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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 46, November 5, 2011

Tribute to Dr Rajbahadur Gour

Tuesday 8 November 2011, by Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy

With the passing away of Dr Rajbahadur Gour, one of the heroes of the Telangana armed struggle, one of the last links of the present generation with the past in the Hyderabad state has snapped. Comrade Raj, as he was popularly known in Hyderabad, was 94 when he breathed his last on October 7.

Raj was born in a middle class Kayasth family in the Old City of Hyderabad. His ancestors migrated from the Faizabad district of UP and settled in Hyderabad. Raj belonged to the third generation after migration. He was interested in literature from his school days and even organised a library and reading room. He was educated in Urdu which was his mother tongue. He studied Medicine also in Urdu, as that was the medium of instruction, at the famous Osmania Medical College.

The situation in the Hyderabad state, which was otherwise known as the Nizam state, was dominated by feudalism. It was the biggest princely state in British India. The Nizam was trying to compete with modernisation by establi-shing a University, a public library, constructing railway lines and setting up industries; he managed railway and road transport by placing these in the public sector.

On the other hand, there was terrible poverty and less than five per cent literacy rate. Ninety per cent of the people were Hindus whose mother tongue was Telugu, Marathi and Kannada; but they were not allowed to have schools in their languages. There were hardly 20 schools in 16 districts.

Lakhs of acres of land were concentrated in the hands of a few landlords while the over-whelming majority of people was landless. Most of these landlords—zamindars and chiefs of small samsthans—were Hindus but loyal to the Nizam.

There were no civil rights. People were supp-ressed, harassed and there was restlessness among them. There was the impact of the national movement that was going on in British India. As a student of the Medical College Dr Raj Bahadur Gour was unhappy with the state of affairs and wanted to do something to change the situation. He was, like many young people, inspired by the Great October Socialist Revolution.
Comrade Makhdoom Mohiuddin, the well- known popular poet, and a few others, along with Raj Bahadur Gour, formed a “Comrades Association” and started building trade unions in Allwyn, Praga, Azam Zahi mills, railways and road transport. Soon the Hyderabad State Trade Union emerged strong with 70,000 member-ship. The Singareni Colliery workers joined the union.

Trade union activity was crushed, leaders jailed many times but the trade unions grew stronger with Dr Raj Bahadur Gour as one of the TU leaders. Later Comrade Raj Bahadur Gour became the President of the APSRTC Employees Union (one lakh strong), Singareni Collieries Union (one lakh ten thousand workers), AP Bank Employees Federation (30,000 strong) besides many other dozens of unions.

Comrade C. Rajeswara Rao came to Hyderabad secretly and contacted Ravi Narayana Reddy, Baddam Yella Reddy, Gurava Reddy and others and formed a nucleus of the CPI. The Comrades Association merged with it. Communists started working in the Andhra Mahasabha, an organi-sation striving for the socio-cultural awakening of the Telugu people.

Adventurous Life in Freedom Struggle

DR RAJ was inspired by the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. In those days some young people who were against the Nizam chose terrorism in their anger against the Nizam’s despotic rule. Bombs were thrown at the Nizam but that attempt failed. There was more security, more repression to curb the idea of freedom. The Arya Samaj was active, to bring those who were converted to Islam back into Hinduism. Though the Nizam pretended to be neutral and secular, many Arya Samajists were arrested on flimsy grounds, tortured and jailed.

Raja Bahadur Gour and his friends chose the path of communism and started organising the party secretly and trade unions openly.

He had a very adventurous political life during those days. It was easy to identify him as he belonged to and his workplace was the city in spite of his make-up and different styles of dresses. He was arrested and jailed. He was admitted to the Osmania General Hospital on being ill. He was a student of the Osmania Medical College and known to the doctors, hospital staff, workers and all of them used to be affectionate towards him. He escaped from the first floor through the window with the help of Dr Paranjpe, who was a junior doctor in the hospital. The police could not trace him and he successfully escaped and started work once again.

For the second time he was arrested and brought to Hyderabad State High Court. He was kept in high security in a corner room with the police. He again escaped through the small window of the attached bathroom and straight went into the forests and joined the armed struggle.

