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SPEO&L ARTICLES

The Telengana Peasant Armed


Struggle, 1946-51 —^
Mohan Ram

20 years ago, Acharya Vinoba Bhave.launched his bhoodan movement at Pochampalli, a village
in Telengana where communists had carried on an armed struggle for five years around an agrarian pro-
gramme. Bhoodan was to be the sarvodaya answer to the communist challenge on the land problem and ,
was meant to achieve what legislative action was not expected to do.
The minuscular peasant revolt in Naxalbari (1967) was a reminder • that neither the sarvodaya ap-
proach nor the legislative process (in which cotmnunists had begun participating after abandoning the
tactic of armed struggle) had solved the agrarian problem in India. There have been many Naxalbaris since.
The Maoist perspective in the Indian communist movement, which began with the Telengana
struggle, has resulted in an extra-spectrum trend which rejects the parliamentary system and seeks to
achieve the people's democratic revolution through people's war linked to an agrarian programme. The
re-emergence of the Macist trend in the Indian communist movement marks the return of the "Telengana
line".
The 25th anniversary of the Telengana armed struggle last year fourid the Indian communist move-
ment indulging in polemics on the nature and significance of the struggle. The main controversy was over
the circumstances attending the withdrawal of the struggle in 1951. This article seeks to place the
'Telengana line' in perspective with particular reference to its relevance to the split in the Indian communist
movement in 1964 and again in 1968.
THE Telengana peasant armed struggle The Communist Party of India's feudal order. In the adjoining Andhra
was the first independent trend in the zig-zags during the Second World War area (i e, the Telugu districts of Madras
Indian communist movement. Commu- (the switch from the imperialist war to Presidency) the CPI had an efficient
nists of the Telugu-speaking tracts of the people's war slogan in 1942 and the organisation and a well-trained cadre
south-central India, now Andhra Pra- consequent support to the British war but in Telengana it was not so well
desh, organised and led it, often in de- effort and the reluctance to support the established and the people of Telengana
fiance of the central leadership of the demand -for transfer of power) did not had no tradition of political participa-
Communist Party of India and of the permit its Hyderabad unit to demand tion. Yet the CPI found itself leading an
international communist movement. the end of Nizam's rule, the abolition armed struggle in Telengana that was
Until 1953, the Telugu-speaking of landlordism in the state and the im- to last five years.2
people lived in a contiguous area, a plementation of a radical agrarian pro- The Telengana region had been under
part of which was in the erstwhile gramme.^ A change in the CPI's policy, a medieval feudal monarchy while the
Hyderabad state, a multilingual entity, coinciding with the post-war upsurge in Andhra area was directly under British
and another in the erstwhile Madras the country, enabled the local unit to' rule and had the ryotwari land tenure
Presidency (later Madras state), also a plan more radical and more militant system. The contradiction between the
multilingual entity. The Telugu districts struggles. peasants and the landlords had become
of Madras state were constituted into In Telengana, the contradiction bet- very sharp in Telengana while it had
the Andhra state in 1953. The Andhra ween the mass of the peasants and feud- been blunted ^in the Andhra area.
state, together with the Telengana re- alism was most advanced in 1945-46. Sscondly, the nationalist movement
gion (as the Telugu districts of Hydera- The peasant movement was initially in British India had been led by the
bad state were known) were grouped organised around simple demands aga- national bourgeoisie, whereas in Te.len-
together to create the present Andhra inst eviction and oppressive feudal ex- g_ana the communists were in effective
Pradesh in 1956, breaking up the tortions but it quickly escalated when control of the small nationalist move-
Hyderabad state. it met with the combined repression of ment.
The first communist groups came into the landlords and the Nizam's govern- .Finally, the decision of the Nizam to
being in Telengana 'in 1939-40. They mental machinery. Peasant resistance refuse accession to India after Indepen-
were illegal and functioned through the to the attacks of organised hoodlums, dence (1947) placed him in direct
Andhra Mahasabha, a mass organisation police and the Nizam's military took contradiction to the new Indian govern-
to promote the cultural and political the form of armed clashes, which even- ment. This factor made it possible for
interests of the Telugu-speaking people tually were to swell into a movement the communist-led movement in Hydera-
of the Hyderabad state. In 1943, the for the overthrow of Nizam's rule. bad, state to take on the character of a
leadership of the Andhra Mahasabha STRUGGLE AGAINST NIZAM national liberation struggle, with the
passed into communist hands. From By mid-1946, the movement had support of the national bourgeoisie lea-
1944 on, communists were organising acquired the characteristics of a national dership of the rest of the country, until
militant struggles against landlordism liberation struggle to free the people Indian forces marched into the state to
and feudal exploitation.1 from the rule of the" Nizam and the force its merger with the Indian Union.
Jupe 9, 1973 ECONOMIC AND'POLITICAL WEEKLY

