Sardar Gouthu Latchanna (16 August 1909 – 19 April 2006) was a veteran freedom fighter from India.
“It is an inspiration for the younger generation to learn about Sardar Gouthu Latchanna’s dedication and selfless service to the nation.”
– Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Former Prime Minister of India, New Delhi, 8 August 1998.
“Latchanna is essentially a humanist and spokesman of the suffering humanity of India. He is not only a champion of humanism in theory, on platform and in the press, but also a tireless and sincere practitioner of humanism”.
– Prof. N. G. Ranga.
“Sardar Gouthu Latchanna is a revered freedom fighter. His life of self-abnegation and service for the down-trodden is a model for all of us, and in particular the youth to draw inspiration and to emulate”.
– P. V. Narasimha Rao, Former Prime Minister of India, New Delhi, 1992.
Dr. Gouthu Latchanna was born in Baruva village of the Sompeta mandal, Srikakulam district in the state of Andhra Pradesh on 16 August 1909. He was the eighth child of Chittaiah, a toddy tapper and Rajamma. He married Yashodha Devi, who died in 1996.
He died at the age of 98 in Visakhapatnam on 19 April 2006 and is survived by son Shyama Sunder Sivaji, who is MLA from Sompeta, and two daughters Jhansi and Sushila
He was a champion of kisans, backward classes, weaker sections and one of the most prominent leaders of his time. He was arrested at a very young age of 21 when he participated in the Salt Satyagraha at Palasa. Latchanna also participated in the Quit India Movement. He was conferred the tile of sardar for his fearless fight against the British Raj.
He was the born leader of masses, freedom fighter and social reformer. Till Independence, he fought against British. After the end of British Raj, it was on political and social fronts for the sake of farmers, labourers,and the working class. He founded Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) – a trade union to represent the industrial class as a founding president and was also the member of Madras Trade Union Board.He was instrumental in bringing down the government of Prakasham Panthulu on the issues of prohibition.
He participated in swaraj movement right from age of 21 with Salt Satyagraha at Palasa, and subsequently was arrested in connection with salt-cotaursraid at Naupada in April 1930. As an undertrail, he was sent to Tekkali and Narasannapeta sub-jails in Srikakulam. After conviction, he was sent to Berhampur jail in Ganjam to undergo rigorous imprisonment for one month. After the Gandhi–Irwin Pact in 1931, he organised Satyagraha camp at Baruva and conducted picketing of toddy, liquor, and foreign cloth shops in Ichchapuram, Sompeta and Tekkali as permitted by the British Government as part of the Gandhi–Irwin Pact. In 1932, he participated in the civil disobedience movement by hoisting the Congress flag at Baruva, was lathi-charged for violating prohibitory orders and was imprisoned in Rajahmundry central jail for six months.
In 1932, after getting released from Rajahmundry jail, having been inspired by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s “fast-unto-death” on the issue of untouchability, Latchanna organised “Harijan Seva Sangam” at Baruva. He started a night school in the harijan-cheri, agitated at the district level against untouchability, and took harijans to a drinking water well at Baruva. He and his colleagues were socially boycotted in response.
As a secretary of Andhra Rashtra Congree Committee, he organised a reception at Eluru for the soldiers of Azad Hind Fauz, revived by Subhas Chandra Bose.Latchanna participated in the Quit India Movement in 1942, which ultimately led to violent raids on the Kalingapatnam post office, armoury train derailment in his native village Baruva, no-tax campaign, and raids on srikakulam sub-collector offices. Then Madras government announced the prize of 10,000 rupees for whereabout information of Latchanna, failing to trace him, government issued orders for shoot-at-sight.While underground he was invited for the South Indian Congress leaders meeting at Madras. Latchanna and Killi Appala Naidu started proceeding to Madras. A message about this was sent by Andhra Congress dictator Sampath Kumar through Jayanthi Dharma Teja, which led to the arrest of Latchanna at Rajahmundry in 1943 while he was on his way to Madras. Latchanna was sentenced for one year for possessing seditious literature and sent to Alipuram camp jail while Killi Appala Naidu was sent as a detenue to Tanjavur central jail.Immediately after the release from Alipuram camp jail, he was re-arrested at the gate and sent to Cannanore central jail, Tanjavur central jail and then to Rayavellore jail. He was finally released from Rayavellore jail in October 1945.
