The 154th birth anniversary of Nyapati Subba Rao Pantulu, one of the earliest to voice the demand for the separation of Andhra from the Madras Presidency in 1914, is set to be marked on January 14, 2010.
Subba Rao Pantulu, freedom fighter, journalist and literary personality, was one of the founders of The Hindu.
He was a contemporary figure with a major public presence. After addressing the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda returned to India by ship via Colombo on February 11, 1897. The ‘Triplicane Six’, who founded The Hindu in Madras in 1878, convened a meeting in Victoria Hall, Madras, to organise a welcome. The largely attended meeting elected Subba Rao Pantulu as the reception committee chairman.
When the ship anchored at the Madras port, Subba Rao Pantulu was the first to garland Swami Vivekananda and receive him. Swami Vivekananda was given a grand reception in the Victoria Hall on February 12, 1897. A public meeting was held on the Marina Beach on February 14 where Swami Vivekananda and Subba Rao Pantulu shared the dais and the former spoke about the ‘Future of Bharat’. This was the beginning of a lasting friendship between the two.
Subba Rao Pantulu was born in Nellore on January 14, 1856 and later moved to Rajahmundry. Inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s speeches, he started the Hindu Samajam in Rajahmundry in 1903 for the propagation of the Bhagavad Gita and Sanatana Dharma. He started the Historical Research Society (which is now the Rallabandi Subbarao Museum). He was one of the founders of the Damerla Art Gallery. He introduced the Father of Harikatha Art, Adibhatla Narayana Dasu, to the Circar districts. He used to tell his friends that carving out a separate Andhra from the Madras Presidency would be no easy task.
While working in the Indian National Congress from 1914 to 1917, Pantulu presided over the first Andhra Mahasabha meeting held at Vijayawada on April 11, 1914. There he voiced the demand for the separation of Andhra from the Madras Presidency. At the AICC meeting in Lucknow in 1916, he raised his voice for the creation of a separate Congress Circle for Andhra.
When the Secretary to the British Government, Sir Montago, visited Madras in August 1917, a delegation led by Subba Rao Pantulu sought to apprise him of the need for a separate State for the people of Andhra. Initially, the delegation was denied permission on the ground that only suggestions on Constitutional Reforms would be received. But Subba Rao Pantulu’s perseverance was convincing enough for the British officer to accept the memorandum submitted by the 27-member delegation.
Finally, on January 1, 1918, a separate Andhra Congress Council was formed and Subba Rao was elected its first president and also AICC general secretary. Subba Rao Pantulu served as AICC general secretary for four terms; he resigned at the insistence of Annie Besant.
Subba Rao Pantulu was the first Chairman of the Rajahmundry Municipality and was credited with giving tap connections to the public for the first time. He founded the Rajahmundry Bar Association along with nine others in 1895, and the Town Hall Trust.
He was a Member of the Madras Imperial Legislative Council. Though he had ideological differences with Kandukuri Veeresalingam, he was made the first secretary of the Hitakarini Samajam founded by the great social reformer.
Nyapati Narasimha Rao, grandson of Subba Rao Pantulu, speaking to The Hindu, said it was unfortunate that the Rajahmundry Municipal Corporation had not fulfilled its promise of erecting a statue of its first Municipal Chairman though the Council had passed a resolution long ago to do so.