Role of progressives in Telangana land struggle – Part III

Image Courtesy:

As the Communists gained traction in Telangana with Andhra Mahasabha many village level committees were set up by the Communist party to fight the feudal oppression. One such member who joined one of the committees of Andhra Mahasabha and the Communist party was Chityala Ailamma, also known as Chakali Ailamma. She stood against the notorious Zamnidar Visnuru Ram Chandra Reddy and claimed her right to the produce from the land she cultivated. The Communist Party supported her in her struggle, and her house became a centre for the Communist activities later. These instances are a crucial part of the Telangana armed struggle for two reasons. One is that these people were outright supporters of the Communist Party as they saw the party working for their cause and against the feudal oppression. Second reason is that their stories of struggle served as inspiration to the rest of the people in revolting against feudal landlords.

In July 1946, when Visnuru Ram Chandra Reddy started an attack against the villagers who were involved in Communist activities, people gathered themselves and rallied to the local manor. In the firing that followed from the Zamindar’s goons, Doddi Komarayya was martyred. The people were furious and a gherao took place in the village. The Zamindar and his people were not allowed into the village for months. A feature of this peaceful, local revolt was that whenever needed, people from the neighbouring villages used to rally themselves to the village of revolt to support their comrades. Therefore, it can be seen that the Communist party had created a network of huge masses that could organise and agitate.

As the date of independence neared, the Communist Party called for the inclusion of Hyderabad state into India and division of the state on the basis of language. However, even after independence, there was not much traction on the issue, within the Hyderabad State and regarding its accession into the Indian Union. In September 1947, a call was given by Raavi Narayana Reddy, Baddam Yella Reddy and Makdhoom Moinuddin that people should take up arms against the tyrannical reign of the Nizam. This is the same poet Makhdoom Moinuddin who wrote Ghazals like Aapki Yaad Aati Rahi Raat Bhar.[1]

 In November 1947, the Indian Union signed a Standstill Agreement with the Nizam under which domestic affairs would be under the Nizam and the affairs of Defence, Communications and Foreign Affairs would be under the Indian Union. The agreement would be valid until November 1948. However, the Nizam made multiple violations to the agreement within the year. [2]

Before we go further, it is important to understand the Razakars.

Bahdur Yar Jung –  opposition to Nizam- An orator and a religious preacher, Bahdur Yar Jung was elected the President of Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Musalmeen (Majlis), a cultural and religious organisation. However, it acquired a political nature soon and Bahdur Yar Jung became the undisputed leader of the organisation. He propagated the doctrine of Ana’l Malik, meaning ‘We are the Sovereign.’ This meant that the Nizam did not have the sovereignty, but the Muslim Community in the Hyderabad state did. However, he died in 1944 and many suspected that he was poisoned by the Nizam. His death changed things in the Hyderabad state. The powerful Majlis organisation underwent a crisis, and the extremists within the organisation gained the upper hand. In 1946, Qasim Razvi became the President of the Majlis.[3]

The Razakars

Qasim Razvi formed the militia- the Razakars- who advocated a status quo in Hyderabad’s independence. To preserve it, the Razakars used to raid villages and destroy any property that had a national flag or communist flag. Crucially, it must be understood that the Razakars were not an entirely communal force that attacked only Hindus. Those Muslims who were seen as sympathetic to the cause of communist peasants or to the cause of integration into the Indian state were also persecuted. Puchalapalli Sundarayya, one of the leaders of the Communist party during the rebellion states as follows in his book Telangana People’s Struggle and Its Lessons: “….the Nizam and his feudal administrators, his armed Razakars, tried to rally the Muslim masses to support them as against the “Hindus”. But thanks to the leadership of the Communist Party, large numbers of the Muslim peasantry and rural artisans and the rural poor were rallied behind the fighting Telangana peasantry, though it has to be admitted that a vast section of Muslims in the towns and cities supported the Nizam and the Razakars. It was again thanks to the Party’s leadership, that the reprisals against Muslims, after the “police action,” were prevented in the Telangana area, whereas in the Marathwada region, in many areas, where the democratic movement was not so strong as in Telangana, they occurred on quite a large scale.”

His book is one of the most authoritative accounts on the Telangana struggle. In fact, one of the most famous plays ‘Maa Bhoomi’ which galvanised the masses against the feudal oppression was based on the story of a poor Muslim peasant Sheikh Bandagi who was killed by the Zamindar Visnuru Ram Chandra Reddy. There was also a tacit understanding between the Razakars and the Zamindars who needed the military force of the Razakars to protect their lands against the impending Communist backed revolt by the villagers.

