People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 17

April 29, 2012





Revolutionary Zeal is His Greatness


B V Raghavulu


2012 marks the birth centenary year of Putchalapalli Sundarayya. With the passage of time, some people fade from public memory. But Sundarayya’s personality will keep shining forever without losing sheen.


Comrade Sundarayya is a great human being. I think his world outlook is even greater. Some people may not agree with this view. People, who miss the link between his personality and world outlook, talk only about his personality. It is not possible to understand his personality, overlooking his earnestness and zeal to change the society, to establish an egalitarian social system and the movements that he led to achieve these. Sundarayya’s personality evolved from his efforts to serve the people and for their development.


Simple living, honesty, sacrifice, principled life, determination, truthfulness, hardwork, self-confidence, discipline, courageousness and fearlessness – all these best qualities are imbibed in his personality. These still remain the ideals to be emulated by all those who yearn for an egalitarian society. When he believed in something to be right and good, he never confined himself to just it. Putting words into deeds was his greatness. Practicing and not just preaching was his way. That is why, the entire humanity pays him tributes. It is hence not surprising that the well-wishers and the followers commend him so much. Those who detest him in their hearts also praise him for his qualities. They portray Sundarayya’s personality as something super-humanly and sky-high, which cannot be achieved by ordinary human beings, and as such proclaim that they are beyond emulation.


Sundarayya is an embodiment of simplicity. At a younger age, his clothes were khaki shorts and coarse khaddar shirt and later on, khaddar shirt and loose pyjama. These remained his clothes life-long. He himself used to wash his clothes. He travelled on foot and by cycle. No matter how far is the distance, he used to travel on cycle, with ease. He used to undertake long distance journeys by train and that too, only by third class. One hold-all for wrapping all the things he needed and carrying it; no preferences for eating. He ate whatever was available, whatever was there with the people to feed him. He even ate gruel, rice with just chillies, or even sankati. Eating whatever was given to him, without wasting even a morsel, washing the plate himself, was his habit. These were normal activities and a routine for him. For taking rest, it didn’t matter if it was a hard floor, or an elevated surface or a cot with woven strings (charphai). Whatever facilities the people had for taking rest, he considered them to be his too.


With files tied to the carriage, arriving to the parliament on a cycle, parking the cycle in the stand, walking inside the House and taking his seat on time and with concentrated attention studying the papers and getting down to business – Sundarayya was unique to the parliament even in those days. When he was a member of the state legislature, he not only used to go to the Assembly on cycle, but he used to go to the chief minister’s house too on a  cycle and used to get his work done, which astonished everyone even in those days.


He used to carry his things all by himself. He never used to agree to any kind of help offered for carrying his luggage. He detested elaborate receptions at stations. He used to object asking why such things were organised wasting the work and time of comrades. In 1977, a summer training camp was organised for the Party cadre in Anakapalli. Many eminent leaders were the speakers in that camp. To welcome Comrade Sundarayya, many people including the students attending the camp and the organisers went to the railway station to receive him. Sundarayya severely objected to this. He argued with the organizers asking them whether the students were brought to the training camp to teach them politics, or to welcome the leaders? He did not move from the station till everybody left. Such incidents are innumerable. Those who are acquainted with him can recall many such instances.


There were many leaders who lived a simple lifestyle among the yesteryear leaders. The freedom struggle and the communist movement had influenced them to be simple. It became necessary to mingle with the lives of the common people to mobilize people against the British rule. They believed that only by mingling with the common people, could they enthuse them. That is the reason why Gandhi had given away his suit and shoes and wore the attire of a common man – the simple dhoti and a walking stick. In the same way, Sundarayya, who was born into a rich family and was in a position to live a luxurious life, gave up all of them and lived a simple life endearing himself to the common people. Even today, it is important for the leaders and cadre to mingle with the common people and follow their lifestyle, if they want to build peoples’ movements. Simplicity means to mould one’s life according to the lifestyle of common people. This not just a question of individual morality, but also is an effective means to mobilise people.


In the struggle for equality and for the protection of environment, simplicity becomes an effective weapon. This also becomes the basis for an alternative development model. Lavish lifestyle is a symbol for inequalities and dominance. It is a means employed by the rich classes to show their ‘greatness’, though it is not really needed for them.


  Ostentatious and pompous spending is a reflection of unhindered consumerism. The present system draws one into the whirlpool of the market, promoting spending and hoarding irrespective of one’s actual needs. As a result, our natural resources too are getting depleted and wasted, jeopardising the needs of our future generations. The forces that are fighting against inequalities, those advocating protection of our natural resources and environmental and ecological balance should train their guns at such ostentatious spending. Simple living should be made a way of life.


The sacrifices made by Sundarayya are well known. He used his share of the family property for the movement. He collected money from friends and relatives and spent it for the people. He chose not to have children because it might not be possible to pay enough attention to them, as he had decided to devote his entire life and time for the people’s movements. Once he decided to devote his entire life to serve the people, it was natural for him to consider the people themselves as his successors. In the history of our struggle for independence and the communist movement, we find several such people who have sacrificed their properties, those who did not marry because they thought that marriage and family would create hurdles to their activities. Such sacrificing attitude among the activists and cadres working in people’s movements is necessary even today.


