Martyrdom : 22-12-1969
Comrades Panigrahi, Ramesh Chandra Sahu, Nirmala, Ankamma, Saraswathi and another comrade were surrounded by the police when they were camping in Rangametia Hills in Srikakulam district on December 22 1969 and all of them were shot dead in cold blood.
Comrade Panchadi Nirmala
“Mother Goddesses are worshipped Mythical heroines remembered Jhansi Lakshmibai is given tearful tributes Sarojini Devi gets garlands and praises Yet, the name of Panchadi Nirmala gives them tremors” wrote Mahakavi Sri Sri. Such was the legend of Nirmala. The fearless commander who filled the class enemies with fear! The name of Nirmala at once symbolized the role of women in the revolutionary movement and still remains a name which can mobilize the younger generations into the struggle for Socialism and Communism.
It is one name which can really be said to have become a household name since the 70s in Andhra Pradesh. Comrade Nirmala was born in a poor peasant family in the village of Kavali of Palakonda taluq, Srikakulam district As was the norm in those days she married at an young age. Her husband Comrade Panchadi Krishnamurti worked in the CPI and then in CPI (M). When CPM also chose to get bogged down in the parliamentary pig sty, revolutionaries came out of the party with the determination to carry on the armed struggle. Krishnamurthy was one of them. Later he became a leader of the Srikakulam movement and guided it.
As his wife, she proved to be a companion par excellence. With a little bit of help from him, she got educated and enormously improved her political understanding. She did not stop at that and implemented in practice whatever she learnt. In our society it is still thought that a woman should serve her family and not take part in political activities. It was even more so then. After their family settled in Boddapadu village, she immediately mingled with the local peasant women and they were inspired by her presence. She used to move around the village to enlighten the common folk not only of class politics, but also of various facets of social life including healthcare.
Since Krishnamurthy had the responsibility of coordinating the whole movement, he could not stay for a long time in Boddapadu. Nirmala took it in her stride and dedicated herself to the task of mobilizing the plain area people. The peasant women of the area really got attached to her. Nirmala joined the ‘Tegimpu Sangam’ (Daring Oraganization) formed by Com. Tamada Ganapathy in Boddapadu village. The young men and women members of this sangam did physical exercises to improve their physique and also learnt how to resist the enemy. Nirmala took such training too. She played a central role when fighting a local land lord, an established enemy of the people.
Under the leadership of the ‘Tegimpu Sangam’ women fought against the atrocities on them and also against the exploitation of usurers and liquour traders. When the call for the struggle for the liberation of peasants was given, she immediately joined it, with a baby on her shoulder. One day, when they were approaching their camp on a hill, the baby began to cry. Panchadi Krishnamurti indicated that the noise emenating from the child would help the enemy to locate the whereabouts of the squad. She had to try hard to pacify the baby. Later he explained to her how the Vietnamese women joined in the struggle leaving their children. Niramla, who was apprehensive of being discharged from the squad was highly relieved. She sent her child to her relatives the very next day. The feudal patriarchal society puts the responsibility of child rearing solely on the mother.
But Nirmala shattered those role models to fulfill her due role in the transformation of the society. Even as her life was inseparably getting entwined with the revolutionary movement, Krishnamurthy was killed by the police in an encounter. Nirmala was completely shaken and enraged on hearing about the martyrdom of Comrade Krishnamurti. She was advised and requested by the party, to be with her children for a while. But her husband’s glorious martyrdom gave her a new awareness and inspiration. She could not stay back.
Leaving her children, she immediately joined the squad. Within a few days she became the commander of the squad. Under her leadership many heroic struggles erupted within a few days. Maddi Kamesh was a notorious and cruel landlord of Garudabhadra village in Uddanam area. He occupied the lands of the people illegally and perpetuated atrocities on those who opposed him. Nirmala attacked his house with 150 people. They annihilated him and distributed his property and all agricultural produce among the poor peasants.
Sara Appanna was a big landlord in Banjari Yuvarajapuram in Tekkali Tehsil. He was an usurer who exploited people cruelly. The Sangam members who opposed him were put in jail and their families were harassed. 200 people under the leadership of Nirmala annihilated him and distributed his property among the poor peasants. All loan deeds were burnt. The loan deeds were crucial in exploiting the peasantry. That is why the peasants had expressed their hatred by burning them. Many struggles against the sahukars and landlords took place under the leadership of Nirmala.
In Akkupalli village of Uddanam area, the landlord and usurer Bhuchander Rao was annihilated by 200 people under the leadership of Nirmala and his property was distributed. Nirmala wrote on the walls ‘Long live revolution’ with his blood and once again proved that nobody could stop the juggernaut of people’s fury. A landlord of Bathupuram in Uddanam area exploited people with liquor trade and usury. He used to give very less coolie rates to the labourers working in his fields. He perpetuated sexual atrocities on women and tortured those who questioned him. Four to five hundred people mobilized under the leadership of Nirmala and annihilated him. His lands and property were seized by the people and loan deeds were all burnt.
When private bus owners behaved obscenely with women, Nirmala stopped the buses and made them apologize to the women. Many more actions took place under her. In all these struggles she mobilized the support of the people and ensured their participation. After every action she gave speeches to the people explaining the motive behind it. Due to this people could own the actions done by the sangam. From this we can understand the relationship between the sangam and the people and the way it strived to increase the participation of the people. It was Nirmala everywhere. Her name inspired many oppressed people to join the squads. Poor peasant women also joined the squads in large numbers. The police gangs could not contain the initiative of her squads. So poor peasant women joined the squads in considerable numbers. The people almost worshipped her. But the landlords were in shivers.