His escapes had become legends and inspired the people. The Nizam Government was angry and furious. There was a big hunt for him but they could not trace him. One day there was a public meeting in the city against the Nizam’s misrule. It was arranged by Boorgula Narasinga Rao. The police was also there. A young man in sherwani came up to the dais, and made a thund-erous speech which mesmerised the people. By the time the police realised that the person was Raj Bahadur Gour, he had disappeared in the bylanes and joined the ranks of the underground comrades.

For the third time he was arrested in the Rachakonda forest hills and kept in a high- security jail. He was kept in jail even after the merger of the Hyderabad state with the Indian Union. As a matter of fact, the armed struggle under the leadership of the Communist Party spread to large parts of Telangana. Pro-Nizam landlords ran away from the villages. Their spa-cious fort-like bungalows, known as “Devidais”, were burnt by the angry people. The Nizam’s Razakars (volunteers in defence of the Muslim nawab rule), who terrorised and killed hundreds of people, were beaten back; they retreated after a large number of them were killed.

More than ten lakh acres of land were distri-buted to the landless agricultural labour. Even the middle class intelligentsia and small traders supported the armed struggle. In spite of hund-reds of Communists getting killed, the support for the Communists was growing by leaps and bounds. On the one side, the Nizam was worried, and on the other, the Congress leadership at Centre, particularly Sardar Patel, the then Union Home Minister, was alarmed at the develop-ments. K.M. Munishi was the Resident Represen-tative of the Government of India at Hyderabad. There was an agreement accepting the Nizam’s rule without he joining the Indian Union. The Nizam had his own currency and coins. He had a big army. He sent his represen-tatives to international bodies like the UNO.

The Union Government was afraid of a Communist liberated zone in the heart of the country. This prompted Sardar Patel to send the Indian Army over to the Hyderabad state on September 17, 1948 exactly one year after the launching of the heroic Telangana armed struggle. On September 11, 1947 three top leaders of the Communist Party, Comrades Ravi Narayana Reddy, Baddam Yella Reddy and Makhdoom Mohiuddin, signed the historic document calling upon the people of Telangana to take up arms and defeat the Nizam’s feudal rule. That was the spark which spread like wildfire in the state.

The “Police Action”, that is, the Indian military intervention, ended within 48 hours with the unconditional surrender of the Nizam. Surpri-singly the Nizam, who should have been arrested and brought before the court, was left free and declared as “Raj Pramukh” (Governor); he was paid two crores of rupees as annual compen-sation.

The CPI, Raj Bahadur and his compatriots rejected this shameful surrender. Even after the merger of Hyderabad in the Indian Union, the Communists were not released from jails. There was the cruel hunting of the underground Communists by the Union Army. Thousands of Communists were killed. There was confusion among the people. The Nizam’s autocratic rule had ended, the Nehru Government has established itself in Hyderabad but why the Communists were hunted and killed could not be understood by the people.

The armed struggle was expanded to the Andhra area but the modern equipment of the well-trained Indian Army took the upper hand. Some people realised the logic behind the developments. The pro-Nizam landlords who ran away during the armed struggle came back to the villages wearing Gandhi caps on their heads and forcibly took back the land distributed by the Communists.

It was a painful transition. It was a betrayal of the people. But the middle class distanced themselves from the Communists. Ultimately the armed struggle was withdrawn with the offer of Jawaharlal Nehru to allow the Communists to contest the elections. Many were in jails. Large numbers were underground with pending cases. There were no names in the electoral rolls. But the Communists contested the elections in the name of the PDF and won with thumping majorities in several districts. All the Legislative Assembly seats in Nalgonda, a majority of seats in Karimnagar, Warangal, Khammam were won by the Communists. Ravi Narayana Reddy, the leader of the armed struggle, got more votes than Jawaharlal Nehru. This stunned the Congress rulers. Violence continued against the Communists.

Dr Raj Bahadur Gour and his comrades were kept in jail. Ten comrades were given death sentence. Many were given long jail terms including life imprisonment. Comrade Raj was elected to the Rajya Sabha from jail. He was released after sometime to attend the House. His term was not a full term, hence he was elected again.

