My Memories with KS

February 21, 2018

By B.V Subba Rao. The author is a retired professor at Warangal Regional Engineering College. These memoirs appeared in the January issue of Veekshanam. It has been translated by Sasi C Babu.

I never took part directly in any revolution. So I don’t have any experience of the revolutionary struggle with Kondapalli Seetharamaiah.

The Early Years

In 1965 I joined Warangal Regional Engineering College (REC) as a lecturer. After 4 days I met comrade KS at Satyamurthy’s house. He warmly welcomed me and asked me to sit beside him. This was my first meeting with him.

As soon as I saw him I recalled his speech in 1955 at Ghantasala Palem [Krishna district, AP – ed]. In those days members of the Communist Party made powerful speeches to arouse enthusiasm in the minds of the masses. But KS’s speech was just the opposite. He explained critical subjects to the rural people in a simple way that made them think. He explained the poor financial situation of the nation – for example, the fact that the government was making coins with a big hole now, instead of the full coin existing pre independence days. He played an important role in establishing the Communist Party in Krishna district. Even after 10 years there was not much change in the way he gave speeches.

KS and Satyamurthy were teachers in Gabriel High School in Fathima Nagar, Warangal. Afterwards I met them many times and spent hours with them. KS used his Marxist worldview in analyzing everything, and I learnt a lot from him.

KS and the Historic Warangal Engineering College Strike

In 1965 there was a meeting under the College Planning Forum. Central minister Marri Chenna Reddy was the chief guest. The student’s representative Nagi Reddy criticized the corruption of the Planning Forum and the Central Government minister responded positively on this criticism. But the principal V.V.L. Rao issued a show cause notice to Nagi Reddy, demanding that he explain why the management should not take disciplinary action against him.

Nagi Reddy gave an explanation that was 60 pages long in which he justified his criticism by quoting from the reports of the Indian Education Commission (Kothari Commission) and speeches by Justice M.C. Chagla and Jawaharlal Nehru. His reply created a big sensation in the college. The Principal, however, was a dictator. Nagi Reddy’s reply touched his ego and he ensued to behave like a monkey that had stepped on fire. He was not aware that the speech had been prepared by KS. I was surprised at the breadth of KS’s knowledge.

In opposition to the principal, the students started a strike. Their main demand was to sack the commerce lecturer who was using grading criteria that was destroying the careers of many intelligent students. Shamelessly enough, the principal supported that lecturer. The students also demanded that the management withdraw the suspension of Nagi Reddy, and address the many other legitimate problems faced by them.

The principal tried his best to stymie the strike. He used some senior lecturers as pawns and brought an army of police into the college. Still, the students stood bravely and fought for their rights for 40 days. Everybody empathised with their strike, and every day they followed different methods of conducting their agitation. Finally their main demand became the resignation of the principal. Many people did not know that KS was behind this historic strike. He was not involved in politics in those days but he was the one who made the plans for the strike and showed the students how to execute it.

As the last weapon, the principal sent a letter to all the parents stating that the students who were participating in the strike would be expelled. He demanded that the parents give a letter of assurance that their children would no longer take part in the strike. The students explained everything to their parents, telling them about the dictatorial attitude of the principal, and the problems facing the student body. They requested their parents to give them their full support instead of agreeing to meet the principal. Even the contents of this letter were drafted by KS.

Finally under the leadership of KS, six parents met with the principal. As the father of his son who was a student in the school, KS took part in that meeting. He explained, on behalf of everybody, that the demands of the students were logical and lawfully justified and requested the principal to agree to their demands. The principal, who thought of himself as a good organizer, was stunned by the power of KS’s speech. Finally the strike was successful. Both the principal and the commerce lecturer resigned.

This Warangal College strike was KS’s first attempt at political involvement.

KS’s Son

I used to teach a subject for Chandu’s [Chandrasekhar, KS’s son – ed.] courses at Warangal Engineering College. He didn’t attend classes regularly. He was dull and unenthusiastic. When I brought this to KS’s attention, he requested me to do something so that his son would be a normal student. I understood a father’s worries. KS used to take many precautionary measures so that his son did not lack for anything. I called Chandu to my room on many occasions and tried to convince him. He finally told me that he was not interested in studies. He even refused to accept a job offer that his father would get in his childhood friend Balajaganath Redyy’s Navabharat company.

