Alluri Sitarama Raju
Alluri Sita Rama Raju statue.jpg
Alluri's statue at the Tank Bund Road
Born(1897-07-04)4 July 1897
Died7 May 1924(1924-05-07) (aged 26)
Koyyuru, Madras Presidency, British India
(present-day Andhra Pradesh, India)
Cause of deathSummary execution
Resting placeKrishnadevipeta, Andhra Pradesh, India
Known forRampa Rebellion of 1922
TitleManyam Veerudu

Alluri Sitarama Raju (4 July 1897 – 7 May 1924)[1] was an Indian revolutionary who waged an armed campaign against British colonial rule in India. Born in present-day Andhra Pradesh, he became involved in opposing the British in response to the 1882 Madras Forest Act, which effectively restricted the free movement of Adivasis (tribal communities) in their forest habitats and prevented them from practicing a traditional form of agriculture known as podu. Rising discontent towards the British led to the Rampa Rebellion of 1922, in which he played a major part as a leader. Mustering a force combined of Adivasis, farmers and sympathizers to their cause, he engaged in guerilla campaigns against the British colonial authorities in the border regions of the Madras Presidency part of the districts of East Godavari and Visakhapatnam (now part of Alluri Sitharama Raju district). He was nicknamed "Manyam Veerudu" (transl. Hero of the Jungle) by local villagers for his heroic exploits.[2]

Harnessing widespread discontent towards British colonial rule in the backdrop of the non-cooperation movement, he led his forces against the British, aiming to expel them from the Eastern Ghats region through his guerilla campaigns. During this period, he led numerous raids on local police stations to acquire firearms for his under-equipped forces. After each raid, he would leave behind a letter written by him, informing the police about the details of his raids, including about the weaponry he parted away with, daring them to stop him if they can. Police stations in and around the areas of Annavaram, Addateegala, Chintapalle, Dammanapalli, Krishna Devi Peta, Rampachodavaram, Rajavommangi, and Narsipatnam were all targeted by his forces in raids which also saw significant police casualties. In response to these raids, and in order to quench the rebellion, the British colonial authorities undertook a nearly two-year long manhunt for him, resulting in expenditures reaching over ₹40 Lakh rupees then. Eventually, in 1924, he was trapped by the British at the village of Koyyuru in the Chintapalle forests. There, he was captured, tied to a tree and summarily executed by a firing squad. His resting place currently lies in the village of Krishnadevipeta.

Biography

Birth and childhood

Alluri Sitarama Raju was born into a Telugu speaking family, in the current state of Andhra Pradesh, India. His father, Venkata Rama Raju, was a professional photographer, who settled in the town of Rajamundry for his vocation, and his mother, Surya Narayanamma was a pious homemaker.[3][4][5][6]

His date of birth is disputed, with some sources reporting it as 4 July 1897,[3][7] and others as 4 July 1898.[4][8] Details of his place of birth vary, as an official report suggests he was born in Bhimavaram,[4] with several other sources citing it to be the village of Mogallu in West Godavari District.[9][10][7] New reports suggest the village of Pandrangi in Bheemunipatnam is his precise place of birth.[11]

Venkata Rama Raju was a free spirited man, with immense self respect, and great love for freedom. He once chided a young Rama Raju for practicing the then prevalent custom of Indian people saluting the Europeans acknowledging their superiority. He died when his son was eight.[3]

Early life and education

He completed his primary education and joined High school in Kakinada, where he became a friend of Madduri Annapurnaiah (1899–1954), who later grew up to be another prominent Indian revolutionary. In his teens, Rama Raju, in accordance with his reticent and meditative nature, contemplated taking up Sannyasa. At age 15, he moved to his mother's home town of Visakhapatnam and enrolled at Mrs. A.V.N. College for the fourth form exam. While there, he often visited far flung areas in the Visakhapatnam district, and became familiar with the struggles of the tribal people there.[12]

Around this time, he became friend of a rich man and developed platonic love, for his friend's sister, named Sita, whose untimely demise left him heartbroken. In order to make her memory eternal, Rama Raju then prefixed her name to his, and came to be popularly known as Sita Rama Raju. He eventually dropped out of college without completing his course. At this instance his uncle Rama Krishnam Raju, a tehsildar in Narsapur of the West Godavari district, under whose tutelage he grew up so far, brought him to Narasapur and admitted him to the local Taylor High School. He however later gave up his schooling, but privately mastered the literature of Telugu, Sanskrit, Hindi and English languages. Contemporary reports indicate that although he had an undistinguished education, he took a particular interest in astrology, herbalism, palmistry and Equestrianism, before becoming a sannyasi at the age of 18.[13][10]

