THE STATUE OF CHITYALA AILAMMA is a recent addition at the Krishna Kanth Park junction, close to my working-class neighbourhood in Hyderabad. The arrival of the towering statue, with her hand holding up a baton, emphasises the mainstreaming of Telangana icons following the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. In the 1940s, Ailamma’s fight for her land became the tipping point for the Telangana People’s Struggle against the Nizam. Long before the appearance of such statues, however, the legend of Ailamma rolled off the tongues of people in the region through songs and stories told by women. Her remarkable story presents one of the rare acknowledgements of Bahujan women in the movement.
Public meetings held by sangham members—as people associated with the communist-dominated Andhra Mahasabha were referred to at the time—typically included songs and performances modelled after the region’s folk culture. These became the cultural medium for the people’s struggle:
Tiragabaddanadu uyyalo, undura ee doralu uyyalo
Oorelli povuduru uyyalo, ee bhumi manadamma uyyalo
The day we revolt, o’ cradle, will these landlords be around, o’ cradle?
They will flee the village, o’ cradle, this land is ours, o’ cradle