Tuesday, 15 May 2012



All good things of this earth flow into the city (Pericles of Athens)

BS was in Tokyo in the 1970s. His bosses in Delhi called him up and asked him to look after a visiting up-and-coming political couple. Those were the days when the yen was soaring, the dollar was plunging, the rupee wasn't worth the fine print etched on it, and only the old guard had Swiss bank accounts. BS re-wrote the book on looking after, and the visitors swore eternal gratitude when they said goodbye.
Cut to the 1970s. BS is living happily ever after in Chandigarh, with his son. His daughter-in-law, a government school teacher, is transferred to a village school, 25 km away. She has to leave the house an hour early and gets back an hour late. BS has to take out cold parathas from a tiffin box for breakfast, instead of the piping hot, ghi-dripping parathas he is used to. The couple BS looked after is now one of the Top Couples of Punjab. BS recalls the vows of eternal gratitude they had sworn and decides it is time to call in a favour.
At the Top Couple's Niwas, BS talks his way through tiers of grim-faced cops. Finally he is in the presence of the the Top Lady. She hears him out graciously for all of 58.8 seconds before passing him on to an aide. The latter walks BS to a large room where clerks with ledgers sit in serried ranks. One of them looks up expectantly as BS nears: then drops his gaze as BS ignores him. At this point, BS finds the aide has disappeared, and he walks alone to the EXIT.
That evening BS is bemoaning ingratitude sharper than a serpent's tooth, in his back garden, over a stiff whiskey-soda. His neighbour, an Under-Secretary shouts over the back wall: Hey, Old Man. What's your problem? And before BS can answer, Give me 50,000/- tomorrow morning. The next evening, the Under-Secretary tosses a G.O. over the wall, into BS's lap. It reads, reassuringly: Mrs. ,,, transferred back along with post ....

In the 1980s, in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star and Mrs. Gandhi's assassination, VP Singh gave Punjab a Special Economic Package with numerous schemes to bring disaffected youth back into the mainstream. The schemes failed because rural youth could not qualify. If interview and test were held in Chandigarh, there was no shortage of robustly rural candidates. But if interview and test were held away from the capital - admittedly risky because the interviewer might end up with a gun to his head - supposedly 8th pass candidates could not add 2+2 on paper. Transfer along with post was still an under-the-counter business. So government did some soul-searching and found that while 80% of government schools were in rural areas, 80% of government teachers were in towns.


Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus (The mountain laboured and brought forth a ridiculous mouse) Horace

To provide Eklavya with a school, the Central Government has brought into force The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (35 of 2009) better known as the RTE Act w.e.f. 1.4.2010. Prior to that, 3 Articles Art. 21A Right to Education, Art. 45 Provision of early childhood care and education to children below the age of 6 years, and Art. 51A Fundamental duties - were inserted in the Constitution. Compare this massive legislative effort with the simple procedure for providing better telecom access in the rural and remote areas: a Fund was created, and a Rule framed for selecting the operator who will provide  better facilities (on his terms, of course).
The RTE Act makes it mandatory for governments and local authorities to set up neighbourhood schools for all children in the 6-14 age group by 1.4.2013. Less than 11 months to go, and not a single school has been set up.
The RTE Act also makes it mandatory for private schools:
In receipt of aid - To provide free and compulsory education to not less than 25% children admitted
Not in receipt of aid - To admit in Class I not less than 25% children from weaker and disadvantaged sections in the neighbourhood, and provide them free and compulsory education till Class VIII.
Curiously, there is no compulsion on the first category to cater to weaker and disadvantaged sections. That deficit has been bridged by the Supreme Court of India vide judgment dated April 12, 2012 in WP (C) 95 of 2010 Society for Un-aided Private Schools of Rajasthan, Petitioner vs. Union of India & Anr., Respondents). 
Assume that all private schools fall in line. The RTE Act requires the teacher-student ratio to be 1:35 or better. Since presently the number of students in a class is substantially greater than 35,  overall there has to be a sharp drop in enrollment. Coupled with the fact that government is not in the mood to set up schools, there has to be a surge of new private schools.  


It is impossible for us, with out limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must, at present, do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern - a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect..... Thomas Babington Macaulay (Minute on Education 1835)

177 years later, the success of Macaulay's policy is revealed in this excerpt from the RTE judgement:
  • There are boarding schools and orphanages in several parts of India. In those institutions, there are day scholars and boarders. The 2009 Act could only apply to day scholars.  It cannot be extended to boarders. To put the matter beyond doubt, we recommend that appropriate guidelines be issued under Section 35 of the 2009 Act clarifying the above position....per SH Kapadia CJ and Swatanter Kumar J
Have you ever come across an orphanage with day scholars? 


Friday, 4 May 2012


Interview - March 2, 2012

I retired from a public sector enterprise.
I knew George from 1970-72. I finished my BSc in 1967 and did M.Sc. in Statistics from 1969-72.
I first saw George in the Arts College canteen. I didn't know who he was, but saw a short man throwing a steel Godrej chair at a tall fellow, some Reddy. Later, I came to know that this was George Reddy. He was a regular in the library. I would follow him there and watch appreciatively as he made notes, filling up papers in his fine handwriting. He spoke mostly in Hindi, sometimes in English. He used to tell me of Socialism, Marxism. At that time, Vijay Kulkarni, Rajaram Atre, Bhatnagar, were with him, as were Ashwin, VK Sharma and Aniruddha. We usually gathered at the Science College canteen behind the Astronomy block. Other students also gathered there, not all of whom accepted what George said, some openly opposing his views.
Once while going to his house, he told me suddenly: I am likely to be attacked here. Two days later, he was indeed attacked with rods and knives. Though badly injured and bandaged, he was in the library the next day.
Once, he gave his scholarship amount of Rs. 2,000 to Iqbal to set up a pan shop. Iqbal told me this.
In those days, the ladies' seats were at the rear of RTC buses. George, Kulkarni and I were in a bus one day when some Arts College goons teased a girl. One of those chaps threw a book at her. When the teasing became more severe, George got up and scolded them, though we held him back. There was a mild altercation, and when they got off later, it was with a threat to 'see him' the next day. The next day, George came prepared with a knuckle duster and we expected a full fledged fight. No one came. They would have known later in the evening that their opponent was the fabled George Reddy and prudently stayed away.
He was a huge figure. He evoked awe. Students knew that here was a man who was not scared, a hero with a cause, committed and totally sincere. He was a legend and, naturally, girls were after him. He was very disciplined. He would be in the library at 8.30 in the morning, and attend classes thereafter. Outside class, he spoke of nothing else but his passion for change and socialism. He was so convinced that he would not speak of anything else. He used to travel alone despite being the target of the RSS guys, he was so brave. How can we term him a goonda? He was a fighter. He was fighting for a cause. He had a bright face – what we call `kala' in it, and he spoke convincingly. He was the talk of the campus.
At that time, we did not view the BJP as communal, we saw them as right wing. You see, there were no communal riots at that time. Hindus were slowly occupying the space vacated, again slowly, by Muslims. The BJP was vying for supremacy on campus. They had no commitment to even their politics. They saw George as a challenge to their supremacy.
In M.Sc. Previous, there was a tough paper, and students complained that it was out of syllabus. George scored 84, the next mark being 41. He was not at all one to learn by rote, he understood the concepts; and his concentration levels were so high that he would not know who sat next to him when he was reading.
Who made George Left? No one, I think. There was no one, I think, who could influence George. He would have read and come to a conclusion himself.
I remember George was there when I took my first cigarette. He remonstrated with me, told me not to pick up the bad habit.
George was a fighter before rustication, but became political after that. 