She looked like the incarnation of death for them. Incidents were reported where landlords and their family members shrieked and fell down from their beds at night time dreaming of her. But the peasants were too happy. The police went mad at the very mention of her name and tried to capture her by hounding her squad. They wanted to kill her at any cost. On December 22, 1969, the squad had stopped in a village while on their way to a party conference. They were travelling from plain areas to the forest area. In the hills of Rangametia, the police surrounded Comrades Nirmala, Ankamma, Saraswati along with comrades Panigrahi, Ramesh Chandra Sahu, Tamada Chinababu and shot them after seriously torturing them. An informer had informed the police about their whereabouts. After conducting post-mortem on their bodies, the police threw their bodies on the road and showed the world how degenerated they can be.
Comrade Nirmala stayed undaunted when she was tortured by the enemy. Her courage, valour, her initiative and sagacity in the liberation struggle stands an example not only for the women of Andhra, but of India. All the women comrades who join the revolution since then look up to her for inspiration and each one of them considers herself a revolutionary heir of Nirmala. Nirmala is the most common name taken by women comrades who join the revolutionary movement.
Many revolutionary couples and sympathizers named their daughters after her. Such is the legend of Com. Panchadi Nirmala. Whether it was in leading the party, army or mass organizations, in ensuring people’s participation, in leaving behind her children, continuing the work of her husband even after his martyrdom with great determination or in facing the enemy torture Nirmala had set the highest standards for all communists to follow and especially for the women comrades. The name of Nirmala would live forever in the hearts of the oppressed and expoited people of India.
Comrade Dunna Ankamma
Comrade Gorakala Ankamma was a woman activist from Rajam of Tekkali taluq, Srikakulam district She was born in the 50s in a poor peasant family. Even at an early age of eighteen, her every word and activity reflected her anger at landlords and moneybags. With her keen observation, she understood about the exploitation of the landlords and the usurers and had joined the ‘Tegimpu Sangam’ at a young age. She undertook all kinds of rigourous training in the sangam. She understood that she could get real freedom only by fighting for it. She was totally inspired by the clarion call of liberation struggle of the peasants.
She joined the armed squad under the leadership of Nirmala. Garudabhadra was a place where a human beast named Maddi Kamesh was ruling the roost. She became a member of the women squad which specifically went there to organize the people against the said villain. The landlord’s henchmen tried to resist the entry of the squad with goondaism. And in repelling them, Ankamma along with Nirmala played a key role. They could teach him the first lesson of his life. She also participated in the actions on Sara Appanna, on the land lord of Bathupuram and in the struggle against private bus owners.
She was part of all the brave actions of the Sangam. Comrade Ankamma was very conscious in exhibiting and directing her initiative and anger against class enemy. She was very active in the liberation struggle. Even when they were hounded by the police she never wavered or looked back. In the Rangametia incident Ankamma was killed by the police on December 22, 1969. Her life and death created a niche for her in the revolutionary struggle. Ankamma opened a fresh ground in revolutionary struggle. She was an exemplary comrade.
Comrade Telakala Saraswati
Comrade Telakala Saraswati was a young woman born in a poor peasant family. Her parents died when she was young. She had an elder sister. At first her sister was attracted towards the activities of the ‘Tegimpu Sangam’ and joined it. With her inspiration Saraswathi also joined it. Both of them worked together. As a result they had to face the threats of the land lord. Due to this, she and her sister started to live in the office premises of the organisation. After some days her sister left the movement and went back home. But Saraswathi stood firm. She realized that she has to work more firmly in the Sangam if she has to face the land lords who threaten her.
Within a few days she joined the armed squad. She was active in the actions on Maddi Kamesh, Sara Appanna, Bathupuram land lord and in seizing their properties. She was also part of the struggle against the private bus owners. In this manner she was active in all the struggles led by Nirmala. She never looked back even when their squads were hounded by the police. She was caught along with Comrade Nirmala and others on December 22, 1969. She stood like a firm rock even when the enemy tortured her. She was a valorous lady, who defied every form of torture and died a proud death. She was hardly 19 years old at the time of her death. Her exemplary life etched a place for her in the hearts of woman activists and poor peasants along with Comrade Nirmala. Her life is a model to emulate.
Some more people’s heroines who laid down their lives in the Srikakulam movement
The name ‘encounter’ assumed notoreity during the Srikakulam movement. Many revolutionaries, sympathizers and ordinary people were killed in cold blood by the police and then they released the story that they were killed in an ‘encounter’ with the police. It has become such a common refrain of the police and now the verb ‘encountered’ had become a synonym for brutal killing by the police. Still the Andhra Pradesh police follow this shameless, heinous way of eliminating revolutionaries. The women mentioned below were murdered by the police in these so called ‘encounters’.
Com. Kadraka Purna:
The police caught and killed Purna at Joradiguda on June 5, 1969 at 2.30 a.m.
Com. Savara Sukku:
Sukku was caught by the police in Antikonda village of Palakonda Taluq on August 5, 1969 with some more comrades and was killed in a forest.
Com. Arika Jayamma:
Jayamma was caught by the police with three more comrades on December 11, 1969 near Bodamanuguda and was killed in the Chaparayaguda hills.
Com. Biddika Chandramma:
On December 18, 1969 Chandramma was caught when she was going to the hills with her six month old baby in the hills of Kakili and both the mother and child were killed cruelly with bayonets.
Com. Biddika Selja:
Selja was caught by the police on December 18, 1969 in Chintalakoridi hills and shot dead.
Com. Biddika Selaka:
Selka was caught by the police on December 18, 1969 in Chintalakoridi hills and shot dead. Com. Korangi Sundari: Sundari was caught near Gadidasai of Palakonda Taluq on December 21, 1969, tortured and shot dead