Tribal movements in Telangana

Workers, peasants and Tribal movements in Telangana 

Telangana Rebellion

The Telangana Rebellion was a peasant rebellion against the feudal lords of the Telangana region and, later, the princely state of Hyderabad, between 1946 and 1951.

The communists were as surprised as everyone else to see their efforts culminate in a series of successful attempts at organising the rebellion and distribution of land. With the Nizam holding on, even after the proclamation of Indian independence, the communists stepped up their campaign, stating that the flag of the Indian union was also the flag of the people of Hyderabad, much against the wishes of the ruling Asaf Jah dynasty.

The revolt started in 1946 against the oppressive feudal lords and quickly spread to the Warangal and Bidar districts in around 4000 villages. Peasant farmers and labourers revolted against local feudal landlords (jagirdars and deshmukhs), who were ruling the villages known as samsthans. These samsthans were ruled mostly by Reddys and Velama,[citation needed] known as doralu.  They ruled over the communities in the village and managed the tax collections (revenues) and owned almost all the land in that area. The Nizam had little control over these regions except the capital, Hyderabad. Chakali Ilamma, belonging to the Rajaka caste, had revolted against ‘zamindar’ Ramachandra Reddy, during the struggle when he tried to take her 4 acres of land. Her revolt inspired many to join the movement.  The agitation led by communists was successful in taking over 3000 villages from the feudal lords and 10,00,000 acres of agriculture land was distributed to landless peasants. Around 4000 peasants lost their lives in the struggle fighting feudal private armies.  It later became a fight against Nizam Osman Ali Khan, Asif Jah VII. The initial modest aims were to do away with the illegal and excessive exploitation meted out by these feudal lords in the name of bonded labour. The most strident demand was for the writing off of all debts of the peasants that were manipulated by the feudal lords.

The revolt ensured the victory of the Communist Party in Andhra Pradesh in the 1952 elections. Land reforms were recognised as important and various acts were passed to implement them.

Telangana Peasant Struggle (1947-51)

main causes of the movement were as follows:

  • The Nizam’s former Hyderabad state had a feudal structure of ad­ministration. In the jagir area, the agents of the jagirdar who were the middlemen collected the land taxes. There was much of op­pression by the jagirdar and his agents. They were free to extort from the actual cultivators a variety of taxes. This condition of ex­ploitation remained in practice till the jagirdari system was abolished in 1949. On the other hand the khalsa land or the raiyatwari system was also exploitative though the severity of exploitation in the khalsa system was a little lesser. In the khalsa villages, the Deshmukhs and Deshpandes worked as intermediaries.Tribal movements in Telangana
  • Yet another cause of peasant movement in Telangana was the ex­ploitation of the big peasants. D.N. Dhanagare informs that the jagirdars and the Deshmukhs had thousands of acres of land in their possession. The families of these big peasants and their heads were called Durra or Dora. It means, the master or lord of the vil­lage. Dhanagare says that the Dora exploited the small peasants and agricultural labourers.
  • In the whole former state of Nizam a system of slavery, quite like that of Hali of south Gujarat, was prevalent. This system was known as Bhagela. The Bhagela were drawn mostly from aborigi­nal tribes who were tied to the master by debt. According to Bhagela system, the tenant who had taken loan from the landlord was obliged to serve him till the debt is repaid. In most of the cases, the Bhagela was required to serve the landlord for genera­tions.
  • The Reddis and Kammars were notable castes who traditionally worked as traders and moneylenders. They exercised a great deal of influence in the countryside. They wanted to pull down the dominance of Brahmins as agriculturists in the state.