A R Datta, Hyderabad

Thursday, 3 May 2012

GEORGE REDDY - Prof. R. Raghava Rao

May 1, telephonic interview of Gita Ramaswamy with 82 year old Prof. R. Raghava Rao, retired scientist, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad. 

I worked at the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad for a major part of my life. PRL was where ISRO originated. It had a small Ph D programme where the best scholars, mainly from the IITs and leading universities, were selected. Either in late 1971 or early 1972, George Reddy came to PRL, Ahmedabad to attend the interview selections for PhD scholars. As far as I remember, he was the first student from OU to do so. I was a member of the 6-member interview committee. Prof. Pisharoty, father of remote sensing in India, was the chairman of the committee. Normally, we give gradings to each candidate separately, and after the interviews are over, discuss and finalise our gradings.
George Reddy impressed all of us with his knowledge, quickness of response. He got an A+ from all of us. At the end of his interview, Prof. Pisharoty asked him: If you get a scholarship at OU and here too, which would you prefer? The boy instantly replied: Osmania University. Pisharoty asked me to take the boy to my room as he belonged to my state, and talk to him, explaining the advantages here.
I did so, and spoke to him for over an hour. I explained the facilities here, the attention we pay to students, the freedom we give them in choosing their subjects, the excellent lab facilities here, the higher scholarship available here, the opportunities students get to go abroad, etc. He listened patiently. When I asked him what he had decided, he said that he would think it over. He left without giving us an answer.
Maybe two months later, I read the news of his murder in the newspapers and was horrified. I had not thought that in my state of Andhra Pradesh, such a brilliant student could be so brutally murdered. Those of us in the faculty, particularly those who had interviewed him, also discussed this and we were disturbed. He had created such an impression on us.
None of us should take the step of killing another human being, whatever be the differences. Society should not condone this. This is the lesson I draw from the killing of George Reddy, a boy who could have become a great scientist and of great use to our country.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

ON GEORGE - pkmurthy

After the 1968 Student Revolt in France, I came back to India to join the Spring Thunder then blowing through the country. I stayed in Hyderabad a short while, in 1971. Swayed by revolutionary ideas, I considered that integration with the people was fundamental and therefore I had to work with and as a worker. One day, Pradeep came with Ashwini to meet me. Two days later, George also came with them.
George (and his friends) used to drop in at my (rented) house very often and a warm friendship and camaraderie developed between us. We would have long discussions, debates and readings, sitting on a mattress, on the terrace of our second floor room. Sometimes guests would stay on, to share whatever food had been cooked. We would discuss and compare the different revolutionary struggles and more particularly the successful revolutions in China, Cuba, and Vietnam. These discussions would take us to the military line and tactics of successful revolution, and the part that armed struggle plays in achieving power. What role do the masses have in the revolution? Can the revolution succeed without the people's participation?? Is individual commitment and dedication not enough to rouse the masses??? These questions are debated even today. 
There was fire in George and he was highly motivated by Che. He would say `I am ready for Revolution, my readiness is enough to carry the people.' While we understood the need to consolidate our theoretical knowledge, we also practiced judo and karate as George saw physical fitness as a necessity for every individual. His precondition for members of his group was that they should be physically fit. I was a part of these meetings and karate sessions from June 1971 till March 1972, when I left Hyderabad. 
I recall pressurising George to join a political formation as local politics needed to be linked up with global politics for change. He realized the need of being organised and of joining an organisation: thus he met leaders of some revolutionary groups at that time. 
His revolutionary zeal made him an admirer of Che where the courage and dedication of "the Individual"  are enough to bring about revolution as opposed to Mao's tenet that mass participation alone brings Change.
George was a natural leader, imposing and a good fighter, and the boys were jovial but serious in their work. They looked up to George and had blind confidence in him. None of them spoke when he would decide, and yet the discussions were warm and cordial.
He would tell me of the attacks on them, on campus and elsewhere; and I recall them writing a pamphlet in December after one attack. He was preoccupied with self-defence. I remember a photograph of all eight of us on the terrace.
George was anti-establishment and anti-imperialist
He believed that there would be Change 
He believed that he would be part of the change 
For a just and better society for all
A socialist society
His enemies killed him and think him dead 
but like Bhagat Singh, Che and George will never die.
PK Murthy,

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Last week I was in Hyderabad, to complete the eye check-up started on the last visit. I read the transcripts of some interviews done by Gita. It has been something of a revelation, to find out what all George was up to, in the last years of his life. I hope those who have something to share, and have not yet done so, will come out soon.
Controversy was no stranger to George alive, and controversy will not desert George dead. E-mails swish this way and that, on who may lay claim to his legacy. All of us are lawful claimants, and no one has exclusive rights.
That said, aren't we focusing on the wrong things? Are we to squabble about who will set up the wayside shrines, and who will collect the coins thrown by passers-by/
We live in the Age of the Montoinettes: The people have no bread? What do they do with their 28 rupees?  Airlines and airports are gifted to cronies with calendar babes on their arms. Airwaves were served fresh to first comers, and are now to be mock-auctioned. Children have been granted the fundamental right to education, but the State does not have the will to educate them or the money to pay for their education.  One policeman watches over 800 non-VIPs, but a dozen were in attendance when George was murdered.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

George (A Profile In Courage) - Srinath

I first became acquainted with George as a student of St. Paul’s High School in Hyderabad.  He was senior to me and entered the school only in the senior years, having transferred from elsewhere.  He already had a charismatic personality and quickly became known for both his intelligence and physical skirmishes with those who tried to bully or bother him.  This mixed reputation followed him when he went to the Nizam’s college.  At school, we continued to hear of both his accomplishments as a bright student and physical bravery in taking on a crowd of attackers when it came to a fight.  We were distraught and suffered pain vicariously when we heard that some goons had deliberately broken his hand at the time of examinations.