Growth as leader

Indicative of his future as a leader, Alluri in his high school days was often found riding his uncle's horses to distant hilly places, and familiarising himself with the various problems being faced by different tribes, who were then living under British colonial rule. He was particularly moved on seeing the hardships of the Koyas, a hill tribal people. Fond of Pilgrimage, in his teens, after leaving formal schooling, he visited Gangotri and Nasik, birth places of the holy rivers, Ganga and Godavari. During his travels in the country, he met revolutionaries in Chittagong, on seeing the socio-economic conditions of people, particularly those of the tribals, he was severely appalled and decided to build a movement for their independence from British rule. He then settled down on the Papi hills near Godavari District, an area with a high density of tribal populations.[14][15]

Sitarama Raju initially practiced various spiritual disciplines to gain moral stature and spiritual power. During this time, the efforts of Christian missionaries to gain converts by any means amongst the hill tribes annoyed him, as he saw it as a tool to perpetuate imperialism. He continued living an austere life, with bare minimum needs amongst the tribal people. Taking only items like fruits and honey from them, he would return much of everything offered to him, with his blessings. Very soon his charismatic nature gained him a reputation among the tribals of being someone possessed with holy powers, even a messianic status, a reputation that was bolstered both by myths he created about himself, and by his acceptance of ones about him that were established by others, including those concerning his reputed invincibility.[16] [10]

Noting the grievances of the tribals, and finding solutions to their problems, he started to organise and educate them about their rights, and prepared them for a fight against the oppression and tyranny of the forest and revenue officials, missionaries and police. Touring the forest terrains, he gained extensive knowledge of the geographical features, which helped him in his future as a Guerrilla Warfare tactician. Around this time, when the British authorities confiscated their ancestral properties, the Koya tribal brothers, Mallam Dora and Ghantam Dora, who were freedom fighters, joined the ranks of Rama Raju and became his lieutenants. As the oppressive practices of the British continued to become unbearable, and rebellion became the last option for people to live free, Rama Raju became their natural leader. The Government then did tried to win him over by offering 60 Acres of fertile land for his Ashram, but he rejected them and stood by the people.[17][18]

Rampa Freedom struggle (1922-1924)

Origins

After the passing of the 1882 Madras Forest Act, in an attempt to exploit the economic value of wooded areas, its restrictions on the free movement of tribal people in the forests prevented them from engaging in their traditional podu agricultural system, a form of subsistence economy which involved the system of Shifting cultivation.[19] The changes meant that they will face starvation, and their main means of avoiding it was to engage in the demeaning, arduous, foreign and exploitative coolie system, being used by the government and its contractors for such things as road construction.[10][20]

Around the same time as the Act, the Raj authorities had also emasculated the traditional hereditary role of the muttadars, who had until then been the de facto rulers in the hills as tax collectors for the plains-living rajas.[21] These people were now reduced to the role of mere civil servants, with no overarching powers, no ability to levy taxes at will, and no right to inherit their position. Thus, the cultivators and the tax collectors, who once would have been in opposition to each other, were instead now broadly aligned in their disaffection with colonial power.[10]

Rama Raju harnessed this discontent of the tribal people to support his anti-colonial zeal, whilst accommodating the grievances of those muttadars sympathetic to his cause, rather than those who were selfish in their pursuit of a revived status for themselves. This meant that most of his followers were from the tribal communities, but also included some significant people from the muttadar class, who at one time had exploited them, although many muttadars remained ambivalent about fighting for what he perceived to be the greater good.[10]

Alluri adopted aspects from the Non-cooperation movement, such as promoting temperance, and the boycott of colonial courts in favour of local justice, administered by panchayat courts, to attract people's support. Although the movement died out in early 1922, it had reached the plains area by then, as he was involved in the propagation of some of its methods among the hill people, to raise their political consciousness, and desire for change. These actions caused him to be put under the surveillance of police, from around February of that year, although the fact that he was using them as a camouflage to foment armed uprising seems to have not been recognised by either the movement, or the political leadership of the British.[10]

Actions

With his supporters, he built strong and powerful troops of fighters. Sporting traditional weaponry like bow-and-arrow and spears, and employing tactics like using whistles and beating drums to exchange messages amongst themselves, the revolutionaries managed to achieve spectacular successes initially in their struggle against the British. Realising that traditional weaponry would be of not much use against the British, who were all well equipped with modern firearms, he thought the best way forward is to take them away from the enemy and started launching attacks on police stations.[22]

