On 22 January, 2022 a 106 years old Bandru Narsimhulu died in Hyderabad with a heart attack. Otherwise he was still active. When he was much active he entered into an agreement with Mahabub Nagar district Government hospital, to give his body for research use. On the very day of his death after his friends, political supporters and relatives saw his body the hospital officials took it away to dissect his body and brain, maybe to find out how he lived so long with good health.
It was this man during the Telangana Armed Struggle (TAS) between 1946-48 made waves for his militant gun fight as a Dalam leader against the landlords working to protect the Nizam state in Nallagonda district. Born on 2 October, 1915 at Aledu a small town on the way to Warangal from Hyderabad in a poor shepherd family, he was never sent to school and started working from childhood. He worked as an amali (heavy bag lifter) at a local rice mill. Along with his mother in very early age he fought against the village Bania business family that took away their small piece of land and won in the court.
His bold mother Badru Komuramma was said to be his inspiration. In all his communist life he was in jail for seven years. During the Armed Struggle he was arrested and tortured by the police yet Narsimhulu remained very strong willed person, constantly worked for his revolutionary ideological beliefs. He remained a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary. He made his whole family, if not forever, for a good number of years follow his path. As of now his youngest daughter Vimala, popularly known as Vimalakka, is a model revolutionary singer and political activist owning her father’s heritage. She is the most popular revolutionary female singer in India.
Narsimhulu lived and fought through several generations. When he started his rebellious life as an young labour boy Telangana was a feudal state with Nizam ruling with local Muslim, Reddy and Velama landlords as his agents. They were exploiting the people as if they were chattel. The Telangana bonded labour (Vetti-Chakari) system was one of the worst in India. Narsimhulu joined the early armed squads to fight landlords, but the Telangana state was integrated with Indian Union in 1948. A section of the communists still wanted to fight the Indian state. Narsimhulu was for that fight without leaving the arms. But finally, they surrendered the weapons in 1951 and decided to participate in the 1952 first general elections.
He lived through the electoral system himself, contesting the 1967 elections for assembly and 1984 for parliament from Miryalaguda. Telangana state went through several stages in his own life. It was merged with Andhra Pradesh in 1956. Several agitations for separation and bifurcation followed. Telangana state again formed in 2014 when he was still conscious and active at 99. On 2 October 2015 his hundredth birthday was celebrated in a major programme in Hyderabad with 101 songs, speeches and other activities. He was in good health by then. I was one of the speakers along with many others. For all of us Telangana Armed Struggle of the 1940s was a boon because that lead to the liberation of state from the feudal Nizam monarchy, though the last Nizam, Osman Ali Khan, was better than many of his predecessors, who established the Osmania University where many of us studied and became what we are.
Vimalakka, the most well known female singer in the revolutionary movement led the cultural team on that day. It was a treat of songs around people’s struggles as the old man sat and heard all through the programme. His energy at 100 was unbelievable. He himself drew all his children into the most risky Naxalite movement and his youngest daughter having got married to a CPI (ML) underground leader, Koora Devender, who came from a poor fishing family of Telangana, is well known face of the party with a vibrant cultural movement. She says ‘my father fed perugannam (curd rice) when I met him underground in my childhood and made me sing for people liberation’. She carries her father’s red-revolutionary flag with a melodious voice.
As revolutionary patriarchy would have it, he gave birth to five children and left to his wife Narsamma to work, feed and educate them. Added to that she also carried the burden of looking after her husband’s fellow revolutionaries. Thus Narsamma nursed him, children and the revolution and died much before him.
His was a long life that saw several ups and downs. His militant spirit that has shaken the Telangana feudals, including the Nizam Government and the Razakar army has remained the same, though they surrendered the weapons in 1951 because of a new assessment of the Communist Party of India that armed struggle would not succeed in the post-independent India. Later he joined the CPI (M) which reassessed the question of surrendering arms was a wrong step, but that party again split in 1969. Narsimhulu went with the new revolutionary force led by Tarimela Nagireddy and others.
Narsimhulu has every reason to become a rebellious and took to guns both for general anti-feudal and anti-Nizam atmosphere, and also as an young man coming from the shepherd (Kuruma) community who faced every day landlord atrocities and brutal exploitation, as the sheep and goats needed to be grazed in the open lands. Almost all the lands around villages in those days were claimed by the landlords (mostly Reddys and Muslims) as theirs. During the Nizam feudalism there were hardly any land records to separate private lands and Government lands. Whatever lands the landlords claimed were supposed to be treated as theirs. The general bonded labour apart, this kind of caste specific exploitation of the shepherds (consisting of two communities Kurumas and Gollas) drew many conscious shepherd youth into armed struggle. The first great martyr of TAS was Doddi Komuraiah in 1946 and he was a shepherd youth (Golla), who in the recent past, particularly after the Mandal movement became hero of Telangana along Chakali Ilamma (a washer woman heroine). Earlier the caste-blind communist parties treated them as marginal figures. But after the Mandal movement that situation changed as it started a new movement of re-writing wronged history OBC/Dalit/Adivasis.
The artisanal communities like Toddy tappers (Gouds), Golla-Kurumas, kummaries (pot makers), Chakalis( clothes washers), Shalas (weavers) and so on were horribly exploited by the landlords. From among the Gouds two prominent armed struggle leaders emerged–Dharma Bixam 1922-2011) and Vardelli Buchi Ramulu (1935- 2019). Thus Chakali Ilamma, Doddi Komuraiah, Dharma Bixam, Buchiramulu, Bandru Narsimhulu and Mallu Swarayam (only living armed struggle heroin born 1931) made history by fighting for our liberation in those difficult days.
In every communist party and group there is a conscious OBC/SC/ST force that does not allow marginalized treatment to their own heroes and heroines.
Now Narsimhulu’s own village has become a big town with booming real estate around. Though Telangana still sustains remnants of feudalism he fought against, it is mainly capitalist now. The post-globalization capitalist economy all around him when he died in Hyderabad does not leave any scope for agrarian revolution that he fought in his youth.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political thinker, social activist , author and socio-spiritual reformer. His books Why I am Not a Hindu, Post-Hindu India, Buffalo Nationalism, God As Political Philosopher–Buddha’s Challenge to Brahminism, From a Shepherd Boy to an Intellectual and The Shudras–Vision For a New Path co-edited with Karthik Raja Karuppusamy are meant for the socio-spiritual change