It was only when George went to the main campus of Osmania University that I came to know him personally.  By this time, he had matured into a politically conscious student activist.  I too had left school and entered the Osmania Medical College after completing pre-medical collegiate courses.  We both became part of a growing left movement in the University.  George was by now influenced by his study of Marxist literature and was associating with other ‘radical’ students.  We were greatly influenced by the anti-Vietnam war protests and deeply impressed by Cuba’s determination to survive as a socialist country despite unrelenting threats. For us, Che’Guevara became the icon of socialist bravery.  With his striking good looks and beard to match, George came to be seen as our own Che’. 

I saw myself as an independent socialist, willing to support any shade of left wedded to the cause of socialism.  For me, it was important to move the society as a whole towards a socialist philosophy and even the left leaning forces in the mainstream political parties were potential allies in that effort.  Even though many left groups bore separate identities and did not share that view, I was comfortable with all of them.

My father, K.V. Raghunatha Reddy was a Congress Minister at the Centre at that time.  A very well read socialist intellectual, he was a key figure in creating the Congress Forum for Socialist Action (CFSA), which saw ‘Young Turk’ leaders emerging in the form of Chandrasekhar, Mohan Dharia, Chandrajit Yadav, K.R. Ganesh, Krishna Kant, Arjun Arora and Shanti Bhushan among others.  He believed that building a broad alliance of congress socialists and communists was important for India.  He felt that young people with socialist ideals should enter the Youth Congress to help move the Congress towards a socialist political agenda.  I kept away from any such affiliation but agreed that a broad socialist consolidation was needed across the country.  That included the Osmania University.

George was initially seen as the leader of a small band of left wing ideologues and activists trying to stir up a university campus which was long used to non-ideological and often opportunistic student politics.   While the Telangana agitation of 1969 saw the active involvement of the student community, it was influenced more by regional aspirations and grievances than by a political ideology.  Prior to 1967, the major political grouping in the University at that time was the Youth Congress. George and his comrades would not dream of identifying themselves with it.  They were considered much more radical, even among the small left wing student groups that existed in the campus.

The political scene in the campus changed as right wing communal forces made an entry and started gathering strength.  They saw the Youth Congress as their rival in the student body elections but regarded the left wing student groups as their ideological enemies. The Youth Congress started fading from the campus scene, losing ground both to the ‘left’ and the ‘right’.  Over time, it was only the left groups that offered resistance to the aggressive onslaught of the right wing. George and his associates were especially targeted for vicious attacks – not merely political but often brutally physical.

At this time George realised that he needed allies to combat these forces.  He was a frequent visitor at my Hyderabad home, where we met with other friends to discuss national as well as campus politics, write pamphlets and plan rallies.  George was intense and passionate in his articulation during such meetings.  He was also polite and charming when he spoke to my mother who become one of his many admirers.  We kept an open house and she was happy to serve up a meal for George and other friends anytime. He had a personal magnetism which made him stand out but also had an affable warmth which drew others to him in the comfort of a close friendship.

On several occasions, George met my father when he was visiting Hyderabad from Delhi.  They engaged in political discussions, which ranged from socialist theory to political action.  George began to understand the strategy for moving mainstream centrist political forces in a left ward direction, though I am not sure whether he believed it could be accomplished through conventional political processes. The Congress was a very heterogeneous grouping of diverse and divergent political persuasions.  The CFSA was trying to infuse socialist thought into the main body of that organisation by vigorously advocating socialist policies.  Could the Youth Congress become a vehicle for change?  At the very least, could it offer a home to the campus radicals who were being viciously hunted by the right wing forces that wished to make the university their own?

Whatever the strategic consideration, George and his associates decided to join the Youth Congress.   That gave them a larger platform to operate from and offered more allies on the campus.  George did not lose his ideological moorings nor did he fall victim to the ‘soft’ personal indulgences of stereotypical Youth Congress leaders.  He carried his convictions and strength of character into the new camp.

All this while, he remained a brilliant student.  Having moved to the medical college, I could only hear from others about his accomplishments as a science student.  I know of many who lamented that he was risking a brilliant scientific career for risky political battles.  As a rare student leader who shines in both studies as well as political activism, George became a much admired figure in the Osmania University, with a loyal band of associates who loved him and many other friends who respected him for his passion and commitments.

All of this made him a prime target for the right wing.  They realised that it would be difficult to make political gains on the campus if they had a charismatic opponent like George.  Some of them befriended him early on, hoping to win him over.  Failing in this, they tried to frighten him into inaction.  Failing in that too, they decided to eliminate him physically.   

Several of us cautioned him against being deliberately provoked into a physical confrontation by lumpen elements who were frequently employed by the right wing to attack him or his associates.  “They can afford to lose many of those hired goons but we can’t afford to lose a leader like you”, we told him.  He, however, said that he could not afford to convey any impression of cowardice if a fight was forced upon him. He felt that would demoralise his associates.

On a fateful afternoon, the phone rang at my home.  When I picked up the receiver, my friend Dr. Narasimha Reddy (a former student body President at the Gandhi Medical College in Hyderabad) spoke in a choked voice “They have knocked off George!”.  Initially I thought it was another vicious physical assault but he crushed any I hope I had that George had survived the attack by saying that the body was lying at the Gandhi Hospital in Secunderabad.  He told me that George was brutally stabbed to death by hired goons when he was visiting the Engineering College hostel, in connection with student union elections there.  By all accounts, George was walking alone in the hostel corridor when he was attacked with butcher knives by rowdies who had been brought in from the city to intimidate students who did not support the right wing communal elements. He was marked for the kill and the plot had worked.

The campus erupted in outrage and drowned in sorrow as the news of this dastardly murder spread. Spontaneous rallies were taken out vowing to fight the political forces behind this brazen crime.  At the condolence meeting in the Arts College, a sea of humanity heard speakers (who included the Vice-Chancellor and me) pay tribute to George and unabashedly wept as his life was remembered and the events that ended it were recounted.

Later that year, the national Youth Congress meet at Kerala named its venue as George Reddy Nagar in homage to him.  Some of my friends in Osmania University commented that it was not fair to George that should be now be totally identified with the Youth Congress when his core ideology was Marxist.  I replied that George would be remembered for all that he was and that the association with the Youth Congress was only a small part of that persona.