Chandu had no interest in studies and no interest in taking a job – I could not comprehend his behavior. I felt perhaps that he wanted to do something for the weak and economically disadvantaged people. One day, without telling anybody, he left the college. Later I was happy to come to know that he was taking part in the revolution in Adilabad. Afterwards, when I was doing my Ph.D. in I.I.T. Madras, I felt very sad when I came to know that he had died in a police encounter.

The Visakha Ukku Strike

In 1966 students from Warangal organized a huge strike on Visakha Ukku (steel) for Andhra Hakku (right). Students from Regional Engineering College (REC) took a leading part. Large groups of students were on the streets demanding for Visakha steel in the undivided state of Andhra Pradesh. Hundreds of students lay down on railway tracks. The police was brutal in its treatment of students. Several students were beaten with lathis and the police shot and severely wounded four students, including Mallikarjuna Sarma.

KS was very upset with this news. To arouse revolutionary enthusiasm KS organized and directed a play on the incident. Satyamurty wrote the dialogues. Ramesh Babu enacted the role of the student union President, Satyamurthy as a police officer and I played the role of a Vidhan Sabha member. At the end of the play, the police officer ends up killing his own son and students carried the body of through the crowd chanting Visakha Ukku, Andhrula Hakku. As we were shaping the play to its final stage, the Central Government approved the establishment of the steel plant and we were not able to stage the play for an audience. We don’t know where that script is currently.

I knew Kavuri Ramesh Babu since 1958, the year I joined Engineering in Andhra University and he joined B.Sc. Honors. We were from the same village in Krishna district and were close. He liked Chandra Rajeswar Rao (former undivided CPI General Secretary and a leader of the Telangana Rebellion – -ed’s note) very much.

Ramesh Babu wasn’t very interested in studies. Instead he wanted to do something for economically backward people. He worked as Secretary of the Andhra University Communist Party and wanted to be a full-timer. One day he sent me all the documents of the student federation Communist Party through a hostel workers and disappeared. I sent these documents to the Visakhapatnam Communist Party secretary Badra Murthy Sarma. After a few days I learnt that he had joined the Warangal Medical College and married his classmate Karuna.

I visited their house numerous times. After I joined Warangal REC, I met KS there many times and we used to discuss things for hours on end. Their house was very close to the Venugopal Swamy temple at MGM. Ramesh’s eldest daughter Chinni was a small child and Sukku was an infant at that time. Karuna’s grandmother used to run the entire household. She liked me very much and she used to share her experiences of the independence struggle. She also liked KS very much. She always supported her son-in-law instead of her daughter Karuna. Both Karuna and Ramesh also supported KS. I was terribly disturbed by their untimely deaths. Whenever I think of Warangal these memories come to my mind.

Strike at St. Gabriel High School

St. Gabriel High School, where Satyamurthy worked, paid its teachers, and especially its Telugu master, very low salaries. Under KS, the teachers collectively sent a letter requesting an increase in salaries. As there was no effect to this request they declared a strike. They started teaching in open spaces under the trees and the students were very supportive of teachers. To break the strike the management used all types of tactics, but the teachers remained united.

The management tried to tempt Satyamurthy with the position of Principal at a school in Secunderabad, but they were unsuccessful. They finally must have concluded that killing Satyamurthy was the only way to save their institution and religion. It was necessary to sack Satyamurthy.

They spread the word and held a meeting with roughly 800 people. Church heads made powerful speeches and they encouraged people to come forward to save their religion from Satyamurthy. At the time we were only 30 students and 4-5 teachers against 800 of them. KS suggested a plan for self-defense. He told us to leave and instructed some students to rough up the Drill Master’s father who was at home. The students did as told. Then some students spread the report that Naxalites had entered the meeting and life was in danger. This false report created fear among those gathered and they all ran away. The police then leisurely arrived at the scene and arrested Satyamurthy. The Drill Master’s father, despite resistance from his son and police, steadfastly vouched for Satyamurthy and hence he was released from police custody. I realized then that if KS had not acted with presence of mind, Satyamurthy would not have been alive.

