Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 40, September 25, 2010
Relevance of the Telangana Armed Struggle
Tuesday 28 September 2010, by
The Telangana armed struggle against Nizam’s autocracy in 1947 was an important historical event as Nizam declared Hyderabad as an independent country in connivance with British imperialism on September 11, 1947. The CPI had given a call asking the people to take up arms against the Nizam of Hyderabad Samsthan and for the merger of Hyderabad into the Indian Union. Comrades Ravi Narayan Reddy, Baddam Yella Reddy and Makhdoom Mohiuddin signed the statement on behalf of the CPI, Andhra Mahasabha and All Hyderabad Trade Union Congress.
The freedom struggle of India had many streams. The main battle was fought in British India, which was directly ruled by the British. There were 519 small and big Samsthans, kingdoms which were ruled by native kings under the British umbrella. They were free only to exploit, torture the people in their kingdoms, but had to pay huge amounts to the British Crown for being allowed to exist. In fact it was not a small mercy. But for the British, they would have been thrown out by the people long back.
The Hyderabad state was the biggest of the Samsthans. Half the districts were Telugu speaking, five Marathi speaking and three were Kannada districts. It was a prison of languages. Only Urdu was the official language and medium of instruction. The land was concentrated in the hands of big Deshmukhs and landlords. Some of them used to own one lakh to one-and-a-half lakh acres of land as well. There was the “vetti” system, that is, officially all the people had to work for the landlords without wage. It was almost half-slavery. There were no civil and human rights. It was naturally hated by the people. But they were helpless.
The nationalist movement, led by the Indian National Congress, did not try to extend its struggle in the native states, probably with an expectation of support from them sometime or other. “Fight against Foreign Colonialism” was limited to fight against the White skins. In fact the native rulers were supporting the British with all their might. They were more loyal to the British than the British servants and soldiers.
But the light of the freedom struggle did reach the dark parts of the Samsthans and roused hopes among the people. There were heroic armed struggles against autocratic rule in Travancore-Cochin, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and other areas. The 1942 ‘Quit India’ Movement, the Second World War and its consequences, the INA battle, the revolt of the RIN at Bombay brought new hopes. But the Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi were not willing to extend the struggle beyond a point in the Samsthan areas.
The British were forced to leave India. The British Parliament passed an Act in June 1947, declaring Independence to India and Pakisthan, and to 519 Samsthans and kingdoms in India. It was a dirty conspiracy to create chaos in the subcontinent. They expected internal quarrels, wars, which may ultimately lead to the presence of the British Army in our country for a long time to maintain law and order.
The urge for transformation to a democratic system, and for a united Indian state was so strong among the people that most of the Samsthans agreed for merger with the Indian Union except Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, Tripura and Junagadh that declared independence.
The Hyderabad Nizam ordered for weapons from Britain and transferred huge amounts to the Westminster Bank. The money is still with the British. The dispute between India and Pakistan is not yet settled.
The Andhra Mahasabha was the social organisation of the Telugu speaking people and this was dominated by Leftists in the later years. Ravi Narayan Reddy was its President in the crucial period of 1947. The Nizams’ volunteers, known as Razakers, unleashed terror on the people in the name of defending a Muslim kingdom. In fact large numbers of Muslims were living in utter poverty. An overwhelming number of landlords who supported the Nizam were Hindus. Unfortunately a section of the Muslim population did believe in the slogan of “Anal Malik” (I am the King) and extended support to the Nizam. But there were patriotic, democratic and progressive minded Muslims who extended support to the anti-Nizam struggle. In the Telangana area where the Communists were leading the struggle, it never took a communal colour. It was a struggle against outdated and outlived feudalism. The situation was ripe and the CPIs clarion call for armed struggle was responded to excellently by lakhs of people who participated in it. As a matter of fact the Party’s organisational infrastructure was weak in the Telangana part but the popularity of its leader-ship, the correct strategy and tactics of the Party helped immensely.
The Andhra Party (it was a part of the composite Madras State) was organisationally better equipped. The infrastructure of party organisation was quite good. The leadership was ideologically and politically matured. The Andhra Party had given all help to the struggle of Telangana. Armed training camps were held. Fund and weapons were collected. Volunteers joined the struggle in Telangana; many Andhra comrades were killed in Telangana.
Comrade C. Rajeswara Rao was in Hyderabad from 1946 itself and other prominent leaders like Comrades P. Sundarayya, Tammareddy Satyanarayana, S.V.K. Prasad and many others directly joined to guide and participate in the struggle. Comrade CR created the first nucleus of the Party in Hyderabad.
There were two stages of the struggle. Stage 1 was from September 11, 1947 (the day the armed struggle started) to September 17, 1948 (the day the Indian Army marched on Hyderabad). Stage 2 was from that day till the withdrawal of the armed struggle in 1951.
In the first stage, there was wonderful support and sympathy of the people. Landlords ran away from villages. Their huge bunglows, which were known as Devidis, were burnt down as they were the shelters and centres of Razakars and the Nizam Police.
K.M. Munshi, a confidant of Sardar Patel, was the Agent General of the Government of India in the Hyderabad state. There was a standstill agreement between the Nizam and the Government of India. Though the Government of India wanted the Nizam to join the Indian Union, they did not want to use force. But as the Communists were becoming strong, there was fear of a communist takeover of Hyderabad. The Congress leaders pressurised the Central leadership for some action. The Indian Army marched on Hyderabad state from four sides on September 13, 1948, and the Nizam surrendered on September 17. The Nizam’s army could not withstand the pressure of the strong military force of the Indian Union. The resistance was nominal. The Nizam declared his surrender and the merger of the Hyderabad state was announced.
