Hundred years ago, in August 1922, the forests of the Godavari Agency in Madras Presidency witnessed attacks on three police stations over three continuous days. Alluri Sitarama Raju, along with 500 tribals, attacked the police stations of Chintapalli, Krishnadevipeta, and Rajavommangi and walked away with 26 police carbine rifles and 2,500 rounds of ammunition.
Sitarama Raju did not belong to the tribal community but understood the restrictions that the British colonial administration placed on the tribal way of life. Forced labour, embargoes on collecting minor forest produce and bans on tribal agriculture practices led to severe distress among the Koyas of the Godavari Agency area. Known as the “Rampa Rebellion” or “Manyam Rebellion”, between August 1922 and May 1924, Alluri led a protracted battle against the British in support of the tribal community. Legend has it that Alluri Sitarama Raju himself would forewarn the British officers of an imminent attack and would challenge them to stop him with the superior resources that they had at hand. He was finally captured, tied to a tree and shot dead. However, the patriotic spark that he and several other heroes across the nation reinforced continues to thrive within all of us.
Has today’s India adequately heard about Alluri and the Rampa Rebellion? For that matter, the Rampa Rebellion serves as a proxy for the many struggles of tribal and non-tribal communities against British rule that have either been completely forgotten or have not gotten the attention that they deserve. Popular cinema has often tried filling the gap and they have been fairly successful at that. However, film is just one dimension in restoring such incidents into our national consciousness.
To revive our memories and to remember the contributions of heroes such as Alluri Sitarama Raju, Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to be in Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh on July 4. He will launch the year-long celebrations on the 125th birth anniversary of Alluri, enabling a new generation to be aware of the heroics of Alluri and the sacrifices he made for the tribal community.
It is the structured efforts of identifying and curating episodes in our past that we’ve lacked so far and Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav has given us an opportunity to address this. On March 12, 2021, India began a 75-week countdown to the 75th anniversary of Independence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav from Sabarmati Ashram and unveiled one of the world’s largest programmes of this nature in terms of scope and participation. Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav gives us the opportunity to celebrate the unsung, the unknown and the underappreciated. It is a unique opportunity for the governments at all levels to come together with civil society, NGOs, spiritual organisations and passionate individuals to recognise the people and events that made us India. Several initiatives such as the recently held International Day of Yoga saw overwhelming mass participation. Now Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav has been extended for one additional year till August 15, 2023. This give us several such opportunities to pay tributes to our heroes and recognise their contributions in building Ek Bharat Shresht Bharat.
(G. Kishan Reddy is the Union Minister of Culture, Tourism and Development of North Eastern Region)