In a world characterized by distaste for idealism and in times when people who stand for their principles are being pushed around, Swarajyam gave a beacon of hope to many in the erstwhile state of Hyderabad. Obituaries are difficult to write. Does one write about the person’s struggles, about their personal life, or about how they overcame many hurdles to stand for the principles and ideals that they firmly believed in?
Mallu Swarajyam was a stalwart from the land of revolutionaries called Nalgonda, Telangana state. Nalgonda is known for its progressive ideologies, movements against feudal landlords, casteism, oppression and its constant aspirations for change. Swarajyam as an Individual and as a woman has always been an inspiration for me. From being part of the Andhra Maha Sabha to taking part in armed struggle for Telangana against the Nizam’s militia called Razakars, she stood tall with her unwavering strength and immense courage and fought for Telangana’s statehood since the demand for a separate state first began.
‘Courageous’ is the right adjective to describe Swarajyam. The name itself embodies the spirit of self rule. Her idea of self rule was to fight against oppression and her famous narrations about Visnuru Ramachandra Reddy and his dangerous and toxic concoction of patriarchy, feudalism, casteism and anarchism ignite passion even today. She challenged him, she questioned him and was so courageous that Ramachandra Reddy had to announce a cash prize for the person who would find Swarajyam and produce her in front of him. Such was her confrontation with power and the powerful.
For many years, Telangana’s culture, language, accent, cultural richness have been sidelined, ridiculed and its rich heritage did not get its due share in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. Of course after eight years of struggle, we did celebrate Bathukamma, Bonalu, Sammakka Sarakka Jathara with immense pride. Statehood brought us pride, an immense sense of belonging through these cultural symbols. Imagine someone fighting for cultural assertion fifty years ago at the peak of the anti-Telangana propaganda by Andhra elites and also by the leftover residues of age old feudalism. Swarajyam stood as a symbol of fighting and resistance to give us the due share of our self rule for Telangana. Swarajyam traveled extensively across erstwhile Andhra pradesh, She read Maxim Gorky’s Mother to rural folks, inspired them and educated them that struggles are eternal and we need to choose what we are fighting for. Swarajyam’s idea of Telangana was one with land reforms, equal representation for all groups, representation of the oppressed. Her strong tool of reaching out to the masses was her fiery speeches and mass appealing songs, many of which described the Nizam’s atrocities. At a time when we desperately look for women role models-leaders and are trying to chart out our way to understand women’s struggles to be people’s representatives, Swarajyam’s life has offered us many insights.
Her courage, her quest of making the ideal a possibility in real life set her apart. Her casual and candid personality, her strong sense of self and collective understanding of problems is inspirational. In the age of digital activism, performative progressiveness, Swarajaym truly stood for what she believed in. She was elected to Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly twice and had immensely contributed to making the distant dream of land reforms possible. Her struggle as an activist, her strength as a legislator, her commitment to an ideology will inspire and teach today’s generation voluminous lessons.
We live in the age of exuberant optimism, spineless commitments, liquid ideas which have no sense of deep rooted meaning. Sharing a post on instagram makes one progressive and establishes one as a so-called concerned citizen. We have been reduced to what can be called ‘digital citizens’ often complaining and building fake narratives of individual selves with shallow commitments to modern, equal and meaningful relationships with ourselves, with communities and with the nation. With this background, Swarajyam’s clarity of thought, action, commitment and the struggles for collective good should push us out of our comfort zones and question things and be critical of our conformist selves. Active citizenry, aware citizenry is the need of the hour. All we need is making the ideal possible, not just making it a distant dream. Revolutionary salutes to Swarajyam and thanks to her for showing us a true example of leading a principled life. May you rest in power as much as in peace, and also may we find strength in rediscovering our lives and struggles and leave no stone unturned to bring progress to the poorest of the poor. Telangana’s every household will remember you, every woman who is fighting oppression across the world, will reflect upon your resilience.
Srujana Yadav writes on issues related to politics, social movements and gender. She has also worked with the Telangana Government as a Senior Innovation Fellow.