Songs That Reflect The Political Consciousness Of The People  During Revolutionary Times Of Telangana Peasants’ Armed Struggle (1946-51)

By MA Krishna and S. Jatin Kumar

telengana armed struggle1

Photo (by Sunil Jena): Peasant Revolutionaries of Telangana 1946-51: Training in arms and drill. 

Telangana people’s armed struggle (1946-51) spawned a huge literature in Telugu, particularly hundreds of songs and stories. A few novels too appeared, but naturally years after withdrawal of the struggle : Days of turmoil would not and did not allow to write longer forms. This article gives a glimpse of those songs, but not all forms of poetry, along with a little background of the situation, with a focus on the revolutionary political consciousness of the people. Adapted from our recent article in Telugu, published in a literary magazine (Palapitta, the bird, Blue Jay, Sep 2021 issue), this has a more detailed narrative and a few photos of the day. We hope this will be useful to readers in English. Translations of Songs and poetic lines stress more on the content, than poesy.

Most of those songs lived only on the lips of the people for decades, particularly in districts that witnessed intense struggle, and not published then.

Songs of those times were later published, many times and in several compilations:  There were very few anthologies published by single writers like Suddala Hanumanthu (see picture below), and several publications were collections of songs written by many writers, known and unknown, including those unlettered. Compilations were brought out by Left literary organizations, like Virasam in 1970 and by Arasam (Revolutionary and Progressive Writers associations respectively); thereafter by Prajasahithi, Dr. Jayadheer Tirumala Rao and by Prajasakthi in 2006.Their re-publications became available.

Let us start this journey into the past with a famous song that captures the politics of the struggle in all its phases. This song was used as a sort of a Prelude, by veteran communist revolutionary DV Rao (1917-1984) to his magnum opus, History of Telangana People’s Armed Struggle, written during1982-84, first published in 1988, reprinted several times.[Proletarian Line publications, Hyderabad ]

Telangana : A ballad

1

Lamps the Warriors of Nallagonda lit,

Buried the cruel Nizam and paved the way,

That glowed all four directions!

Oh!  Telangana!

Thy lion’s roar echoed everywhere!!

 

2

Plunder and slavery of bygone era

Setting the ambition to drive them into oblivion

A paramount consideration

Thus stood as a united force

Oh!  Telangana!

Thou drove enemy hordes asunder

 

3

Toiling and moiling peasants and landless

Fought and won the right to land

An achievement worth emulation

Thou art a Model

Oh!  Telangana!

Entire Bharat lauds thy lead!

 

4

People’s blood-suckers fattened arrogant

Groups of plunderers

Trembled and fled to Towns

To escape thy wrath!

Oh!  Telangana!

Shining and Thriving to eliminate enemies without a trace!

 

5

Fighting for liberation

The age-old slavery of sorts,

Telangana women folk

Roared with heroic courage!

Oh! Telangana!

Thou drove away enemy gangs

 

6

Unheard and unseen in the past

All Men and Women, won the right to vote

Founded Village People’s Republics!

Oh! Telangana!

First to taste freedom from fiefdom

7

Oh!  Permeating

New life, New smile

Guarding the countryside;

Armed with thy own Arms,

Oh! Telangana!

Stood like a big mountain

 

8

To drive away

The ruthless rule of Nizam

Thou vowed sleepless days and nights

Blew the clarion battle call!

Oh! Telangana!

Set Revolution reverberating

 

9

Wealthy Congressmen’s deceitful drama

Making dirty compromise with Nizam, the Nazi!

Thou seen through

And woke up!

Oh! Telangana!

Did not waste anytime!

 

10

To foil and fail

The People’s Republics

Congress Armies joined the Feudalists

And thou resisted them as a Mountain!

Oh! Telangana!

Thou shed blood, indeed!

 

11

Telangana’s valorous battle call

Spread far and wide

Called people of Bharath

To join the onward march!

Oh! Telangana!

Thou stood like the pole star of Revolution

(This song was translated by veteran working class leader Dr. K S Sharma, now aged 87 and still active with mass movements.)

We could see how the revolutionary consciousness of the people during the respective phases of the struggle was reflected in the songs of those times, through some examples. Those mentioned here are mostly taken from the 2006 compilation by Prajasakthi Publishing House.

“Oh my child with milky cheeks, how long ago you forgot taking milk!”

Suddala Hanumnatu

Suddala Hanumnatu(1908-82), was a famous Telangana poetof the struggle period, whose songs were later published in an anthology. Kanuri Venkatesawara Rao (1916-2015) (photo on the right), a contemporary,toowas a great poet and stage artist who was active upto his age 90, and trained hundreds of artists. Suddala wrote many moving songs: his anthology[ see cover page left above,]is named after afamous song with haunting lines like paala buggala pasivadaa, paalu marachi yennaallu Ayyimdo… (oh my child with milky cheeks, how long ago you forgot taking milk!) This stirring song was revived in 1970s, heard by millions, and is still popular.It was later used in the famousTelugu film, Maa Bhoomi,(Our land, 1979-80 directed by Gautam Ghose) The film was on Telangana struggle,[based on  a novel ‘jab kheth jaagae’ by Kishan Chander, a renowned writer in Hindi and Urdu; as a result it had some blemishes in the objectivity of the storyline]. It was screened in several international film festivals, and ran for more than an year in theatres. The song has recently entered the school text book as part of poetry for students.

