Monday, 23 December 2019

Rampa Rebellion of 1922, Andhra - tribal revolt against the British Raj

Rampa rebellion wikivisually.com/
Andhra Tribal revolt against the British shareyouressays.com
 I bet not many people of other Indian states  are aware about the tribal revolt of 1922 against the  late British rulers under the Raj and the sacrifice made by the indomitable freedom fighter Alluri Sitarararaju Raju who was executed by the colonialists because he instigated the rebellion against the Crown administration in Godavari Agency of the present day Andhra state.

Not to be confused with Rampa Rebellion of 1879, the revolt of the same name in 1922,  often referred to as  the Manyam Rebellion, was organized by the tribes  in Godavari Agency of  the then Madras Presidency, British India.  Led by none other than  Alluri Sitarama Raju, a well-known freedom fighter and a saintly  figure, this  tribal uprising lasted from  August 1922 until the capture and killing of Raju in May 1924. 

What is now part of present day  Godavari districts of new Andhra Pradesh  state, the  Rampa administrative area, a hilly region, was made of  about 700 square miles (1,800 km2), inhabited by about 28000 tribes. The tribal population was dependent on food production from their land  for their needs and they traditionally followed  what was called  ''Podu System'', a sort of shifting of cultivation from one place to another. Every year some areas of jungle land  were  cleared by way of burning them and then the land would be  used  purely for cultivation purposes.

The colonial rulers - British Raj took control of the forest land mainly for commercial exploitation. They needed  the produce from the area  for building railways and  ships. They wanted  wood for their railways.  In the tribal land there was  prevalence of malaria and black water fever and the administrators  wanted to improve the utility of the lands  and income  in Godavari Agency. This could be done by making the tribes move out of that place.  The traditional cultivation activities by the tribal communities  had an impact on the proposed commercial exploitation of  money- spinning opportunities  from  forest lands by the Raj that was more concerned about taking the project forward and relegating the welfare and needs of the tribes to the back stage, not giving priority to their land rights that they had been enjoying for  a pretty long time.  In 1923, the government took into account one Agency Commissioner's opinion spelled out in the previous year that the real value of the forest was not fully  explored and much food grains had been lost due to unwanted tribal operations.

The legal system followed by the Raj was in favor of
zamindars (estate landowners) and merchants of the plains areas and the people who were dependent on the forest lands felt the pinch and now faced  starvation and loss of their livelihood.  The passing of the 1882 Madras Forest Act, put  restrictions on the free movement of tribal people in the forest  land and  prevented them from engaging in their traditional podu agricultural system.

They strongly objected to the new and biased  policy introduced  by the Raj  as they had to find an alternative  to sustain their lives; it meant  they had to  work as daily wage-earners/coolies.  To register their anger and sustained objection, they refused to work as forced labor in the construction of  roads and railway lines in the hilly area.
Alluri Sitarararaju RajuFreedom fighter .wikiwand.com
The muttadars, who had been hereditary tax collectors and de facto rulers in the hills prior to the arrival of the British, were in a predicament. They acted on behalf of the rajas, the local rulers who lived on the plains. These rulers had enormous powers  until the British took over their lands and put them under their control. Many rulers lost their inheritance rights due weird policies introduced by the British. Childless ruler can not adopt a legal heir and consequently their power and  economic status were now dictated entirely by British Raj.  Now,  the foreign aggressors  could syphon the cream off tax income and  use the land of others as they saw fit.  The muttadars also faced a similar dismal situation as their income had been cut short. A strange  situation  developed and out of necessity now the tribal hill people and muttadars  shared a common  enemy -  the Raj who pocketed the income from the tribal land.
Alluri Sitarararaju Raju who happened to be a Sanyasi, a person of justice and strong will power,  could not contain his fury over the plight of innocent native tribes who had been attached to the hill lands for centuries and now were landless and out of work. They were the victims of  colonial rulers' greed  and  Raju  wanted to overthrow the oppressive and unjust  British rule by  harnessing the  discontent and resentment of the tribes. With support from tribal communities  and those muttadars who were sympathetic to    their  cause  instead of being  narrow-minded in their pursuit of a revived status for themselves,
Raju took the cudgels against the British and their intrusion into the tribal lands.   Some  muttadars were ambivalent about fighting for what Raju perceived to be the greater good. During the ensuing rebellion, Alluri Raju used guerrilla warfare to fight against the mighty British. Raju led the Rampa Rebellion along with a band of tribal people and other sympathizers. They  fought in the border areas of the East Godavari and Visakhapatnam regions.  Taking advantage of  some aspects of  earlier non-cooperation movements and of his own reputation among the tribal people, Raju raided  police stations in and around Chintapalle, Rampachodavaram, Dammanapalli, Krishna Devi Peta, Rajavommangi, Addateegala, Narsipatnam and Annavaram.  He  with his followers, not only stole guns and ammunition  but also killed several British police officers, including two near Dammanapalli. These British officers intimidated the tribal communities  and gave them all kinds of problems without any remorse.  The skirmishes and fighting continued unabated  until  May 1924  when Raju was eventually trapped by the British in the forests of Chintapalle. He was  tied to a tree and  'instant justice' was dispensed  with by the British Raj.  He  was executed by gunfire in Koyyuru village; no commission of enquiry on the problems being faced by the tribes and the reason for the rebellion.  His tomb is in Krishna Devi Peta village.  He was referred to as "Manyam Veerudu" ("Hero of the Jungle") by the local people.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rampa_Rebellion_of_1922
https://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2018/08/patriot-alluri-sitarama-raju-who-gave.html