With imprisonment in Rajahmundry central jail aftermath the civil disobedience in 1932, he came in contact with revolutionists like Vijay Kumar Sinha (Bijoy Kumar Sinha) and Siva Verma who were life imprisoned in Lahore Conspiracy Case in connection with Bhagat Singh who were also imprisoned in the same block in which Latchanna was imprisoned.Siva Verma and B.J. Sinha were transferred from Cellular Jail to Rajahmundry central prison aftermath the fast-unto-death in demand for separate treatment for political prisoners. Latchanna along with Andhra colleagues like Anne Anjayya and Alluri Satyanarayanaraju used to have long discussions in prison about “Indian Republic Revolutionary Party” organisation. They decided to start the similar revolutionary party in Andhra after their release. As Latchanna was released with 6 months conviction before his Andhra colleagues who were convicted for one year, he and his colleagues decided to meet again to start revolutionary party after release too. In the meantime, Latchanna went to Cuttack, Kharagpur, Tatanagar, and Calcutta to meet the “Indian Republic Revolutionary Party” leaders for joining their movement as promised to Siva Verma and B.K. Sinha. By the time he went, all the revolutionary party members were either arrested or went underground. During this time, he fell ill in Tatanagar and was brought back home by his brother from Tatanagar
Around 1932, after his return from Tatanagar to Baruva, Latchanna participated in the foot-march of Rythu-Rakshana call given by N. G. Ranga from Varanasi of parlakimide estate to Chatrapur. He organised estate wise “Zamindari Rythu” associations, organised indirect no-tax campaign, fought for the abolition of Zamindari system on the plea that Kisans were unable to pay the heavy land revenue levied.
In 1940, he organised All India Kisan Sabha at Palasa which were attended by Pullela Syama Sundara Rao, N. G. Ranga, Sahajanand Saraswati, and Indulal Yagnik. The committee took the long reception of tens and thousands of hill tribals and kisans with an effigy of Zamindari system and got it burnt publicly. It was followed by public meeting of the All India Kisan Sabha violating the prohibitory orders of then Composite Madras government.Immediately, after the All India Kisan Sabha at Palasa, the “Mandasa Ryots” under the leadership of lady “Veeragunnamma” of Gudari Rajamanipuram, took out a procession with their bullock carts into the forest of the Mandasa Zamindari, cut trees and took them to their villages openly by driving away the estate forest guards. This led to the arrest of kisans by police under subcollector of Srikakulam. Veeragunnamma died in aftermath police firing when she surrounded sub collector office for the release of kisans.Latchanna along with Syama Sundara Rao visited Mandasa village to talk with sub collector, but were denied interview. Latchanna visited the village and opened a defence camp at Haripuram to prevent police harassment of kisans. When police were finding it difficult in preparing charge sheet against kisans, Latchanna was interned at his native village, Baruva. In spite of intensive vigilance, Latchanna toured the villages during nights and exhorted public. This secret assistance forced district collector in ordering the detention of Latchanna, which he escaped by going underground. While underground, he fought the case and got the case struck down from sessions court
In 1941 when Rangoon was bombarded during Second World War, Latchanna in spite of being underground, arranged “Burma refugee’s conference” at Narasannapeta, presided by N.G. Ranga to assist the Indian labourers in Burma who fled to their native land, India. As a result of this conference, the then Madras government was obliged to provide relief to the evacuees by constituting “Burma evacuees relief committee”.
He was the founder and president of the Andhra State Unit of the Indian National Trade Union Congress, which he continued till 1955. He was the president of Shipyard Labour Union at Visakhapatnam and was instrumental in organising strikes, getting pay scale hikes and introduction of service grades for the workers.