In 1946, the Hyderabad state unit of to the level of partisan armed struggle. these were fast maturing. Only pro-
the CPI began campaigning for an in- "Telengana means communists and com- longed armed resistance as in Telen-
terim government in the state as the munists mean Telengana" thundered gana would bring about the needed
intermediate step towards breaking up B T Ranadive, the party's General Secre- situation.*
the multilingual unit and merger of the tary-to-be at the second congress which Andhra communists had invoked Mao
various linguistic areas comprising it deposed the reformist P C Joshi. The Tse-tung's "New Democracy" to
with the respective linguistic areas Telengana armed struggle was a few Justify their strategy of a • two-stage
outside. This was the genesis of the months old and it was not ^until the revolution in India. The new leader-
Andhra communists' slogan of "Visal- Telengana delegates had attacked the . ship of the CPI rejected the Andhra
andhra' (an extended Andhra) to unify failure of the new political thesis to thesis but the significance of this epi-
the Telugu-speaking people into a realise the "revolutionary significance" sode has not been adequately realised
single, unilingual state. In the Andhra of the struggle to the "present epoch in India or outside. The first recorded
region, the CPI campaigned for an of maturing democratic revolution in debate on the legitimacy of Mao Tse-
anti-feudal, democratic programme ar- India" that the new leadership appeared tung's theories as part of Marxism-
to support the struggle seriously. The Leninism took place between the
ound the slogan of "People's Rule in
Visalandhra" at the 1946 general second congress called for similar strug- Andhra communists and the new CPI
elections* and launched a limited gles in other parts of the country and leadership'. The ultra-revolutionary
struggle in the area to link up with the for working class movements in support Ranadive, in his polemic against his
country-cousins leading the Telengana
upsurge in Telengana where the Andhra of Telengana, all ultimately leading to
armed struggle, suggestively bracketed
Maiiasabha had become a united mass armed insurrection. The new albeit
Mao with Tito and Browder and
organisation of all the anti-Nizam forces. formally, because it might hasten the
denounced him as a charlatan (",..
When the British formally announced working class general-strike-cum-armed-
some of Mao's formulations are such
in June 1947 their decision to abdicate insurrection which it had' banked that no communist party can accept
power in the subcontinent, the CPI upon in the post-war revolutionary them; they are in contradiction of the
found itself confused about the meaning situation. world understanding of the communist
of the transfer of power to take place parties," he said).7
on August 15. It settled for a non-class ANDHRA THESIS
approach to the Congress leadership that •While the CPI's understanding was
In May 1948, Andhra communists based on a wrong interpretation of the
was to take power from the British as a challenged the second congress thesis
result oi a-compromise. At the inaugural Europe-centred Zhdanov line, the
and its reliance on the general-strike- ' Cominform did not seem to have a
meeting of the Cominform iiv Septem- cum-insurrection weapon. The Andhra
ber, Zhdanov made his famous speech clear line yet for former colonies like
thesis said that the Indian revolution, India when Ranadive embarked on his
characterising the world as being divided in many respects, differed from the
into two hostile camps and calling on anti-Mao polemic. The Chinese Re-
classical Russian Revolution and that it volution had not been brought to an
communists to lead movements to was to a great extent similar to the
oppose the imperialist plans for expan- end. It, was not until 1950 that the
Chinese Revolution. The perspeetiv* Cominform endorsed the formulations
sion and aggression.4 Tndian com- should therefore be that of a dogged
munists misread this to mean that of Mao's "New Democracy".
resistance and prolonged civil war in A Soviet academician, E M Zhukov,
in every non-socialist country the the form of an agrarian revolution
bourgeoisie had gone over to the advocated a four-class alliance in colo-
culminating in the capture of political nies and semi-colonies.8 A little later,
camp of Anglo-United States im- power by the democratic front rather
perialism and this new alignment of Academician V Balabushevich hailed
than a general strike and an. armed up- the Telengana struggle as the "first
forces had created two camps in irrecon- rising. Therefore, where a good pro-
cilable conflict in everyone of these attempt at creating people's democracy''
portion of the masses were with the in India and the "harbinger of agrarian
countries. So India's independence was party (in Andhra, Kerala and Bengal)
branded fake. Indian communists went revolution".9 This was vindication of
it was time to think in terms of guerilla the Andhra leadership's "Telengana
- further than Zhdanov and embraced warfare (the "Chinese way") against
the views of Eduard Kardelj, a Yugoslav line".
the military onslaughts of the Nehru
participant at the Cominform meeting. government bent on liquidating the
Kardelj had argued that democratic and ' SUPPORT FHOM CHINA
party. Armed guerilla resistance had
socialist revolutions must "intertwine"' to be developed in several parts of the Support to the Andhra leadership
and communists must attack not only country and these areas were to be con- came also from the Communist Party
the big bourgeoisie but the bourgeoisie verted into liberated areas with their of China within weeks of the formal
as a whole. Adopting this Titoite line, own armed forces and state apparatus, proclamation of the People's Republic
the CPI concluded that India was later, towns were to be liberated by of China (October 1, 1949). Liu
already a capitalist country (and not a the armed forces from the liberated Shao-chi declared in Peking in Novem-
semi-feudal, semi-capitalist one) and that areas. ber 1949 that "the road of Mao Tse-
the party should intertwine the two tung" was the path for other colonial
stages of revolution into a single stage The Andhra thesis also advocated a countries and armed action was the
through an attack on the entire Indian united front, which included the rich main form of struggle whenever
capitalist class. This was the essence of peasantry and the middle bourgeoisie as and wherever possible.^0
the party's thesis at its second congress the allies of the proletariat in the peo- A few days thereafter, an editorial
in- February-March 1948. It was a swing ple's democratic revolution, and in the Cominform journal endorsed
from right opportunism to left sectaria- asserted that such a wide front of the most crucial of formulation of
nism.5 armed struggle could take shape under Liu's declaration:
The Andhra communists had already the. leadership of the party and that
The experience of th© victorious
taken the Telengana peasant movement the objective conditions for realising
national liberation struggle of the

