Rampa Fituri was a major rebellion which created massive troubles for the British in Vizag-Godavari belt for almost two years in early 1920s. The area always rebelled, with the 1839 and 1879 rebellions being most prominent ones before 1922. The rebellions were always about the British encroaching upon the rights of the tribals and economic exploitation of the area. One single fact establishes the seriousness of the issue – Malabar Special Police which was reorganized to crush the Moplah Rebellion was brought in to tackle him. In a twist of irony, the rebellion was led by a Gandhian Alluri Sitarama Raju who believed that though non violent disobedience can paralyse the whole government, force is ultimately needed to win a war, especially after Gandhi abruptly called off the Non-Cooperation Movement. He wore Khadi, but dyed it red and carried a pistol with him always. The slogans his men gave after the first raid was in fact, “Gandhiji ki Jai”

The rebellion started when Sitaramaraju raided the police station at Chintapalli with 300-500 peasants on 22 August 1922 and looted the weapons. Next day, it was Rajavommangi. The next raid, was to rescue Veerayya Dora, who was captured after the Lagurayi Rebellion of 1918, who was being taken for a court hearing. But, he refused to join them and parted ways, only to be captured again. But, the gesture of attempting to release an elder with some prestige wasn’t missed and increased his followers. Gamu Gantam Dora, a local chieftain sided him and helped in recruitment. He became one of his closest followers. Aggiraju or Pericherla Suryanarayana Raju of Peddavalasa joined him as well.

However, not everything is clear over why he decided to rebel as he wrote to Chekka Lingam Dora in June 1922 that he is leaving for Nepal and that he has got no truck with the 50 acre land given to his family.

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On Oct 24, they killed two British officers in ambush. These three raids gave him 26 muskets and 2500 rounds of ammunition. This planning made him a formidable enemy. The British ramped up it’s troops in the area to tackle him – the first shots were fired in Ongeri Ghat on 3 Sep 1922. Tremenheere, the head of the column was seriously injured in the clash.

As time went on, people started to believe in his miraculous powers – of cheating death, bullets turned to water and so on. It only tells about the success of the rebellion in it’s initial days. The British received intelligence of Raju performing Kali Puja at Dharakonda but he escaped unscathed when the British attacked.

On 25 Sep 1922, the column sent to capture him was ambushed at Damanpali Ghat, killing four. In fact, he never raised his arms against Indians even though they were siding the British and allowed the Indian column to pass through the ghat before he attacked the British. By the next engagement, the British understood what to do. But, their fixed columns with heavy weapons didn’t stand a chance against the fast moving guerillas using the local terrain to their advantage. The demands for Malabar Special Police were raised as early as September 1922.

The present striking force would be inadequate and that Malabar special force is required…Raju would otherwise have no difficulty in giving them (Government) the slip.

On Sep 30, Turamamdi and Lakha-Varapipetah were raided. A Sub Inspector who was captured was let off. A general martial law was proclaimed in the area. Even after MSP came, it took almost two years for them to crush the rebellion. Addatigala(Oct 16), Rampa(Oct 19) were next and the rebellion escalated. There was covert support almost till Jeypore and it is assumed he came into contact with Prithvi Singh of the Chittagong revolutionaries. By November, the raids became a regular feature. The British acknowledged his superiority.

the Raju’s intelligence department is very able. All that we receive from our intelligence force is only set afloat by Raju to mislead us. His military movements are very intelligently planned. His camps are always carefully chosen easy for escape if attacked

The first reversal came on December 6 when a party of MSP succeeded in attacking the rebels, killing four and capturing two. Many were injured at Peddagudapalem. They saw another defeat on the same day at Lingapuram. Another fight after a few days, eight rebels were killed and the British believed Raju was injured. Huge ammunition was captured in the attack. With this, Raju lost his influence but not his popularity. The core group retreated further into the forests and there was a temporary lull. The British believed the rebellion is over, sent back a bulk of the MSP, offered prize money on the heads of the rebels. To pressure the people to reveal the details, and for aiding Raju, many village heads lost their posts. Some of them were punished. Arbitrary punishments and economic pressure became a norm of the day. Rather than cowing down the people, these unpayable taxes made people side the rebels openly.

And Raju made his appearance again, raiding Annavaram on April 18 1923. Though he wasn’t able to achieve much, his presence means that the fight is on. He received a huge reception there and a similar reception was arranged at Sankhavaram. The British weren’t able to do anything but impose a collective fine on the villages. On May 31, a party led by Gantam Dora raided Kayyuru and captured the sub inspector and deputy Tahsildar. The raids continued and Raju even built a concealed camp just 150 feet from the Government Outpost at Gundem. Gantam Dora’s brother Mallu Dora was captured in an inabrieted condition on September 18 (he later became a Member of Parliament). But, nothing changed. Neither did Mallu Dora reveal any information nor did Raju stop his attacks.

