Women in Armed Conflict: Lessons to Be Learnt from Telangana People's Struggle

Article excerpt

This essay elaborates and compares the role of women in two political movements--the Maoist movement in Nepal and the Telengana people's struggle in India. The first is an ongoing struggle while the latter is a struggle which started in the middle of 1946 and lasted for five years until it was called off in October 1951 after the involvement of the Indian army. This paper is confined to the scenario of women's participation, their feelings and some push and pull factors for joining in the struggles. Apart from that, this paper explores the participants' views on the movement, their leaders, policy, and the programme of their parties for favouring their participation. The women's condition after the end of Telangana movement after the party forgot it's earlier promise has also tried to bring it out as concerned matter for discussion. This paper concludes by bringing out some bitter experiences of the women participants of Telengana movement, and tries to make the Maoists aware of escaping such a harassing experience. Before going to examine both the struggle, first, let me introduce both the struggle--in brief!

Telangana People's struggle

Under the British, India was ruled basically by two types of rulers: (a) the British administered provinces of India known as British India and (b) 'princely India' or those state governed by princes, maharajas, rajas, and nababs. Among them, Hydarabad was the largest one, which was under the Nizam prince, and Telangana is one out of three linguistic regions--Telagu, Marathwada and Kannada--of Hydarabad. The Telangana revolt began in the middle of 1946 and lasted for five years. It was an armed resistance of women and men to the feudal oppression or against the princely state in Telangana. It was a struggle against the autocratic rule of Nizam and the Zamindari system. (1) There were three types of land holding systems--sarf-e-khas (the land controlled by Nizam and his family from where revenues collected were used for their personal expenses) and Jagirs (the land which has given to Jagirdars) and diwani or government land. Jagirdars were those who were loyal to the Nizam enjoying their own police, revenue, civil and criminal systems. They had received Jagirs and become revenue officers or generals in the army. They also had right over forest and fisheries, and exercised police and judicial functions. Having all the power they compelled people to various illegal exactions and forced labours. The peoples' conditions of Jagir areas were far more oppressed than in the sarf-e-khas lands; the jagirdars and their agents were free to collect a variety of illegal taxes from the actual cultivators. Jagir lands were even above the jurisdiction of civil courts. There was also the Vetti (free services to the proprietors) system. Every peasant was compelled to contribute Vetti to the Zamindar. Only after completing operations on the landlord's fields, peasants and labourers could work for themselves. A tenant and his family had a compulsion to leave food in their plate and go to the landlord whenever called.

Women were more suppressed under this rule. Women were not allowed to feed their babies while working in the landlord's field. Women were repressed, not only in the field of free work or Vetti, but also sexually harassed and exploited. There were many examples of such suppression; if the landlord fancied a woman, she was taken as a consort. Sleeping with the landlord on the first night was a compulsion to newly married women. It was the landlords' prerogative. So, peasant women, along with men, came into the Andra Maha Sabha (AMS) and started an armed struggle against the 'oppressive feudal system and the fundamentalist militia of the Nizam--the Razkars".

In 1928, people established Andhra Maha Sabha converting it from the Andhra Jana Sangam, which was established in 1921 with the objectives of social and cultural uplift of the Telugu people. It changed not only the name but also the objectives from socio-cultural to political activity. …