I remember George today as brilliant mind, who believed as a friend who conveyed warmth in his simple and comradeship through his hug and as a committed warrior for a cause that was common to many of us but with a level of courage which marked him above the rest.  I wish he had not sacrificed a life which had so much to offer, in an avoidable encounter with goons who were no match to him in courage or character, in intellect or integrity.  I still rage at the viciousness of the attack that snatched his life and feel deeply aggrieved that his murderers were never brought to justice despite a crime committed in broad daylight on the open campus.  More than all, I wish George was among us today, to show India what leadership is all about.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Remembering George - Pradeep

Remembering George

Tera Jhoote Kufr-o-iman ko mita daloonga main
Haddian is kufr-o-iman ki Chaba daloonga main
Walwale mere barhenge naaz farmate hue
Firqa bandi ka sar-e napaak thukrathe hue

I will banish from the earth your narrow, bigoted creed
I will uproot the bane; destroy its source & seed
My hopes will surge ahead poised on honest pride
Brushing aside on the way the blight of communal spite
                                                                                                  [Josh Malihabadi]

Those were different times, different in many ways. The context and the setting in the late sixties and the first half of the seventies were markedly distinct, and individual personalities played such a crucial role that their imprint on the history of the 'movement' can never be blotted out. George was one such personality. He was influenced, like many others, by the events and happenings of those times, from peasant resurgence in parts of the country, unrest in Telangana, and the unemployment problem, to the 1968 student revolt in France, the Vietnam War, and of course, Che the revolutionary. In Satyajit Ray's film “Pratitbandi”, the protagonist - an educated unemployed youth - goes for an interview. The interviewers ask what he thinks is the significant event of the decade. He answers: 'The Vietnam War'. The interviewers ask if he is a Commie, and the protagonist gets up angrily and walks out. That is the true picture of those times. George grew up in this milieu, and become an extraordinary personality who made his own mark on the movement, and shaped its growth in those times. It is almost forty years since we lost him. This is my tribute to a man who made an indelible impression on me and changed the course of my life.    

The Death

On the 14th of April 1972,  some time in the evening, I was at a rendezvous near YMCA with a friend when Gopal came rushing to inform us that George was no more, killed in one of the University hostels by hired goons from Dhoolpet. I dismissed the news, and told Gopal it could never be so. Still the three of us went in Gopal’s car to Srinath’s place in Himayathnagar. We ran up the stairs to Srinath’s room. Srinath stared at us and showed us the pamphlet he had just finished writing. It was unbelievable, for how could George our hero die, who had said more than once that death would not come for him so early.  It was a shocking reality that death took him at the age of 25.

His body had been shifted to the Osmania Hospital mortuary. When we reached, there was already a mass of students from the campus flanked by a fairly large police force. The mood was tense. One student snatched the name plate from the chest of an ACP, and another sent a police officer’s cap flying. The anger stemmed from the fact that the police and the Osmania University administration had been informed much earlier that outsiders were roaming freely on campus, and had taken no measures to stop the killing.

On 15th April, the next day, some two thousand mourners had gathered near George’s residence at DD colony. It was total silence in a surcharged atmosphere when his body was brought out in a coffin.  All of a sudden, the arrested emotions inside everyone found vent in the slogan ‘George Reddy Amar Hai’. We marched in procession to Narayanaguda cemetery surrounded by a huge police force. Kesava Nilayam (RSS HQ) was on the way, When we reached it, emotion took over, and some student comrades ran up the walls. Some police officers took out their revolvers. Anything could have happened at this point, had we not shown restraint.

George was buried, and thereafter some of us walked from the cemetery to Cosmopolitan CafĂ©. We discussed for quite some time how the incident might have happened. Nobody knew what was to be done, but all minds were set on one and only one thing - avenging the dastardly killing.

George was killed on a Friday, the day our study circle (Ramani, Aswin, Gopal, Mazhar and a few others) was to meet at our Barkatpura residence. We had been studying Lenin’s ‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism'. The previous Friday, George had explained and made us understand the evolution and working of monopoly capitalism. Just a day before he died, George had told us the study circle would not meet that week, and we would not finish our study of Lenin, because of elections in the Engineering College. 

My First Meeting with George

In the late sixties i.e. 1968-70, I had heard of George as a dada with a gang of his own. In 1970-71  I saw him at a couple of meetings organized by the Marxist Educational Society, at the YMCA, where Mohit Sen was often a speaker. I used to see George in the audience, asking questions and speaking boldly. It never occurred to me that the dada I had heard of, and the intellectual posing questions and speaking out at those meetings, were one and the same person.

Let me recall my first meeting with George as George. I joined the University Science College as a degree student in 1971.  Aswin was one of my college-mates. I met George for the first time in June '71 in the small canteen next to the Astronomy Department. The canteen was an adda for many because George was a habitue. One day in June '71, Ashwin and I were in the canteen, making small talk. Aswin wrote something on a piece of paper, and pointing to a person at a corner table, engrossed in discussion with those around, asked me to get his signature on the paper.  I was only too eager to do so, when told that George was the person at the corner table. I went up and wished  him. He looked at me, obviously wondering why I was there holding out a piece of paper. I introduced myself and referred to my brother (he and George were classmates in B.Sc.). Then George was able to place me.

That then was my first formal meeting with George. After a few months of regular interaction, he became my ‘revolutionary hero’. Some memories are still fresh. After class got over in Science College, some of us would deliberately hang around the Arts College bus stop from 3.30 to 4.00 p.m.  because that was when George would be walking down from the Osmania Library to the adda. Informal debates took place at the adda on a wide variety of subjects - sciences, materialist philosophy, revolution, poverty in India, et al - with a variegated cross-section of students eager to hear what George had to say. Hanging around the bus stop, seeing him walk down the slope from the Library in jeans and olive green shirt, always brought Che to mind, though George bore no physical resemblance to the Latin American revolutionary icon.

George’s Political Thinking

That Che greatly influenced George’s thinking is beyond doubt. Through George, some of us learnt by rote Che's famous lines in Venceremos, which started “whenever death may surprise us…..”. I believe this was a period when George, apart from the frequent physical clashes with the likes of Surdas Reddy, Narsimha Reddy, and others of the RSS persuasion, began to organize study circles. The label was Socialist Youth Forum, a branch of the CFSA (Congress Forum for Socialist Action), but George brought out leaflets on issues like communalism and the Vietnam War under the label of Progressive Democratic Students. It is this PDS that later became the PDSU.

George organized a debate on the topic “Armed Revolution in India” in Science College. Anirudha and a few others participated. George, in his concluding remarks, dealt with the colonial mindset that plagues a nation even after colonial rule ends. That such a debate on such a topic could be organized in those times reflects the political atmosphere in the wake of the Naxalbari and Srikakulam Peasant Uprisings.

During this period a couple associated with the May 1968 French Student Revolt came to Hyderabad. I knew them and George was interested when I offered to set up a meet. George met them several times before they left Hyderabad in February 1972. The discussions were on the strategy and tactics of the Indian Revolution. Around the same time, and on the same subject, George had several meetings with RR/NR, leader of the then APRCP (AP Revolutionary Communist Party, aka the CP Group).