Tribal movements in Telangana

In 1724 A.D Nizam-e-Mulk defeated Mubariz Khan and took possession of the Deccan and began to rule. In 1773 Madhoji Bhonsle entered into an agreement with Nizam Ali Khan, Nizam of Hyderabad by which he agreed to cede Manikgarh (Rajura of Chandrapur) with surrounding territories south of Penganga to the Nizam, in return for the forts of Gavilgarh and Narnala of Amaravati district – Berar. As a result of war between the British and Raghoji Bhonsale II, the latter ceded the territory of Berar to British who, in turn passed it on to Nizam under treaty and obligation for cooperation in war. Consequently Sirpur the ancient seat of Gond Rajas passed into the hands of Asaf Jahi rulers. In 1853 A.D. a treaty was concluded between the Nizam and East India Company, according to which Nizam assigned Berar and other Districts to East India Co. in lieu of expenditure incurred on the Nizam’s contingent. The people of all classes in the Nizam dominions very keenly felt the loss of Berar. In 1860 revolt existed against The British .In Adilabad district, the Rohilas & Gonds under Ramji Gond’s leadership revolted The British, which was suppressed by the then administrators at Nirmal. Komram Bhimu a tribal led the struggle against Nizam govt. organized the tribals, brought awareness among them about their rights and fought for their rights through guerilla wars in agency areas. The fight lasted till Komran Bhimu was killed in 1940. In the history of Adilabad Komram Bhimu has a unique place for spear – heading the struggle against the then Govt.In commemoration of Komram Bhimu Jathra is being held at Jodeghat and Babejhari areas on full moon day of Ashwiyuja Month Every year. 7. The freedom struggle in the district became an integral part of the Indian freedom movement. Khailafat Agitation Supported by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 was observed. In 1930 sister Organisations / Sanghams sprang into action all over Telengana for grant of representative Govt. The agitation for a democratic form of Govt. led in 1938 A.D. The Nizam of Hyderabad.




Komaram Bheem – The Icon of Tribal movements in Telangana 

Komaram Bheem, a Gond tribal, was born in the Adilabad district in the Telangana region. The Gonds formed a substantial part of the population as the area was ruled by of Chanda (Chandrapur) and Ballalpur. The Gonds like all tribes had very little interaction with the outside world. Komaram too had no exposure and was uneducated. Despite these constraints, he rose in rebellion against the atrocities of the Nizam and became a household name in the liberation movement of his people.  The last phase of the Asif Jahi rule in Hyderabad was rude in the history of the Telangana region. The Hindu population faced the brunt of the rudeness from the Nizams. The Nizam unleashed untold atrocities on the people. Taxes were raised to exorbitant levels, women were dishonored, and men were harassed for unknown reasons. An overall exploitation of the masses became the order of the day. The names of the districts in Telangana region were changed.  In his growing years, he witnessed these unjust practices. His heart wept for his people and the fire of rebellion smoldered within him. Stories of the sacrifices made by other tribal leaders and that of Shaheed Bhagat Singh who laid down his life for his motherland greatly inspired Komaram. It provided the right motivation to awaken the rebel within him. He gave the slogan “Jal, Jungle Jameen” (people living in forests should have the complete rights on all the resources of the forest).

in Komaram’s struggle, passion and a deep resolve to bring justice to his people were his main weapons. Given his primitive background he could not gather sophisticated weapons. Nevertheless he surged forward with his strong resolve to bring an end to the rule of the Nizam. However, these were sufficient to unsettle the local Talukdar Abdul Sattar. Shaken and scared to lose, Abdul Sattar turned to the Police for their support. In 1940, a force of 90 well-armed policemen raided the hideout of Komaram. Despite being armed with only primitive weapons like muzzle loaders, spears, lances, bows and arrows and swords, Komaram and his group of warriors fought with such resolve and bravery that it is etched deeply in the memoirs of History.  Komaram however suffered fatal injuries and died in that battled. His death is remembered till this day as that of a martyr who died fighting against the injustices of the Nizams and for the cause of liberating his people. His bravery and valor has earned him a God-like status. He is worshipped in many households and also has his statue installed in the retaining wall of the tank in Hyderabad.

Komaram Bheem has made an indelible mark on the minds of the people of Telangana. His struggle for the liberation of his people was ignited solely from his will to see justice prevail. He was not politically motivated a fact which fails to dilute his genuineness. This integrity to his cause made him overlook his deficiencies and may have expedited his death. Nevertheless, it does not fail to impress on the minds of posterity that resolution and commitment to one’s cause are the two vital factors which helps to lead the way out from the present state of discontent. These factors are also required in order to find new ways of liberation and Komaram Bheem has done just that.  Komaram Bheem was a leader of his people in the truest sense. He has actively led the way for the liberation of his people. It is this liberation movement which he started that laid the seeds for the Telangana demand to create a separate state that fructified in recent years. In a way, therefore he is revered as the icon of the Telangana Liberation Movement.  Recently Komaram Bheem’s statue got installed on Tank Bund, Hyderabad on 01-Nov-2012 (Wolrd Tribal Day) after immense pressure from all the pro-Telangana supporters. He became the true spirit to all Telangana people who are fighting for separate Telangana state.

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