Telangana movement pioneer's memorial to be razed for expanding NH? Activists protest

Activists have asked the government to reconsider the plan to ensure that Majoru Veeranna’s memorial is spared.
Telangana movement pioneer's memorial to be razed for expanding NH? Activists protest
Telangana movement pioneer's memorial to be razed for expanding NH? Activists protest
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Residents of Karvirala Kothagudem in Suryapet district of Telangana watch uneasily as workers gather at National Highway 365 to begin their day’s work on the second phase of the highway’s expansion. However, the expansion is likely to swallow the memorial of Majoru Veeranna – a hero who struggled to build the Telangana identity.

Veeranna, a student of Osmania University in the late 1980s, was a part of the Progressive Democratic Students Union. Later, he was drawn to its political ally, the Janashakti, a far-left group.

He played a huge role in the Mandal Commission agitations in 1990-91 and led a powerful campaign in the state. He also formed the Shramika Bahujana Vimukti, an outfit that associated itself with the working class and the lower castes in Telangana. Among the many things that he is known for, Veeranna also floated the Communist Party of the United States of India, where he argued that the country needed alternative politics on the basis of a caste and class struggle.

The revolutionary then took up the Telangana agitation against the then government, forming the Telangana Mahasabha in 1996. A fiery orator, he was successful in mobilising people, cutting across various sections of society.

On May 16, 1999, Veeranna met a tragic end, allegedly in a staged encounter.

A 70-foot tall memorial, once touted to the tallest in Asia, was built in 2000, attached to a bus stand in the village, commemorating Veeranna.

The memorial, a stupa with a statue of Veeranna at its base, is now in danger thanks to the expansion project.

On learning of the government’s plans, the villagers launched an agitation against the proposal, saying it would destroy the memory of the hero who led the masses and was the forerunner of the second phase of the Telangana movement. Dalit groups and civil society organisations have come together, demanding the plan be changed so as to spare the memorial.

Bahujana Pratigatana Vedika (BPV), the group which led the protests met with district revenue officials and demanded the plan be changed.

Professor Sujata Surepally, a member of BPV, told TNM, “It appears as though the plan is deliberately targeting the memorial, even though there is government land along the road, which can be used for the expansion if they so wished to.”

“We aren’t saying there should be no road at all, but the damage it causes should be minimal. If entire plans can be changed to accommodate religious structures, why can’t they alter this plan too?” she asked.

Dr U Sambhasiva Rao, popularly known as Usa, a social activist and executive member of Maroju Stupa Protection Committee, said, “We must not forget our history. He is the one who orchestrated the demand for a Telangana when politicians were too scared to even utter this in the Assembly. This disrespect needs to end.”

“Any further plans of expanding the road without the concrete assurance of preserving this stupa will not be entertained. We will definitely protest,” he said.

“This stupa is as important as the Telangana Martyrs Memorial in Hyderabad. We will not entertain any actions that try to remove Bahujan resistance symbols,” he added.

Activists met with the Joint Collector of Suryapet and sought to change the plan so as to ensure the memorial is not disturbed.

Speaking to TNM, the Joint Collector said, “We have forwarded the concerns to the National Highways Authorities. They will take the final decision on whether to alter the plans or not.”

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