Red Salutes to Com Punna Rao

Posted: 25/12/2010 in అవర్గీకృతం

Comrade Punna Rao passed     away owing to ill health on 21 June, 2007 at Nizam
Institute of Medical Sciences in Hydrabad.  He worked in the revolutionary mass
movement for more than 15 years. Only a few knew that he was suffering from
chronic diseases, though he was popularly known all over Andhra Pradesh.
 
Punna Rao was born in a poor Rajaka community from Machavaram, a small
village in Ponnur block of Guntur district.  He studied up to 10th standard in the
same village and later he passed intermediate and degree in science from Ponnur
town. He became a political activist turning against unbearable oppression by
thekamma landlords in the region. He joined the ongoingdalit movement in the
district in his college-days led by Akurathi Muralikrishna. He organized the
students of the college against corrupt officials who used to release scholarships
only after they were paid bribes. Since the days of his college agitations, he
traveled a long way in the people’s movement in the last 15 years and became a
popular state level leader of the mass movement.
 
The intense moments of his forward march in the people’s movement fall under
two phases.  The first phase ranges from his struggles on student issues and
struggles against upper caste oppression in the background of Karamchedu and
Chunduru dalitmassacres, which changed the face of dalit movement in Andhra
Pradesh. The second phase started with his initiation into anti-imperialist and anti
feudal struggles after he joined All India people’s Resistance Forum (AIPRF) in
1995.
 
In the first phase he worked actively in Balaheena Vargala Samakhya (Federation
of Weaker Sections) till 1995. He was also associated with Andhra Pradesh
B.C. Students Forum. These two organizations intensely worked against
the social oppression in this region in 1990’s. He actively involved in the
campaign on the suicide and hunger deaths of handloom workers. Among
other social movements in which he worked actively were the resistance
movements of dalits and other weaker sections against brahmanical upper caste
attacks on dalits and OBC sections in Guntur and Prakasham districts. When
upper caste kammabrahmanical landlords’ attacked yadava caste people in
Pedanandipadu, the subsequent polarization and the movement against the attack
gained significance whendalits and OBCs moved together in the region. Punna

Rao actively participated in it. In this way Punna Rao started his school and college
life as an agitator, social activist and leader.
 
In 1996 he worked in the postal department for sustenance, but continued
to actively participate in all social and political movements in Guntur and
neighbouring districts. He joined as a bus conductor in Andhra Pradesh Road
Transport Corporation in 1998 to support his ailing and aged parents. During
this time, as a district committee member of AIPRF, he organized the peasants
in Palnadu area (Guntur district) against the pollution created by the cement
factories. The cement factories in this area didn’t install the anti-pollution plants
and freely exploited the natural resources like limestone, which is abundantly
available in this area. The huge dust clouds these cement factories spewed created
disastrous consequences for scores of villages around. The peasants suffered both
in department for sustenance, but continued to actively participate in all social
and political movements in Guntur and neighbouring districts. He joined as a bus
conductor in Andhra Pradesh Road Transport Corporation in 1998 to support
his ailing and aged parents. During this time, as a district committee member of
AIPRF, he organized the peasants in Palnadu area (Guntur district) against the
pollution created by the cement factories. The cement factories in this area didn’t
install the anti-pollution plants and freely exploited the natural resources like
limestone, which is abundantly available in this area. The huge dust clouds these
cement factories spewed created disastrous consequences for scores of villages
around. The peasants suffered both in terms of loss of crops and their health. Punna
Rao acted as a key organizer in bringing together the peasants in the area and a
militant struggle was waged. Ultimately the cement factories had to follow the
norms and install the anti-pollution plants apart from paying compensation to the
farmers due to the militant struggle. One such example where Punna Rao was
active was the Ambuja cement factory struggle in Gurajala area.
 
AIPRF took up a massive all India campaign against state repression against
theAndhra-Bihar-Dandakaranya Revolutionary movement in 1999. Hundreds of
rallies, public meetings and other mass programmes of action were conducted in
more than 12 states during this year. Punna Rao organized the meetings and rallies
in Guntur district as part of the all India campaign and in the process, a qualitative
change occurred in him. After this campaign he decided to work fulltime for the
people’s movement.
 
