With a win for Best Original Song for ‘Naatu Naatu’ at the 2023 Oscars, the Telugu movie ‘RRR’ is garnering attention on the global stage. Its story and characters have roots in real historical figures, inspired by the lives of Indian freedom fighters Alluri Sitharama Raju.
- Both men were 20th-century revolutionaries who led tribal people in present-day Andhra Pradesh against the British and the Nizams.
- Bheem was a tribal man but Raju was not.
Alluri Sitharama Raju
- Raju is believed to have been born in Andhra Pradesh in 1897 or 1898.
- He is said to have become a sanyasi at the age of 18.
- At a very young age, Raju channelled the discontent of the hill people into an effective guerrilla resistance against the British.
- Colonial rule threatened the tribals’ traditional podu (shifting) cultivation, as the government sought to secure forest lands.
- The Forest Act of 1882 banned the collection of minor forest produce such as roots and leaves, and tribal people were forced into labour by the colonial government.
- The tribals were subjected to exploitation by muttadars, village headmen commissioned by the colonial government to extract rent and the new laws and systems threatened their way of life itself.
- Strong anti-government sentiment, shared by the muttadars who were aggrieved by the curtailment of their powers by the British, exploded into armed resistance in August 1922.
- Several hundred tribals led by Raju attacked police stations in the Godavari agency.
- The Rampa or Manyam Rebellion continued in the form of a guerrilla war until May 1924, when Raju, the charismatic ‘Manyam Veerudu’ or Hero of Jungle, was finally captured and executed.
- The Rampa Rebellion coincided with Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement.
- He persuaded people to wear khadi and give up drinking.
- But at the same time, he asserted that India could be liberated only by the use of force, not non-violence.
- Komram Bheem was born in the Gond tribal community at Sankepally village in Komarambheem District, renamed after him in 2016.
- The Nizam government used to collect tax in the name of ‘Bambram’ and ‘Dupapetti’ from people grazing cattle and collecting firewood for cooking.
- In opposition, Bheem spread the message of “Jal, Jangal, Zameen” (water, forest land) among tribal people.
- This has become a clarion call for indigenous people’s rights to natural resources, used in many parts of India to date.
- Villages in Adilabad were ready with the help of a guerrilla army composed of Gond and Koya communities’ men.
- Bheem trained tribal people to fight with weapons.
- However, the Nizam’s army overwhelmed them and Bheem died at their hands in the Jodeghat forest.
Presence in culture
- In 1986, the Indian Postal Department issued a stamp in honour of Raju and his contribution to India’s struggle for Independence.
- In 2022, Prime Minister unveiled a 30-foot-tall bronze statue of Alluri Sitharama Raju at Bhimavaram in Andhra Prades
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB