Indians have a bad habit, we are quite casual about our history and historical figures. Our history has been fudged as well, since independence, we have been spoonfed with wrong facts due to malicious intent, which has also created this situation of misinformation and confusion.
Most of the Indians are not aware of the contribution of tribal people to the Indian freedom struggle that broke out against the British Administration. Tribals were prohibited from cutting trees for firewood, their traditional Podu cultivation was banned, and they were often exploited by contractors who used them as labor for building roads in those areas.
Today we will talk about a Hero, who did something unimaginable for the masses, he sacrificed his everything to ensure we get freedom, but alas, nobody even remember him now.
During British rule, many protests broke out in tribal areas like Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Bengal, Odisha. Apart from these locations, the area covering the current date Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were also witnessing a sort of revolution amongst the locals to get freedom from the clutches of the British Administration.
This was mostly a tribal area, which was bordering Maharashtra, Odisha, Chattisgarh, and surrounded by the Eastern Ghats. It had several strategically important areas in this region, like Vizianagaram, Vizag, Srikakulam, Khammam, Adilabad, Warangal, Karimnagar.
This region was full of hills, thick forests, valleys, rivers, and other water bodies. Tribal people used to live here and they used to cut trees and consume other natural resources for their day-to-day living. The British Administration enacted the highly anti-Indian Madras Forest Act of 1882, which was highly biased against the tribals in this region. British Army prohibited them from cutting the trees for firewood and carrying out their usual occupations.
At such a critical juncture, Alluri Sitarama Raju attained a stature of a hero, who fought really hard for the rights of tribal and motivated them to raise an armed revolution. He successfully managed to orchestrate an armed uprising with whatever resources available. He motivated the poor and illiterate tribals to fight against the oppressive British Empire and snatch away their rights.
Ramaraju was born on July 4th, 1897 at Pandrangi village of Vishakapatnam in a Kshatriya family. He had a brother Satyanarayana Raju and a sister Sitamma. His actual name was Sriramaraju, and this name was given after his maternal grandfather.
His father died when he was just 6 years old, his family suffered a lot of financial and personal difficulties. His uncle Ramakrishna Raju helped the family both financially as well as assisting Raju in his education.
In 1918, when Raju was on a visit to nearby valley areas, then only he came into contact with the tribals, who were living in pathetic condition. Raju was shocked to see such a miserable life of those tribals and anguished in pain.
His life changed when he decided to went on a tour of North India in 1916, he spent some time with Surendranath Banerjee and also attended the Congress’s session at Lucknow. He also learned the Sanskrit language and visited several holy cities like Indore, Baroda, Haridwar, Amritsar, and Badrinath. All these visits helped him come closure to Hinduism and Bharatvarsha.
This was a period of enlightenment for him, where he read books on medicine, religion, animal breeding, and a lot of other relevant topics. In 1918 he decided to went on a tour of southern India, where he covered several cities like Mumbai, Nasik, Mysore, Pune, and Bastar. This tour helped him to gain prowess in various arts, Ayurveda, martial arts, and several other religious activities and studies. He became an inspiration for people and gradually transformed into a mass leader of people living in the surrounding areas.
He saw a lot of tribals, who were living a miserable life in the Manyam region, who were exploited by the Britishers in every way possible. People are treated like slaves, their lands were taken, their women were sexually exploited as well.
Alluri was anguished by seeing this gross exploitation and misery, he decided to take a firm stand and start a big resistance for their rights. He initiated a movement to bring awareness among them about their own rights, he started to infuse courage and determination into them and help them raise a voice against the injustice meted out to them.
On the other hand, the tribals had no options, hence they turned to him for help and guidance, and he soon became a leader for all the nearby tribal villages. He also helped them by giving up bad habits like toddy drinking, he taught them several combat tactics and guerilla warfare.
Tribals who demanded more pay were killed by British Army, and Raju’s complaints were never heard by the higher authorities. The authorities in turn began to spying on Raju, which forced him to be in exile for some time to avoid detection.
Raju started the famous Manyam rebellion, on August 22nd, 1922. He leads the brutal attack on Chintapalli police station with more than 300 rebels. The rebels tore apart the police records and snatched their arms and swords. This movement was soon spread in nearby Krishnadevipeta and that police station was also looted.
The British struck back and sent their senior officers but they were also killed by Raju’s army. The local people came in support of Raju and his army of revolutionaries, with this victory. Raju then attacked Addateegala police station, which was considered heavily secured by the British Army. Raju’s revolutionaries attacked the station and took away all their weapons and money. British were shocked by these consecutive attacks.
They attacked the Rampachodavaram police station on Oct 19 and captured their arms and ammunition. People soon started realizing the potential of Raju and his associates and turned out in huge numbers to greet their folk hero Raju.
British were started realizing that Raju is becoming a thorn in the flesh and they started thinking to capture him. They sent a massive army under the command of Sanders to eliminate Raju. However, this move was also proved futile, as Raju defeated the British forces and Sanders was forced to retreat. The British realized that it will be difficult for them to counter Raju directly, hence they started using the spies to lure Raju’s associates so that they can track him down.
On Dec 6th, 1922, Raju received the blow when four of his close associates died in an attack by British Army. In subsequent attacks of the British Army, 8 more close associates of Raju were assassinated.
The British government was using spies to track Raju and his supporters down. British got a massive shot in their arm when they captured Raju’s most trusted lieutenant Mallu Dora, however, the Raju was still at large.
British Govt was implementing all sorts of tactics to track him down, they even started now cracked down even started torturing the tribals to know about the whereabouts of Raju. British sealed the entire region of Manyam region and transformed it into a big open prison. They cut off their food supplies and started killing the local tribal people.
Now British Govt appointed Commissioner Rutherford to capture Raju and suppress his revolutionary movement. He captured Aggiraju, who was known as the bravest lieutenant of Raju and he was deported to Andaman and Nicobar Jail. Rutherford started to massacre the tribals en masse and this was the moment when Raju decided to surrender to stop this brutality against his own people. On May 7, 1924, he sent an intimation to the British government that he is ready to surrender at Koyyur. But the British were never interested to capture him alive, and that’s why on May 7, 1924, Raju was shot dead by a British officer Gudal.
British Government offered him amnesty if he surrendered, however, it was a clear treachery shown by the British, when they killed him in cold blood. At a tender age of just 27 years, Alluri Sitarama Raju attained the martyrdom.
Unfortunately, Congress denied to support Raju, on contrary, they even welcomed the steps taken by the British to suppress the Rampa revolt and measures to assassinate him. However, after his death, Congress’s magazine praised Raju as another Rana Pratap and Shivaji. Whereas Satyagrahi called him George Washington of India.
The most moving tribute to the heroic of Raju was paid by none other than Netaji Subash Chandra Bose himself.
He said that “I consider it my privilege to praise the services of Alluri Sitarama Raju to the national movement, the youth of India should see him as an inspiration”
This very statement of Netaji Bose is itself a big testament to the stature of Alluri Sitarama Raju among all freedom fighters of India.