Beginning in August 1922, he led a troop of 500 people in the plundering, on consecutive days of police stations at Chintapalle, Krishna Devi Peta and Rajavommangi, from which he gained possession of guns and ammunition. He subsequently toured the area, getting more recruits and killing a police officer who was part of a force sent to find him. A hallmark of these raids was that after each attack, he would sign a letter in the stations diary, giving details of the plunder from that station, and would write the date and time of his attack, daring police to stop him if they can.[23][10]

The British struggled in their pursuit of him, partly because of the unfamiliar terrain, and also because of the local people in the sparsely populated areas who were unwilling to help them, and were often outrightly keen to assist he, including with providing shelter and intelligence. While based in the hills, contemporary official reports suggested that the core group of rebels dwindled to between 80 and 100, but this figure rose dramatically whenever they moved to take action against the British because of the involvement of people from the villages.[10][24]

Further deaths occurred on 23 September, when he ambushed a police party from a high position as they went through the Dammanapalli Ghat, killing two officers, cementing his reputation among the disaffected people. There were further two successful attacks against the police during the month, after which the British realised that his style of guerilla warfare would have to be matched with a similar response, and drafted in members from the Malabar Special Police who were trained for such purposes.[10][25] Attempts to persuade local people to inform about or withdraw their support for Rama Raju, through both incentives and reprisals did nothing but further encourage them in their actions.[10] Later raids were carried on the police stations at Annavaram, Addateegala, Narsipatnam and Rampachodavaram.[26]

During these raids, he was ably supported by his trusted assistant named Aggi Raju, whose exploits were considered heroic. As the rebellion continued unabated, detachments of the Assam Rifles regiment were eventually brought in to quell it, but the fight continued for about two years capturing the attention of common people, as well as the powerful officials across the country. To end the rebellion and capture Alluri Sitarama Raju, the then district collectors, Bracken of East Godavari, and R.T. Rutherford of Visakhapatnam, having jurisdiction powers over the areas of rebellion employed all means possible, both fair and foul, from burning villages to destroying crops, killing cattle and violating women, all to no avail.[27]

The agency commissioner, J. R. Higgins announced a monetary reward of Rs 10,000 for the head of Rama Raju, and Rs 1,000 each for his lieutenants Ghantam Dora and Mallam Dora. In April 1924, to quell the ‘Manyam’ uprising, the British Government then deputed T. G. Rutherford, who resorted to employing extreme methods of violence and torture on people to know the whereabouts of Raju and his close followers.[28]

Death and legacy

Alluri's statue in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

After putting up a massive effort for nearly two years, the British finally managed to capture Alluri in the forests of Chintapalle, he was then tied to a tree and executed by shooting on 7 May 1924 in the village of Koyyuru.[27][29][30] A tomb of him currently lies in the village of Krishnadevipeta, near Visakhapatnam.[31] His lietunant, Ghantam Dora was killed on 6 June 1924, his brother Mallam Dora was caught and imprisoned, who after independence became a member of the Indian Lok Sabha.[32]

14th President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, paying floral tribute at the Alluri's statue in Andhra Pradesh
14th President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, paying floral tribute at the Alluri's statue in Andhra Pradesh

The heroic efforts of young Alluri in fighting an all-out war without any state powers, against one of the most powerful empires have been recognised by all. The British Government grudgingly acknowledged him as a powerful tactician of the Guerrilla warfare which lasted for nearly two years, the fact that they had to spend over ₹40 lakhs in those days to defeat him speaks for itself.[33][34]

Alluri on a 1986 post stamp of India
Alluri on a 1986 post stamp of India

The Independent Indian Government released a postal stamp in his honour at the village of Mogallu, considered by many to be his birth place. The Government of Andhra Pradesh, besides building memorials at places associated with his life, granted a political pension to his surviving brother. Mahatma Gandhi paid his tribute to Alluri's life, saying, "Though I do not approve of his armed rebellion, I pay my homage to his bravery and sacrifice." Jawaharlal Nehru commented that, "Raju was one of those few heroes that could be counted on fingers." Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose noted that Alluri was fierce in his determination, and his unparalleled courage and sacrifice for people will ensure him a place in history.[35]

In 2022, the Government of Andhra Pradesh carved out a new district named after Alluri from the erstwhile Visakhapatnam district, with Paderu as its headquarters.[36]