1026
"ECONOMIC AND" POLITICAL WEEKLY June 9,

Chinese people teaches that the work- in the cities and working class centres was favourable for armed partisan
ing class must unite with all classes, on the basis of the new line and tactics. struggle. The Telengana struggle, the
parties and groups, and organisations committee thought, was the beginning
willing to fight the imperialists and ENTRY OP INDIAN ARMY of the liberation struggle and it was
their hirelings to form a broad In the meantime, the entry of demonstrating that the Indian revolu-
nation-wide united front, headed by Indian armed forces into Hyderabad tion was more like the Chinese revolu-
the working class and its vanguard ... and the accession of the state to the tion than the Russian revolution. So the
the Communist Party.11 Indian Union had created a new situa- Telengana armed struggle continued. *
1

But when it came to the form of tion in the Telengana struggle areas.
struggle, the Cominform mentioned
The" Nizam's forces and the private OPPOSITION WITHIN CPI
China, Vietnam, Malaya and "other
countries" as examples of how armed army known as the Razakars had failed Opposition to the Andhra leadership
struggle was becoming the "main form to suppress the armed struggle. But and its new political line came not
of struggle" oL the national liberation after the surrender of the Nizam, it only from a group operating from the
movement in many colonies and was a military campaign (with 50,000 party headquarters in Bombay which*
dependent countries. Then it listed to 60,000 Indian troops thrown in) included S A Dange, Ajoy Ghosh and
Vietnam, South Korea, Malaya, the against the communists who had S V Ghate, who had been released
Philippines, Indonesia and Burma as developed contiguous liberated zones from prison, but also from the Com-
countries engaged in armed struggle, covering 3,000 villages, complete with munist Party of Great Britain. A letter
but not India which was mentioned village Soviets, people's courts and from its Political Committee late in
merely as a country with "sham in-" people's militia. A formidable modern
dependence".111 1950 traced the CPI crisis to a per-
army was fighting the ill-equipped verse understanding of the Comin-
With the Cominform debunking squads. The guerilla squads retreated form journal's editorial (January 27,
Ranadive, the Andhra leadership to the forests, leaving small groups 1950). Armed struggle was not ruled
found itself heading the party. Rajes- behind to operate in the plains. The out for India but the situation, in the
wara Rao took over • as General Secre- government tried a strategic hamlets CPI and . the country did not hold
tary in May-June 1950. The Telen- plan similar to the famous Briggs plan immediate prospects for such a
gana line of peasant v partisan warfare in Malaya. They destroyed about struggle. The CPI could utilise all
triumphed inside the CPI, but Mos- 2,000 tribal hamlets in the forests and opportunities for legal activities and
cow's intervention, was to suppress this herded the people into concentration prepare for general elections (a whole
trend later. camps. This was part of the plan to year and more away!). The letter also
The new. CPI leadership worked out isolate the guerilla squads from the called for a change in the CPI leader-
a political line which briefly meant: tribal people inhabiting the forests. ship because the Rajeswara Rao leader-
(1) Rejection of the programmatic The guerillas moved to newer forest ship had not been "democratically"
understanding of the second congress, areas. elected (a veiled call for revolt against
subsequently elaborated in what was The correlation of political forces in the leadership determined to continue
called the "Tactical Line" by the Hyderabad state changed significantly the Telengana armed struggle)!. The
leadership; with the accession of the state to solution to the party crisis lay in. "full
(2) Rejection of the thesis -of the India. Though the state Congress party and unfettered discussion" (which
single stage revolution, i e, the inter- and some other non-communist forces meant armed struggle as a tactic should
twining of the two stages of the Indian were not part of all-in front against be abandoned formally). The most
revolution into one; the Nizam, each had fought his auto- important references in the letter wer*
(3) Rejection of the idea- that the cracy and there was sympathy for to the CPI's failure to work out a
entire bourgeoisie, including the rich armed struggle even from the masses policy on Korea, where the war was
peasantry, had become enemies of the 17
of the people". But with end of the raging, and on the peace movement.
people's democratic revolution; Nizam's rule, this support was thinning. This amounted to directing the CPI to
(4) Upholding of the concept of the The all-India leadership of the CPI step up pressure against Nehru's foreign
Chinese path for the Indian revolution was divided about continuing the policy.
which meant developing Jelengana- armed struggle after the Nizam's This letter could not have been sent
type agrarian struggle extensively accession to the Indian Union late to the CPI without Moscow's clearance,
wEerever possible.13 in 1948. A section of the local party if not a directive from Moscow. It was
The new Central Committee, on unit was also for withdrawal of the addressed to the Central' Committee
June 1, 1950 highlighted the role of struggle.14 In fact, the present day and was therefore not circulated to the
armed struggle for securing . national CPI owns up the Telengana struggle ranks. But the Party Headquarter*
liberation and claimed that precondi- only upto this point and regards the faction made it a point to circulate it
tions for starting such struggles were rest of it sectarian and dogmatic and three months after its receipt to exert
already there. But this did not mean little more than a terror campaign. It pressure on the Rajeswara Rao leader-
that armed struggle could be launched thinks the struggle should have been ship on the eve of the December 1950
immediately anywhere and under any called off when the Nizam's rule end- Central Committee meeting, which re-
conditions. The accent was on armed ed.13 organised itself as well as the Polit-
. guerilla warfare linked to an agrarian But the Visalandhra communist bureau to provide representation to all
programme wherever the party's committee as a whole for continu- the trends. The new leadership decid-
strength permitted it. The Central ing the struggle. The big gains of the ed to seek the Soviet party's heh> in
Committee pledged to extend the Telengana peasantry, especially the one, establishing political-ideological-organi-
Telengana struggle to other parts of million acres of land distributed among sational unity in the party. »
India. It wanted to put the party them, had to be defended and not According, to- P Sundarayya, one of
on the rails of armed struggle in the allowed to be snatched away. Secondly, the leaders of the Telengana struggle,
countryside and rebuild the movement the national and international situation differences in the CPI related to two