On October 22, Raju was almost cornered between three patrols and two police posts at Guddapalle but the village munsif misled the police to save him.

Desperate for weapons, he attacked Gundem Military Camp directly on Oct 26 but he wasn’t able to achieve much. Rumours started to fly again – that he will raid Rajahmundry Central Jail and he will attend Kakinada Congress session – all these put the police on tenterhooks. And the rebellion wasn’t under control. In April 1924, the govt summoned Assam Rifles and a certain Rutherford was made the Special Commissioner. His untold brutalities on villages – including women and children. 55 villagers were deported and he specifically targeted the families of Raju’s followers.

After Aggiraju was captured on May 6 (he was exiled to Andamans) and looking at the plight of his men, Raju surrendered.

Alluri Sita Rama Raju was executed on May 7 1924 at Koyyur giving a body blow to the rebellion. He was just 27 when he was killed. It is sad to note that the postage stamp issued by Indian Government commemorating Raju was actually modelled on the image of Raju’s body issued by the British officially on his execution. Except for a photograph of him as a child and another without beard, it is not known if any of his photos exist.

Raju got material support from the plains but the elders didn’t join him. Congress on the other hand, opposed him completely. On May 17 1924, Andhra Patrika wrote,

The fituri conducted by Raju is another illustration to show that violence is quite a useless weapon. Hence all will do well to adopt the excellent non-violent non-cooperation preached by Mr.Gandhi…the Rampa Fituri is a good example to illustrate that the adoption of violent methods like revolutions and fituris not only prove self-destructive but also prove very harmful both to the people and to the country.

This is the mildest rebuke he got. In a personification of hypocrisy, the day after he died, he was hailed as a national hero by the same Andhra Patrika.

Congress, a Telugu news paper was gratified that Rampa Fituri was completely put down and Krishna Patrika rebuked the government for it’s failure in supplying sufficient arms to crush the rebellion even earlier.

On July 24 1924, Godavari District Congress Committee distanced itself from Raju and his activities as there are rumours afloat he is still alive.

While dissociating ourselves from violence and adhering to non-violence, the Committee appreciates Sri Alluri Sitarama Raju’s patriotic fervour and noble sacrifice in the cause of Motherlndia. This Committee is also of opinion that such methods as followed by Sitarama Raju would stand in the way of early attainment of Swaraj.
As there are rumours in the country that the rebel leader Sitarama Raju is not dead, the Committee is of opinion that the consideration of the above resolution be dropped.
When demand for enquiry was made in Madras Legislative Assembly, CR Reddy demanded the rebellion be put down first and enquiries done later.

David Arnold writes,
basic reason for the hostility of the Andhra Congressmen was that they represented precisely those interests – the traders, moneylenders, emigrant, contractors, cultivators and lawyers – whose hold on the hill, the fituridars were fighting to overthrow.
But, he was a popular name. As the rebellion faded into distant memory, he was resurrected as a glorious hero, calling him Sivaji, Rana Pratap and even Lenin and George Washington, and declared the bliss of Valhalla will be bestowed upon him, by one, and “will enjoy the heaven of heroes” by another. Congress’s appropriation of Raju was complete by 1928 when the AICC session formally expressed admiration of Alluri Sitarama Raju.

In 1929, Andhra Patrika wrote,
Sri Rama Raju is the hero of heroes who made the British Government taste the valour of the Andhra Country and these autocrats (British Government) trembled for two years. He is a noble Kshatriya. He raised his standard against the British Government and confronted them…

Even his Kakinada session presence was hailed –
Sri Rama Raju was himself present at the Cocanda Session of the Congress and sent his message which he wanted to be read along with the message of other leadersMr.Muhammad Ali refused to read it and Indians had lost the opportunity of hearing the message of Sri Rama Raju

Gandhi wrote on July 18 1929,
Though I have no sympathy with and can not admire armed rebellion I can not withhold my homage from a youth, so sacrificing, so simple and so noble in character as young Shri Rama Raju… Raju was (if he is really dead) not a fituri but a, great hero. Would that the youth of the country cultivated Shri Rama Raju’s daring, courage, devotion and resourcefulness and dedicated them for the attainment of Swaraj through strictly non-violent means. To me it is daily growing clearer that if the teeming millions whom we the articulate middle classes have hitherto suppressed for our selfish purpose are to be raised and roused, there is no other way save through non-violence and truth. A nation numbering millions needs no other means

Subhas Bose said of him, I consider it my privilege to praise the services of Alluri Sitarama Raju to the national movement, the youth of India should see him as an inspiration

Thus one would see that, as like many other doyens of Indian leaders of the British Indian Era, Congress appropriated Alluri Sita Rama Raju immediately after his death while it stood steadfast against him while he is alive. On one hand, the legacy of Alluri Sita Rama Raju’s spirited rebellion against impossible odds still lives on in the memory of the people and on the other hand, the double standards of Congress which saw only an opportunity in furtherance of it’s agenda!!

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