There is another immortal song, Bandenaka bandi katti- padaharu bandlu katti, a lyric by an agri labourer and an unlettered youngman, Bandi Yadagiri. It was also used in the same film. Even before they appeared in the film, they were sung, and known to millions. The film recorded them in visual form and reached millions of later generations. Here a fact needs to be mentioned:

The song Bandenaka bandi katti in the film refers to the fleeing Nizam and his circar. Originally Yadagiri referred to a feudal tyrant, a jagirdar, Jannareddy Pratapa Reddy, who fled to escape the wrath of the people. He belonged to a feudal family, of Suryapet taluq, that possessed 150,000 acres of land spread over 20 villages. The song in a defiant language, asks: Where can you flee, and in which cart can you escape! It was later revised and generalized depicting the collapsing Nizam circar, during the period of the struggle itself, in its anti-Nizam phase. Many such songs had different and varying texts, as they were adapted by people to suit local contexts.

There was another equally big and notorious feudal tyrant, Ramachandra Reddy, jagirdar of Visnur, of Jangaon taluq. These two were centre of themes of many songs and art forms then and for years to come, including Maa Bhoomi.

Maa Bhoomi

Maa Bhoomi(Our Land), a Telugu drama, was written in the early phase (around 1946-47) of the struggle, staged again in recent years too (see picture of cover page and of one such recent troupe above).

The famous drama,was written by the duo Satyanarayana Sunkara-Bhaskara Rao Vasireddy, when oppression by Nizam government was at its peak in more than 250villages. Based on real incidents in Nalgonda district, the plunder, exploitation, and repression unleashed over people and also the determination and resistance of the people through Sangham, were depicted in the drama. It was staged more than a thousand times between 1946-48. More than 120 troops were trained to play it and was seen by over 20 lakh people in those days.

Most of the drama shows were however not in Telangana that was drowned in worst repression and army raids, and the communist party there was banned by the Nizam. It was staged in Andhra region (now Andhra Pradesh), that was then part of British India, and the ban on communists was lifted there during World War-2 period. That region acted as a rear area of multiple supports to Telangana. The drama had a role in nurturing solidarity to Telangana struggle from that area. Hundreds of cadres from that region joined struggles, also in Telangana, and were shot dead by police, many after being captured and tortured. Even in that region drama performances were often attacked by police and landlords. Then militant volunteers used to protect the stage. Despite the newly achieved independence, colonial practices continued, and the drama was banned in 1948 by Tanguturi Prakaasham-led Congress government in Madras composite state even before the police action began in September. Just as Maa Bhoomi, some other literary works written about Telangana armed struggle, viz. Vajraayudaham [by Somasunder] Redflags [by Gangineni], Telangaana Thunders [by Lakmikantha Mohan ] were banned then.

Two booklets of 1946 by DV Rao on Heroic Struggles of Jangaon and of Nalgonda, which provided the vivid depiction of the early phase, were used by writers for many of their writings. The situation at that stage can be seen in the article mentioned below:

https://countercurrents.org/2017/07/70th-anniversary-of-the-martyrdom-of-komarayya-a-turning-point-in-telangana-peoples-revolutionary-movement/

Doddi Komarayya

Doddi Komarayya (left), the first martyrof Telangana struggle on 1946 July 4. On the right is a recent statue of Ilamma Chityala (1895-1985), wielding a pestle used as a weapon, a washer woman cum peasant who symbolized resistance to feudalism. Songs were written and sung about both.

Burra katha, (A story told using burras,or dikki-a simple percussion instrument), a centuries-old folk form was modernized and adapted to changing contexts. It was one form that became one of the most popular revolutionary forms of art, eversinceTelangana. It combined song, prose, satire and dramatic movements, all performed by a team of three artists (see photo below).One main narrator supported by two side-artists (one of them focuses on very contemporary and creative satire), and hence easier than a drama to perform and to travel. Hundreds of troupes were trained, thousands of shows held, and millions viewed them. Kanuri Venkateswara Rao (1916-2015, photo above) and Balladeer Nazar (1920-1997, see picture on the right below) were legends of this form who performed and trained, hundreds of artists. Kanuri continued his work until after year 2000.This art form was prohibited in the days Telangana struggle for years together, fearing that the two side artists can influence audience by passing sharp remarks on contemporary incidents even when a a traditional story was being narrated by the central artist.

Burra katha

Photo on the Left is of Telangana days, of an all-women team of Burra katha.  On the Right is Nazar a great writer-artist, called as the father of Burra katha, who adapted and popularized the ancient folk form.

Not only writers, artists belonging to various fields depicted the struggle through their art forms: Chitta Prasad, a Bengali artist (see his drawing towards the end of this article) brought out very illustrious paintings of the life and struggle of Telangana. Sunil Jena a photographer from Bombay visited the areas that witnessed severe armed- struggle, and produced such a remarkable record of the history through his photography. These two names we took as an example of hundreds of artists who were a part of the cultural revolution being carried out along with the armed struggle as a political revolution. 

There were different perspectives about the Telangana People’s Struggle (1940-51) then and are still continuing. The People’s struggle took an armed form in 1946 and continued until it was withdrawn inlate October,1951. It was called off by the communist party’s central leadership, amid controversies and differences on its strategy and tactics, a subject that is out of scope of this article.