1027
sets of issues,. One concerned the pro- form of struggle" and "must bear a said "neither only the Russian path
, gramme — tjte- class assessment of the mass character", as distinct from the nor the Chinese path but a path of
transfer of powef*in 1947, the exact terrorism of individuals or small groups. Leninism applied to Indian conditions
stage of the Indian revolution and the Again, armed struggle was a "higher was the answer". Partisan warfare of
class strategy or alliance for it — and state of mass movement, which there- the peasantry had to be combined with
another to tactics the possible path of fore becomes the pre-requisite". Dutt's the other major weapon, that of work-
the Indian revolution Russian or concern was with the peace movement ing class strikes, the general strike and
Chinese, the nature of the Telengana because the cold war had replaced uprising in cities led by detachments
armed struggle, the different phases of class struggle on the Cominform agen- of the working class. The statement
partisan peasant struggle and the pro- da to suit Soviet foreign policy inter- stressed the leading role of the working
blem of equating these peasant partisan ests. The peace movement presented class in the worker-peasant alliance.
struggles with the armed struggle for the CPI with "one of the most impor- The "Statement of Policy" was the
political power, etc.18 tant weapons for building a front of legal or open version of a larger un-
Meanwhile the pressure from the all sections of Indian people . . . If we published document prepared by the
British party continued. The directives recognise that the building of the CPI team to Moscow. It was entitled
were now explicit and positive, indicat- National Democratic Front is, the key "Tactical Line". 23 Parts of it were not
ing a clear shift in the Cominform line task for the national liberation struggle, included in the "Statement of Policy"
and the Soviet foreign policy require- then it should be obvious that the and the omitted passages dealt with
ments. The directives came in the broad front that will emerge out of the elaboration of some of the theore-
form of answers by R Palme Dutt to the peace movement may lay the basis tical issues and principles which pro-
five questions on the Indian situation. for the National Front for national vided the theoretical-ideological basis
The peace movement had to be stepp- liberation".20 for the "Statement of Policy" and
ed up against Anglo-United States In sum, Dutt's advice aimed at included details of the discussions
imperialism and for the liberation of persuading the CPI to give up the between the CPI team and the Soviet
Asia. Nehru's foreign policy, it was tactic of armed struggle at least for the party commission headed by Stalin.
not a "consistent peace policy" yet moment and to seek the broadest Neither of the documents referred
and Nehru's opposition to imperialism possible united front for peace, while to armed revolution as part of the im-
was "hesitant and limited", should be the task of building a national demo- 'mediate programme. The "Tactical
reappraised in the light of his attitude cratic front could wait. Line" cautioned the party against
to the Korean war and to China's ad-
"premature uprisings and adventurist
mission to the United Nations. Peace
SOVIET INTERVENTION actions" and yet thought it wrong to
and freedom went together and India
lay down that armed struggle in the
needed a "broad democratic front" The British advice strengthened the form of partisan warfare should be
from above on the basis of a common faction opposed to the Telengana arm- resorted to in every spacific area only
action programme for peace and in- ed struggle, but the CPI crisis conti- when the movement in all parts of the
dependence. Finally, armed struggle nued until a top-level delegation clan- country rose to the level of an upris-
was not the correct path for India for destinely visited Moscow early in 1951 ing. This was because the uneven
the present.10 for consultations with the Soviet party levels of mass consciousness in a vast
Dutt elaborated this in an interview leadership. The CPI t«am comprised country like India would not permit
to visiting Indian communists. He said two Andhra leaders (C Rajeswara Rao peasant movements of the same tempo
that as stated in his party's letter to and M Basavapunniah) who were direct- everywhere. On the contrary situations
the CPI, "ultimately the revolution in ly leading the Telengana struggle and demanding armed partisan warfare
India will and must take the form of two leaders opposed to it (S A Dange might arise in several areas. For in-
armed struggle. It is hardly to be and Ajoy Ghosh). The Soviet party stance, when in a big and topographi-
debated''. He had no idea of the exact commission comprised Stalin, Malenkov, cally suitable area the peasant move-
situation in Andhra and could not say Molotov and Suslov. The main conclu- ment rose to the level of seizure of
what would be the proper form of sion on the issues concerning the pro- land, the question of effective ^seizure
struggle there. But if the Andhra unit gramme were incorporated in the Draft and defending the land seized would
had adopted correct forms of struggle Programme published in 1951.=L become a burning one and "partisan
during the post-second congress period, The draft said the state that came warfare in such a situation, undertaken
the party should not have suffered into being with the transfer of power on the basis of a genuine mass move-
any disruption there. "But from the was the same old imperialist slate and ment and firm unity... if correctly
reports we possess, this does not seem the Congress government installed with constructed and led, can have a rousing
to be true. When on the. top of it, the the consent of imperialism had pledged and galvanising effect on the peasant
so-called experience of Andhra is app- to protect the British interests in India. masses in all areas and raise their own
lied mechanically to all over India It rejected the second congress under- struggle to a higher level".
where the conditions of peasant organi- standing that the entire bourgeoisie
sation and the strength of the party including the rich peasantry were out-
SWITCH TO PARLIAMENTARISM
were both weaker than in Andhra, the side the pale of the people's demo-
result cannot but be disastrous", he cratic front. It recognised the possi- The proximity of the general elec-
said. Elaborating the concept of armed bility of winning over all the Indian tions seems to have made it expedient
straggle, Dutt was insinuating that the bourgeoisie, barring some individuals for the new CPI leadership to withhold
Telengana struggle was little more and groups of big bourgeoisie: It re- publication o'f the "Tiactical Line".
than individual or squad terror. (There- jected the theory of the intertwining Through the "Statement of Policy" the
by he was endorsing the friction of the two stages of revolution. CPI was trying to project the image
demanding its suspension.) Armed As for tactics, an accompanying of a party that had virtually abjured
struggle, he said, was "the higher document, "Statement of Policy",22 violence and was settling for parlia-

