A forgotten chapter

Withdrawal of Telangana Armed Struggle


Telangana armed struggle (1946-51) was withdrawn, not vanquished, towards the end of October 1951, exactly sixty years ago. The decision was announced on October 21, in 1951, three years after the Union armies marched into the princely State of Hyderabad in September 1948. Obviously, the armed struggle was sustained for three years in the face of a military offensive by around 50,000 troops.

Key leaders associated with Telangana were: DV Rao (1917-1984), Secretary of Telangana party was the youngest Member of Central Committee, of undivided CPI in 1950. The CC was led by C. Rajeswara Rao (CR) ,the General Secretary (GS), (he was the GS also of CPI post-1964 split ) ; P.Sundarayya (PS), CPM GS after 1964 split, and M. Basava Punnayya (MB). All these four were associated with Andhra Thesis, though PS had some reservations. CR had succeeded, in 1950 as GS, when BTR, who rejected the Thesis, had resigned after the Chinese revolution succeeded in 1949 October, with Mao as its helmsman. People’s War path of Mao, as well as Telangana peasant struggle, came to be highlighted, by the international communist movement, thus negating the views till then upheld by BTR.

Telangana’s organised movement began around 1939-40. July 4 of 1946 was the day Doddi Komarayya, the first martyr of Telangana, was killed and that day is regarded as the beginning of armed phase of the struggle that lasted up to 1951 October, i. e, post-independence. It was resisting the Nizam’s army to begin with, and later the Indian army, unleashed during Nehru’s regime, even while Indian Constitution was being drafted.

10 lakh acres were distributed to landless and poor peasants and gram rajyas (village soviets) were established in 3000 villages. One lakh people were imprisoned, and over 4000 people were shot dead, so soon after “independence” and a new Constitution was proclaimed.

Revisionists often misrepresented this glorious history as merely an anti-Nizam struggle, which was only the first phase of the struggle that began around 1940. Misleadingly named as anti-Nizam Police Action, Union government’s military offensive was launched on September 13, 1948, and the Nizam surrendered by Sep18. However, the army continued its onslaught against the peasants and people of Telangana who were fighting a legendary struggle against feudalism and for abolition of landlordism and land to the tiller.

Famous book, The Telangana People’s Struggle and Its Lessons (1972 December) by PS was published by CPI-M. In its Preface PS wrote “At last after 20 years delay, we are able to place this book” in 1972 before the readers. Why the delay and why it was published then? One reason was CPM’s credibility as a revolutionary left party was tested and undermined by Naxalbari, Srikakulam and questions raised by communist revolutionaries. It needed to claim the legacy of Telangana.

In the Preface PS wrote about its limitations:

“…there may be many factual discrepancies with regard to minor details but those too can be corrected if the participants or readers point them out …” “We have avoided narrating the activities and role of participants, their positive and negative features, especially of most of the living personnel, for obvious reasons, except when it becomes absolutely essential to pin point political generalizations, and that too in very general terms.”

PS also wrote that the party’s consultations on Telangana with CPSU led by Stalin were for “ the first time publicly mentioned in this book…” CPM’s journal, people’s democracy in, recently published an article, July 5, 2020, Quest for the Path of Indian Revolution, which mentions the consultations with CPSU led by Stalin :

“Taking stock of this grave political-ideological disarray inside the Party, it was decided to seek the fraternal assistance of the Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU) and Comrade Stalin. The CPSU leadership readily agreed to this proposal. A delegation comprising C Rajeswar Rao, M Basavapunniah, Ajoy Kumar Ghosh and SA Dange, was deputed to discuss with the leaders of the CPSU and Comrade Stalin, and seek clarification on all the controversial and debated issues within the Communist Party. The Central Committee of the CPSU had set up a Commission, comprising Stalin, Molotov, Malenkov and Suslov, headed by Stalin, for these discussions.”

The voluminous book (592 pages.) almost omits the very name of DV Rao, the chief architect of Telangana and its line, except for a couple of negative references that were based on falsehood. It is akin to History of CPSU-B retold post-Khruschev. Readers and scholars are fed with only half-truths served by PS that are thus still pushed as if authentic by CPM, particularly about the withdrawal.

DV Rao, the key leader of Telangana, contested this narration. The book by PS was reviewed by DV Rao who questioned some of the facts and lessons in it, and exposed it as a neo-revisionist misrepresentation of history to suit the latter-day CPM’s parliamentary line. PS and CPM, as DV Rao exposed, put their own neo-revisionist version of history “in Stalin’s mouth” contending that Telangana struggle was withdrawn upon Stalin’s advice. And in a gross violation of an earlier party decision, DV Rao, the CCM was not even consulted on the crucial decision of withdrawal before it was announced; he first heard it over the All India Radio, and was stunned. He had walked long distances and reached the party headquarters and found no senior leader there, who already had left to the field to implement the decision, “a fait accompli, and a betrayal,” as DV Rao described.

DV Rao’s Review, with such revelations, titled Telangana Armed struggle and The Path of Indian Revolution, was first published in two parts, in 1973 November and 1974 January, by Proletarian Path (Calcutta), a journal founded and edited by DV Rao together with Moni Guha, and later in 1982 was reprinted as a book (164 Pages in crown size) by Proletarian Line (Hyderabad), founded and edited by DV Rao. PS, MB etc, who were very much alive, never joined issue in any serious manner. DV’s Review 1973-74, a valuable and original source material for study, had had its impact on PS though PS and CPM had no proper replies to questions raised by DV Rao.

However, the CPM already ridden with an internal differences and crisis in the aftermath of Naxalbari and Srikakulam in late 1960s and early 1970s, was presumably driven into deeper crisis after this Review by DV Rao that raised many questions. PS resigned from the post of GS and Polit Bureau of CPI(M) on 22-8-1975. After some time, he wrote in detail explaining the reasons behind his resignation. The resignation and the reasons were never revealed officially by CPM itself. They were known only years later.

“In my letter of 22-8-1975 to PBMs and CCMs I have briefly narrated the reasons for my resignation. They are:.. “4. My resignation is also due to some major Party units not taking seriously the agrarian resolution in practice, neither delegating enough cadre to the front, nor building the unity of agricultural labour and the poor peasants on the one hand with the middle peasants on the other…”

On related issues he wrote : “ In my report to CC in Feb. 1970, I have stated:..Immediately after our 7th Congress, when practically whole of our party leadership and 1200 leading comrades throughout the country were arrested, a sharp criticism from our ranks arose that the leadership had talked about a revolutionary programme, but had not cared to take elementary vigilance to safeguard even a part of the central and state leadership from the impending attack of the Govt. They sharply questioned whether it was not due to too much constitutional, parliamentary and legalistic illusions…” PS commented: “ Not to do that but flinch back and try to make the masses desist from going on to these struggles would be betraying the masses and democratic movement and disrupt it…”

“We have to demarcate areas as priority areas keeping in view the present strength (position) of our movement where there is greater possibility of developing contiguous areas SO that both the peasant and working class movements can develop together and that areas can be developed first as political bases and later as partisan areas or bases. It is only when such extensive areas in different parts of the country are consciously developed, we could effectively develop the revolutionary struggle against the Central Govt….”

Though he added: “we should not jump to hasty conclusions that these two bases would become revolutionary bases (immediately) for liberation of whole of India.” While expressing his discontent with CPM’s practice, PS however was within the confines of neo-revisionism.

Bengal-Kerala path prevailed, even as PS claimed CPM was following Stalin’s advice and 1951 Documents, post-Telangana. But he lamented nobody was serious and resigned.

Back to Home Page

Vol. 54, No. 21, Nov 21 - 27, 2021