Alluri Sitarama Raju. Most of the current generation remembers him as the rebellious hero from the eponymous film starring Superstar Krishna. While the film presents him in a glorified light, there is much more to know about the tribal hero.
In the early period of the freedom struggle, when the British were overpowering the tribes of the coastal districts and making their life hell, a lionheart was born on the 4th of July, 1897 and he fought against the mighty British war-machine, leading tribesmen with old traditional war weaponry and sacrificed his life true to his clan in the battle field.
There are various accounts of Ramaraju’s childhood. An official report suggests that he was born in 1897 in Bhimunipatnam taluk in Visakhapatnam district. His mother was from Visakhapatnam and his father was a native of Mogallu, near Bhimavaram. Most of his childhood was spent in Mogallu. He joined Mrs. A.V.N. College in the fourth form when he was 14 years old in 1912. It is said that during that time he was attracted to a girl named Sita, sister of a local zamindar, and wanted to marry her. But for some reasons it did not materialize. Later, when he heard of Sita’s demise, he changed his name from Ramaraju to Sitaramaraju.
At the age of 15, Raju was shifted to Vishakhapatnam for his studies. Though he had little inclination for school studies, he was very keen and began to accuire knowledge of political situation in India. He also learnt a lot about the Vedas, Ayurveda, Archery and Horse-riding during this time.
Alluri went deep into Gond land where nearly a thousand tribals had sacrificed their lives during the first war of independence in 1857. He learnt about the Britishers’ unfair restrictions on the tribals, and the banning of the “Podu” agricultural system He attended the A.I.C.C. session at Gaya in 1916 and got blessings of the top-ranking leaders of India. Raju inspired and organised the tribals to wage a guerrilla war against the British. Soon Raju’s plan of action took shape with vigor and quickness, on the 22nd of August, 1922.
Raju’s army raided Chintapalli Police Station, on 23rd Krishnadevipeta Police Station, and on 24th Rajavommangi and captured a good number of guns, bayonets, cartridges and swords. He set free the revolutionary, Veerayya Dora from jail. The British Army got alerted and platoons of Police and Army were sent to capture Sitarama Raju. At Peddavalassa, Raju attacked the British Army. They were defeated during this battle and suffered very heavy casualties and retreated. From that day on there was a regular warfare between the tribal fighters and the Britishers. Raju came out triumphant in all.
Virtually for two years from 1922 to 1924, Sitarama Raju’s army ruled over vast agency area and became a terror to the British rulers. Later British rulers deployed big contingents of Assam Rifles and others. Fighting a fierce battle, Raju laid down his life and attained martyrdom.
Some still believe that the body seized by the English forces was not of Sitaramaraju and he hoodwinked the British and escaped to Burma. The former Chairman of Rajahmundry Municipality and freedom fighter Krovidi Lingaraju also carried the same opinion about Sitaramaraju’s escape, as the British did not announce his death immediately. These rumors are, however, unfounded.
His legacy is one of blood, pride and patriotism. A stamp was issued in his name by the Indian Government in 1986, and his name will be cemented as one of the greatest martyrs India has seen, with Chandrababu Naidu’s announcement of the decision that he will be memorialized with a museum in Vizag.
May the Manyam Raju be remembered for years to come; his deeds for the country will never be forgotten.
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