1028
ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY

mentarism. The leadership feared that Maddukuri Chandrasekhara Rao, an was settling for parliamentarism.
some of the formulations in the "Tac- Andhra leader, retorted that in that The following agreed conclusions
tical Line" might prevent the party case the struggle leadership would be were drawn by the party about Telen-
regaining its legality in states where it forced to disown him and his leader- gana at the end of the struggle, ac-
hladi been banned (Travancore-Cochin ship. cording to Basavapunniah who was
and Hyderabad). Another reason could The struggle leaders were still talk- among its leaders:
be that a more explicit reference to ing to the partisan leaders in the forest (1) It is a crime to characterise the
the tactic of combining peasant parti- bases when the government told the struggle as individual terrorism or
san warfare with urban insurrection negotiating committee that declarations squad terrorism.
might provide the extremist elements favouring withdrawal of the struggle (2) It was correct to have continued
in the party arguments for opposing were of no avail unless the leaders in the Telengana armed struggle and
the switch to parliamentarism. charge of the struggle announced its guerilla struggle even after the Indian
The "Draft Programme" and the withdrawal. troops entered Hyderabad, and to de-
"Statement of Policy" formalised Mos- At the May 1951 Central Committee fend land and other%democratie gains,
cow's decrees on strategy and tactics meeting, the Andhra members agreed but it was not correct to have had as
for India. The "Draft Programme" that the struggle could not last long the aim "a people's liberation war for
was published by the Cominform jour- even as a partial partisan struggle in capturing political power and over-
nal immediately after it was released defence of land and should be with- throwing the Central Congress Govern-
drawn after securing the most favour- ment''.
in India and the "Statement of Policy"
within a fortnight of its adoption. able terms. They had supported the
Central Committee resolution in this
(3) It was wrong to confuse or char- f
Rajeswara Rao had already resigned acterise every struggle of the peasantry
as General Secretary and Ajoy Ghosh spirit. As Sundarayya rightly records, or other exploited masses, whenever • " •>

had replaced him when the Central the dissensions that had plagued the they are forced to use v^eapons, and
party during the last two years caused especially peasant guerilla struggles, as
Committee met in May 1951 to hear
"irreparable harm to the Telengana the final revolutionary struggle or as
about the Moscow discussions. The
armed struggle". There was the vicious the beginning of the final revolutionary
May 1951 Central Committee meeting
propaganda that the movement in struggle or as an intermediate part of
decided to call off the Telengana
Telengana was nothing but individual such struggles.
struggle and asked its Andhra mem-
bers to ascertain from the partisan
terrorism or squad actions and that
there was no mass participation. The (4) There was the danger of the
1
'1
leaders whether they could hold on Central Committee's resolution was movement degenerating into terroristic
until the party negotiated with the based on the new programme and a actions by squads and getting isolated
government on the terms for with- new tactical line, but in complete from the masses. How long the armed
drawal, which included the following: contradiction to it the Politbureau peasant guerilla struggle should be
land in possession of the tenants should issued a public statement condemning continued, and when it should be
not be taken away to be handed over individual terror and squad actions and withdrawn, depended on the ebb and
to landlords; all warrants against the this helped the slander campaign flow of the movement;
struggle leaders should be withdrawn; against the Telengana struggle.55 Also, (5) Stalin and the Soviet party
all prisoners released; and the ban on the releasing to the Press of the part leaders had said that it seemed difficult
the CPI lifted. The resolution made of the Central Commitee resolution to continue the Telengana struggle
clear that the Telengana struggle was expressing readiness for a negotiated further, that is, during the first part
not started and was not being conti- settlement led the government to be- of 1951 and it was unfortunate that
nued to overthrow the Nehru govern- lieve that the movement was about to the Indian communist movement was
ment, but to end feudal exploitation. collapse and the party was about to not in a position to continue it. But
It directed the newly-constituted Poli- surrender. This hardened the govern- they had left 'it entirely to the CPI to
bureau to review the Telengana prob- ment's position. decide whether it should be continued
lem and adopt all ways and measures or withdrawn;
to make the struggle successful.2*
WITHDRAWAL OF STRUGGLE (6) It was not possible to mechani-
Taking advantage of this resolution, cally choose between the Chinese path
the Ravi Narayan Reddy faction in Late in October 1951, A K Gopalan, and the Russian path and it was ne-
Telengana and the party Headquarters on behalf of the Central Committee and cessary to learn frorp the experience of
faction at the all-India level launched the Andhra Committee, announced the both.27
a campaign for withdrawal of the withdrawal of the struggle. Though the The struggle was called off late in •v

