“He placed himself in the path of death without asking for permission or excuses: he went to meet it in …..” The famous historian, Eduardo Galeano wrote these lines on the death of Che Guevara in 1967. George Reddy, the Gold Medalist in Physics, research scholar and a boxer met death in a similar fashion on 14th April 1972 in one of the hostels in Osmania University. He was killed by the hired goons of the RSS-ABVP communal forces, the killers making sure that he died and stabbed him to death. It is now forty years since and the friends of George are commemorating the 40th death anniversary, apart from the PDSU which on every 14th April commemorates his martyrdom.
Hazaaron khwahishen aisi ke har khwahish pe dam nikle
Bahut nikle mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikle
Thousands of desires, each a deadly force,
I have had surfeit of them, still I yearn for more (Mirza Ghalib)
Those were the tumultuous sixties, the second half of the decade in particular stretching into the seventies. A period when young rebels and revolutionaries among the students in the universities and colleges in many developed capitalist and underdeveloped countries of the world were building images of `revolution’. Some conjured up images of revolution as emerging from the mountains and the countryside. There was that `rage’ that manifested itself in various `movements’. The Soweto student revolt against the apartheid in South Africa, the May Student upsurge in France, the emerging Black Panthers movement in the US, and above all the Vietnamese peoples struggle against US imperialism and at home the peasant uprisings in Naxalbari and Srikakulam were important political events of those times. As Tariq Ali wrote in one of his articles, `Where has the Rage Gone’, “A storm swept the world in 1968. It started in Vietnam then blew across Asia, crossing the sea and mountains to Europe and beyond… if the Vietnamese were defeating the world’s most powerful state, surely we too can defeat our own rulers…. That was the dominant mood of the more radical of the 60s generation.” George grew up to be our hero in this political milieu.
As one who was on the OU campus doing graduation in Science College, I had the opportunity to associate with George as one of the members of the progressive group that was a precursor to the PDSU formed after his death. Even before my first formal meeting with George sometime in June 1971, I had heard of him as a fighter with a group of his own. In those days, the CPI-affiliated Marxist Educational Society used to organise lectures on topical issues and I remember to have attended two such meetings in YMCA where the CPI ideologue Mohit Sen was the speaker. It was here I saw a short statured fair looking person raising questions and debating the issues. That was George whom I did not know as George then. After my formal meet up with George, interactions became frequent and the canteen adjacent to the Astronomy department in Science College became some kind of a regular `adda’ where we would sit to listen to George discuss on a variety of subjects. Those who were frequenting this adda included opponents of Marxism and Socialism holding in their hands books like `Atlas Shrugged’, Fountain Head by Ayn Rand. It was in this rendezvous debates around issues of ideology and philosophy, science and revolution used to take place. George had a clear Marxist world out-look and in order to spread and inculcate socialist ideas and ideals, he formed study circles. I was a part of one such study circle studying Lenin’s classic, `Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism”.
Those were times when the revolutionary icon, Che Guevara exerted profound influence on the young radical minds and to many of us George was a local version. George once organised a debate on the topic, `Armed Revolution in India”, in the Science College in which he made the concluding remarks that were quite significant and stuck to my mind. He raised the issue of violence, questioned the colonial mindset of accepting white man’s supremacy even after the end of colonial rule. Looking back, the very subject of debate he organised was pertinent in the context of the political situation obtaining then, that is the post-Naxalbari, Srikakulam armed peasant upsurges.
George was a multi-faceted personality. An academically brilliant student, it was said that when he enrolled for Ph.D., none of the professors from the Physics department volunteered to be his guide and it was only after a professor in the Astronomy department accepted to be his guide that he proceeded to do research. George was concerned about the downtrodden in society and I remember when we were talking about the rickshaw workers in the city, at that time they were huge in numbers, he asked a question as to how one felt sitting in a rickshaw when another human being was pulling it on the up. He was an altruist in a sense. He was a fearless person who, to many of us, was a symbol of courage who would not hesitate to take on a bunch of goons single-handed. It looked as if he had conquered fear. Two months before his death, that is sometime in February, 1972 he was attacked by goons near his house in the DD colony. He resisted and fought back but was injured. Some told him to take precautions and not move alone. But he would say, that death would not get him so early. He was an adventurer alright, but as Che said of himself that he was “of a different kind of those who risk their skins to prove their truths”. Above all, he was a revolutionary who dreamt of a society free from exploitation and oppression.
That was the rage of the sixties that created extraordinary personalities like George who continues to be an inspiration, an exemplary martyr in the cause of the people. Forty years have passed and in this long period the legacy left behind by George has continued in different, difficult environs. The rage continues but in different forms expressed in the various class and democratic movements. The label of PDS under which George used to bring out pamphlets, became an organisation at the state level after his death and in 1974 it was formally named PDSU. The imposition of the Emergency in 1975 stifled all democratic activity in the country, with innumerable fake encounter killings in the state that included the mantle-bearer of George, Jampala Prasad and many more like Surapaneni Janardhan and Srihari. In the last forty years many like Madhusudhan Raj, Rangavalli, Veeraiah fell to the bullets of the State, but the rage continues till today.
Dreams for a better future are still alive and they cannot be snuffed out. As one poet says, the most dangerous of all dangers is the death of dreams. Malcolm X speaking to the black students once said “you will get freedom by letting your enemy know that you will be able to do anything to get your freedom, then you will get it. It is the only way you get it… They will call you an extremist or a subversive or seditious or a red or radical. But when you stay radical long enough and get enough people to be like you, you will get your freedom”.