In popular culture

References

  1. ^ NCERT 2008, p. 8.
  2. ^ Dundoo, Sangeetha Devi (24 December 2021). "Rajamouli's cocktail of folklore, fantasy and now, history". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X.
  3. ^ a b c Rao 1991, pp. 13.
  4. ^ a b c Guha, Ranajit (1982). Subaltern studies: writings on South Asian history and society. Oxford University Press. p. 134. ISBN 9780195613551.
  5. ^ Seshadri, K. (1993). Struggle for National Liberation: Role of the Telugu People from Early Days to 1947. Uppal Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-85565-34-7.
  6. ^ Sharma, I. Mallikarjuna (1987). Role of Revolutionaries in the Freedom Struggle: A Critical History of the Indian Revolutionary Movements, 1918–1934. Marxist Study Forum. p. 140.
  7. ^ a b Singh, M. K. (2009). Encyclopaedia Of Indian War Of Independence (1857–1947). Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd. p. 127. ISBN 978-81-261-3745-9.
  8. ^ Pfeffer, Georg; Behera, Deepak Kumar, eds. (1998). Contemporary society: tribal studies : Professor Satya Narayana Ratha felicitation volumes. Vol. 4. Concept Pub. Co. p. 151. ISBN 978-81-7022-738-0.
  9. ^ Rao 1991, pp. 12.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Murali, Atlury (April 1984). "Alluri Sitarama Raju and the Manyam Rebellion of 1922–1924". Social Scientist. 12 (4): 3–33. doi:10.2307/3517081. JSTOR 3517081.
  11. ^ "Pandrangi, Alluri's birthplace, selected under 'adarsh gram'". The Hindu. 14 January 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  12. ^ Rao 2006, p. 35.
  13. ^ Rao 1991, pp. 13–14.
  14. ^ Rao 1991, pp. 14.
  15. ^ "Alluri Seetha Rama Raju: A Folk Hero of Rampa Rebellion". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  16. ^ Rao 1991, pp. 14–15.
  17. ^ Rao 1991, pp. 15.
  18. ^ "Alluri Seetha Rama Raju: A Folk Hero of Rampa Rebellion". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  19. ^ Murali, Atlury (2017). "Tribal Armed Rebellion of 1922–1924 in the Madras Presidency: A Study of Causation as Colonial Legitimation". In Bates, Crispin (ed.). Savage Attack: Tribal Insurgency in India. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-35158-744-0.
  20. ^ NCERT 2008, p. 11.
  21. ^ NCERT 2008, p. 10.
  22. ^ "Alluri Seetha Rama Raju: A Folk Hero of Rampa Rebellion". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  23. ^ "Alluri Seetha Rama Raju: A Folk Hero of Rampa Rebellion". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  24. ^ Mukherjee 2004, p. 74.
  25. ^ Bommala 2001, p. 182.
  26. ^ Mukherjee 2004, p. 137.
  27. ^ a b Rao 1991, pp. 16.
  28. ^ "Alluri Seetha Rama Raju: A Folk Hero of Rampa Rebellion". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  29. ^ V. BalakrishnaG. "Freedom Movement in Andhra Pradesh". Government of India Press Information Bureau. Archived from the original on 13 January 2002. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
  30. ^ Bommala 2001, p. 176.
  31. ^ "Birth anniversary of Alluri celebrated". The Hindu. 5 July 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  32. ^ Rao 1991, pp. 16–17.
  33. ^ "Alluri Sitarama Raju's heroics need nation's attention". The Hindu. 1 January 2022. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  34. ^ "Alluri Seetha Rama Raju: A Folk Hero of Rampa Rebellion". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  35. ^ Rao 1991, pp. 17.
  36. ^ "Andhra district named after Alluri, his memorials in neglect". The New Indian Express. 4 April 2022. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  37. ^ A. S. RAJU. "Indian Post" (26 December 2016). Retrieved on 11 December 2018.
  38. ^ "AP to celebrate 117th birthday of Sri Alluri Sitarama Raju". 2 July 2014. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014.
  39. ^ Nagaraja, G (23 May 2014). "ASR Stadium to get facelift". The Hindu. Eluru. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  40. ^ "Nod for installing Alluri's statue in Parliament". The Hindu. 9 October 2017.
  41. ^ "(T/m) Alluri Sitarama Raju: Buy (T/m) Alluri Sitarama Raju by JAANI at Low Price in India". Flipkart.com. Retrieved 3 January 2021.

Further reading

Sources


  • Murali, Atlury (April 1984). "Alluri Sitarama Raju and the Manyam Rebellion of 1922–1924". Social Scientist. 12 (4): 3–33. doi:10.2307/3517081. JSTOR 3517081.