Saturday, Aug 20, 2022

Who Is Alluri Sitaram Raju, Andhra Pradesh's 'Unsung' Tribal Hero Whose Statue PM Modi Unveiled?

Paying rich tributes to Alluri Sitarama Raju, PM Modi said he involved himself in the country's fight for independence early, dedicating himself for Adivasi welfare and the country, and was 'martyred' at a young age.

PM Modi unveils statue of Tribal leader Alluri Sitharama Raju
PM Modi unveils statue of Tribal leader Alluri Sitharama Raju Wikipedia/PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday unveiled a 30-ft statue of Alluri Sitarama Raju in Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh on Monday, July 4. The bronze statue is meant to commemorate the legendary freedom fighter's 125th birth anniversary which will be celebrated throughout the year including the centenary of the Rampa Rebellion. 

In his address after unveiling the statue, Modi the history of the country's freedom struggle was not about a few years or some people but was about the sacrifice from every nook and corner of the country. The statue weighed 15-tonne and has been built at a cost of Rs 3 crore. The statue was installed in the Kshatriya Seva Samiti in the Municipal Park in Bhimavaram, as part of the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations. 

But who is Alluri Sitaram Raju?

Known among locals as "Manyam Veerudu" (Hero of the Jungles), Alluri Sitaram Raju was a freedom fighter in the 19th century who led a guerilla resistance style movement against the British in the colonial era. Alluri is credited with leading the Rampa rebellion which was launched in 1922. He was known to be a learned man with knowledge of taming wild animals, medicine and astrology. According to a report in the Indian Express, Raju's anti-British activities picked up force in the 1920s when Mahatma Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement. 

According to some historians, the prevalent patriotic discourse during the freedom struggle had a strong influence on Alluri since his childhood. Following the death of his father, his schooling got disrupted and he travelled across India during his teens. The socio-economic conditions in the country under the British regime, particularly in the tribal areas, deeply moved him. During those journeys, he met revolutionaries in Chittagong (now in Bangladesh). Alluri then made up his mind to build a movement against the British. He organised the local Adivasis in the forest areas along with Visakhapatnam and East Godavari districts into a potent force to launch a frontal attack.

The Forest Act of 1882 greatly diminished the rights of the tribal people over forest lands. Colonial agrarian laws were also at odds with the traditional shifting cultivation practices followed by many of the tribals, who faced persecution under the British Raj. Being a tribal leader himself, Raju did not only have the support of Adivasis but also the support of local feudal lords whose powers had become diminished under colonial rule. 

Significance of celebrating Alluri

The 125th birth anniversary of Alluri coincides with the 75th independence year of India, which is being celebrated by the union government as a year-long 'Azadi Ka Mahotzav' celebration. While inaugurating the statue, Modi felicitated Alluri Srirama Raju, Alluri’s nephew, and Bodi Dora, son of Alluri’s close lieutenant Mallu Dora.

Paying rich tributes to Alluri Sitarama Raju, the PM said he involved himself in the country's fight for independence early, dedicating himself for Adivasi welfare and the country and was "martyred" at a young age. His life is an inspiration, he said, adding Alluri "was a symbol of India's culture, Adivasi identity and values". 

The move comes soon after the BJP elected Adivasi leader and former Jharkhand Governor Droupadi Murmu for the post of President of India and is in line with the BJP's apparent interest in winning the support of tribals ahead of the Assembly election in four states scheduled in the next 18 months. Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh together have a 128 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes. The BJP, which managed to win just 35 of these seats in the last Assembly elections, is expecting a major gain this time with Murmu.

The move also comes amid the BJP's south Indian outreach. The party recently concluded its national executive meet in Telangana's Hyderabad on Sunday where the PM stoked yet another name change buzz after he referred to Hyderabad as 'Bhagyanagar'. Earlier in June, Union Home Minister  Amit Shah had referred to Alluri as one of the prominent leaders of the area, along with Ramji Gaur and Kumaram Bhim. The leaders were celebrated for their role in standing up against the Nizams for the independence of Telangana. Raju's name also appeared under the 'Unsung Heroes' section on the government's Azadi Ka Mahotsav campaign website. 

The PM has also been reaching out tribals in the region. In AP today, he dwelled on tribal welfare schemes and policies brought in by the union government including establishing tribal museums and launching programmes like Skill India Mission and Vocal for Local was ensuring income for the community members to promote tribal art and employment opportunities.

(With inputs from PTI)