Our story begins with Kulapati K.M. Munshi, the Home Minister of Bombay in 1937. Of the handful of Congress leaders of the time, Munshi, Sardar Patel, and Mohandas Gandhi not only had a keenly perceptive understanding of the Communist threat but played an active role in combating and reducing its spread in India. One method Munshi adopted was to engage with Communist leaders. He would learn their aims and strategies and when the time was appropriate, he would strike. Even before he became Home Minister, Munshi understood the innate attraction that terms like “revolution,” “struggle,” and “equality” held for the English-educated (mostly Hindu) youth. He also knew of the Communist strategy of infiltrating the Congress party, which by 1937, had a socialist wing whose main champion was Nawab Nehru.
It might come as a surprise to the current generation to learn that at that time, Bombay was the “cockpit of Communism,” to borrow from Munshi. Wealthy businessmen, disgruntled but powerful former army officers, journalists, and doctors not only funded Communists but swore by the ideology which promised a future utopia on the corpses of innocent citizens.
By 1940, Munshi noted with alarm how the Communists had taken over entire villages in Warangal and Nalgonda and had established a parallel government there. For a fundamental reason. These districts were hotbeds of peasant unrest thanks to decades of exploitative zamindars and large landowners. However, these peasants lacked the leadership to take on the ruthless landowners. A tailormade situation for the Communists who promise liberation but deliver tyranny. If you’re grieving and a Communist offers his or her shoulder to lay your head on, be assured that he will chop it off. This is pretty much what happened in Warangal and Nalgonda. These “liberated” villages became no-go zones overnight. Villagers who were unwilling to join the Communists were mercilessly slaughtered. Octroi booths were burned, police stations torched, and frequent raids of plunder on the homes of Zamindar became the most favoured method of fund-raising.
Typically, this terrorism in Telangana was sexed up as a “great peasant revolt” and “liberation” in the Communist annals, a spurious narrative which has since become mainstream.
Given all this, Munshi was under no illusion what they would do if they were left unchecked.
In the same year, something called the Comrades Association was founded with the backing of the Communists of Hyderabad. Munshi characterizes this as follows:
The celebrated leader of the Comrades Association was a torrid eminence named Narayana Reddy. Typical of serpent-tongued Communists, Narayana Reddy initially called himself a Congress worker and courted arrest in 1938 by launching some kind of Satyagraha. His fortune changed overnight. After release, Narayana Reddy found a kindred spirit in another Communist named Makhdum Mohiuddin. The Communist Party of India wasted no time in recognising their talent and gave them a long-term objective: bring the entire Andhra under your control. Once that’s done, we will establish an independent Communist Province in Andhra. Step three: we will use the Communist Republic of Andhra to liberate the rest of India.
In a parallel move, the Communists at Hyderabad infiltrated into the Andhra Mahasabha, which was operating from Vijayawada as a State Congress organization. Sweet-talk, glib promises of supporting the freedom movement, and humble behavior endeared them to the Congress politicians who were “gullible,” in Munshi’s words. Next, Narayana Reddy, the new superstar, was parachuted into the Andhra Mahasabha and was elected its president.
And then he bared his fangs.
In no time, he launched a witch hunt against the “original” Congressmen, threw them out, and transformed the Andhra Mahasabha into a Communist den. This is akin to how former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah converted the Karnataka Congress unit into an adda of disgruntled JD(S) members. By 1945-46, the Andhra Mahasabha had become an official organ of the CPI.
The Andhra Mahasabha further consolidated and concentrated the gains made in Nalagonda and Warangal. Here is how Munshi describes the situation:
Elsewhere, the Hyderabad Communists began infiltrating the State Congress unit, trade unions, students’ bodies, and even the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM, forerunner of Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM), closely aligned with the bigot Kasim Rizvi and his fanatical Razakars.
Cut to 1948 and Sardar Patel’s farman cum request to the princely states to merge with the Indian Union. And to the well-known story of the Nawab of Junagarh and the Nizam of Hyderabad who stubbornly refused to accede. The selfsame MIM and Kasim Rizvi advised the Nizam that they were confident of creating a new “South Pakistan” which was just around the corner.
It was also the perfect opportunity for the Communists to launch another round of double-dealing. Acting on the orders spilling out of Moscow, they joined the Congress Party in droves and pretended to support the integration of Hyderabad. A little-known fact is that this support was maximum (if not restricted only to) in the areas which were firmly under their control. They stormed hundreds of such villages and planted both the Indian national flag and the Communist Red flag. We return to Munshi again:
Meanwhile, the Razakkars had launched their murderous Jihad, which swept all of Telangana like surging waves of blood. Congress workers and Hindus were special targets. On their part, they offered solid resistance largely from the countryside. Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s Guru and mentor, Swami Ramanand Tirtha’s name stands foremost among those who led this resistance from the front.
And then the Communists stepped into the fray offering support against the Razakkars. This dark chapter like countless others, is now hailed as a great achievement by the Communists. But the truth is exactly the opposite. Munshi gives us a glimpse into the nature and techniques adopted by the Communists against the Razakkars:
Read the preceding paragraph again. And again. It offers several insights into the endless debate on means versus ends. In the case of Communists, the ends were and are never in doubt. It is a profound tragedy that in a country of more than 130 crore people, India today has few political leaders of Munshi’s caliber. This was his penetrating assessment of the Communist support against the Razakkars:
Needless, given the extenuating circumstances, few Congressmen heeded Munshi’s warning. They were emotionally overwhelmed by the apparent selfless and patriotic Communist support for violent pushback, a psychological fact the Communists deeply understood. Their ultimate goal was the formation of an independent Communist Republic of Andhra. The ongoing violence was their own version of Yan’an. If that meant offering transient support to the Congress, so be it. Indeed, Munshi mentions how some Communist leaders thought they were the “natural heirs of Stalin” and how “they expected to inherit India!”
The naïve Congressmen who had a soft corner for Communists would soon receive a body blow.
To be continued
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