struggle even before the lerms of government had rebuffed the negotia- October 1951, but the struggle leaders
withdrawal could be secured, and to tors, the CPI leadership was obliged could explain what was virtually a
eliminate the fighting cadre from all to "advise the Telengana peasantry and fait accompli to the partisans in the
levels of leadership. It began claiming the fighting partisans to stop all par- forests only later. A conference of party
that the Central Committee had al- tisan actions" and to mobilise the leaders and guerilla fighters of the
ready called off the struggle and that entire people to rout the Congress at Amarabad forest region jvas held in the
what was going on in Telengana was the general elections.26 third week of November and it approved
mere individual or squad terror. The It was tame surrender because the the decision to withdraw the struggle.
open campaign by this faction forced party gave the peasantry no guarantee The underground leadership announc-
the Politbureau to appoint a three- about protecting their hard-won gains. ed a reconstituted committee for Telen-
member negotiating committee. Ajoy The withdrawal of the struggle meant gana with about 25 members drawn from
Ghosh, the new General Secretary, surrender of all the guerilla zones and the underground cadre as well as those
even threatened to disown the struggle liberated villages to the Indian army, released or still in prison. But General
if it was not' withdrawn immediately. and with it, the other gains. The CPI Secretary Ajoy Ghosh, without consul-

