People's Democracy

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


No. 17

April 29, 2012



To be a True Communist is to be Like Sundarayya


G Mamatha


I had attended last three Party Congresses, but rarely did I hear slogans shouted during the Congress. I was witness to one such rare occasion during the 20th Party Congress in Kozhikode. The occasion was the adoption of the resolution for observing Comrade Sundarayya’s birth centenary. Befittingly, the resolution was moved by Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Party and was seconded by Biman Bose, Polit Bureau member and the secretary of the West Bengal state committee of the Party. The spontaneous slogan shouting that followed the adoption of the resolution, once again reminded me of the special place Comrade PS, as he is fondly called, holds in the hearts of the people and the Communists in our country.


I knew that Comrade Sundarayya was a Communist giant, but unfortunately had never seen him, leave alone talk with him. Hence, all my knowledge of him is indirect obtained through listening to others and reading about him. Fortunately, coming from a family of Communists, I learnt a lot about him from some of my own family members who had interacted with him and had known him. Hearing them talk, with visible pride in their eyes, made me feel jealous about them. Yes, jealous that they could interact with a leader of his stature, which I could not as I was born a generation later. More so, because the qualities they had mentioned and which I had subsequently read in many of the glorious tributes paid by other stalwarts of the Communist movement like B T Ranadive, M Basavapunnaiah, EMS Namboodiripad, Jyoti Basu, L B Gangadhara Rao and others, were relevant for practice even to this day.


Living in the neo-liberal times, some of the qualities of Comrade Sundarayya struck to me as quite contrast to general practice and the order of the day today. It is this contrast that had endeared him much more to me. Let me share a few:


Neo-liberalism preaches one to be concerned about self and not bother about others. Of course, Communism counters this ideology and all the Party members take the oath that they will put the Party before their self. But what struck to me was the way Sundarayya expressed his concern towards others and practiced what he had preached. I was told that Sundarayya had once come to the Party office in Delhi early in the morning and found a comrade sleeping, slightly shivering from the cold. He immediately took out his shawl and covered the concerned comrade and went about doing his work. The comrade, who had a good sleep due to the warmth of the shawl, got up a few hours later, found the shawl and instantly recognised its owner. Immediately he rushed to find Comrade PS, who was busy reading and offered to return the shawl, which was refused by PS. Instead, Com PS asked the comrade about his allowance and his expenditure. Soon afterwards the concept of giving winter allowance to the comrades working in the northern states was introduced. This was the concern of Com PS towards the ordinary comrades, their problems and his way of immediately initiating steps for bettering their lives in whatever little way was possible. This also shows how minute was Com PS’ observation and concern.


I was told by many that one of the chief traits of Com Sundarayya was his discipline. He tried to inculcate this character particularly among the students and the youth, with whom he was deeply attached. He would wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning, go through his daily exercises and start his study. Many of the younger comrades, it seems, would be ashamed to find him already deeply engrossed in study, even when their day was yet to start. Com PS had particularly stressed on the youth to be physically active, always be helpful to others, particularly the elderly, women and the children. He once said that a Red Shirt volunteer is not one who just wears the uniform during some special occasions, does some physical drills and marches according to commands. For Com PS, a Red Shirt volunteer is one who always helps the poor and needy at times when they are in distress. They should be available to serve the needy round the clock and thus, should set a precedent. No wonder, Com PS was actively involved in removing the sludge in Bandar canal, even though he was a leader during that time and could have just sat on the banks, supervising the progress of the work.


Another aspect is the way Com PS encouraged the students and youth to study and help them in evolving into matured Communists. Once he had attended a conference of the student front and asked the delegates how many hours they study. Finding a majority of them studying only for 4-6 hours, he exhorted them to devote more time to study, saying that he himself even at this ripe age, studies for more than 12 hours. It is thus natural to find that many of the comrades sitting on the dais of the 20th Congress, as Prakash Karat himself mentioned moving the resolution, were influenced by Comrade Sundarayya. It would not be an exaggeration to state that, but for his vision and thinking and planning for the future, the Communist movement today would not have got its present leaders. It is this vision and planning for days ahead that should inspire us and make us concentrate on building a strong Party organisation.


Comrade Sundarayya’s pocket diary is legendary. Many comrades had mentioned about it, how it contained names and details of various comrades working throughout the country, together with various contemporary facts. It seems he used to remember many of the comrades by name and refresh his knowledge about their families and enquire them about their well-being, not as a matter of fact, but from a real, serious concern for them. His respect for martyrs is remarkable. He never forgot the many comrades who had sacrificed their lives during the glorious Telangana armed struggle and would always push the concerned Party committees to look into the well-being of the families of the martyrs. He always visited their houses, whenever he happened to be in that place on some subsequent Party work. It is this love for his comrades that was expressed from the depths of his heart that had touched the hearts of comrades.


Comrade Sundarayya had a deep sense of hatred against inequalities and discrimination. He never tolerated any sort of discrimination and that is the reason why we see right since his childhood, he stood for equality and against discrimination. He struck to this trait throughout his life. He always assessed people on the basis of their political commitment, hard work and honesty. He never let himself to be carried away by the superfluous demagoguery and hollow words. For him, life was simple and straight forward – know yourself, love people and work tirelessly and unselfishly for the cause of the people.


In these days of neo-liberalism, when putting a show, flaunting your ‘qualities’, ostentatious display of wealth and thinking about self before others is becoming the order of the day, Comrade Sundarayya’s life is really a role-model to be studied and emulated. To be a true Communist is to be like Sundarayya. Can we live up to this challenge?