Formation of Village level Squads against Razakars

It is important to note that the Razakars were not the police but were a separate militia run by a powerful religious preacher. However, the police and the Razakars worked in tandem in their crackdown of the communist peasants and those who were sympathetic to the cause of integration into the Indian union. The Communist Party organised and trained guerilla squads without which the Telangana armed peasants struggle would not have been landmark event. In the beginning, there were district Guerilla Squads but thereafter taluka level and village level guerilla squads were formed. There used to be a maximum of ten members in the squads and since these were guerilla squads whose motive is to take the enemy by surprise and attack with a clear mission and disappear, more number of armed people in a squad would have been a liability, according to the Party.

There were Village Squads which used to do the propaganda and make sure to counter any feudal propaganda in the village. The members of the squad used to stay in the village and do their occupation and on top of this, they used to be the members of the Squad.

The Village Destruction Squads used to dig up roads so that the Razakars could not enter the villages, and make it hard for the forces of feudal lords and Nizam to access the villages. The members of these squads too, used to reside in village and do their normal occupations along with the party work.

These regular guerilla squads used to be the armed squads which used to fight and attack the Razakars when necessary and protect people. The Communists lost many of their people in the raids by the Razakars but were also successful in raiding feudal landlords’ houses when necessary. The Communist party was instrumental in redistributing grain, back to the people from the feudal landlords who collected the grain from villagers. The party, with the help of coal mine workers in Kothagudem area, used to procure gelignite sticks and detonators which would be used to destroy bridges and roads so that Razakar movement could be restricted. It is important to understand that the Communist party was doing all this before the execution of Operation Polo by the Indian Union.

Apart from the military struggle the party also strived hard to make sure that land redistribution took place and that tenant holdings were given to the tenant without having to pay any money and unfair loan deeds are cancelled etc.[4]

By mid-1948, there were indications that the Indian military would intervene in the Hyderabad state and ensure its accession into the Indian union. The Communist Party was then debating whether it should continue its armed struggle even after Hyderabad state becomes a part of the Indian Union or not. Some members of the Communist Party even argued that distribution of lands that could not be protected in that status was a mis-step by the Communist Party. The Congress party was opposed to the Communist Party in the Andhra region and the Communist Party saw no reason as to why the Congress party would be more amenable to the Communist Party within the Hyderabad State. Making these assumptions come true, the Indian government also unleashed (unsubstantiated) campaigns claiming that the communists had joined Razakars in opposing the Indian military action.

On September 13, 1948, the Union launched police action also known as Operation Polo in India and the Nizam surrendered with almost no resistance. The Communist Party squads were given orders by the party to support the army when they attacked Razakars and the Nizam’s forces. Puchalapalli Sundarayya notes in his book that, once the Hyderabad state became a part of the Indian union, the Indian military along with the landlords attacked the peasants to take back the land that had been redistributed by the Communist Party to the peasants.[5] While Puchalapalli Sundarayya went on to become one of the founding members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Raavi Narayana Reddy stood for elections to Lok Sabha in Telangana and polled more votes than the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru!

There are many more aspects that should and need to be discussed such as the communal flare up after the integration of Hyderabad state into the Union, the Sunderlal Committee Report, 1949, that reveals that thousands of people were killed after the integration of the state. This report also indicates or points towards the role of some army people in perpetuating communal violence, the lack of land redistribution etc.[6] However, the recent attempt by the BJP and its friends in appropriating the peasants’ armed struggle and presenting it on a solely communal basis is entirely politically motivated. In the wake of such efforts, it is more important to recount and recall the role of progressive forces within the Telangana armed struggle and demonstrate how their participation prevented the communal flare up in the Telangana region.

(The author is a legal researcher with the organisation)

[1] Chaaritratmaka Telangana Poratam, Chandra Rajeshwara Rao, 1972.

[2]   Nanisetti, S. (2018, September 15). Accession of Hyderabad: When a battle by cables forced the Nizam’s hand. The Hindu.

[3]   Moid, M. A., & Suneetha, A. (2018). Rethinking Majlis’ politics: Pre-1948 Muslim concerns in Hyderabad State. The Indian Economic & Social History Review, 55(1), 29–52.

[4] Page 51, Telangana People’s Struggle and Its Lessons

[5] Page 129, Telangana People’s Struggle and Its lessons.

[6]   Frontline. (2001, March 3). From the Sundarlal Report. Frontline.


Understanding role of progressives in Telangana Peasant Armed Struggle is crucial to combatting Hindu majoritarianism

Role of Progressives in Telangana Peasant Armed Struggle



Related Articles