1029
, i1**
June 9, 1973 ECONOMIC ANtf POLITICAL WEEKLY

ting the underground leadership, consti- summed up the agreed conclusions and resolutely urged the seizure of power
tuted an "Election Committee" and a united Telengana committee was through armed struggle, that is, the
authorised it to function as the de facto formed to lead the movement.28 path of the Chinese people, who were
State Committee. The underground The government's hunt against the guided in their victories by Mao's
committee asked the cadre to ignore underground squads did not stop even Thought. "Some revisionist chieftains,
this body except for election purposes. after the elections and arrests and pro- however, feverishly pushed ahead with
While the underground committee secutions continued. The government's the revisionist parliamentary road
continued to guide the underground argument was that arms had not been resulting in doing tremendous harm
cadre, the Election Committee got the surrendered and therefore the hunt to the Indian revolution." In 1946-
support of the open cadre. However, the could not be relaxed. As the logical 51, base areas of armed strug-
underground cadre worked for the step to the withdrawal of the struggle, gle were established in Telengana
success of the People's Democratic Front the CPI decided to surrender arms. where landless and poor peasants
through which the illegal party contes- The question here is: did the 1951 were aroused to seize land by
ted the elections. documents (on programme and tactics) armed struggle "and become the banner
warrant the withdrawal of the Telen- of the Indian plople's revolutionary
gana struggle? The present-day Mao- struggle of the time". The commen-
LESSON OF THE ELECTIONS
ist contention is that they did not and tary said though the Indian revisionists
Over 2,000 CPI cadres were still in that the withdrawal was an act of described peasant armed struggles as
jail when the elections took place. betrayal by "revisionists" who wanted adventurism and individual terrorism,
Over 1,000 were underground. The to take the party into the vortex of the Telengana struggle grew under the
People's Democratic Front could run parliamentary politics by entering the radiance of Mao Tse-tung's Thought.
candidates in only 42 of the 98 con- 1952 general elections.29 In their In a party document in September
stituencies in Telengana. The extent of view, the Telengana armed struggle 1950 and an open document in 1951,
the CPI victory is underlined by the could have continued as a struggle to they villified the Chinese people's re-
fact 36 of the 45 candidates running protect the gains of the peasantry, volutionary war led by Chairman Mao
under the PDF banner were elected. though not as a struggle for state and had put forward the theory of
In addition 10 Socialist candidates that power. India's exceptionalism, hysterically
had the PDF's support also won. The preventing the Indian people from
Congress won 41 seats but 25 of these What followed the withdrawal was taking the road of Chinese revolution.
were located in Mahboobnagar and the quiet abandonment of the perspec- Long after the Telengana "sell out"
Hyderabad districts, where the PDF tive of armed struggle because the and after many setbacks the Indian
did not put up candidates. In the party settled for peaceful constitution- peasants had realised the "futility of
'Red' district of Nalgonda, the PDF alism, and eventually opted for peace- the parliamentary path and the need
made a clean sweep- of all the 14 seats; ful transition to socialism. for armed struggle", it Said.
in Warangal, another 'Red' district, One of the issues of controversy on
the PDF won 11 of the 14 seats; in the Telengana struggle is the Soviet It might be well to record here that
Karimnagar it won 10 of the 15 seats. attitude to its withdrawal. Rajeswara there was even a veiled Chinese sug-
Thus 35 of the 45 seats the PDF won Rao, now General Secretary of the gestion in June 1950 that the Telengana
were located in those three districts CPI, contends that the Soviet party armed struggle might have been ill-
where the CPI had conducted the and Stalin did not support the struggle timed. The timing of this suggestion
Telengana armed struggle. Of the 2.5 until it was withdrawn.30 But Sundar- (June 1950) is significant. The Andhra
million votes polled, the PDF got ayya, the CPI(M)'s General Secretary, leadership had just taken over from
approximately a third, while the Con- contends that the CPSU and Stalin B T Ranadive, but the Chinese party
gress, which had contested everyone of thought that it was unfortunate that seemed to have some reservations about
the seats, could only poll about the the struggle could not be defended or the Andhra leadership's line of peasant
same proportion of votes. It was un- continued arid that, therefore, the time armed struggle. The suggestion came
mistakable that communist gains in had come for its withdrawal. It was, in the form of a reply to a reader from
Telengana were most spectacular pre- however, for the CPI leadership the editor of the People's Daily, the
cisely in those areas where the CPI to decide when exactly and on CPCs chief organ. After referring to
had led the peasant partisan warfare what terms it should be with- communist peasant warfare in China,
or guerilla squad actions, inviting mas- drawn and how long it had to be con- the editor declared that characteristics
sive police and military repression. If tinued to secure suitable terms.31 of the Chinese revolution "can under
the vote meant anything at all, it was certain historical conditions become the
Whether the Soviet leadership sup- common characteristics of all revolu-
a vindication of the Andhra communist
ported the struggle till the end or not, tionaries of other colonial and semi-
line of Maoist armed struggle. It was
its withdrawal had more than its tacit colonial countries". He quoted from
convincing refutation of the vicious
support. Liu Shao-chi's opening address to the
campaign that the Telengana armed
struggle was isolated from the masses Peking World Federation of Trade
and was sectarian, anarchist and terro- CHINA'S ATTITUDE Unions conference on the desirability
rist in character. Though the Communist Party of of armed struggle on the part of "many
China now charges "Indian revisionists colonial and semi-colonial peoples'' and
with betraying Telengana", it is silent from the Cominform journal's editorial
Even after the elections in January of January 27. Quoting . a statement
1952, the cadre in Telengana continued on the Soviet and Cominform roles.
An NCNA commentary on August 2, by B T Ranadive (when he was the
to be divided. About 25 leaders, from General Secretary o£ the CPI) fully
the fighting areas as well as those in 1967 noted that for a long time the
Indian communist movement had wit- endorsing the conclusions of this edito-
the open, met in February 1952 for rial and the lessons of the Chinese
a week to discuss the differences. nessed an intense struggle between
revolution as the infallible guide for
Ajoy Ghosh, who attended the meeting two lines. The revolutionaries had

