The outskirts of Husnabad town should be the ideal venue for a crash course on the Naxal movement in Telangana in the 1990s. On private land in Ankapeta Road, north Telangana, lies the ruins of a huge column—the largest martyr’s memorial constructed by the People’s War Group (PWG) and its sympathisers.
In 1990, when M. Chenna Reddy was the chief minister of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, Naxals were allowed free movement for about a year. This window came to be known as the ‘legal period’. During the legal period, Husnabad Dalam of the PWG decided to erect an 87-feet-tall column in memory of 87 Naxal sympathisers from Karimnagar district, who had sacrificed their lives for the cause.
During the construction, tragedy struck. The wet soil caved in and portion of the column collapsed. One construction worker died and a few were injured. The local PWG members then decided to increase the height of the column to 88 feet, to honour the worker who had died in the accident. Granite was brought from Rajasthan, and construction was completed within three months.
“On the day the memorial was inaugurated, PWG members kidnapped three government officers to ensure that there would be no disturbance from the police. They were later released,” recalled Fazal Rahman, a journalist with a Telugu daily, who was posted there during that time. “It was a historical event, and thousands attended it. There was heavy rain, because of which the stage almost collapsed. Many volunteered spontaneously, and held the stage till the programme ended.”
As encounters and violence resumed, groups supported by the police made attempts to blast the memorial. In the first attempt, the memorial suffered minor damage; in the second attempt, most of the structure was brought down. The Naxals did pressure the government to rebuild it, without success.
“Since the Maoist influence has come down, and there are no more sympathisers in the area, the younger generation does not know much about the site. We do not even get any tourists, who are curious about the column,” said K. Ramakrishna, a local trader.