Later Years

Personally KS advised me to adopt middle class habits and keep going to the college club. He encouraged me to mingle with the middle class instead of being aloof so that I could be useful to the revolution. I heeded his instructions. I started drinking alcohol which I had not done before, although I did not become addicted. I was, however, addicted to playing cards. One police officer used to visit the club. Due to discussions with him and other friends in the police force I received information which helped our revolution in many ways. It also helped protect me for two decades. Whenever there were official enquiries about me, my friends from the police reported back that I did not have any political connections. Finally in 1985 when I was arrested and there many cases filed against me, these police friends were instrumental in helping me fight them successfully. I attribute my safety to the advice given by KS.

During my PhD days in IIT Madras, I lived in Adyar. In 1975, KS visited me along with Purandhar. He said he came to work towards building a new wing of CPI (Marxist-Leninist). He had a strong desire to unite all the revolutionary parties in the country as a single strong revolutionary party unit. He asked for shelter for one month but after carefully screening the surroundings of my house, he felt it was not safe for him. We made arrangements for his stay at the Cauvery hostel in IIT for 10 days and in Velachery for 6 days. There, he had a long discussion with a Naxalite sympathizer Ambalgan, who was doing his doctoral work in Electrical Engineering. After a few days, Ambalgan disappeared from the hostel. Afterwards KS stayed with an ex-student of R.E.C. who was then working in the Central Government’s Mechanical department. He also had many discussions with Tamil comrades there. Later KB Tilak, a popular film director took the care of him .

One day we heard that comrade Mahadevan was coming to IIT to meet KS. We waited the whole day for him. We were worried when he did not turn up and then we heard the terrible news that the Andhra police had shot him in an encounter. We were relieved that Mahadevan had not been tortured and was not forced to reveal sensitive details linking him to us. We paid homage to that great man. Soon afterwards we lost track of KS’s whereabouts.

In 1978, I again met KS in Musheerabad jail at Mulakhath. When they were taking him to the court near A.C. guards, they took me in the same van. He enquired after everybody’s wellbeing, about strikes that were happening in colleges, and hostel workers’ problems, about other revolutions in Warangal etc. He said it was essential that Prof. Koteswara Rao who had progressive thoughts for the needy people, continue as the Principal. He told me to tell this to the students on his behalf. At any cost they were not to create a situation that would allow the removal of Koteswar Rao as the Principal.

In 1979, KS was out on parole and came to Warangal. The very first day he stayed in my house when Jannu Chinnalu brought him. He talked affectionately to my daughter who was then in the 7th standard. She later expressed her surprise to find that he was quite the opposite of what she had heard about him – a man with a big mustache who would shout and scream – but he was in fact so gentle and kind.

After lunch, we discussed about the land dealing of Anasuyamma. In the past when I tried to sell on behalf of her, Mulugu Rajeswar Rao created problems claiming that he owned that land. The R.E.C. registrar had tried to talk to him, but even then, he refused adamantly. When I explained all this to KS, he called Rajeswar Rao to discuss this matter and he wanted us to be present there. Rajeswar Rao came immediately and stood in front of him. KS explained to him all the dealings in detail – that Anasuyamma bought that land. Without any hesitation, Rajeswar Rao told him that he had no objections if she wanted to sell her land and even to help in selling on her behalf. I was surprised at this change in behavior. The land was sold eventually.

The next day KS gave a speech in the Venugopal temple. Jannu Chinnalu played a key role in organizing this sabha. I was one of the attendees from R.E.C. In his speech, KS tried to lay rest to the rumour that People’s War had tried to assassinate party leader Omkar. He said – if we really tried to kill him he would not have been alive. Our guns never miss a target. We kill those who have lost the right to live. These words still keep ringing in my ears. Two days after this meeting, with police support, YS Murthy’s killer gang killed Jannu Chinnalu cruelly. KS attended the memorial service.

KS was a highly intelligent and charitable man. He was a good organizer, simple and unselfish, and a true leader. He strongly believed that in India, without weapons, labourers, farmers rule was still possible. As a true Marxist, he worked tirelessly towards this belief. He did what he believed in. Even though he lost his two children, he did not lose his self-confidence. He felt the whole world was his family, all the revolution grounds were his land and all the revolutionaries were his family members. All the youth, who fought for this noble cause were his children. This great person who had humanity seeping through his entirety will be remembered forever in India.

1 Comment »

One Response to “My Memories with KS”

  1. K SHESHU BABU Says:
    March 3rd, 2018 at 12:49

    Salute to peoples leader! The memories are an inspiration to all those who love humanity and welfare of all

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