George was a fighter and did not hesitate to risk his life. His academic brilliance, his intellectual capacity, and above all, his strong Marxist ideological moorings and revolutionary thinking, were what made us gravitate to George. He became our repository of everything revolutionary. He shaped my thinking and made me what I am today.  

filmmaker based in Poona/Bombay made a documentary titled “Crisis on the Campus”. It had George, Kulkarni, and Ajay Sinha, among others, discussing student unrest. George's interview is a little longer than the others'. He talks about student unrest and violence. If  memory serves, he talks of how dissenting voices go unheard in the system, and peaceful protests are crushed by violence: not  unlike Frantz Fanon’s notions. In 1973-74, PDSU organized screenings of  Crisis on the Campus in OU Tagore Auditorium and Sangeet Theatre in Secunderabad, along with Pratidbandi, Satyajit Ray's feature film on the unemployment problem. The moment George appeared on screen, bearded and in his olive green shirt, emotionally charged slogans “George Reddy Amar Rahe” and “jeena hai tho marna seekho, khadam khadam par ladna seekho drowned out everything. The latter slogan is very popular with militant organizations, who make it a regular in their programmes. I do not know who coined the slogan but somehow it is attributed to George. I salute George. I salute Jampala and Madhu, who laid down their lives in the movement.    

12th February 2012

Sunday, 12 February 2012

"Banda-Canteen" Broadcasts


Reminiscences of George Reddy - Budding Physicist and Revolutionary
Asvini Kumar

Dedicated to all those, living or dead, who were inspired, directly or
indirectly, in however small a measure by George Reddy

I am advancing in years (1953 born) and before I kick the bucket, I decided to put down in writing some impressions and memories of the remarkable and extraordinary research scholar and activist, George Reddy (b. 1947 – d. 1972), whom I had the opportunity to meet and interact with on numerous occasions during my days  as a graduate student, 1971-72, in the Osmania University College of Science. It is now 4 decades since his death and almost 35 years since I moved out of Hyderabad, into quite a different career trajectory, founding and running a mid-sized business. It is quite possible that the mists of time have blurred some of these memories, especially in the case of dates, places, sequences, names etc.; and I would like to be pardoned in advance for any inaccuracies and any omissions that may have crept in. I am writing this in the form of a narrative consisting of recollections of events as they happened and as I remember them. It is best treated as a personal account, a sort of notes to myself and to some of those who knew him and liked him for what he was as a person. I am sure that many others would also have innumerable and interesting and inspiring anecdotes to relate, and so it should be. I have also consciously tried to avoid any partisan dimensions and attempted to keep this as “anecdotal“ as possible, with the sole motive of trying to provide readers a glimpse into the persona and exemplary character of George Reddy and to recapture some of the flavour of those bygone days.
This narrative is arranged in the following sequence:
1. How I first met George Reddy
2. Banda-Canteen discussions
3. Books, books, books…
4. A trip to Nellore
5. On cycles to Warangal
6. George Reddy on himself
7. Groups and circles
8. A portrait of George Reddy
9. Death at age 25
10. Epilogue

1. How I first met George Reddy
It was in the year 1971, at the age of 18 that I landed up at the University College of Science to pursue an academic course then called “Special B.Sc. (Physics)". Born and bred in an urban middle class family, after excelling academically in school, taking a shot at joining the army (which did not happen for various reasons), severely castigated by extended family and friends for dropping out in my first year at IIT, happy-go-lucky by nature, enjoying the company of friends, here I was looking forward to a new phase in my life. I immediately struck up new friendships especially with Venkatramani (Ramani) and a few others and we were a jolly good bunch of fellows, enjoying what life had to offer having a good time. One day as I was walking along with Ramani, he greeted someone walking past us in the opposite direction and told me that it was George Reddy who had been his physics lecturer in AV College, and that he found his classes to be very interesting and informative. Something rang a bell and I remembered that one George Reddy had manhandled a gatekeeper Yusuf, in my school (St. Pauls High School) some years ago. Our school principal had announced that some rowdies had roughed up Yusuf. I had also heard stories from the campus grapevine that there were two rival student factions who had violently clashed repeatedly in the recent past. The factions were known to belong to the youth wings of the two main political parties of the day. A certain George Reddy, known to be a good pugilist and fighter, and a brilliant scholar with an M. Sc. Physics Gold Medal, was the charismatic leader of one of the factions. This was the impression of him I carried at that time; and so did many others like me. So when it was announced that there was to be a University level debate organized by George Reddy, on “The Indian People Can Achieve Liberation Only Through An Armed Revolution”, I decided to go and check it out for myself. Towards the end, George delivered an informative valedictory talk and then a group of us proceeded to the OUSC canteen and there was a heated discussion on the topic with George. I also decided to join the discussion and piped in with my two bits. Then the group dispersed, but something kept nagging me inside.

2. “Banda-Canteen” Discussions
Thus it was that I landed up a couple of days later brandishing a magazine called “The Plain Truth” to prove my points on the Vietnam War This was dismissed by George and Kulkarni as Western-backed propaganda and misinformation from the military industrial complex of the West. I was new to all this and did not have much to say while they were really prepared with a lot of ammunition. I was advised to read “At War with Asia“ by Noam Chomsky, which I did. Ramani had also joined in on the discussions and this was to be the pattern of things for a few months, when we hotly discussed and debated everything. I call this the “Banda-Canteen Discussions”. I hope this also serves to explain the title of this narrative “Banda-Canteen Broadcasts”.  Banda-Canteen was so named because it consisted of granite boulders, adjacent to the canteen proper, at the base of a huge neem tree and which could accommodate about 12 people all around. Here, I must mention “Khaalu” or “Khaalajan“ (meaning ‘aunt’), a name by which we addressed the matronly canteen attendant who would keep sending hot half-cups of chai and snacks to us on demand. George always ate very modestly and at fixed times made sure that everyone got an equal share in the pie.
It is in this fashion that I became exposed to alternative points of view, especially the socialist ones, and my earlier opinion of George Reddy as a “student goonda” began to change. I began to see the makings of a brilliant physicist and an intellectual trying to visualize and work out his ‘larger than life’ vision and mission, a rebel in transition to an ideologically committed actor.
It was around this time that there was a vicious attack with iron rods by hired goons on Vijay Kulkarni and 2 others in their hostel rooms, in which Kulkarni broke his elbow joint, which then had to be fixed with a bolt and screw from the inside. After this incident, Ramani and I decided to take boxing classes from George and we met for many a practice session at the OU gym. Here is where I learnt about hooks, jabs, uppercuts, footwork etc. Also, I clearly remember getting many black eyes in the process. There were some interesting incidents also at the “Banda-Canteen”. Aniruddha, a guy who used to live in my locality, once landed up and told George and Kulkarni that he was an absconding student revolutionary from Calcutta, who had fled the city to escape police capture. When I showed up that day he was sitting on the Banda with everyone in a posture of deference. Not knowing the background I just went up and gave Anirudhha a hearty backslap and asked him jokingly as to what had brought him to OU Science College and why he was wearing white pajama and kurta with a brown shawl. This really caused some flutter and confusion and I had to explain the background of the situation, and Aniruddha never forgave me for it, I guess. Anyway, Aniruddha dropped in at the Banda more often and we became a little friendlier.

