in June 1969.The people seized back crops grabbed by the landlords earlier .Lands which were yet not tilled were tilled and sown. The people moved into action in a big way. The movement have reached a higher level. It suffered a setback with the arrest of a comrade who was performing responsibilities, with no one to replace him. How could the movement here reach such a level in the thick of police repression if the comrades here had not changed old methods and have not taken necessary precautions, and of they had no political understanding of the movement? However, taking the entire agency area into view, it is true that the centres like Kondomodalu would have come up in rest of other areas too had those weaknesses not manifested there. Entire situation would have been different had it been the case. We must take note of the speciality of proper methods which led to the advance of the movement in Kondomodalu area together with being able to clearly see the weaknesses which affected the development of movement in rest of agency area.

Likewise, when it comes to building guerrilla squad, here the village squads wee formed. Efforts were made to form the central squad. It is true; the presence of a trained squad would have been helpful to the movement. But the rival committee presented this question from its own subjective angle of asserting its own formulation,i.e. “the people get prepared for land distribution only when they gain confidence in the fighting strength b of our squads  which can resist Govts armed forces.”

Here is one more formulation made by them “Had there been armed guerrilla squad ready and provided the leadership to the people by remaining themselves with the people when the landlords and police had come upon the people, the people would have stood up and courageously resisted. The movement would have gone to a higher level..Because of the main weakness of the guerrilla squad not being ready the doubts among people whether we can win or not and vacillations among some have cropped up.”

As far as the people’s resistance is concerned, right in April itself..when Poulas was arrested ,the people rushed to the camp with arms where Poulas was kept. When the armed polices came to stop people who have begun tilling the land, hundreds of people stood in defence of those tilling the lands. The armed people encircled the sub inspector when he caught hold of our comrades hand who was tilling the land. Police had to go back. When the rumours spread in the villages that the police would come at the time of transplantation, the people asked for bombs to use the same for self defence and took the same from our cadre. In October 1969,the girijan stood organised to put up resistance against the landlords when they sought to destroy the crops raised by the girijans.When the landlords retreated to the background and the police came to the fore, the entire people disappeared into the bushes immediately responding to the suggestion to retreat into hidings. Panicked police had to beg the people at the turn of the situation. When police proposed to talk, only 4-5 elders came out and talked to them. Then the police left the scene. But, at this time only some expressed the doubt, whether we can win the battle since the police are armed with better weapons than us.

Therefore, the developments as well as experiences of Kondomodalu movement are to be seen as a reality before us to understand the forces of agrarian revolution in rural areas. In the same way, these experiences prove that we can build up the agrarian revolution and areal mass revolutionary movement necessary for armed struggle.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has travelled around India and written on blogs like ‘Democracy ad Class Struggle’, ‘Ottos War Room’ and ‘Frontier Weekly.’ Mainly written on politics of mass line in Communist Movement, Maoism, peasant struggles but also on blogs on Cricket and films


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