Kondapalli Koteswaramma: A Century of Struggle

kondalpalli
Comrade Kondapalli Koteswaramma

COMRADE Kondapalli Koteswaramma passed away on 19 September 2018 - having completed 100 years of her life on 5 August 2018. She had been a freedom fighter, a communist activist, a feminist, a writer and a poet.

She was born on 5th August 1918 in Pamarru village near Vijayawada in a middle class family. She was married to her uncle (mother’s brother) at the age of five and became a widow at the age of seven. She went to school later and studied till Class VIII. Her family was actively involved in the independence movement and Koteswaramma also started participating in the struggle. At the age of 10, she placed her jewellery at the feet of Mahatma Gandhi in Vijayawada, and joined the Congress party. But she was later attracted to the ideology of Bhagat Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose, and disillusioned with the Congress’ opposition to these figures.

Encouraged by Comrade Chandra Rajeswara Rao, Koteswaramma, at the age of 18, married Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, a leader of the Communist Party of India. They had two children Karuna and Chandrasekhar. At the time of the Telangana armed peasant movement she went underground for more than two years leaving the children.

She and Kondapalli separated from each other when she was 37. At that age, she rebuilt her life, revived her studies, completed matriculation and provided for her children by working as a hostel warden in a government polytechnic at Kakinada.

While studying, she used to earn by writing plays - and even at this time of severe economic hardship, she would regularly send ten rupees per month as levy to the party.

She was an active organiser in the Praja Natya Mandali and used write songs, poems and short stories. Her books include Amma Cheppina Aidu Kadhalu (1972), Ashru Sameekshanam (1991), Sanghamitra Kathalu (1991) and her own autobiography Nirjana Vaaradhi (2012) which she wrote at the age of 92, and which won her a Telugu Sahitya Academy award.

Koteswaramma’s son, a student at REC Warangal and an active revolutionary, was kidnapped and killed by the police. Her daughter Karuna and her son-in-law died untimely, and she brought up her grandchildren.  

On her 100th birthday, her family and well-wishers held a celebration of her life at Hawa Mahal Visakhapatnam beach which was attended by women leaders of all streams, writers, rights activists, and leaders of left and democratic movements from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Speaking on the occasion, Koteswaramma called for a stronger civil liberties movement to match the attacks on rights in these times. She spoke about how communists in Vijaywada used to resist sexual harassment of women on streets, in her youth.  And she expressed hope that youth would come forward to fight for a better society.

Red Salute to Comrade Koteswaramma!