ALLURI SITARAMA RAJU
Manyam Veerudu (Hero of the Jungle)
Born on 04 July 1897, in a village called Mogallu near Bhimavaram in Andhra Pradesh, Alluri Sitarama Raju was a sanyasi and a strong believer in justice who raised his voice and waged many a battle against unlawful British policies.
It is said that Sitarama Raju completed his initial years of schooling in his native village and then shifted to Visakhapatnam for his higher studies. By the age of 18, he renounced all worldly pleasures and became a sanyasi. He roamed the hills and forests of the Agency area as a bala sanyasi and mingled with the local tribal community. The tribals, in turn, regarded him as a mystic who would rescue them from their humiliating existence at the hands of the British authorities.
Initially, Sitarama Raju, under the influence of Gandhiji’s Non-cooperation movement, inspired the tribals to seek justice in the local panchayat courts and boycott the colonial courts. However, these steps did not alleviate their suffering and eventually, he used the this movement to spread awareness about the need for change.
In August 1922, he launched what is now known as the Rampa Rebellion against the British. The Rampa administrative area was home to about 28,000 tribes. These tribes followed the ‘Podu’ system of cultivation, whereby every year some amounts of forest tracts were cleared for cultivation, as it was their only source for food. While for the tribes, the forests were essential for their survival, the Britishers wanted to evict them so that they could plunder these areas for wood, which would eventually help in building their railways and ships. To get the forests cleared, ‘The Madras Forest Act, 1882’ was passed, thereby restricting the free movement of the tribal communities and prohibiting them from engaging in their traditional Podu agricultural system. This oppressive order was the beginning of the tribal revolt, also known as the Manyam Rebellion. The tribal folk refused to work as forced labour in the construction of roads and railway lines in the hilly region. Sitarama Raju demanded justice for them. He used guerrilla warfare to fight against the British. Along with his army of tribal people, he launched attacks and raided numerous police stations, killed many British officers, and stole arms and ammunition for their battle. He had plenty of local support and hence successfully evaded the British for a long time. His two-year armed struggle (1922-24) against the British frustrated the authorities to such an extent that a reward of Rs.10,000/- was announced for anyone who could capture him dead or alive.
Meanwhile, the British continued inflicting misery on the tribals. In a bid to alleviate their suffering, and being the just man that he was, Sitarama Raju surrendered, with the expectation that he would be given a fair trial in return. However, on 07 May 1924, he was treacherously trapped, tied to a tree, and shot dead. He was cremated on 08 May, thus marking the end of his glorious fight against the British Government.
He has left behind an inspiring legacy of anti-imperialist rebellion. Today, history remembers him as a fearless revolutionary, who, even though a non-tribal, who fought for the rights and freedom of the tribal people. He was honoured for his valour and fiery spirit with the title, “Manyam Veerudu” (Hero of the Jungle). Every year, the Government of Andhra Pradesh commemorates his birth date, the 4th of July, as a state festival.