On the third day after his marriage, he was obliged to proceed to Rangoon to get the Indian labourers released who were in the concentration camps aftermath the assassination of Aung San
In 1948, he presided over first Andhra backward classes conference at Guntur and decided to achieve legitimate rights and privileges embodied in the Constitution of India covering reservations and directives for their social, economical, and education development. Consequently, he took statewide tours and organised district backward classes associations, which made him designated as champion of backward classes and was considered one of the prominent leaders of his time. In 1957 after the formation of united Andhra Pradesh, chief justice of Andhra Pradesh high court struck down the list of Other Backward Classes approved by government of Andhra Pradesh acting on a private complaint. Latchanna started a statewide agitation for the restoration of list of Other Backward Classes, a statutory obligation under the Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution of India. List of Other Backward Classes were restored when Damodaram Sanjivayya became chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. High Court again struck down the list of Other Backward Classes for including Kapu community in the Other Backward Classes. Latchanna again, started statewide agitation and demanded the government of Andhra Pradesh to renew the publication of backward classes list by omitting Kapu. The case finally went to Supreme Court of India to be represented by advocate P. Shiv Shankar on behalf of government along with an advocate appointed by Latchanna on behalf of Andhra Pradesh backward classes association. Supreme Court of India gave a favourable judgement asking the government of Andhra Pradesh to publish the list of backward classes caste wise establishing their social and economical backwardness. In consequence, the Government of Andhra Pradesh appointed the “Ananta Raman Commission” which recommended the list of Backward Classes by dividing them into 4 groups as A, B,C & D.
After N. T. Rama Rao came to power in Andhra Pradesh, when he cancelled Backward Classes scholarship grants against his election manifesto including cancellations of licenses of the toddy tappers co-operative societies for public auctions, Latchanna took serious objection and did satyagraha on behalf of the backward classes students and toddy tappers co-operative societies for cancelling public auctions. During N. T. Rama Rao regime with statewide agitations, Latchanna was arrested more than 14 times forcing him to take fast-unto-death to accomplish the demands.After Nadendla Bhaskara Rao overthrown N. T. Rama Rao regime through coupe, Nadendla Bhaskara Rao fulfilled the demands of Latchanna.
From 1984, disgusted with opportunistic politics of different political parties, Latchanna mostly concentrated in raising awareness among oppressed classes using his monthly publication “Bahujana”. He tried to join Bahujan Samaj Party under the leadership of Kanshiram for the upliftment to Schedule Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes. He announced his joining in Bahujan Samaj Party in 1994 at Hyderabad, but couldn’t join the Bahujan Samaj Party due to certain ideological differences which were against backward classes of Andhra Pradesh, as he felt, Kanshiram was trying to exploit backward classes for only votes.
He was member of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly for 35 years from Sompeta constituency between 1948–83 and once member of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council. Latchanna had won both the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections from Srikakulam district in 1967. But he resigned his Lok Sabha membership to facilitate the election of his political mentor late N.G. Ranga.He was first elected to Assembly in 1948 from Visakhapatnam on labour ticket and served as Minister for Agriculture and Labour. He left Congress party in 1951 and was arrested during emergency in 1975 imposed by then prime minister Smt. Indira Gandhi. He later joined Lok Dal party and then to Janata Dal party under the leadership of former prime ministers Charan Singh and Vishwanath Pratap Singh respectively.
He initially got elected as president of then Ganjam district Congress Committee. He became member of Andhra Rashtra Congress Committee and All India Congress Committee from 1934 to 1951. From 1946 to 1951, he was elected as joint secretary of Andhra Rashtra Congress Committee. As secretary of Andhra Congress Sevadal, he conducted Congress Sevadal Officer’s Training Camp for both men and women at Palasa in Srikakulam.
