Ravi Narayan Reddy was one of the great heroes of the Freedom Movement in Hyderabad. He was also a colorful and courageous man who sacrificed a great deal for others. A feudal landlord by birth and inheritance, he became a powerful agent for its demise.
He was born in a prosperous jagirdar family in Bollepalle village of Nalgonda district in 1908.. As a student while staying at the Reddy Hostel in Hanuman Tekdi at Hyderabad he took keen interest in sports, scouting and acting. He carried a life-long injury to his spinal cord from a game of football. In 1930, when he was in his intermediate class, he gave up his studies and joined Mahatma Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience Movement.
His wife died in 1929. Ravi was so impressed by Mahatma Gandhi’s work for the uplift of Harijans, that he went to Wardha and presented all her jewellery to Mahatma Gandhi as a donation. When, in 1932 Thakkar Bapa, established a branch of the All India Harijan Sevak Sangh in Hyderabad Padmaja Naidu was made its president and Ravi, its secretary. Next year, on her resignation due to ill health, Ravi became the president and remained in that position for six years. In 1938, he became one of the founder members of the Hyderabad State Congress and, on the government’s refusal to lift the ban on it, offered satyagraha in the first batch on 24 October 1938. For this, he was imprisoned.
He was also a leading member of the Andhra Mahasabha, which started in 1928 as a socio-cultural organization for the Telugu-speaking people of the State. He became its president thrice — in 1941, 1944 and 1945 under his leadership, it was transformed into a vigorous political body. Culture can never be separated from economics and politics. He took up social issues like widow remarriage and literacy. When the Communist Party fixed a ceiling of 20 acres on land-holding, Ravi distributed 500 acres of his share of land to the cultivators, keeping only the prescribed 20 acres for himself. When Mahatma Gandhi passed through Secunderabad in 1934, Ravi donated fifty tolas of gold for his cause. However, he was influenced in his political life more by Nehru than Gandhi. Finding the approach of the Congress leaders in the State too mild, he joined the Communist Party in 1939 and led the armed struggle of the peasantry of the Telangana area of the State.
After the Police Action, Ravi some others believed that the goal had been achieved and the communists should give up the armed struggle. But there was the Ranadive doctrine propounded at the Second Congress of the Communist Party at Calcutta in February, 1948 which called for the continuation of the armed struggle. Consequently, there was confusion in the ranks of the party as to the future course of action.
However, the imposition of the ban on the Communist Party three days after the Police Action made the decision for them. Ready to come out in the open, Ravi and his comrades were once again driven to their hideouts. They reverted to their previous life style –spending their days either underground, or in prison. Released days before the first General Elections of 1952, Ravi contested both for the Parliament as well as the State Assembly. His popularity was so great that he was elected to both. He polled the highest number of votes for the Parliament in the country surpassing even Nehru. Not only that, his opponents did not get a single vote. Also in Nalgonda district his party won all the 14 Assembly seats though he addressed only two meetings.
In the second General Elections of 1957, due to a taunt of the Congress for having defeated the people’s Democratic Front – a group of left parties under which banner the Communists had fought the election, he was asked to contest for the State Assembly. In that, he was pitched opposite his wife’s elder brother V. Ramachandra Reddy, who was the first to donate 100 acres of land and thus to launch Vinobe Bhave’s Bhoodan Movement. Though he too was popular, he lost to Narayan Reddy by 8,000 votes.
Telangana Armed Struggle:
Ravi, like most Communists was an atheist. He never visited temple but did not stop the members of his family from doing so.
He was one of the strongest proponents of the movement for an integrated Telugu-speaking state the virtual Andhra. A good deal of the credit for the formation of Andhra Pradesh, therefore, must go to him.
A legend in his lifetime, this veteran of the armed struggle, passed away in glory on 7 September 1991. His last words were addressed to Ch. Rajeshwara Rao from whom he enquired as to what had happened to the cases of the pension of some of the freedom fighters, which he had canvassed.
His will and testament:
In his will, he said that his wife should not remove her bangles or her bindi, the vermilion mark on her forehead, as widows customarily do. Later, however, he modified it to say that she could do as she pleased. Such a liberal approach characterized his attitude to her and to women in general all his life. He however enjoined upon his children not to immerse his ashes in the Ganga or some other river, but to scatter them over the crops in his fields. A samadhi might also be constructed in one of the family farms.