The BJP or its earlier forms of Hindutva like RSS and Hindu Mahasabha had absolutely no role played in the struggle in any phase. But led by Amit Shah himself, it is going all out to appropriate and distort the history and claim legacy to suit its anti-Muslim politics.Arya Samajdid have a small role to play, particularly in the earliest phases, but it was opposed to the very concept of Hindu religion; they called themselves a vedic organization. And they had a good opinion about the struggle by communists as expressed personally to DV Rao by its leader Pandit Narender ji himself.

Countercurrents.org published many articles on the history and politics of Telangana struggle. A couple of articles are mentioned below, which in turn provide links to more. The controversies revived recently by BJP (on Sep 17thof 1948 as “Liberation” Day) were discussed in a two-part article

History and politics of Sep. 17: Was it a Day of  Liberation of People from Nizam or  Liberation of Nizam from People’s Revolution?(dated 20-09-2020) and

HyderabadPoliceAction(1948Sep13-17,Part2):TheScreenPlayandtheHeroes ( dated 24/09/2020)

https://countercurrents.org/2020/09/hyderabad-police-action-1948-sep-13-17-part-2-the-screen-play-and-the-heroes/

An earlier article of 2017 is also useful :

https://countercurrents.org/2017/09/police-action-in-hyderabad-1948-september-13-18-operation-polo/

bandagi

[Bandagi remembered. ( Illustration  by Dedicated people’s artist late  Mohan) Sheik Bandagi was a muslim peasant youth who put up a stubborn resistance to exploitation by Ramachandra Reddy, Deshmukh of Visnur, Jangaon Tq, Nalgonda dt. After a 12-year-long prolonged and daring legal battle, he won his case in the Court. But alas, he was waylaid and murdered (1942) while returning from the court. His burial place became a pilgrimage visited by thousands of peasants with families, most of them Hindu peasants, a tradition which continued for several years even after the struggle was withdrawn. Young DV Rao in his classic work- report of 1945-46 (on Jangaon area) documented this episode in a moving and lyrical prose, and several suchincidents, that became a basis for writers and poets. This was a milestone in the early phase of Telangana, and this episode paved the way to a sustained struggle in about 40 villages, which laid the foundations. Bandagi was remembered as martyr and a legend in various songs.]

Though there are hundreds of songs available,here we present only a sample of those songs that reflect the political attitude and situation of struggle during different phases: pre-1947 August, during Centre’s Standstill Agreement with Nizamand after the Indian military Action of Sep 1948.

What kind of revolutionary consciousness – political and armed – was prevailing among the people during thehistorical phases can also be seen in the songs of those times. Those were the songs which well reflected the struggle of the people and in turn helped develop their revolutionary political consciousness.

The singers of those songs became popular mass leaders and continued to be so for decades. Leaders like Mrs. Mallu Swarajyam (born 1931) and Narra Raghava Reddy (both were later elected MLAs for several terms) at higher level and hundreds of activists at lower level continued in the communist party leadership for decades.

Home Minister Amit Shah addressed a massrally near Nirmal town, in Telangana state (TS), on Sep 17,2021. BJP insists and formulated a demand, that Sept 17thmust be celebrated officially as the day of Hyderabad’s Liberation; but that has been a highly controversial narrative, and rejected by the people and hence by the ruling TRS party also.

Was it a day of liberation of people from the Nizam or liberation of Nizam from people’s revolution? That has been the question raised by people.

Military atrocities and rapes recorded in several songs and reported in parliament:

women telengana struggle

[Women played active part in Telangana struggle. A few women were trained in arms, and joined squads too. Fearing atrocities and other problems, women were not actively encouraged to play combat roles.]

This article, among other things, helps to establish the fact and people’s opinionthat the Union’s Army action was never meant for Liberation of people from the Nizam. The popular songs sung in those days by lakhs of people reflect how people perceived the developments including the so-called liberation by (Sep 13-17, 1948) army offensive,subjectively ascribed to Sardar Patel, christenedas the iron man and different from Nehru who they allege was too soft. This Nehru Vs Patel question was raised by many, Leftists as well as Rightists, from various angles, and now by BJP too. The songs reflect people’s perception of this question also.

The Indian military’s atrocities, including rapes, were “worse than those by the Nizam and his razakars”, it was authentically recorded. This was mentioned, with specific examples, in the parliament soon after 1952election.The communist veteran P. Sundarayya, MP in the first term, mentioned it in his book on History of Telangana struggle (1973): Party had compiled specific data that showed a few thousand women were raped by the army men, including more than 1000 in the first year after the army arrived.  These atrocities against women were mentioned in several songs of the day. One song compares them and says they were worse than Ravana, the mythological demon king of Ramayana, “who never touched Sita.”

One song likened the troops to “mad dogs who raided villages and hoisted congress flag to replace the Red Flag.They seized lands people had occupied and thus helped the feudal lords and the Nizam.

***                                              ***

Songs that reflect various phases of the struggle

The role of literature,particularly of songs, in the times of Telangana People’s Armed Struggle (1946-51) is well known. Hundreds of songs and short stories, and a few novels, were written, in those years and soon after, on the various aspects of the people’s sufferings and struggles.few novels like Mruthunjayulu by Bollimuntha SivaramaKrishna,Simhagarjana[Telangana Thunders] by Lakshmikantha Mohan were brought out during the days of struggle. Later almost 20 novels depicting the various stages of the struggle were written by well known novelists in Telugu and the history was recorded.

