Alluri Sitarama Raju: The Man Who Led The Manyam Rebellion
Raju would not just make known in public the date and time of the attack to follow, but also leave a signed letter in the police station diary mentioning the gatherings of the respective attacks.
“To wear them is to flaunt our servitude. But I pinned it on my shirt near my heart to remind all of you that a foreign ruler is crushing our lives,” said Alluri Sitharama Raju, as he threw all but one of the badges with King George's picture on it, that his friend gave him. He was all of 13 then.
The 30-feet bronze statue of this revolutionary that was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Andhra Pradesh’s Bhivaram today (4 July) stands as a shining testimony to the legendary life of this largely unsung hero.
In the ‘Manyam’ forests of the eastern ghats, he lit the fire of the fight against the colonial forces that imposed the 1882 Madras Forest Act and restricted the movement of the tribal community in their own land.
The act prohibited their practice of a traditional form of shift cultivation called Podu. Raju, who is said to have even met Bhagat Singh, during his nationwide travels, made up his mind to lead the tribal uprising and fight against the British by educating the tribals, and organising them to stand up against the atrocities of the police and other officials.
"The most striking evidence of continued popular militancy came from the ever-restive semi-tribal Rampa region in north of the Godavari, scene of a veritable guerilla war between August 1922 and May 1924 led by Sitarama Raju — a truly remarkable man who has become a folk hero in Andhra," says a report on the rebellion in Sumit Sarkar’s Modern India 1885-1947, as quoted.
Armed with just the traditional weapons of bow and arrows and spears initially, his army of tribals defended their rights on their produce and took on the mighty British. Raju realised they wouldn't stand the arms of the British forces, which is when he is said to have snatched them and launched attacks on police stations, the first of which was made on 22 August 1922. Many such attacks followed alarming the British who rushed large contingents led by British officers, two of whom were killed in September 1922.
As per this piece published by PIB in 2016, Raju would not just make known in public the date and time of the attack to follow, but also leave a signed letter in the police station diary mentioning the gatherings of the respective attacks.
Raju’s ‘Manyam Uprising’ became a nightmare for the British who apart form announcing a prize for the heads of Raju and his lieutenants Gantam Dora and Mallu Dora also took to torturing the locals to know of their whereabouts.
And when he was finally caught, they ruthlessly had him tied to a tree, and shot to death by a firing squad on 7 May 1924.
“Awards were declared for handing over the leaders, and the capture of Gantam Dora in 1923 was a setback to the rebels. Alluri Sitarama Raju himself was captured at Mampa in May 1924. He was tied to a tree at Koyyuru and shot dead on the 7th of May. His body tied to a cot in standing position was brought to Krishnadevi-Peta on a cart. It took another two months for the government to capture all the leaders. In all, 186 villages were involved, and 276 men convicted, most of whom were village headmen. They served jail sentences and paid fines for helping the rebels and denying information to the government. Ten of them were sentenced for life and Mallu Dora who was one of them came to the first Rajya Sabha as a member in 1952.”
‘Guden Rebellion of 1922 - Forest Administration as a cause’ was published by the Indian History Congress, 1979.
Despite scaring the daylights out of the British and leading such a strong battle against the imperialists for two long years, this brave son popularly called ‘Manyam Veerudu’ lays buried at Krishnadevi Peta in Visakhapatnam along with his heroics. Despite his unmatched bravery, his tale has made it to almost no textbooks. He is hardly spoken about except as part of folklore in the region.
Now, after 75 years of Independence, Alluri Sitarama Raju Memorial Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum is being built in Lambasingi in Andhra Pradesh as part of the effort to set up tribal museums that showcase the tribal pride and heritage in the country.
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