Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Forgotten Tribal Hero - Alluri Sitarama Raju

Inspiration

The year of 1897 has a special significance in our country’s struggle for freedom. This was the year in which our nation saw the birth of two revolutionaries who brought in an all new meaning to the word ‘Revolutionary’. One of them is Subhas Chandra Bose whom we have already met :-) . Alluri Sitarama Raju, also known as Aluri Rama Raju and Rama Chandra Raju is the second legend, a young Indian who fought a brave battle for the oppressed tribes. Apart from Jhansi Laksmi Bai, he is still the most popular character to be played by many children across various competetive forums, especially in Andhra Pradesh. The fact that I belong to the same soil might make many feel that I am biased. But the fact is, he remains an inspiring role model till date for those who fight against oppression. A terror to the alien rulers, Alluri Seetha Rama Raju was one of India’s early revolutionaries. This is my small tribute to the great hero whose story is lost somewhere in the pages of our history.


The only photograph of Raju, which was taken after his death is preserved in the A.P. State Archives, Hyderabad.

Early Life


He was born on July 4 1897 in Mogallu village of West Godavari district and was educated in Kakinada,Tuni & Rama-chandra-puram in East Godavari district. His father died when Alluri was in elementary school and he was brought up by his uncle, Rama Chandra Raju, a Tahsildar in Narsapur. He then studied in Taylor High School and had to shift to Tuni along with his mother, brother and sister, on the transfer of his uncle. He joined A.V.N. College in Visakhapatnam on September 20, 1912 but was a drop out after having failed in the fourth form (Std. IX). While in Tuni, Alluri used to frequent the agency areas of the Visakhapatnam district and became familiar with the tribal folks

He was deeply moved by the plight of the tribals, whose rights were infringed upon by the British with the implementation of the Madras Forest Act of 1882 which placed restrictions on their free movement in the forest areas and prevented them from engaging in their traditional cultivation, and use of the forest produce for their livelihood. The repressive measures and policies of the British Raj, coupled with the deeds of the greedy contractors who exploited the forced labourers of the hilly areas of Visakhapatnam district, brought Alluri Sita Rama Raju into direct conflict with the bureaucrats and police who supported these contractors. This eventually culminated in the Rampa Rebellion or Rampa Pituri (Pituri means complaints)

Beginning Of The Unrest

While he was studying at Kakinada he got his political contact with Sri Madduri Annapurnayya, a great freedom-fighter, and Rallapalli Atchuta Ramayya, a great scholar. At the age of 15, Raju was shifted to Visakhapatnam for his studies. Though he had little inclination for school education, he was very keen and began to acquire knowledge of the political situation in India. He went deep into Gond land where nearly a thousand tribals had sacrificed their lives during the first war of independence in 1857. He attended the A. I. C. C. sessions at Gaya in 1916 and at Kakinada in 1923 and got blessings of the top-ranking leaders of India. Raju inspired and organized the tribals to wage war against the British.

Soon Raju's plan of action took shape with vigour and quickness. He set free the revolutionary, Veerayya Dora from jail. The British Army got alerted and platoons of Police and Army were sent to capture Seetarama Raju. At Peddavalasa, Raju attacked the British Army. They were defeated during this battle and suffered very heavy casualties and retreated. From that day onwards there was a regular warfare between Raju and the Britishers. Raju came out triumphant in all. Virtually for two years from 1922 to 1924 Seetarama Raju ruled over vast agency area and became a terror to the British rulers.

The Rampa Rebellion

Sita Rama Raju carried out his campaign in the border areas of East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh. Inspired by the patriotic zeal of the revolutionaries in Bengal, and the decisions taken by them at a meeting in Chittagong in 1921, Sita Rama Raju raided many police stations in and around Chintapalli, Krishna-devi-peta and Raja-vommangi, carrying off guns and powder, and killing several British army officers, including the Scott Coward and Hites. Between August and October 1922, he and his men attacked the various police stations and blasted the Chintapalli police station. Despite having fewer men and weapons, Alluri and his men exacted tremendous damage on the British. The British officers despite their superior weapons were no match to Alluri and his men, who were adept in guerilla tactics and knew the hilly terrain. They used to attack police stations and seize arms and ammunition. He carried a reward of Rs 10,000 on his head in those days.

Under the leadership of Saunders, the British deployed a company of the Assam Rifles, near Pedagaddapalem, in December 1922. Sita Rama Raju, who had by then gone underground, resurfaced after some four months and continued the fight, strengthened by tribal volunteers, using bows and arrows. He was assisted by two brothers, Mallu Dora and Gantam Dora, who were also tribal leaders.

Martyrdom

On September 18, 1923, Sita Rama Raju raided the Annavaram police outpost and subsequently, Mallu Dora was arrested. The Government entrusted the task of containing Sita Rama Raju's activities to Rutherford, the then Collector of Vizag District who had his first win when his forces arrested Surya Narayana Raju Pericherla, popularly known as Aggiraju, a strong follower of Sita Rama Raju.

Subsequently, Rama Raju was trapped by the British in the forests of Chintapalli and was shot dead without a trial in May 1924 in Mampa village while following the law of jungle instead of the judiciary system they were proud of. After the martyrdom of Alluri, the tribal revolt lost its momentum and petered off by October 1923.

Legacy

Sri Alluri Seetarama Raju is remembered as a great son in the annals of Indian History. He was born in a renowned Kshatriya clan and fought against the mighty British war machine, leading tribesmen of Andhra Pradesh with old traditional war weaponry. sacrificed his life true to his clan in the battle field.

Unfortunately, even fifty years after independence, Dalits and Adivasis have benefited least from the advent of freedom. Although independence has brought widespread gains for the vast majority of the Indian population, Dalits and Adivasis have often been left out, and new problems have arisen for the nation’s Adivasi population. They must have special access to educational, cultural and economic opportunities so as to reverse the effects of colonization and earlier injustices experienced by the Adivasi communities. That would be a fitting tribute to this fighter who was dearly known as Manyam Veerudu ('Hero of the jungles')

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