Unlike poetry and stories penned by individuals that might have reflected their subjective views, these Telugu songs, many being composed extempore by local activists,were sung bylakhs of people, for years and decades even after the struggle was called off in 1951 October.The political context of these songs can be understood from the following lines.

‘Transfer of power’ to India – that was the phrase used in the related official documents – took place on Aug 15, 1947.But the princely state of Nizam had not joined the Indian Union until the “Police Action” of 13th and 17th September, 1948.In fact it was a military onslaught by around 50,000 troops deployed by the Union Government, and that was resisted by people until October 1951, when it was withdrawn paving the way to India’s first general election 1952 based on adult franchise.

“We all are prisoners of Independent India”

Though it was said that the country got independence, repression was becoming inescapable for people who opposed class exploitation. A song titled “prisoners, we all are prisoners”was written by a “peasant behind the bars” as follows:

Prisoners, we all are prisoners

Prisoners of Independent India

For the sin of standing by the poor peasants…

we are prisoners

For our ‘crime’ of opposing the thieves who

Exploit the starving people

For saying NO to compromise

With the demon Nazi Nizam,

 we are prisoners.

All of us, who are fighting for

 the end of Foreign rule,the rule

Run by Tatas, Birlas and land lords,

 prisoners, we all are prisoners

This song was published in the Navayuga, fortnightly journal in its edition of 5-9-1948. That means, exactly one week before the Police Action.

Preceding the military Action, there was a Standstill Agreement betweenIndia and the Nizam as a result of prolonged negotiations that began, under the auspices of Mountbatten and Britain, much before 15th August 1947. The Agreementwas finally signed on 29th November, 1947.Consequently, the feudal rule of Nizam continued for 13 months more after India’s independence. There were efforts by Nizam to continue it as an independent state like Pakistan.

In one song, for instance, independence was described as deceptive, compared to  a ridged ghee gourd, (Neti beerakaya swatantryamra…), that contains no ghee except in its name, and made no change to people in Telangana, and the new rulers in Delhi had a deal with the Nizam :

This Independence is essenceless fruit

Like a ghee gourd.

Nizam fleeces the people like vultures

These brutish rulers

colluded with Deshmukhs, Razakars

crush the lives of hungry people

compromising to safeguard

the collapsing Jagir system…

As per the said Standstill Agreement, the Union armed forces were withdrawn from this Princely State, which had a British cantonment. The military forces of the Nizam associated withprivate militia, called as Razakarsled by one Qasim Razvi, had a field day and committed atrocities against people of Telangana, who were engaged in a historical anti-feudal armed struggle led by communists. The centre remained a spectator of these atrocities; infact it had supplied arms and equipment etc to the Nizam, as official records show. The newregime of independent India colluded with the Nizam:

In a song titled Nizam the sinner, (Papi Nizamu) it is revealed

Satanic rifles of Nizam

became brothers of white dogs

Partners of black Indian lords – now

no more your illusory dramas!

Another song says, we now know your real face(Telisindi…asalina rupam)

We know… we know your real face

Man-eater under the garb of a cow

You promised the land earlier

You became the ruler and now you slit our throats.

What is the character of the independence of the country? One song with the title, fake independence [Butakapu swatantramu] it exposes the pro-exploitation politics of Congress. It runs as follows:

Fake Independence

This Congress Sarkar

Overshadowed the British Rulers

Conspiracies of the British rulers

Became your tradition now

You have looted the people

Under the mask of People’s Raj

Hello Brothers, it is a fake independence!

(The above few stanzas were translated by the famous revolutionary poet Nikhileshwar, now 83yrs and still active with people’s movements. As a child he was witness to Telangana struggle in his village in Nalgonda district, and upholds the struggle)

Look at another song that depicted the character of ‘independence’ and exposed the congress politics that served the exploiters. Fake independence is the title of this song.

Claims they make

Independence they delivered!

Conceal the selfish plans they drew  

Fake independence

Bluffing a fine art my brother

Cunning, suppression their goal

White lords they follow

Fascist their character

Tear the veil and expose

Congress circar the stooge

Excels the British master too!

***

Sangham, Grama Rajyams,schools, and training

Until the surrender of Nizam, the said standstill agreement was formally opposed by Hyderabad-Congress and by its leaders like K M Munshi, who later became Union’s Agent General to Hyderabad state. During this period, the peasants’armed struggle was intensified and extended. The Nizam state and its military forces could not withstand the force of this struggle and reached the stage of collapse. That was how and why the weakenedNizam had surrendered on Sep 17,1948, within five days after the Police Action began on 13th.

Though it was named as “Police Action”, in factit was a brutal military campaign by the Union military forces.The forces were mostly mentionedas the military of “Nehru-Patel” in the songs. Viceroy Mountbattencontinued as the Governor General even after 1947, and is mentioned in the songs. British military officers continued to be the military commanders of independent India. Though General J.N.Chowdhury was highlighted, Britishers like Roy Butcher also acted as chief commanders.The Nizam had surrendered in four days, but the military continued its atrocities for more than three years with the actual aim to suppress the peasants’ struggles and communists.

Thousands of Grama Rajyams (Village Soviets) were already formed around the time of Police Action; later estimated to have exceeded 3000 in number. People believed that the Nizam, the Centre, and Britain had colluded, as can be seen in the songs.

sangham meeting of Telangana

A sangham meeting of Telangana. Some with arms. 

Sangham[union] was the most popular form of mass organization that took shape in every village. It was a composite organization, a sort of United Front, of all the people who stood against feudalism… there were no separate organizations for ‘farmers’ and labourers. The Sangham Committees were elected by people,in the open, by raising hands, and invariably had representation of poor labourers and women. They later developed into rudimentary form of Grama Rajyams, or village soviets.Songs frequently refer to the Sangham. 

The movement had developed aptitude for revolutionary cultural activities among people, who earlier knew them only as part of religion and custom.Efforts were made by the communists,as recorded by DV Rao in his magnum opus,in Telugu, The History of the Telangana People’s Armed Struggle (1946-51).

For instance, DV Rao wrote:

“After their daily chores and kitchen work, women used to gather and join cultural and recreational activities, between 7 and 10pm. They used to sing and dance in folk styles. Traditional items were adapted and re-written, “in their languages” (besides Telugu, tribal languages like Koya, Lambada (Lambani or Banjara), Gondi were used as seen in other sources) to serve the anti-feudal and revolutionary movement. All occasions were used for the purpose. They used to sing ordinary songs also. They went on as daily activity, except those days disrupted by razakars’ raids. People had to re-order their belongings and life whenever disrupted and pillaged by them. After a couple of days, cultural activities were resumed. Men, particularly youth, had their own teams who sang and danced. But it was less as many youth were engaged in political and military work as volunteers and squad members. They had to keep watch and defend the villages. Still whenever possible, even amid such activities, they would allot some time for such activity. These activities helped to keep up the morale and counter demoralization amid setbacks. And theyhelped to elevate the consciousness of people.” (Chapter 12).

Paramedical training

Schools were conducted to educate and train people. Paramedical training of squad members under a tree.

Party and sangham (the united front) were inseparable who educated people including women with night schools – wherever possible, even day schools. Literacy and political education were combined. They learnt from people and folk forms; they in turn encouraged, guided and honed the skills of local poets and bards, folk artists, and activists to write, sing and enact on various themes. Art forms were extensively used to communicate with people. (Chapter 11)

***                                     ***

One song begins with naming the two Indian leaders as representatives of exploiting political classes:

“ Oh! Pandits and Saradars,

  The poor are simmering a lot..”( Reference is to Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel)

It ends as under:

“Oh! Congress rulers, Postedwereyour ousting orders!”

(This was published in Prajasakthion 30-04-1952 during 1952 elections.)

We observed above that a “Standstill Agreement” was signed as a result of the Centre’s efforts for a compromise with the Nizam. The desire of Nizam to be independent was strengthened on one hand; on the other hand, the Centre increasingly pressurised the Nizam for accession. Mirza Ismail who represented Nizam in these compromise efforts was then acting as the Prime Minister of Nizam State(Sadar-E-Azam).

Thiscompromise phase came to an end with the Police Action.During the intervening periodbetween the compromise phase and Police Action, the Razakars and Deshmukhs resorted to unbridled violence against the people.During this period, the people intensified the peasants’ armed struggle combining the anti-Nizam ‘national’ consciousness and the aspiration of Telugu Nationality with the anti-feudal agrarian revolution. This national aspect was reflected in several songs: They advocate-You Telugu people, revolt. Within a short time, theGrama Rajyams(village soviets)were established and they were cited in many songs,Consequently, the ‘walls’ of Nizam’s fort got weakened and reached the stage of collapse.

Itwas at thisjuncturethe Police Action had taken place. The Nehru-Patel government, having got the Nizam subdued, was bent uponfortifying feudal landlordism under the umbrella of the new Delhi regime.

Several songs reflecting the revolutionary politics and people’s consciousness connected with this phase of struggle became very popular. Actually Nizam was not ousted as people wanted to be. He was conferred with anhonourable position of  (HEH) Rajpramukh, and was continued as such till the formation of integrated Andhra Pradesh in 1956. He was paid crores of Rupees as Privy Purse for 20 years to come.Patel was said to have subdued Nizam, but people realised thathe had indeed “given food to the Nizam”, the people sang as under:

Understand whoseis the Indian circar (government)!

Shoot aiming well and confidently!

The people sang lengthy songs –interspersed with a little explanatory prose- called Gollasuddulu (literally shepherd’s maxims),with the title of Veera (heroic) Telangana, beginning with the lines‘Ambaraave Bharathamba raave’, meaning ‘come mother, come motherIndia’which continues as below. The folk songs often take the form of a narrative as follows:

Oh brother!

We, the peasants and labourers

Demanding food and political power

In the state of Nizam

We, all the Telugus, forming into Sangham (union)

Driving out the thieves and

Determined to do anything

Stood in the struggle for justice!

The song narrates that the struggle gotfurther flared-upnotwithstanding intensification of repression

Flowed in the state, streams of blood

Inundated villages, three thousand

The weapons of Rajakars—Oh, Peasants!

Snatched away by people—Oh, Labourers!

Arrived the rule of our Sangham —Oh, Peasants!

Came joy to our people—Oh, Labourers!

Lands of feudals–Oh, brothers!

We distributed among the poor– Oh, sons!

The song thus picturises how the agrarian revolution took the form of armed struggle, had formed Grama Rajyams, and retaliated nizam’s administration

Army Action took place in this phase of struggle and was told in these prose lines:

“The Congress government at the centre was keeping a watch on the developments taking place in Telangana,” The Indian circar was likened to East India Company Circar(pronounced as sarkaar meaning government)

Oh, Brother!

The Congress is the Company Circar!

Driving out White regime,

with the strength of people’s struggle,

Congress intelligently usurped power!

Thus usurping power, the Congress

Hitting the poor on their head

Became the stooge of rich vultures!

The song raises the question:

“For what purpose,the compromise with Nizam?

  Who is none but a demon like the Nazis!”

Illustrating this backdrop in these prose lines:

“Let us know how the Congress circar,which realised that thepeople’s revolution born in Telangana could rapidly spread to the four corners of the country and that day is not so far away, istaking up negotiations with the Nizam for a compromise…”

Viceroy Mountbatten had commenced, before 1947 August, the negotiations that continued later with him as the first Governor General of new India. He had tried to persuade and later warned the Nizam’s delegations whom he met at least ten times, of grave consequences of the people’s revolt. That is why it was written in the song that“Congress circar is company circar“. The song continues in that vein.

It is said that the credit of getting the accession of Princely States into India goes to Patel.It was Patel who suggested that the princely states should be abolished and “Responsible Governments” (with formal political representatives) should be formed;otherwise, he cautioned, the Communists would have an upper hand. The song titled as ‘Said so Patel’describes what was behind the politics of compromise thus:

Accept responsible government

And come with us Oh King!

Accept our suggestion,

Give two thirds ofseats to Congress,

Let us crush the people

and the Communists, Oh, King!

Destroyed youwill be

Ifthere emerges the rule of Communists

Destroyed youwill be!

Cautioning thus, Patel calls the Nizam for a compromise:

Abolish Razakar forces

Accept responsible government

I will saveyour ruleto continue!

In case you reject compromise

Certain is your down fall

Begging bowl you will get

And WE will be in a soup

 Life becomes a roof less house,yours and ours

It will be the rule of Communists, you know!

Accept responsible government

More than hundred crores we will spend

In the name of our Indian military, Oh,King!

(Reference is to contemplated Union budget for military action.)

Many Songs were written exposing and condemning the compromise with Nizam

telengana armed struggle2

[Photo of the times: People, some were armed volunteers, during the early stage of the rebellion. They rejected Union’s compromise with the Nizam, as seen in many songs.]

The then Congress party unit in the Hyderabad Princely State opposed the compromise arrived at in the name of Standstill Agreement. While it was so, the desire of a major section of feudal landlords was that the Nizam rule should go off and they should become direct rulers. Condemning the politics of compromise by Nehru and Patel, and voicing that the “Nehru-military” was deployed not against the Nizam but ultimately against the people, the politics of the day were exposed in songs.

One of the songs, “making an appeal” to local Congress, runs thus:

Do you get down to compromise, Oh, Brother?

With the demon of rank Nazi, elder brother!

If trapped in web of compromise

with Nazi-like demon Nizam!

Becomes the enemy …

a serpent that is after the people, Oh, Brother!

You hand over the people

to him the tyrant, elder brother!

Do you stoopto joining hands, Oh, Brother!

Voicing that the “Nehru-military” was deployed not against the Nizam but ultimately against the people, another song exposedthat the Centre was arming the Nizam after the compromise:

Sent Patelweapons to Nizam,

True! Only to suppress the people!

If Congress were for the people’s good really

Would it nothave given weapons to people?

Would it not dig the grave of Nizam, the sinner?

The song later says that the Nizam, along with the feudal landlords, was for inviting the Centre and its attack on the people, It analytically explains why the Nizam was prepared for a compromise. Armed by the Centre, the Nizam went on a military offensive against people. It goes on as follows:

Demonthe Nizam king Oh, Brother!

Killing us using military dogs Oh, Brother!

As weunited with courage

unflinching and piercing the torsos of Nizam’s dogs

Compromisedthe Nizam,being at his wit’s end

Leader of land lords the Congress, Oh brother!

Emboldened and saved Nizam the brute, Oh, brother!

Muslim fanaticsjaghirdars and all the feudals

They share the throne and make a hell

Say NO to it, say No, Oh, peasant brother!

***                        ***

Telangana’s Agrarian revolution united people irrespective of caste: “They slept together, ate together.”

telengana armed struggle3

[Photo of 1948-50 Telangana people.Agrarian revolution united them irrespective of caste: “They slept together, ate together,”wrote DV Rao, in his book on History.]

Telangana communists tackled caste, as part of agrarian revolution, DV Rao wrote.

Caste does not give you food, my brother, we must fight together”, says a famous song. “Like you stamp the scorpion under your footwear, Crush caste headmen that are acting as cunning foxes,”says another song. Abolition of Vetti (begari, free labour) and distribution of land to the actual tiller, by Telangana’s communists, effectively emboldened and empowered the Dalits.

 They were elected to Grama rajya committees (village Soviets) also; they were first-ever elections on the basis of adult franchise in India, even before the1950 Constitution arrived. 1952 elections saw Dalit candidates fielded by communist party defeating others, fielded by Congress and SC federation. BR Ambedkar himself was defeated in the same election, held soon after the new Constitution arrived.  Electoral politics in later decades revived casteism, and sub-casteism too, and set the clock back.