3. Books, books, books ...
On a regular basis George used to give us books to encourage us to read and expand our knowledge and deepen our perspective. I noticed that they were stamped “Socialist Youth Forum-SYF”. I asked him one day about this and he told me that Raghunath Reddy (then a central cabinet minister for Labour, if I remember correctly) had encouraged and funded him to start a library under that aegis. I do not remember where the library was located but I think some of the regularly circulated books were at his home itself. The book titles were carefully selected, wrapped in neat plastic covers, stamped with an ID no. and date of purchase with value. There was also a note book which kept meticulous accounts of every penny spent and it was reported regularly. It was thanks to these efforts of his that many of us got read a number of books. George also took part in fund raising campaign by SYF called East Bengal Fund to support the Mukti Bahini liberation forces in what is now Bangladesh. He used to pro-actively put forward many topics for discussion - the War in Vietnam, the Palestine Problem, events in the Dominican Republic, Gautemala (United Fruit Co), 1968 French Student Revolt, Black Panthers of America, the Naxalbari, Srikakulam, and Telengana movements, bourgeois culture and the need for de-classification, foco theory and guerrilla warfare, peoples' liberation movements in Africa, were some of the constant themes. Che Guevara, Regis Debray, Cohn Bendit, Sartre, George Habash – these were some of the names we heard. By what he carried around I judged that he had some favourite books, the chief among them being those by Ernesto Che Guevara (Guerilla Warfare, On Revolution, Selected Writings, Venceremos, Bolivian Diary). I also saw him seriously poring through the tomes of Friedrich Hegel (Science of Logic), Sigmund Freud (Complete Psychological Works) and Karl Marx (The Collected Works). Three other large sized volumes were those by James Joll (The Anarchists), Michael Bakunin’s Selected Writings and Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X. His light reading consisted of books like Regis Debray’s Revolution in the Revolution?, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and Noam Chomsky’s At War with Asia.

4. A trip to Nellore
One day George said that he was off to Nellore for a couple of days, to provide campaign support to Raghunatha Reddy, in the latter’s election campaign, and invited some of us to join him. He said that we would all go in a jeep and then come back by train. I readily agreed, and five of us set off (George, Sharif, Aniruddha, Ajay Sinha, myself). It was a long drive and I don’t remember where we halted for the night, nor do I remember the details of the election campaign. But I remember one incident very clearly. A local farmer hitched a ride with us for some distance and while getting off took out some money to pay for it, but Sharif condescendingly told him to keep it. George intervened and said we should take the money as the guy didn’t look like a poor peasant but a rich one.
Soon it was time to return and for some reason we were dropped off at Tirupati somewhere near the Akasha Ganga. We decided to spend the night in the open on a choupal under a huge tree near the edge of a what seemed like a forest. In the middle of the night, Ajay got up on spotting a set of “eyes” moving in towards us from the direction of the forest. He immediately jumped up and readied himself to defend against any eventuality, but soon we all burst into laughter on recognizing a horde of foraging monkeys. But we could not sleep in peace as they proved to be quite a noisy and unsavoury lot. Next morning, on the way back, we decided to have a bath at a lake and headed towards it. When we reached its shore, there was a general hesitation to get into the water as some local who passed by cautioned us about a crocodile which had made its home in the lake. George, in his underpants, all of a sudden pulled out a switch blade and rushed into the water, knife in hand like Tarzan, and started bathing. It was only then that all of us very cautiously entered the water, had a quick bath and got out in double-quick time.
We reached Renigunta station and waited to board a train. Having only unreserved tickets, we jumped into the unreserved bogie of the next express train towards Kazipet, that arrived in the station. We found that some para-military jawans were sleeping full lengths in all the seats, thus forcing other ticket holders to stand all the way. When all requests failed to elicit any response George suddenly went and jerked up the nearest person by his collar and asked everyone else to come and occupy the seats. When the train stopped in the next station the doors opened and we were suddenly surrounded by dozens of para-military personnel, who evicted us all from the train. All the passengers who could sit comfortably thanks to our strong protests, watched silently, without speaking a word in our support. Then we found that it was almost fully a para-military train bound for the north.
Anyway, we caught the next train and got off at Kazipet junction in the morning. After some breakfast on the platform we waited for a train to Hyderabad. During the wait, George called us over and challenged “Can you go and beg for money from those passengers over there?“ When asked “What on earth for?“, he replied “It is a test of your ability to overcome your bourgeois attitude and de-classify yourself“. I think Aniruddha was the only guy who passed the test.

5. On cycles to Warangal
Ramani and I were of an adventurous disposition and one day we announced our plan to go on a cycling trip to Warangal and back, a distance of about 275 km. While we were asking around for other interested participants, George said that he would also like to join in. So it was that one night six of us (George, Sharif, Mazher, Sharma, Ramani and myself) took off on rented bicycles toward Warangal, starting out from the OU PG hostel area. We slept the first night, on the Alir railway station platform, about half way to our destination. It was pretty cold that night, and all of us, being unprepared for this, were shivering. Finally we got close to each other for warmth and were glad to see dawn coming. As normally happens on trips of this kin,d we would burst into song and George also hummed his favorite Hindi songs. They were Woh subhah kabhi to aayegi (movie: Phir subha hogi), Jinhe naaz hai hind par who kahan hai & Jalaa do ye duniya (movie: Pyaasa), Rahi tu mat ruk jaana (movie: Door gagan ki chaon mein) and Raat kali ek khwab me aayi (movie: Buddha mil gaya). I must mention that all of us also sang bawdy songs to boot!! During wayside stops to rest, George would talk about guerrilla warfare and foco theory as expounded by Che Guevara and would imagine the mountains around us to be the “Sierra Maestra”. He would also give us brief lessons in hand to hand combat. During one of these, I tried a trick on him which I had learnt from a martial arts book and he tripped and fell. He was so incensed that he lunged at me and pushed me so hard that I nearly fell into an open irrigation well. In the process I developed a huge swelling on my forehead and had to endure George playing a para-medic every few hours.
In this fashion we reached Warangal and rested in a friend’s room in a college hostel. During this time George excused himself and disappeared for a few hours saying he had to go and meet some
people. To this day nobody knows who they were. The very next day we headed back for Hyderabad. I will never forget this – our buttocks were so sore that we had to put dry hay wrapped in bath towels on the riding seat and rub our buttocks with Vaseline to be able to keep cycling on during the return journey.

6. George on himself
By the time we did the cycling trip, a few of us became more informal with George and out of curiosity asked him many things of a personal nature, to which he would sometimes reply and sometimes diplomatically avoid or shrug. I have narrated below his response to some of my queries. After completion of his M. Sc. 1st year he was involved in a campus clash for which he was “rusticated“ (debarred from attending classes) for a period of 1 year . During this period he set up a study routine for himself in the OU library. Every single day he would get up at 6 am, finish his 1 hour exercise routine, have breakfast and read for some time. Then he would go to the library by 10 am and study Mathematics and Physics from first principles. He told me that he had completely worked through the Math textbook series by Markov from cover to cover. Similarly he comprehensively covered the field of Physics (not sure if it was Berkeley Physics course or Feynman’s lectures) and took his own detailed notes in the process (his famous “study notes” were handed over to a junior of his named Shankar, who in turn showed them to me). As a result, when he sat for the final M.Sc. examinations he effortlessly came out on top. Such was the quality of his answers that an external evaluator from Bombay travelled all the way to meet in person the student who could write such brilliant answers. He never tired of mentioning that if you learn and understand a subject properly, you will surely be the topper. He recorded 100% attendance in M. Sc. classes. Though he was invited on an attractive scholarship to a famous Mumbai institute, he refused the same and instead preferred to pursue his research at the OU Science College, as he had decided to divide his time between academic work and revolutionary work. He mentioned the he had chosen not to do any experimental work and was working on “Unified Field Theory”. He would now study at the Physics Department library from 10 am to 1 pm (engaged in reviewing state of the art in Theoretical Physics) and later at the OU library from 2 pm to 5 pm. He said that his early morning and the afternoon sessions were to read and study to sharpen his knowledge to aid his revolutionary work and interests.
Once, in flashback mode, he mentioned these two incidents relating to his B.Sc. days. He was traveling in a crowded city bus, when a swarthy person standing next to him started pawing him deliberately. George said that to teach the bully a lesson he caught hold of the man’s genitals and squeezed so hard that he screamed horribly in pai . It was while being told this anecdote that I heard the words ‘gay‘and ‘fairy’ for the first time in my life. In another incident on a city bus he said that he was sitting behind a beautiful girl who was wearing thin muslin dupatta or odhni, which was fluttering in the wind. He could not resist the temptation of gently blowing some air on it to make it fall on the floor of the bus. The girl had no clue as to how it fell off, and George played Mr. Chivalrous by picking it up for her.
While returning home one evening, he was surrounded and attacked with rods and lathis, near his house, by hired goons. They were out to kill him but George narrowly escaped by jumping over a neighbour’s wall into safety. From there he managed to reach a hospital and get admitted with severe lathi wounds. He had also damaged one of his thumbs in this incident and was nursing it for many weeks afterwards.
When asked why he never mentioned or talked about women and romantic love , he said that he was wedded to his credo and such a relationship had no place in his life. A couple of gorgeous-looking girls did try to pursue him, but to no effect. He once showed me a poem he wrote while standing at the gate of his house, observing the beauty of a scene where Lambada women labourers carried loads upon their heads, their swaying bra-less bosoms matching the rhythmic sound of their anklets. I do not know what happened to that piece of paper and would love to see it again.
When asked about his heavy duty reading schedule, George said that it went way back to his high school days when he would regularly bunk classes and bury himself in the City Central Library
at Himayatnagar, where he devoured all the classics they had on their bookshelves.

7. Groups and circles
George had the ability to simultaneously engage and interact with multiple groups in different contexts and keep them in separate compartments.
The Engg. College group consisted of his brother Cyril, Mahipal, Rajiah, Yadagiri and some others. ‘Daya Canteen’ in the Engg. College main building was the nerve centre for this group. They were a brazen, well-knit, confident lot. This was the daredevil group that was involved in supporting and providing the cutting edge to George Reddy in all the campus clashes and face-offs with the opposing factions and their hired goon squads. The OU Science & Arts College group regulars consisted of the likes of Vijay Kulkarni, Sharma and Ajay Sinha, who identified more with the intellectual side of George. Many of his M.Sc. classmates were working as Physics faculty in various university affiliated colleges and would come to look him up, once in a while. Due to his academic honors, some of the junior post grad students like Salauddin Razi and Shankar, would also keep in touch with him, though more from the Physics angle.
He was always trying to attract and inspire new youngsters like Javeed, Ramani, Srikrishnan,Pradeep, Mazher, Aniruddha and many others, through discussion groups, book reading and study circles. His approachability, friendly disposition, knowledge and simplicity was a huge plus point in his favor and gave him the force of magnetic attraction.
We never discussed much about caste, community and religion as George felt that “Religion is the opium of the people” and was totally against organized religion of any kind. However, I felt that he was in the process of engaging with some students and youth from the Dalit fraternity to help them sharpen their perspective from caste consciousness to one of class consciousness.
He made regular appearances at a cycle shop in Himayatnagar in the evenings at a scheduled time and there was a set of people who would meet him there. The same was true of the Narayanguda Taj Mahal hotel which was an informal hub for budding mainstream politicians. In Sultan Bazaar he sometimes met with Prakash Chandra, a school and college batch-mate, S.N. Kabra, an M.Sc. batchmate, Iqbal and Sultan, both local shopkeepers.
I must also mention the loyal “Sharif Bhai“, a wiry, sneering guy, who mostly swore instead of conversing. He was, during the last year of George’s life, a constant personal companion and odd job man. Sharif was holding a clerical job in the science labs of one of the universities affiliated colleges. He was also a regular at gambling clubs and I supposed he had other associated activities. Until today I have not figured out how “the twain happened to meet”.

8. Portrait of George Reddy
What did George himself look like? He was of medium height, about 5‘ 6“, athletic, with a strong grip of a wheat complexion. Most of the time he sported a beard but on occasion would be clean-shaven sporting only a trim moustache. His hair was normally combed with a left side parting, but sometimes he reversed this style. While he wore half-sleeved bushshirts, towards the later part he preferred a full sleeved olive green shirt with wide pockets worn with cotton jeans and rubber slippers. He used reading glasses.
While he had a very limited set of clothes, they were always cleanly washed and manually pressed. He shunned alcohol and tobacco, his food habits were simple, Spartan, and very timely. Towards his last few months he had started skipping a meal every day in empathy with those who went hungry to bed every night. Thrifty and frugal, he used everything carefully, with economy and efficiency. Nowhere was this more evident than when he put pen to paper. You could see hardly any white space left.
His exercise routine consisted of warming up followed by push-ups, sit-ups, back bends, abdominal crunches and martial art steps. Aware of his vulnerability to be set upon by goons, he always carried a knuckle duster and a 6" switchblade knife. He mostly conversed in English and the Hyderabadi dialect (with the customary sprinkling of swear words, a habit which was he consciously trying to overcome). I have never seen him converse in Telugu, but he was in the process of teaching himself the formal written and spoken versions of the Hindi and Telugu languages; and given his voracious capacity to absorb new things, he would have mastered them in no time.
As far I could remember, he always travelled by city buses, covering the ‘last mile’ on foot, though he would once in a while ride pillion with some student or colleague, and only on very rare occasions travel in someone’s car or use a cab. He was an excellent teacher and during the interval between his M. Sc. and the approval of his Research grant, he taught Physics at AV College as a lecturer. He bought books with his savings. In the latter part of 1971 George was featured in a documentary film on student unrest in Indian campuses in which he appeared in his olive green shirt, beard and all. I watched this documentary film in the OU Tagore auditorium. If one could get hold of this film we can see him in flesh and blood again, although only as an image on the screen.