But the trait of sacrifice is becoming rare among the politicians and political activists today. Selfishness is increasingly becoming the norm. Politics and business are getting intertwined. Business people are joining politics and utilising it to further enrich themselves. Politicians seek to convert their influence as a means to enhance their incomes. The more one excels in amassing wealth through such dubious and exploitative means, the more one is considered to be successful and flourishing. Honest people, people who do not make use of their political positions for increasing their wealth, are considered either incompetent or naive. Today’s dominant ideology treats honest people and people with a sacrificing attitude as in same, as people belonging to some other world. It is quite evident that such an ideology only helps to protect the present exploitative system.


The present society, dominated as it is by business interests, promotes and universalises selfishness. Hence, corruption, frauds, and illegitimate activities – all are hailed as tools for promoting business. People are totally engrossed in thinking about their own welfare, about their own well being without any consideration for their fellow human beings. They compete with and challenge one another; there is no place for values like mutual cooperation and assistance. A society based on mutual cooperation can alone be the real alternative to one based on business interests. Nurturing the sense of sacrifice is one way to achieve this. The attitudes of cooperation, support and compassion that generate from the sense of sacrifice also help in strengthening people’s movements.


Human existence itself involves change. The struggle of human beings along with their fellow human beings to change nature for their existence, is the driving force that enables society to advance. The efforts of leaders help in hastening this advance and in steering it in the desired direction. Sundarayya’s life is an example of such an effort. Opposing caste discrimination in his own village, taking initiative to form the agricultural workers’ union, wearing a khaddar cap in school, boycotting classes with the slogan ‘Simon Go Back’, his participation in the Salt Satyagraha, picketing the toddy shops, forming the workers’ protection committees, leading the heroic Telangana peasants’ armed struggle – Sundarayya did all these in an effort to remove inequalities in the society and lead it towards equality.


Sundarayya’s work teaches us that activities that provide relief to the people are as important in the revolutionary movement as people’s struggles. Ingrained in this is the thought that constructive activities too can be utilised as forms of struggle. Running an adult education centre for the poor in his own village, organising common partaking of food in his village challenging caste discrimination, learning first aid to provide medical help to the common people, encouraging his brother to start a ‘people’s hospital’, mobilising volunteers for and directly participating in the removal of sludge in the Bandar canal, getting rice sold at Re 1 per kilo to expose the failure of the government in controlling prices, mobilising the Party cadres and placing them in the forefront in the relief work when lakhs of people were affected by the severe cyclonic storm in Divi area – all these are not mere relief activities; these are also activities that raise the awareness of the people against the policies of the ruling classes; these are activities that mobilise the people. Sundarayya considered the attitude to belittle relief activities in as wrong in the revolutionary movement.


Sundarayya had an eternal thirst for knowledge. Reading books became a part of his life since his childhood. The habit of reading all the books that he could lay his hands on, the zeal to learn new things, spending hours at a stretch studying in libraries, collecting valuable books continued all through his life. There are several encyclopaedias, atlases, dictionaries and many rare books in the thousands of books that he had collected. That is why the Party considered starting a library as a true tribute to Sundarayya and established the Vignana Kendram in his name in Hyderabad.


Sundarayya believed that study should be for advancing the movement and struggles. Knowledge does not have much value if it is only for entertainment or just to pass time. Study should be meant to search the truth. The search for truth is to change society. It is with this understanding that Sundarayya utilised study and knowledge as tools for advancing the movement. He collected comprehensive information by conducting survey in the villages of Anantavaram and Kaja and wrote an authentic book on the land issue. He collected concrete information about the wages of agricultural workers and the cost of agricultural production from several villages in the state, made a concrete analysis of this information and presented it in the class for the agricultural workers, that was held in Kollipara In the sixtees. His book ‘Comprehensive Water Plan for Andhra Pradesh’ outlining concrete suggestions on proper and equitable utilisation of the water resources in the state, is valid even today. His book ‘People’s rule in Visalandhra’ incorporating the necessary plans for the all round development of the Telugu people in a united state had greatly enthused the movement for a united state in those days. His book on Telangana armed struggle summerised the experiences and lessons of the great peasant armed struggle against the notorious Nizam feudal rule in Hyderabad State. The ruling classes are afraid of the truth. Hence, any study that is meant for bringing out the truth will be useful as a weapon in the hands of all those thriving to change the society.


Sundarayya’s personality was evolved and grew within the people’s movements. It helped in the expansion and development of those movements. Even today, peoples’ movements need persons with such qualities. Such people are indeed born continuously from peoples’ movements. The qualities that would be seen in future human beings in a new society are born and will be visible in their germinal form in the present struggles against this exploitative society. Sundarayya is a colossal representative of such great qualities.