There were several marching songs written and sung bythousands as armed struggle intensified against the Nehru-Patel armywhich constituted Gorkha-Sikh troops mostly. The rulers often used troops of other nationalities,who mostly do not know the local language,to crush people of one nationality. Garhwali (mostly Hindu) battalion was used to crush Peshawar riots (1930) where crowds were mostly Muslims. In Telugu areas, Malabar special Police, known for its ruthlessness wasused. During Police action, Gorkha-Sikh troops,with an anti-Muslim bentof mind were deployed. The following was a most popular one sung by people and communists for decades.

March on, peasants!

March on, workers!

Rush on…charge ahead

There may be blood streams –

May be the swords pierce us!

Keep on flying the Red flag!

Keep up the offensive

Don’t let it down – Hail the Red flag!

Even if Qasim Rajvi fires, and

Nazi Nizam spills the blood

Heed to call of the Sangham

Stick to the gun you wield

Even if Nehru and Patel come down

And deploy the Gorkha Sikh troops

Keep on flying the Red flag!

Hail the Red flag!

(Come fast [Vega Ravoy, …] by Nagabhushanam Mukkamala)

Suddala was known for his moving song Beat the drums of war, oh,guerrilla!

Depicting the people’s warfare, it seeks to inspires the guerrillas.Itgoes on as below

Razakar hordes, the demons

Shivered with fear

Slings of people

destroyed the Nizam

celebrated3000 villages

Land to the tiller, the battle cry

Set on fire the jaghirdar system

Oh guerrilla!

Nehru army masqueraded around

End of Nizam in five days it boasted

And a heaven for people it promised

But brutalityengulfed the poor  

Its wrath reserved for the people

Guerrilla!

Beware they shoot at sight guerrilla

Smash the prying eyes and

Destroy we shall the demons

Party of the toilers, guerrilla

Communist party guerrilla

It speaks of ‘Nehru army’ going berserk against people, rather than against the Nizam, and of struggle for land, being reversed under army’s wings. volunteer and Guerrilla squads spread to thousands of villages, and embedded among people and their hearts. The armed struggle was inseparably linked with the land question and with the struggle for people’s power. This strategy was depicted in songs as below: 

Prairie fire set aflame the jaghir system

Lands we seized and tilled

The army going round restoring the feudalists

Lands back in theirhands guerrilla!

Wipe out the grabbers

Seize back the lands

Men and women all as one, guerrilla

Capitalists our sworn enemies

Smash the system guerrilla

Peoples’ raj our goal

Red flag our shelter

Victory sure is ours

 guerrilla!

Emboldened, escorted and sheltered by the military action, the feudals went berserk, as can be seen in this song titled Depradations of the Nizam feudals:

Selfish the feudals

Emboldened

They are by the Congress army

Out to bite as black cobras

Fangs they displayed

Scaring the people

Gorkha troops riding horses

Malabar police mouthing cruelty

Feudals emboldened

Out to plunder the people …

The song continues how the troops went berserk to protect the feudals:

Feudals in front of troops

Eagles they swoop on villages

Sworn enemies

They drowned us in woes

Men or women no discrimination

Tortures and rapes common

Out to plunder

Feudals the dacoits

Defend and beat back with valour

Congress circar in pell-mell 

Fascist fangs they bare

Outwit the German Nazis

Congress with its violence 

Sinners they rule

Swear to end their reign

Take a vow to build

Hail the people   …

Prosperous future

A people’s Raj!

***

Songs depicting Telangana as part of worldwide struggle against imperialism

We could see in some songs the backdrop of world politics and the spirit of internationalism.The Telangana struggle was considered asa part of anti-imperialist international struggle for the liberation of oppressed people. The awareness about Russian revolution, Hitler, the victories in anti-fascist warand the ongoing, yet incomplete, China’s revolution... all permeated through songs of the day. For example:

Look at the Soviet Union, Oh, Brother!

The paradise for the poor

Pleasures all…for only the people!

Fought with endurance and won

Those people of East Europe

Held high they the Red Flag

Vanquishing Hitler the dictator!

Our toiling brothers of China

Won the majorchunk, Oh, Brother!

Beating to pulp they smashed

Ruler named Chang-kai Sheik

Certain it istoday or tomorrow

Liberated will be their entire country

The above song goes on with the refrain…

Say NO dear peasant brother,

say NO to Congress rule,

say absolute NO, dear labourer,

say NO,NO to this day-light robbery.

The Telangana revolutionaries could appreciate theideals and progress of the Chineserevolution,even before its successful completion. They were aware that it was spreading to Southeast Asia.In the same song it was told

Spreading farand wide

Sweeping Burma and Malaya

Encircled the Indian subcontinent

Indonesia and Vietnam

Great valour they display

The song links it all with their own struggle in Telangana, and concludes thus:

Toppled the Nizam 

Telangana head high

Sangham the new Raj

NO to congress rule peasant brother

NO, Never shall we allow

***

 Songs reveal Nehru’s comprador regime that served the US strategy

Nehru and his regime were seen and painted as a progressive, anti-feudal and anti-imperialist, by the elite classes including some of those among the Left. But people of Telangana during 1948–52 saw the real face and tasted itswrath. Their harsh experience with the anti-democratic,tyranny exhibited, so soon by the new rulers of the so-called new India with a ‘new’ Constitution, [a rehash of the much despised 1935 Govt of India Act] was depicted in several songs of the day.Truman S Harry the US president during Telangana (1945-53), was the author of Truman doctrine aimed against Russia, China and all revolutions. NATO was built and nuclear weapons used in his tenure. Nehru’s regime representing Indian compradors backed and served the US strategy. These politics too were depicted in some songs.

