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Potti Sreeramulu
Born 16 March 1901(1901-03-16)
Chennai, British India
Died 16 December 1952 (aged 51)
Chennai, Union of India
Cause of death Died after fasting for statehood
Nationality Indian
Other names Amarajeevi
Religious beliefs Hinduism
Parents Guravayya and Mahalakshmamma

Potti Sreeramulu (Telugu: పొట్టి శ్రీరాములు), (16 March 1901 – 16 December 1952) (age 51), was an Indian revolutionary. He became famous for undertaking a fast-unto-death for achieving the Andhra State and losing his life in the process. His sacrifice became instrumental in the linguistic re-organisation of states. He is revered as Amarajeevi (Immortal being) in Andhra for his sacrifice. As a devout follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he worked life long to uphold principles such as truth and non-violence and objectives such as Harijan upliftment.

Contents

Early life

Born to Guravayya and Mahalakshmamma at house no. 165, Annapillai street, Chennai. His ancestors belonged to the Patampalle village of Nellore District. He studied in Madras till he was 20. Later, he studied Sanitary Engineering in the Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute in Bombay.

Career

Potti Sreeramulu joined the Great Indian Peninsular Railway and worked for about four years there. After the death of his wife in 1927 when he was only 26, he lost interest in the material world and resigned from his job. He divided property between his brothers and mother and joined Sabarmati Ashram as a follower of Mahatma Gandhi.

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Independence Movement and Harijan Upliftment

He took part in the Indian Independence Movement. He was imprisoned for participating in the 1930 Salt Satyagraha. Between 1941-42 he participated in the individual satyagraha and the Quit India movement and was imprisoned thrice. He was involved in the village reconstruction programmes at Rajkot in Gujarat and Komaravolu in Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh. He joined the Gandhi Ashram established by Yerneni Subrahmanyam in Komaravolu.

Between 1943 and 1944 he worked for the widespread adoption of Charkha in Nellore district. He started partaking food from all houses without attaching importance to caste and creed. He undertook three fasts during 1946-48 for the entry of Harijans into religious places such as temples in Nellore. He fasted to gain entry for Harijans into the Venugopalaswamy temple in Moolapeta, Nellore and succeeded in achieving the objective. He again fasted to get favourable orders on Harijan upliftment passed by the Madras government.

As a result, the government instructed collectors to attend to measures of Harijan upliftment at least one day in a week. During the last stages of his life, he stayed in Nellore and worked for Harijan upliftment. He would wear placards with slogans on Harijan upliftment and propagate the cause. He used to walk wearing these placards in the middle of the summer without wearing slippers or using an umbrella. People who did not know about his antecedents dismissed him as a mad man. He was chastied by the upper caste and his own caste for his support for Harijan upliftment.

Statehood for Andhra

In an effort to protect the interests of the Telugu people in Madras Presidency, and to preserve the unique culture of Telugu people, he attempted to force the government to listen to public demands for the separation of Andhra region from Madras Presidency based on linguistic lines. He went on a lengthy fast, and only stopped when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru promised to support creation of Andhra State. However, there was no movement on the issue for a long time. He started fasting again for attaining statehood for Andhra in Maharshi Bulusu Sambamurthy’s house in Madras on 19 October 1952. It started off without fanfare but steadily caught people’s imagination despite the disavowal of the fast by the Andhra Congress committee.

The government of the day however did not make a clear statement about the formation of a new state despite several strikes and demonstrations by Telugu people. On the midnight of 15 December (i.e. early 16 December 1952), Potti Sreeramulu died and laid down his life trying to achieve his objective.

In his death procession, people shouted slogans praising his sacrifice. When the procession reached Mount Road, thousands of people joined and raised slogans hailing Sriramulu. Later, they went into a frenzy and resorted to destruction of public property. The news spread like wildfire and created an uproar among the people in far off places like Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Rajahmundry, Eluru, Guntur, Tenali, Ongole and Nellore. Seven people were killed in police firing in Anakapalle and Vijayawada. The popular agitation continued for three to four days disrupting normal life in Madras and Andhra regions. On 19 December, the Prime minister of the country Jawaharlal Nehru made an announcement about formation of a separate Andhra state.

On 1 October 1953, the state of Andhra was established with Kurnool as capital carving it out from Madras State. However, the Telugu speaking Telangana was part of Hyderabad state until 1956. On November 1, 1956, Telangana was merged with Andhra and as a result Andhra Pradesh was formed with Hyderabad as its capital, against the recommendation of States Reorganization Commission (SRC). Kerala and Karnataka states were formed the same day in 1956, followed by Gujarat and Maharashtra in 1960. The formation of linguistic states is the single most important event in the history of South Indian languages, as it provided an opportunity for these languages to develop independently, each of them having a state to support.[1]

Death

Potti Sreeramulu fasted in the heart of Madras (Chennai) city for over 58 days for an Andhra state with Madras as the capital. He described "Andhra without Madras as a dead body without a head. The reasons as to why the Rajaji government, Union government led by Nehru or police did not intervene to force feed or shift him to a hospital remain unclear. The intentions of Nehru and Rajaji governments to effectively homogenize the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Indian Union in the name of National Integration have seriously undermined the very federal spirit upon which India's foundation lies.[2]. It is interesting to note that only one person before him in modern Indian history Jatin Das actually fasted to death; all the others either gave up or were arrested and force fed or hospitalised.[3]

Trivia

  • Observing Potti Sreeramulu's commitment, Mahatma Gandhi once remarked, "We can achieve independence within a year if there were another ten people as committed and dedicated as Potti Sreeramulu."
  • House No. 126, Royapettah High Road, Mylapore, Madras (Chennai) is the house where Potti Sreeramulu died and it has been preserved as a monument of importance by the state government of Andhra Pradesh.

References

External links

Further reading

  • Suprasiddhula Jeevitha Viseshaalu (Vignettes from lives of famous people) - A Telugu book by Jaanumaddi Hanumachchaastri.

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