The CPI, which was fighting the main battle sacrificing a large number of its comrades, was not consulted. No discussions were held. The Nizam, who was to be overthrown, was given a respectable place and later declared as Raj Pramukh (equivalent to the Governor) with two crore rupees as annual compensation.
The Indian Army marched on the villages. The CPI decided to carry on the struggle. The landlords came back to the villages and tried to take back the distributed lands.
There was confusion. The middle class, business people, intellectuals were happy that the Nizam’s rule came to an end. The merger with the Indian Union was achieved. They wanted the armed struggle to be withdrawn. The poor people were confused. The Party decided to continue the armed struggle. Though there was betrayal by the Congress and Union Government by compromising with the Nizam and landlords, the changed situation probably needed a different strategy. The continuation of the armed struggle proved to be costly. The Party did not get the massive support of the people which was available in abundance earlier. Some had become neutral. Congress supporters were openly hostile. The landlords came back and mobilised all those sections. The withdrawal of the armed struggle, its timing, the strategy became a hot topic of discussion inside the Party. Many valuable comrades lost their lives. Ultimately the Party decided to withdraw the armed struggle and participate in the general elections.
The Telangana armed struggle and its lessons are very much relevant even today. The controversy about the withdrawal of the armed struggle is still a debating point. Some sections of Naxalites and Maoists say that the withdrawal was wrong and their present armed struggle is the continuation of Telangana. Some comrades believe that the withdrawal was late, and should have been done earlier. Proper lessons can be drawn for the Indian revolution by honest indepth discussions on this subject.
Distortion of History
THOUGH the BJP or Jan Sangh were not born at the time of the Telangana armed struggle, the RSS was very much in existence. It is said that once the RSS Sarsanghchalak was asked to leave Hyderabad immediately, he obliged. The Arya Samaj put up resistance against conversions to Islam and carried on the campaign for re-conversions to Hindusim. The Hindu Mahasabha played some small role in the Marathwada area. Many Arya Samajists later joined the CPI.
But 50 years after the armed struggle the BJP and Sangh Parivar tried to observe a Liberation Day, accusing the Communists of waging war against independent India and made the baseless and shameless allegation that the Communists and Razakars had joined hands. The whole purpose was to create an impression that the Telangana armed struggle was a liberation battle of Hindus against Muslim oppression. This is nothing but concoction. It is a blatant distortion of history.
The Nizam, of course, was not a secularist but for his own reasons he did not pursue the communal agenda all the time. But certainly there was discrimination of language and religion. At the same time he patronised the Hindu Jagirdars and Deshmukhs. He had some Hindu officials who were needed for a link with the majority of his subjects in the kingdom. But the people who took up arms were very clear that they were fighting oppressive feudalism, not a religion. The BJP is carrying on the dirty campaign which started during the NDA regime. It is the NDA and its Home Minister L.K. Advani, who refused to sanction pensions to thousands of Telangana freedom fighters, whose names were recommended by the Hyderabad State Freedom Fighters Screening Committee, an official committee appointed during the V.P. Singh regime, and later by Comrade Indrajit Gupta as the Home Minister of the United Front Government. The Sangh Parivar, which had no role in the struggle of the people against the Nizam, is shamelessly carrying on its dirty tricks to distort history even now.
THERE is another aspect of Telangana. For the last few years a big agitation is taking place demanding Statehood for Telangana.
The CPI stood and fought for Visalaandhra and criticised the separate agitation. The CPI was critical of the Congress leadership which treated the issues of separation and integration as their internal problems and all agreements for unity were signed by the Congress leaders alone. It was the betrayal of promises. The increasing regional imbalances constituted one of the reasons for the separatist agitation and the CPI warned that if such problems were not solved this agitation will repeatedly come up.
Unfortunately the forecast of the CPI proved to be correct. Regional imbalances continued. The CPI’s demand for a special development fund for irrigation projects, for implementation of job guarantee according to proportion, for restoration of the Telangana Regional Board as a watchdog organisation were ignored by the TDP and Congress governments. It was criminal negligence on the part of these governments. The last effort of the CPI to keep the State united and for full justice to Telangana did not get support or appreciation of the ruling classes. Ultimately the CPI has decided to support the demand for Statehood for Telangana. This stand was not liked by some sections of the Left. It has become a controversy even inside the CPI for some time. The XX Congress of the CPI ultimately decided to support the demand for Statehood for Telangana but rejected the allegation that the people of one area exploit the other area.
Every problem will not be solved by Statehood. All the problems of the capitalist society will continue. But there will be satisfaction among the people that they will decide their own destiny. The unity, brotherhood and fraternal understanding between the Telugu people should continue in the future as well. History will decide whether the stand of the CPI is right or not.
The Telangana armed struggle has to be analysed from different angles. Besides the poor, agricultural labour, small peasants led by the Party, a broad section of middle peasantry, small, petty business people, intelligentsia supported the armed struggle and saved our underground leaders during the most difficult times. Poets, writers, journalists, government employees, Hindus, Muslims stood by the armed struggle. Women played an important role.
There is a necessity to study deeply the reasons that prompted different sections of society to support the Telangana armed struggle. Only that will help one to get a comprehensive understanding of the Telangana armed struggle.
Most of the writings on Telangana till now are from a limited angle of the struggle. Some have given only partial account of this heroic battle. The split of the communist movement has created a situation in which some writers tried to undermine the role of some important leaders and ignore them. History cannot be written based on the whims and fancies of the writers. I hope an impartial, comprehensive account of the Telangana armed struggle will be written by future historians without distortion.
September 17, 1948 was the day when the Indian Army marched on the Hyderabad state, liberated it from the Nizam and the merger of the Hyderabad state into the Indian Union was announced.
The author, a former MP, is the Deputy General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI).