June 07, 2020

Glorious Telangana Armed People’s Struggle – II

THE upsurge of the Telangana peasants shook the Nizam’s rule to its foundations. In order to re-establish control over his domains, the Nizam resorted to large-scale terror. The newly independent Indian government concluded a stand-still agreement with the Nizam and supplied his government with arms and ammunition. Armed storm-troopers, ‘razakars’, were organised and let loose on the villagers, with the government’s backing. Looting, arson, torture, murder and rape became widespread. Against this brutal repression, people defended and fought back with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on. To defend the people, the Communist Party organised and trained regular, armed guerrilla squads.

During the first four months of 1947, the Party concentrated on regrouping its scattered units. In this background, the refusal of the Nizam to join independent India, further aroused popular anger and the Party’s slogan of ‘People’s Rule in Vishalandhra’ became widely popular. Coastal districts of Andhra became the rear of the Telangana movement, with the Andhra unit providing shelter and help to cadre and people under the Nizam’s attacks. The Congress government in the Andhra region, attacked the Party for supporting the peasant struggles – both in that region and also Telangana – during the first half of 1947. After a short period of legality following independence, the Party was once again banned.

In the Telangana region, the anti-Nizam struggle became a widespread people’s movement and evolved into an anti-feudal, agrarian revolt. The movement progressed from the demand of non-eviction of peasants from the lands, to the demand, land to the tiller. For the first time in the history of the peasant movement in our country, the slogan ‘land to the tiller’ was raised. This demand spread like wild fire, increasing the sweep of the movement.

To carry forward this struggle, the Party formed village squads with about 10,000 members and regular guerrilla squads with more than 2,000 members. In the beginning, district guerrilla squads, then zonal (taluq) and village squads were formed. Coordination and mutual help among district and different taluq squads was organised. The structure of all the guerrilla forces was – village squads, village destruction squads and regular guerrilla squads.

After the formation of guerrilla squads, Party work was divided into two branches – political and military, with regular coordination between the two. With the formation of regular guerrilla squads, a change came in the armed resistance movement. The guerrillas used to ambush or attack and fight the enemy forces face to face, or raid and destroy enemy camps. They became experts in these resistance attacks. From among the untrained youth who used to play an active role in the resistance during the earlier period and fought back razakar raids, capable young people were recruited to the regular guerrilla squads. These squads with country weapons became the nuclei of people’s armed forces that enabled the people to destroy governmental authority in village after village.

During this phase, nearly 2,000 fighters and leaders laid down their lives in the struggle to drive away razakars, landlords and their armed stooges from the villages. Vetti, illegal exactions, land evictions, usurious loan, torture by corrupt officials and village oppressors were put to an end; fair wages for agricultural labourers were enforced and grain distributed. Tenants were given full rights on lands they were tilling. People used to say that for the first time in their lives, they had two full meals a day. Village self-rule was established in 3,000 villages. Education, health and all other rural services were organised by the people’s committees.

Ten lakh acres of land – surplus lands, illegally seized lands, leased lands, waste lands and forest and grazing lands – were distributed with full ownership rights to the landless, poor and middle peasants. Along with land, agricultural implements, tens of thousands of extra cattle, goats and sheep belonging to the landlords were also distributed for free. The loans given by landlords, deshmukhs and moneylenders were cancelled.

As the movement in Telangana developed, and the demand for land became more and more insistent, land ceilings decided by the Party were reduced from the initial 500 acres to 200 acres and finally, by the middle of 1948, to 100 acres dry and 10 acres wet land. Land was distributed first to the agricultural labourers, then to the poor and middle peasants.

With land distribution and increase in wages, a remarkable change came about in the political consciousness and mode of living of agricultural labourers.

The task of land distribution and dealing with questions that arose, were handled by the village self-rule committees. These committees were organs of both struggle and power. Village administration was carried on by these committees, elected by all adults in the village. These were called ‘grama rajyam’ (village rule) committees.