During 1946 Madras assembly elections, he was denied congress ticket against the wishes of congress workers on the pretext of being violent when underground. Instead, Latchanna made Rokkam Rammurthy Naidu get the nomination and played a decisive role in getting him elected. When Latchanna was in Rangoon, Babu Rajendra Prasad sent a telegram to Latchanna to file nomination for Visakhapatnam by-election from Indian National Congress in 1948. He was elected to Madras assembly defeating both communist and socialist candidates.
In 1951, he along with Tanguturi Prakasam and N.G. Ranga resigned Congress and organised Hyderabad State Praja Party which was further split into Krishikar Lok Party for peasants with N.G. Ranga as the president and Latchanna as the secretary. In 1952 first General elections of independent India, Latchanna got elected to Madras assembly along with 11 more members in the composite Visakhapatnam district on Krishikar Lok Party ticket by defeating congress candidate. He then became, the leader of Krishikar Lok Party in Madras assembly
Gouthu Latchanna was actively involved in the separate statehood for Andhra through separation from composite Madras from 1953. When government of India constituted a partition committee under C.M. Trivedi, he represented from Krishikar Lok Party, T. Viswanadham from Praja Party and Sanjeeva Reddy from Congress ultimately reached its climax with fast-unto-death sacrifice of Potti Sriramulu. On 1 October 1953 Andhra state was formed with Tanguturi Prakasam as chief minister who rejoined Congress from Praja Party. Latchanna from Krishikar Lok Party joined the cabinet of Tanguturi Prakasam on 11 November 1953 to get the working majority in assembly with Kurnool as capital.Latchanna resigned from Tanguturi Prakasam on issue of state capital in 1954
In 1954, with the enactment of Prohibition Act, the excise department harassed lakhs of toddy tappers who were thrown out of employment. Latchanna organised and led the tappers satyagraha to secure rehabilitation for the unemployed tappers. More than 6000 toddy tappers court arrested and sent to jail. Yashodadevi, wife of Latchanna did satyagraha in Guntur with 25,000 tappers. Finally, when Latchanna passed no-confidence motion against Tanguturi Prakasam government, the government fell leading to mid-term elections. Tanguturi Prakasam, however had offered a ministerial berth with full power, was categorically rejected by Latchanna. With mid-term elections on hand, prime minister and president of Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru convinced N. G. Ranga, president of Krishikar Lok Party to merge with Congress to fight Combined Communist party. That merger was categorically rejected by Latchanna. Finally when Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to rehabilitate toddy tappers with their conventional tapping on co-operative basis and written agreement offer to oppose Congress in Visakhapatnam district, merger of Krishikar Lok Party in Congress to create “United Congress Front” had materialised.
After mid-term elections, “United Congress Front” defeated communists successfully. Latchanna joined the cabinet of Bezawada Gopala Reddy
After Hyderabad State was annexed into the Indian union of states, Telugu speaking districts of Telangana were merged into Andhra state to be called Andhra Pradesh on 1 November 1956. Latchanna as the minister of former Andhra state, was the signatory of Gentlemen’s agreement to safeguard the interests and prevent discrimination against Telangana in 1956. Owing to the personal differences with Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, he was not taken into cabinet in the newly formed Andhra Pradesh state.
Latchanna took an active part in the agitation for the separate statehood of Telangana for which intensive Criminal Investigation Department team monitoring was initiated on him by the state along with Marri Chenna Reddy and Mallikarjun Goud. When the agitation took a serious and violent turn, prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi visited Hyderabad and succeeded in making Marri Chenna Reddy call off the agitation.
Later, Latchanna took active part in the creation of “Andhra Pradesh Democratic Front” along with Congress dissident Marri Chenna Reddy and socialist leader P.V.G.Raju. In 1958, when C. Rajagopalachari, president of Swatantra Party visited Hyderabad, Latchanna joined Swatantra Party by dissolving “Andhra Pradesh Democratic Front”. Latchanna was taken into executive committee and parliamentary board of the Swatantra Party as vice-president in 1959. In 1962, Latchanna started state wise agitation against enactment of 100% enhancement of land revenue and filed a writ petition in high court of Andhra Pradesh leading to the declaration as null and void by the high court.