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Indian Telugu revolutionary
For the 1974 biographical film, see Alluri Seetarama Raju (film)
In this Telugu name, the surname is Alluri

Alluri Sitarama Raju

Alluri’s statue at the Tank Bund Road
Born 4 July 1897 or 1898

Pandrangi, Madras Presidency, British India
(present-day Andhra Pradesh, India)
Died 7 May 1924 (aged 25 or 26)

Koyyuru, Madras Presidency, British India
(present-day Andhra Pradesh, India)
Cause of death Summary execution
Resting place Krishnadevipeta, Andhra Pradesh, India
Known for Rampa Rebellion of 1922
Title Manyam Veerudu

Alluri Sitarama Raju (4 July 1897 or 1898 – 7 May 1924) was an Indian revolutionary, who waged an armed campaign against the British colonial rule in India Born in present-day Andhra Pradesh, he was involved in opposing the British in response to the 1882 Madras Forest Act which restricted the free movement of Adivasis in their forest habitats, and prevented them from practicing their traditional form of agriculture called podu Rising discontent towards the British led to the Rampa Rebellion of 1922, in which Alluri played the major role as its leader Mustering combined forces of Adivasis, farmers and other sympathizers to the cause, he engaged in guerilla campaigns against the British in the border regions of then Madras Presidency, now parts of East Godavari and Visakhapatnam He was given the epithet—”Manyam Veerudu” (transl Hero of the Jungle) by the local villagers for his heroic exploits

Harnessing widespread discontent of the Indian people towards the British colonial authorities in the backdrop of the non-cooperation movement, Alluri led his forces in guerilla campaigns against the colonial rulers with an aim to expell them from the Eastern Ghats region During this period, he led numerous raids on imperial police stations to acquire firearms for his under-equipped forces; after each raid on a station, he would leave behind a letter written by him informing the police about the details of his plunder, including the details of the weaponry he parted away with, and dared them to stop him if they can Police stations in the areas of Annavaram, Addateegala, Chintapalle, Dammanapalli, Krishna Devi Peta, Rampachodavaram, Rajavommangi, and Narsipatnam were all targeted by his forces which resulted in significant police casualties

In response to these raids, and to quell the rebellion; the British colonial authorities undertook a nearly two-year long manhunt for Alluri, resulting in expenditures reaching over ₹4 million 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 final resting place lies in the village of Krishnadevipeta

Biography

Birth and childhood

Rama Raju’s house Pandrangi, Andhra Pradesh

Alluri Sitarama Raju was born in 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

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

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

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 AVN 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

Around this time, he became a friend of a rich man and developed platonic love for his friend’s sister named Sita, whose untimely demise left him heartbroken 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

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 by seeing the hardships of the Koyas, people of a hill tribe Fond of pilgrimage, in 1921 he visited Gangotri and Nashik, birthplaces 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 in the Papi hills near Godavari District, an area with a high density of tribal populations

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

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 try to win him over by offering 60 acres of fertile land for his ashram, but he rejected it and stood by the people

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 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

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 Those 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

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

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

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

Between 22 and 24 August 1922, Alluri led a troop of 500 people in the raid and plundering of police stations at Chintapalli, Krishnadevipeta and Rajavomangi He gained possession of various weaponry from the seize including 26 muskets, 2,500 rounds of ammunition, six 303 Lee Enfield Rifles and one revolver 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

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 him, 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

More 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 two additional successful attacks against the police during September At this pointafter the British realised that Rama Raju’s 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 Attempts to persuade local people to inform about or withdraw their support for Rama Raju, through both incentives and reprisals did not succeed Later raids were carried out on the police stations at Annavaram, Addateegala, Narsipatnam and Rampachodavaram

During these raids, Rama Raju 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 The fight continued for about two years capturing the attention of common people, as well as powerful officials across the country To end the rebellion and capture Alluri Sitarama Raju, the then district collectors, Bracken of East Godavari, and RT 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

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

As Alluri was mostly garnering support from the plains areas, the British cordoned off the hills and limited his influence between the regions of Peddavalasa, Gudem and Darakonda In spite of this, Alluri tried to court people to his side, particularly the Congressmen from the plains, but was unsuccessful as they were against Alluri on the ground that he was violating the Gandhian principle of Nonviolence

Death and legacy

Alluri’s statue in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

Alluri on a 1986 postage stamp of India

After putting up a massive effort for nearly two years, the British eventually managed to capture Alluri in the forests of Chintapalle, he was then tied to a tree, and summarily executed by shooting on 7 May 1924 in the village of Koyyuru The tomb of Alluri currently lies in the village of Krishnadevipeta, near Visakhapatnam His lieutenant, Ghantam Dora, was killed on 6 June 1924, and his brother Mallam Dora, was caught and imprisoned, who later after independence became a member of the Indian Lok Sabha

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

The efforts of Alluri in waging an armed conflict, 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 that lasted for nearly two years, the fact that over ₹4 million was spent in those days to defeat him speaks for itself

Historian David Arnold in his book The Rebellious Hillmen: The Gudem-Rampa rising 1839–1924, noted that because of his name, the tribals used to evoke the image of the Hindu deity “Rama” in Alluri, an honorary which despite being a religious man he never asked for

The Independent Indian government released a postal stamp in his honour at the village of Mogallu, considered by many to be his birthplace 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

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

In popular culture

  • The 1974 Telugu-language movie Alluri Seetarama Raju, featuring actor Krishna, depicts his life
  • In 1986, the Indian Postal Department issued a commemorative stamp featuring him in the series ‘India’s struggle for freedom’
  • The Government of Andhra Pradesh celebrates his birthday, 4 July, annually as a state festival
  • Alluri Sitarama Raju Cricket Stadium in Eluru is named after him
  • On 9 October 2017, at the request of members of parliament Thota Narasimham and V Vijayasai Reddy, the Government of India decided to install a statue of him at the precincts of the Parliament of India in recognition of his work as a freedom fighter, and for the welfare of the tribal people
  • RRR (2022), an Indian Telugu language film directed by S S Rajamouli, features a fictional story based on the lives of Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sita Ramaraju with Ram Charan portraying the role of Rama Raju The plot of the film, set in 1920, revolves around both rebels who fought the British in colonial India

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