Congress enthroned

Is the man-eater that roared

Obeyed Truman the master

Tactics they played

Occupied entire Telangana

Socialism mouthedby Congress and Nehru was fake; the regime served imperialists andcompradorcapitalists.That was echoed in many songs, Nehru being addressed as Nehruayya:

Tata to the Right of you

Birla to the Left of you

Truman riding on your head

Sweet are your words

A knife with honey laced

You are out to cut our throat

Nehru Ayya,we knew you inside out

Caught in the pell-mell

Mired you are in Telangana …

This prairie fire won’t die down

Let Truman’s father too come down

Home and hearth burnt down

Whatever more you stoop to do

Gandhi’s portrait can’t fool us

You can’t close our eyes

Another song also speaks of Nehru …

Colourful you are Nehru Ayya

Your true colours we saw

Tata to the Right of you

Birla to the Left of you

Truman riding on your head

Socialism you mouth Nehru

We saw through your drama

The new Congress regime and its leaders were already found corrupt, as contemporary reports show. Songs depicted that too:

Permits, bus routes

Allocated to the feudals

Contracts all given

To the richest

Poured mud in the plates of the poor

Dumped dirt in front of our homes

Your raj is full of bribe

Luxury to the exploiters   

Don’t you have shame Nehru ayya

We saw you in true colours

Nehru, the chameleon

Changing colours

                                     ***                                   ***

Telengana struggle was withdrawn by the party leaders, amid differences and controversies (for more on this, click the link below), toward the end of 1951 October, paving the way to 1952 election.  

https://countercurrents.org/2020/10/withdrawal-of-telangana-armed-struggle-1946-51-some-aspects-of-history-and-politics/

PDF

Chitta Prasad (1915-78) was a Bengali artist who did many drawings on Telangana. This one refers to the 1952 General election and PDF on whose banner the communists contested. The choice was communists Vs. a begging bowl forcibly held by comprador Nehru, while US the merchant of death, gave alms. Congress was trounced in Telangana.    

Given below are lines from a poem, Tales of Telangana, written by veteran poet Harindranath Chattopadhyay (1898-1990), at the time of the Telangana armed struggle. He was elected in 1952 to Lok Sabha from Vijayawada constituency, as a communist-backed independent.  Seven more communists were also elected from Andhra region of the Madras state, that was later in 1956 merged with Telangana.

A few lines from the long poem Tales Of Telangana  

Now let me write it down,

A tale of Telangana, harrowing tale

Yet brimmed with hope wrought of grim sacrifice;

A tale of murdered innocents, raped honour,

Broken masses bleeding under the stress

Of the last struggle, one with the bitter struggle

Of lingering colonies that will not brook

Longer continuance of fascist greeds,

Imperialist grabs with callous guns for mouths

And hireling bombs spreading incessant menace.

You’ve heard of Telangana, have you not?

The world has heard and wondered …

It is another name for history

Revised, historic values re-arranged,

Re-shuffled.

It is echoed and re-echoed

Through the dark corridors of future time

Through which historic logic treads towards

Its grand fulfilment.

***

Telangana’s was not a spontaneous struggle as it is painted by some, including Maoists with all their dogmatism and Left adventurism. It did not leave behind the women and dalits as alleged by some scholars and activists. It was an organized movement led by communist revolutionaries, who opposed both Right and Left Revisionism, and relied on a revolutionary mass line wherein the level of consciousness and preparedness were the criteria, and they were systematically elevated in the course of the struggle.

It combined agrarian revolution with armed struggle aimed at a People’s state, as part of its anti-feudal, anti-imperialist strategy combined with suitable, varying tactics.

It elevated the political consciousness, awakened women into social revolution, united the people beyond caste barriers; and people’s cultural revolution was an integral part of it, and promoted the struggle.

People saw the see 1948 Union Army action as meant for the Liberation of the Nizam and feudalism from people’s revolution, not of people from the Nizam, as painted by BJP that, based on lies, is now seeking to hijack its legacy.

This article is a small attempt to highlight the role of songs in the Telangana’s revolutionary struggle for land, democracy, and independence.

                                                ***                              ***

(About authors: S. Jatin Kumar is a senior orthopedician with 40 years practice, a writer-activist in cultural and democratic rights movements. He is also an office-bearer of India-China Friendship Association, ICFA.  MA Krishna is a media person. Both contributed articles to counter currents.org.)


Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B. Subscribe to our Telegram channel


GET COUNTERCURRENTS DAILY NEWSLETTER STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX


One Comment

  1. S. N. Murthy Ch says:

    Congratulations and thanks to the writers and the journal for publication of this great work. They are not just songs, but certainly are the historical documents- in people’s poetry- of the most important features like mass revolutionary character, fine nuances, revolutionary politics, great quality of the leadership and ideology of the Telangana struggle and of the worst betrayal of people by Nehru-Patel regime.