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Varanasi
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Alluri Sitharama Raju

One way of imparting self pride in the heart of common citizen is to celebrate the history of nation from all corners. Bharat is fortunate enough in this. Our each corner have its own glorious history. But at one phase of history, all of Bharatiyas were united. All common people took arms against the world’s mighty empire and achieved freedom after two centuries of relentless struggle. In this struggle, many of sons of Bharat Mata martyred. Some were celebrated and many of them are neglected and limited only in local annals. Alluri Sitharama Raju was the one from these neglected annals of history who shook the mighty empire and waged war against the world’s mighty power at that time.

Andhra Pradesh got dense hill forests in abundance. Tribals were the masters and protectors of hilly region especially the Koya tribe. Their occupation was podu cultivation ( shifting farming ) and collection of minor forest produce. They were practising this from the eternity. When British government took control over forests they wanted to extract resources as possible as from the forests . But the tribals were the tough challenge for them in this mission.

In the name of administrative ease , British government divided forest region in two parts- Rampa region and Gudem Region. In these regions, forests of Vishakhapatnam, Godavaris districts and Ganjam district were parts.

British government banned podu cultivation and also usurped the rights of minor forest produce from tribals. Tribals became jobless and started doing jobs as coolie , daily wage workers and labourers. Here too, tribals got persecuted by British. They imposed many burdensome services and forced labours on them which made them miserable. In such chaotic condition, only one name gave them hope, and that name was Alluri Sitharama Raju.

Raju was born in a Kshatriya family of mogallu of West Godavari in 1897. His father passed when he was 6 years old. His uncle then helped his family. Raju studied upto 5th class and never been a bright student. He developed his interest towards astrology and medical herbs. He often visits the hills , where he used to see the miserable condition of tribals.

At the age of 18, he became sanyasi and started wandering into forests. His knowledge in astrology and medical herbs and his reputed ability to tame the wild animals gained for him respect and admiration from tribals. He was revered so much that wherever he go, villagers attended to his needs. As the time passed , his position became semi divine in the eyes of tribals. While healing tribals and solving problems of theirs , Raju witnessed the British tyranny on the tribals and their plight very closely. He then decided to throw the yoke of British tyranny. He started awareness campaign among tribals against the British tyranny.

His close friend described this as follows-

“Shri Rama’s temple was his abode. There he used to perform tapas. Huge numbers flocked to have his darshan every day.  He used to deliver spiritual message with the essence of patriotism, which installed the awareness against the tyranny of British government.”

During 1921’s , non cooperation movement was on its peak. Raju , who wanted to mobilise mass saw this as opportunity and started implementation of few of those policies, such as boycotting courts , liquor, establishing panchayats and use of khadi. His message spread like wildfire and people gave of consumption of liquor in large numbers.  He wore khadi and supplied only khadi uniforms to his soldiers. He started addressing the village headman from January 1922. His campaign was immense success and people were mobilised under his banner. Just one trigger event required to materialize this mobilised patriots.

22Nd August, people in chintapalli observed a simple day as usual. But one event turned the normal day into a day which changed the course of history forever. Band of 500 tribals , under the leadership of Alluri Sitharama Raju attacked the police station at chintapalli and released political prisoners and captured huge amount of arms and ammunition. This was followed on 23rd and 24th August, attacks on police stations of krishnadevipet and rajavvomangi villages respectively. It was starting of the rebellion which shook the British Empire.

After these attacks , British government despatched police forces to subdue the rebellion. On 3rd September 1922, newly despatched police force was defeated by Rebels under Raju in battle at Onjeri Ghat. This was followed by fierce battle as Damanpalli Ghat where rebels under Raju killed two British officers , Scott Coward and L N Hayter, and won the battle. In the end of September 1922, Raju defeated British forces at four different places.

His army often consisted of 500 armed tribals , assisted by Dora brothers , Gautam and Mallayya. Some muttadaras ( zamindars ) also joined Raju in this liberation war but majority of them were hostile towards Raju and supportive towards colonial government. Meanwhile Raju didn’t compromised with muttadaras to get their support, but aimed at mobilising these elements by integrating their graviences with the wider cause of liberating rampa tribals from the yoke of Britishers. He got huge support from tribals and villagers who kept him informed about movements of police forces and also supported him by every possible mean.

Hostilities continued with more intensity and Raju at the end of December 1922, defeated British forces in pitched battles at Lingapuram and Peddagaddapalem. Six police forces were established and sepcial army band of Malabar police with well equipped means despatched against Raju. But they couldn’t subdue the rebellion and their outposts were frequently attacked and destroyed by Raju. The cause of this success lied in the leadership and management of Raju. Apart from their superior mobility, the rebels had their own intelligence network, which was very effective and accurate compared to government intelligence department.

After getting repeatedly harassed and defeated by Raju, the government took serious steps against the rebellion. They deployed Assam rifles in Rampa region and also increased patrolling. To subdue the people’s support, government imposed heavy taxes on the villagers and adopted torture methods to extract the tax and information about rebels. They introduced martial law and many civil pressures on the tribals and villagers. But it couldn’t have an effect of single percent. Raju enjoyed widespread support of people even after many pressure from government. This support was described by British officers in following words

“ It had puzzled every officer on active duty in the area, how this miserable looking population, has persisted in their attitude of non cooperation, not withstanding the very considerable pressure and discomfort of parties of police and Assam rifles moving all over the country” – T G Ruderford.

The patrolling became very strict , and the engagement between both became very fierce, Raju got major blow by the capture and death of Gautam Dora. While the muttadaras helped Britishers to capture the rebels , which harmed considerably. But still Raju didn’t gave up and determined to move Bastar, and return with large army to establish swaraj, this was also confirmed by British intelligence officer named Saunders. Raju in his speeches claimed that he has followers all over Bharat and will get support from Punjab and central provinces. He also visited the underground meeting of rebels at Calcutta.

Raju met his final success at attack on Gudem village in Oct 1926. He never permitted looting and arson of villages and common villagers. He never attacked Indian seopys in British army. He once stated that his war is only against the Britishers. Even after meeting failure to defeat the well equipped and numerically superior British army , Raju never gave up. In the conversation of Gandhian activist, he said “ I want ammunition and I am in search of it. Unless we wage war against bureaucracy we cannot win swarajya. I don’t care if government send lakhs of troops against me , I have followers all over India and I am quite prepared to face these odds.”

But Rajus rebellion was criticised by Gandhian activists , congressmans and some leading newspaper. They claimed this movement as “the movement who lost its path.“ But it didn’t affect the people’s support towards Raju. His influence spread over Vishakhapatnam, Godavari and Ganjam districts.

The patrolling became more fierce and the factors like ammunition and manpower started dominating and on the fateful day of seventh may 1924, Raju was captured by British forces at Mampa. At koyyaru , he was tied at standing position and executed by mass shooting.

After his death, within two months , the rebellion was subdued. 186 villages were involved in this great rebellion. 276 were convicted.

The death of Raju gave inspiration to Telugu people and within two decades the anti colonial movement took sharp shape. The newspapers and congress , who opposed Raju and his movement started praising him and used his name and influence to grow their movement.

Sources and references

  1. Modern history of Andhra Pradesh vol 1 by P Raghunatha Rao
  2. Dictionary of Indian martyrs
  3. Gudem rebellion of 1922 by Dr J Mangamma
  4. Popular movement and middle class , the leadership in later colonial India by Sumit Sarkar
  5. Alluri Sitharama Raju and Rampa Rebellion by Murli Atlury

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Akshat Lahane
Akshat Lahane
Pursuing bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering. Interested in Bharatiya History.

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