Since 2000, Punna Rao started working more systematically and organized ways
till his last moments in June 2007. During these 7 years, he was involved in various

united activities with dozens of mass movements against imperialism and state
repression at state level. He worked as one of the state conveners in FAIG and
Mumbai Resistance 2004 and later on in PDFI.
 
Punna Rao also played a leading role in organizing ‘People’s Assemblies’ during
the time when the Government of Andhra Pradesh held ‘talks’ with the CPI
(Maoist) leaders, in order to bring the attention of the Government to various
people’s problems. He also acted as the key organizer in many movements of
the people, campaigns and protests. He worked in the state executive of AIPRF
for a long time. He became the secretary of A.P. State Committee of AIPRF in
2001 and continued till the organization merged in a newly formed Revolutionary
Democratic Front (RDF) at all India level. Later, he worked in the Patriotic and
Democratic Movement (PDM) of Andhra Pradesh as an executive member and as
one of the conveners of A.P. State and as an all India co-coordinator of PDFI.
 
During all these years, when Punna Rao actively worked for various people’s
organizations, in Andhra Pradesh, brutalities of the state increased to new heights
year after year. All mass organizations including those, which arose temporarily on
issue-basis, were subjected to severe repression. Hundred of social activists were
subjected to humiliation, torture, and murder either directly by the state forces or
through illegal and criminal gangs that were created by the state
like ‘cobras’, ‘tigers,’ etc. For all mass and civil rights organizations faced the state
brutalities, the issue of state repression was always at the top priority. Punna Rao
took up several rounds of anti-repression campaigns along with a number of
people’s organizations in all these years. Among the prominent campaigns against
state repression were, in Guntur in 2001, all India campaign against state repression
in 1999, campaign against encounter killings, campaign against ‘cobras’, ‘tigers’
and other private criminal gangs sponsored by the Government. The Y.S.
Rajasekhar Reddy Government surpassed Chandrababu Government in its
brutalities perpetuated against the people and their organizations, particularly after
it discontinued unceremoniously the ‘talks’ it initiated with the CPI (Maoist). The
AP state became a cauldron of state brutalities as state repression went on
increasing after the 9/11 and 13/12. After YSR started cold-blooded murders by
discontinuing ‘talks’  Punna Rao worked hard to raise collective voice of the
people against the state repression. As part of his efforts, the Struggle Committee
Against State Repression was formed with a huge number of people’s
organizations. He used to meet the family members of the arrested mass activists
and used to convince them to come out into the streets to protest. The Struggle
Committee, Punna Rao actively working with it, effectively countered the Private

murderous gangs. When the murderous gangs of the Government of Andhra
Pradesh like ‘cobras’ killed Kanakachari, a Government schoolteacher and activist-
leader of PDM, Mannam Prasad in Prakasham district and Kilinga Rao in
Karimnagar, Punna Rao propelled the Struggle Committee into action and
effectively exposed the state. As a result of the active campaigns, the state
government was forced to review its policy of murdering the mass activists.
 
He played a crucial role in inviting an all India fact-finding team consisting of
Gautam Navalakha, representatives of IAPL and RDF and others to investigate
into the brutal state repression in Andhra Pradesh. The police and the vigilante
groups of murderers created many obstacles, that they reared, with a view to
stop the team’s visit to the areas of repression. Punna Rao took an active part in
effectively countering the police tactics and made it possible for the
team to visit and study the situation properly.
 
Punna Rao was a militant mass agitator. He always stood in the front row in
exposing the state or in effectively countering the state repression. He has been
recognized as a powerful speaker of the masses. His identity as the leader of the
anti-imperialist movement in the state is clear and loud. He led militant agitations
of several kinds. He was arrested several times and imprisoned.  He was implicated
in serious cases of sedition and conspiracy. The police even threatened his old and
bed-ridden father and mother who lived in a hut in Machavaram with plan to cow
down Punna Rao.
 
To pay a true tribute to Punna Rao, we have to take up the anti-imperialist and anti-
feudal struggles of the masses ahead and in a more militant way.
 

Collected by P.JayaRam, Rajaka Reservation Porata Samithi, Prakasam Dt

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