1030
ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY
June 9, 1973

national democratic state was possible. movement in the are,a, see Ravi 23 "Communist Conspiracy at Madu-
Narayana Reddy, "Veera Telengana rai", Democratic Research Service,
The "national democracy" con- — Na Anubhavakt ' (Telugu), Bombay, 1954. This is the first
cept added a new dimension to the Andhra Pradesh Communist Coun- published version of the secret
CPI's continuing struggle for a new cil, 1972. document and the CPI denounced
programme to replace the 1951 docu- 2 P Sundarayya, "Telengana People's it is "forgery". But Sundarayya has
Struggle and Its Lessons", Com- now vouched for its authenticity,
ment. As Nehru's domestic policies see P Sundarayya, op cit, pp
munist Party of India (Marxist^
shifted to the right and tension grew Calcutta, 1972, pp 7-27. Also, Raj 409-14.
on the Sino-Indian border, the attitude Bahadur Gour, et al, "Glorious 24 Text of resolution in P Sundarayya,
to the Indian bourgeoisie continued to Telengana Armed Struggle", Com- op cit, p 417ff.
be the central issue in the CPI debate munist Party of India, New Delhi, 25 Ibid, p 428.
which took a predictable form: national
1973. "Why the Ultra- 'Left' De- 26 "CPI Advises Stoppage of Partisan
viation?" Communist Party of Action in Telengana", Crossroads,
democracy versus people's democracy. India (Marxist), Calcutta, 1968. October 26, 1951.
The right-wing of the CPI, which had 3 P Sundarayya, "Visaalandhralo 27 P Sundarayya, op cit, p 415-6.
the Soviet backing contended that India's Praja Rajyam", Telugu, Vijayawada, 28 Ibid, p 432.
^bourgeois democracy could metamor- 1946, p 6.
4 A Zhdanov, "The International 29 Chandra Pulla Reddy, "Veera1
phose into a national democracy. It Situation", "For A Lasting Peace, ~ Telengana Viplava Poratam '
placed heavy reliance on Soviet aid as For People's Democracy", Bucha- f (Telugu), Janasakthi Publications,
the instrument to secure national demo- rest, November 10, 1947. Vijawayada, 1968, P 51.
cracy. The left wing countered this 5 See Mohan Ram, "Indian Com- 30 C Rajeswara Rao, "The Histroic
by arguing that the bourgeoisie was munism — Split within a Split", Telengana Struggle," op cit, p 34.
1 Vikas, New Delhi, 1969, pp 7-21. 31 P Sundarayya, op cit, p 415-16.
compromising with domestic reaction 6 P Sundarayya, "Telengana People's
and imperialism. Soviet aid, although Also, M Basavapunniah, "Lessons
Struggle and Its Lessons", op cit, of Telengana Struggle — and the
necessary, was being used by the p 392-3. Revisionist Betrayal", Peoples De-
bourgeoisie to bargain for more aid 7 "Struggle for Peoples Democracy mocracy, November 5, 1972.
from the West. Rival programme drafts and Socialism —- Some Questions
of Strategy and Tactics", Com- 32 "An Armed People Opposes Armed
were presented at the CPI's sixth munist, Bombay, June-July 1949. Counter revolution," People's
congress and the split was averted 8 E M Zhukov, "Problems of Na- Daily, June 16, 1950, People's
only by the intervention of Mikhail tional and Colonial Struggle", China, July 1, 1950.
Colonial People's Struggle for 33 P Sundarayya, op cit, p 433.
Suslov, who headed the high level
Liberation", People's Publishing 34 Ibid, p 4.
CPSU delegation to the CPI congress. House, Bombay, 1950, pp 1-11. 35 Mohan Ram, "Maoism in India,"
Suslov, anxious to preserve CPI unity, 9 V Balabushevich, "The New Stage Vikas, New Delhi, 1971, Chapter 1.
managed to salvage the rightist line in the National Liberation of the
and to manoeuvre the congress into People of India", "Colonial People's
shelving the issue of a new CPI pro- Struggle for Liberation", op cit,
pp 32-59. Bihar Alloy Steels
gramme. The conflict continued behind 10 For A Lasting Peace, For A Peo-
the scenes until the CPI split in ple's Democracy", December 30, BIHAR ALLOY STEELS, which is set-
1964, after which the CPI as well as 1949. ting up a project in Hazaribagh dis-
what later came to be known as the 11 "Mighty Advance of the National trict of Bihar for the manufacture of
CPI (M) adopted their own pro- Liberation Movement in the Colo- alloy constructional steels, alloy tool
nial and Dependent Countries", steels and high speed tool steels, ex-
grammes. "For A Lasting Peace, For People's pects to commence operations of the
Thus the factors underlying the Democracy", January 27, 1950.
12 Ibid. plant before the end of May next. Con-
1962-63 split date back to the Telen- struction of various factory buildings is
13 P Sundarayya, op cit, p 387.
gana armed struggle and the diff- 14 Ibid, p 392. in progress and machinery is expected
erences over it. 15 C Rajeswara Rao,' "The Historic to start arriving from July. The direc-
The real significance of Telengana Telengana Struggle'*, Communist tors urged the government to declare
however lies elsewhere: it was the Party of India, New Delhi, 1972, Hazaribagh as a 'backward' district
first application of the Maoist revolu- pp 31-33.
16 P Sundarayya op cit, p 393-4. on the plea that the employment pro-
tionary model outside China even be- 17 PHQ Covering Note to the Letter blem is very acute there. If it is
fore the Chinese revolution had of the Political Committee of the declared a a 'backward'" area, its deve-
triumphed fully and China had pro- CPGB to the Communist Party of lopment would be expedited and the
claimed itself a people's iepublic. India, December 6, 1950. people would have more employment
Over 20 years later, Naxalbari 18 P Sundarayya, p 399. opportunities. Meanwhile, the com-
19 "Palme Dutt Answers Questions on
brought to the fore once again all the India," Crossroads, January 19, pany's project cost has gone up owing
theoretical and ideological questions 1951. to virtual devaluation of the rupee
concerning the strategy and tactics of 20 Deven and Bal Krishna, "Talks twice vis-a-vis the various European
the Indian revolution but in a changed With R Palme Dutt and Other currencies. Also, increases in import
Impressions Gained Abroad", PHQ duties on machinery and various other
context: the international communist Unit, Bombay, January 6, 1951.
movement had split on issues of 21 This was amended and adopted levies on steel, etc, imposed in the last
ideology and Moscow had ceased to by the All-India Party Conference two budgets have added to the cost.
be the sole centre of the international in October 1951, and later by the The directors say that the exchange
communist movement. third (Madurai) congress of the rates of various foreign currencies are
party in 1953. But it was put in still in a fluid state and that as soon
abeyance by the fourth (Palghat)
Notes congress in 1956 on the ground that as the exchange rates are stabilised, the
it needed important changes. revised project cost would be worked
1 For the most comprehensive ac- out and arrangements made to -meet
count of the Andhra Mahasabha's 22 Statement of Policy of the Com-
movement in Telengana and of the munist Party of India, Bombay the shortfall.
beginnings of the communist 1951.

1032