Men, women and leaders of village squads were elected to these committees, consisting of five or seven members. They used to solve people’s problems without the earlier prevalent evils of corruption, bribery and other dirty methods. In this work, along with the committee members, many ordinary people used to take part. All the problems were solved in a democratic way. The grama rajyam committees used to warn reactionaries, socially boycott them, levy fines or confiscate their properties according to the nature of their crimes. Those who moved with the police and carried out attacks on the people were punished.

Under these gram rajyams, people received many other benefits:

• There was no government agent to collect taxes and the money remained with the people.

• The Party understood the opposition and dissatisfaction of toddy-tappers during the programme of cutting down toddy-yielding palmyra trees and date trees. So this programme was given up. On top of this, they were told to tap toddy, sell good toddy at cheap prices to the people and not pay any taxes to the government.

• A programme of digging irrigation canals, small tanks for improvement in agriculture was implemented.

• Medical facilities, health care, and training people to observe minimum hygiene was undertaken on a wide scale. People were given proper help, inoculation, etc and protected, especially in villages where cholera epidemic was raging. Medicines were supplied to many villages on a large scale for prevention of diseases.

• Peasants whose houses were burnt during the struggle were supplied with wood, palm leaves, grass, etc taken from the palm groves of landlords and government forests, to rebuild their houses.

Women participated equally along with the men in the Telangana struggle and hence, it became easier for the grama rajyam committees and the Party to campaign against age-old ideas prevalent in the society, like, ‘women are inferior to men’. It was proclaimed and campaigned that men and women have equal rights. Guided by these principles, Party supported the right to choose their own partners and their right to get a divorce and re-marry, if, in spite of the best efforts, reconciliation was not possible. At the same time, Party did not encourage anarchic sexual behaviour, even though it did not look at sexual relations or lapses and mistakes from the ascetic angle or from the angle of sin. But before a decision was given and implemented, it was explained to the persons concerned, as well as to the public, how the decision helped towards a cleaner and frank life. It contributed to a better development of the people’s movement and social relations.

The question of marriage, divorce and re-marriage were posed among the general public during the course of the development of the movement and the changing pattern of economic and social relations. It had also become an acute and urgent problem for many young girls whose husbands had lost their lives in the struggle. Party stressed the need for a new moral code; that it was not a matter of sin or disloyalty, but a good thing to let girls re-marry in order to live a normal life and contribute to the people’s movement.

Caste distinctions were deep-rooted in villages. During the struggle, all people were forced to work and fight collectively without any distinction of caste and creed and so, fighting the evil of untouchability became easier. In guerrilla squads, equality and mutual respect were strictly practiced and this changed people’s outlook. Belief in gods, demons, etc decreased to a great extent, specially amongst the youth.

Political propaganda was extensively carried. Right from the grama rajyam committees, village squads, to organisers and regular guerrilla squads, everyone used to explain every problem in mass meetings. Along with this, popular cultural tools too were put to good use. Guerrilla squads exhibited their military knowledge before the people, while local squads took military training every day. People watched all these programmes with great interest and enthusiasm. Sometimes, their enthusiasm led them to join these programmes.

Even when enemy raids were at a peak, adult literacy programmes continued. Village committees and village squads were not only learning, but were also teaching others. Many illiterate persons were able to read newspapers and books after a few months.

These tasks were carried out by the village committees according to the principles and instructions laid down by the higher committees.

The most inspiring aspect was the discipline and devotion of the village squads, qualities which were found at an even higher degree in the regular squads. But for these qualities, during its anti-Nizam liberation phase, the movement could neither have attained the sweep, nor could it have sustained the tremendous losses. This discipline and devotion had become possible because they were closely linked with the people’s movements.

During this phase of 1946-47, the Nizam and his feudal administrators tried to rally Muslim masses to support them, as against the ‘Hindus’. But due to the efforts of the Communist Party, large numbers of Muslim peasantry, rural artisans and rural poor, rallied behind the fighting Telangana peasantry.

When the Indian government realised that the Telangana struggle was spreading to more and more areas, it decided to intervene. It sent its army on the plea of curbing razakar violence and securing Nizam’s accession to the Indian Union. But, its main declared purpose was also of suppressing ‘communist violence’.