People's Democracy

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


No. 21

May 27, 2012



Veterans Recall Sundarayya’s Best Traits


USUALLY, the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram (SVK) marks the sombre occasion of the death anniversary of Comrade P Sundarayya through a memorial lecture by an eminent personality on a contemporary topic. However, in this birth centenary year of Comrade PS, the organisers got a panel of six veteran leaders of the democratic movement who had directly worked with Comrade PS to share their experiences with the audience. Along with many known facets, some lesser-known aspects of Comrade Sundarayya’s life and work came out of this remarkable meeting organised on the occasion of his 27th death anniversary.


Renowned educationist, MLC and participant of Telangana armed struggle, Chukka Ramaiah recalled his first meeting with Sundarayya when he came to his village. On knowing that he had been to college, Sundarayya enquired whether he can teach the agricultural labourers and other poor workers in the village. When he readily agreed, Sundarayya handed him over a copy of Telugu translation of the novel ‘Mother’ by Maxim Gorky and told him to read it out to the labourers. He was puzzled at this ‘unconventional schooling’ but later realised its importance. Upset at the labourers going to the ‘night school’, the landlords of the village warned them not to attend it. When this did not work, they threatened to throw them out of their huts. But the labourers did not flinch and made it clear to the landlords that they are prepared to fight for their rights. Clearly, the consciousness of the agricultural labourers and other poor was raised by this sort of schooling.


Ramaiah also recalled how Sundarayya used to stress that proper study is mandatory for finding out solutions to any problem. The land records of Telangana region, which was under Nizam rule, were very difficult to grasp when compared to those in coastal areas which were under Madras presidency. Yet Sundarayya put in a lot of effort and grasped the nitty-gritty in order to analyse land relations in the region before launching of Telangana armed struggle. He used to address Party cadre in villages by name and used to insist on fellow leaders to have food only at cadre’s homes during visits to villages. He cited an incident to underscore Sundarayya’s utmost concern and love towards fellow revolutionaries. After withdrawal of Telangana armed struggle, the then chief minister N Sanjeeva Reddy met P Sundarayya and offered to build some memorial, hospital or anything in his name. Sundarayya refused the offer and instead requested the chief minister to get his fellow revolutionary Seetharama Reddy, who was sentenced to be ‘hanged till death’, released from the Madras central jail.


Ramaiah also drew attention to Sundarayya’s capacity to anticipate events in the course of a struggle and correctly assess the enemy. At the beginning of Telangana armed struggle campaign itself he had warned the cadre to be prepared for ruling classes efforts for militarily suppressing the struggle, for mounting a rabid political disinformation campaign and also for diluting our struggle by getting some big name to undertake voluntary land donation campaign. All the three did actually occur in the course of the struggle, including the much-touted Vinobha Bhave’s bhoodan movement.


Referring to Sundarayya’s work as a legislator, Ramaiah recounted his personal experience. Sundarayya had an academic bent of mind too and he would go into the roots of an issue before speaking on it. Once he spoke in the House on the Education Act that was being enacted. Ramaiah, who had become a teacher by then, listened to the speech from the gallery. Later, when he met Sundarayya in the premises of the assembly, he pointed out to him that there was a flaw in one figure he quoted about salaries of teachers. Sundarayya cross-checked about it and the next day he, suo moto, mentioned this in the House and sought apology for inadvertently misleading it. Such humility and rigour for truth is indeed rare, particularly in the present times dominated by an unholy nexus of politician-corporate-bureaucrat nexus, he felt. “Today there is a crying need for more Sundarayyas to change the present political and economic situation of the country”, so saying Ramaiah concluded his speech.


Nandyala Sreenivasa Reddy, 93 year old veteran of Telangana armed struggle and Party leader from Nalgonda district, in his brief remarks said that Sundarayya led them admirably during the struggle. He said Sundarayya had knowledge of almost every aspect of the armed struggle and played a crucial role at every stage.


R Satyanarayana Raju, veteran leader from West Godavari district, said that the four months he spent together in jail with Sundarayya and Basavapunnaiah were the most precious moments in his life. Intensive political education was imparted by Sundarayya to his fellow jail mates. He recalled the key role played by Sundarayya in rallying the cadre during the split from CPI and later when Naxalites split from the Party. “Sometimes Sundarayya used to hold night long discussions on ideological issues to convince key leaders about the correctness of the line taken by CPI(M)”, he recalled.


T Narasimhaiah, veteran leader of the Party from Kurnool district, described his first encounter with Sundarayya in the 1940s. When a big leader of Congress, Tanguturi Prakasam, attacked the communists as collaborators with British imperialists during his speech in a public meeting in Guntur, a lone youth got up from the audience and shouted vigorously that it was a lie. He was forcibly escorted out. He later came to know that the young man was Sundarayya. This incident showed his courage of conviction. Another thing he learnt from Sundarayya was the kind of preparation he would make before delivering his speeches. And that is why his speeches were never run-of-the-mill types and always had substance and analysis.


K Venkataiah, veteran leader of the Party from Warangal district, threw light on the crucial role played by Sundarayya in building up the movement in that district.


Siva Reddy, veteran leader of the Party from Guntur district, in his speech said that Sundarayya used to act very sternly in matters of the Party organisation. He also proved many a time that electoral battles could be won by the Party only by having good relations with the masses and working for them with deep commitment.


CPI(M) central committee member, P Madhu, in his concluding speech dealt with the current economic crisis sweeping across Europe and other parts of the world and underlined that socialism alone would rid the world of these crises and entail better living conditions for the majority of populations.


Managing trustee of SVK, C Sambi Reddy, presided over the meeting while secretary of the trust, Y Siddaiah, welcomed the gathering. Earlier, the veterans and Party leaders garlanded the portrait of Sundarayya and paid their homage. Before the start of the meeting, Party flag was hoisted at the Sundarayya Park in front of Kendram by veteran leader of the Party K Venkataiah. CPI(M) MLC, Ch Sitaramulu, garlanded the statue of Sundarayya and paid homage.