9. Death at age 25
On the evening of 14th April 1972, George died from multiple stab wounds (32, if I recollect right) inflicted in broad daylight, near the OU Engg. College hostel, by a gang of armed students from an opposing faction, who had buttressed their forces with hired killers from the bootlegging underworld. Going there to assist a college student who was being intimidated, threatened, and roughed up, George was surrounded pounced upon, and furiously battered by the fully armed gang, and repeatedly stabbed by multiple persons. He died on the spot. Though he fought them off bravely, it would have been a miracle had he came out of there alive. All this took place in full view of the police posse posted just outside the college hostel to prevent just such an incident. If one could pinpoint a weakness in George, ironically, it would be his utter contempt for danger. It appeared almost as if he had ‘transcended fear’. It is said that Fidel Castro, while describing Guevara as an intelligent, daring, and exemplary leader who "had great moral authority over his troops”, further remarked that Guevara took too many risks, even having a "tendency toward foolhardiness”.
There was immediate and widespread outrage on the news of this killing. The police released the body after a post mortem and it was taken to his modest home. The entire family and his large body of friends, well-wishers and sympathizers were in a state of shock. Students from all parts of the city came to get a glimpse of the body and there were long lines building up. Politicians from the ruling party as well as the Left parties, also came to pay their respects and expressed their outrage and condemnation. Such was his charisma, that the burial procession was a sea of humanity and thousands accompanied the cortege to the cemetery, where he was finally laid to rest – many shouting slogans, some silently grieving, some tearful, many too angry unable to speak, all with a sense of disbelief at what had occurred.
The killers went into hiding and finally surrendered to the police. The murder trial itself turned out be a farce – all the accused being acquitted on a mere technicality. The concrete testimony of eye witnesses, who were present, was of course, completely ignored. I do not recollect the entire details about the case, but on a few occasions when some of us attended the courtroom proceedings,  hired goons of the accused sought to intimidate and threaten us. It was widely believed that key members of the judiciary and police were either bribed or coerced or both.
In the last few months before his death, George had come into contact with revolutionary intellectuals of many persuasions, professional trade unionists, student activists, youth leaders, and representatives of Indian revolutionary organizations. I think these were at the initiative of the latter, who sought him out and wanted to win him over to support and join their particular entity.
The discussions centred on the strategy of how to organize and carry forward the peoples’ liberation struggle in India. Many disagreed with George’s ‘Guevarista’ approach, terming it unsuitable for Indian conditions. They advocated the relevance and significance of building mass movements, of relentless propaganda, agitations on economic issues, integrating the working class movements, while at the same time funding and building a revolutionary organization. In particular he seemed to be impressed with a couple of individuals, saying “if this is the calibre, commitment and sheer dedication of these persons, I am convinced that my place is with them”. However, there is not enough known about this matter to conclude that he had thrown in his lot with one or the other entity. But it was clear that he had made up his mind to “cross the Rubicon” and give up his much-loved Physics research in favour full time work 'in the trenches’.
This is particularly important to underscore, as in the years after his death, the Revolutionary movement in Andhra Pradesh welled up strongly and many organizations claimed his legacy. It was commonplace to see him being praised as a hero and martyr, in gatherings of rival organizations. Anyway, as a result, George Reddy was transformed into a powerful symbol of the democratic, progressive and radical student protest in the state, and a memorial debates, anniversaries and related gatherings in his remembrance continued to be held regularly. Many students, youth, activists and others, who went on to play key leadership roles, proudly acknowledge the influence George Reddy had on them.

10. Epilogue
His vision and credo stemmed from Karl Marx’s historic words “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” and he sincerely believed that he should exert very ounce of energy, every sinew and muscle, till his last breath to work towards realizing this dream, both for India and the world. He was a revolutionary in the making and was preparing himself to play a key role in the liberation struggle of the Indian peasantry and downtrodden classes. He never tired of quoting one of his favourite passages from Che Guevara’s writings:
Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms.”
Steven Spielberg produced a movie series titled “Back to the Future” based on the modern physics theories about multiple simultaneous universes in action. Sometimes, in idle moments, I have stretched this concept to indulge in some wishful thinking about an alternative scenario – had George Reddy lived on, how would he have responded to the unprecedented historical events that unfolded in the past 4 decades? Independent Vietnam, Collapse of the Soviet Union, Chinese Capitalism, Global Terrorism, Islamic Fundamentalism, Middle East Crises, Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Globalization of Capital, Population Explosion, Irreversible Environmental Damage, and so on…. Would his participation have led to a different outcome from India’s own multi-layered peoples’ movements? Would he have surely been martyred sooner than later or survived to be 65 years old today? No one is expected to know – it was a hypothetical universe!! Some of his professors, peers, colleagues, and friends were of the opinion that had he continued his researches in Theoretical Physics, he would surely have gone on to win a Nobel Prize. But he chose instead, another, truly arduous path, stemming from his convictions and sustained by something akin to ‘missionary zeal’.
Would I have preferred him to see him alive today as a famous physicist, our own Einstein, or should I rationalize that at least I caught a whiff of the flower’s scent just in time, before it was nipped in the bud? I don’t know – it’s a hypothetical question!!
But, to have known such a person who so completely transformed himself, to live and strive for something immeasurably larger than his own self is indeed a rare privilege bestowed on me.
I have very often wondered why memories and impressions of George Reddy are so clearly imprinted in my mind, as if they happened only very recently. Especially, since, for nearly 35 years
I have been am far removed from any political, social or public arena. I have developed my own views of the world, which are far from revolutionary and I judge myself guilty for not being able to practise even an iota of the values and principles George lived by.
But, somehow, I can never forget the sight of him, clad in his trademark olive green shirt, top button open, in jeans and Hawaii slippers, a book by his side, glasses in his shirt pocket, perched on the rock at ‘Banda’ canteen stunning a group of youngsters with his intellect, commitment, passion and sincerity.
I cannot end this narrative, in any other fashion, other than by recalling that George, when quizzed “Aakhir Kyoon? “ (what’s all this for?), would quote Che Guevara’s description of himself:
Many will call me an adventurer - and that I am, only one of a different sort, one of those who risks his skin to prove his platitudes”.

Author: Asvini Kumar, Alumnus (1973, Spl. B.Sc. ( Physics), University College of Science, Osmania University , Hyderabad
© Asvini Kumar 2012 - All Rights reserved  

With permission of the author: original at:

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