He was a powerful orator, a dedicated trade unionist. He fought in Parliament for the release of the Communists, for withdrawal of cases against them. The great sacrifices of the Communists forced the government to undertake land reforms. Comrade Raj was a popular and success-ful parliamentarian. His speeches were taken seriously. He was offered another term by the Party but he politely refused to make room to other comrades.

Humanist Raj

COMRADE RAJ BAHADUR GOUR was a humanist. He was man a full of humour. It was a part of his life. Even during the underground, while he was arrested, he used to crack appropriate jokes and make the people laugh. He could lighten any serious situation with his jokes.

Once Comrade Makhdoom Mohiuddin was on hunger strike against the increase of the price of rice. His health was deteriorating. Tens of thousands of people were turning up to visit Makhdoom. Kasu Bramhananda Reddy, the Chief Minister, was angry with the CPI. A delegation comprising Raj, Neelam Rajasekhar Reddy and others went to meet the CM who pretended not to notice their arrival, and went on signing the files. The situation was tense.

Raj went up and told him that they were brought to a wrong place and they want to meet Mr Bramhananda Reddy and not him. The CM was amused and said: “I am the person.” Raj said that he knows one Anand who jumps and is always happy and expected Bramhanand (Maha Anand) will be a hundred times more joyful person. Bramhananda Reddy laughed heartily, the negotiations were successful and Makhdoom with-drew his hunger strike.

When comrades died, he used to say, they confirmed their berth and went away, while he was still in the waiting list. Once somebody asked him whether he was an atheist. He said: “I am an atheist and swear my atheism in the name of God.”

His wife, Smt Brijrani Gour, was also a partici-pant of the armed struggle and played a key role in the NFIW and the Party. Dr Raj lived in a slum-like area in Chikkadpalli throughout his life. He use to feel at home with the common people and workers around him. He named his home as “Chambeli ki Manduva”.

Dr Raj was a simple man. Like many of his colleagues, he used to wash his clothes when on tours. I remember one incident. I was living in Ajoy Bhavan, the Party headquarters, as I was working in the student-youth movement. Dr Raj used to share my room when he came for meetings. I came back after a 15-day long tour and found my bedsheets, pillows were washed and the room was clean. On enquiry he told me that he had washed them along with his clothes. I felt embarrassed and asked him why he did it. He was angry. He said that he had washed those clean and challenged me that I cannot be a better washerman than him. I had tears in my eyes. He told me affectionately that it was his responsi-bility to look after the son of his colleague in the armed struggle. My father was also a participant of the Telangana armed struggle. That was the humane face of Raj.

He fulfilled many political responsibilities with ease. He was the Secretary of Hyderabad City CPI, Assistant Secretary of the State Party, President of the State AITUC, and Secretary of the AITUC at the national level.

He was a great lover of literature and critic in Urdu literature. His book, The Tricolour will Fly over Hyderabad, was very popular during the armed struggle.
He was not only an ardent reader but the author of hundreds of articles on contemporary political issues and workers’ problems.

As a freedom fighter, he was entitled for treatment in corporate hospitals but he always preferred his treatment in the Osmania General Hospital and used to stay in the General Ward along with other patients.

Comrade Raj retired at the age of 75. He never accepted any political responsibility thereafter and never interfered in Party activity. He used to call me when I was the Secretary of the CPI State Council and convey to me his opinions on different issues. Later he maintained the same relationship with Comrade Narayana, who became the State Secretary. Till two years back he used to attend Party meetings and joke that his presence was to remind the comrades that he ”had not kicked the bucket yet”.

He donated three lakh rupees to the Anjuman Tarrakki Urdu and some amount to the Party. No religious ceremony was performed after his death and his body was handed over to the Osmania Medical College for the research work of students as he had desired both in his will. It was from the same Medical College that he had graduated as a doctor.

Dr Raj, the grand old man of Hyderabad who shook the foundations of the Nizam rule, will be remembered for his secularism, patriotism and dedication in the service of the people. His was a life with a sense of purpose and selfless service to the masses.

The author, a former MP, is the Deputy General Secretary of the CPI.

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