Remembering Potti Sreeramulu: The Martyr who United Telugus in Andhra Pradesh
By Rama Mohan | March 16, 2014 7:22 PM EST
Today (16 March) is the 113th birth anniversary of Potti Sreeramulu, the martyr who achieved the present day Andhra Pradesh by sacrificing his life on hunger strike in December 1952.
Telangana & Seemandhra
Sreeramulu died in Madras on the night of 15 December 1952, and ultimately the united Andhra Pradesh was formed on 1 November 1956, by merging the Andhra state with the Telugu-speaking areas of the already-existing Hyderabad state.
If Mahatma Gandhi is the Father of the Nation, in a way Sreeramulu is the father of the united Andhra Pradesh. After more than six decades of the AP formation, which cost the life of Sreeramulu, the region is now again headed to be split into two states - Telangana and Seemandhra.
All formalities for the split are underway by the Union government. The two new states are likely to come into existence after the Assembly elections, set to held in AP between April 30 and May 7. The polls are to be held simultaneously along with the Lok Sabha elections.
Gandhi once said: "If only I have eleven more followers like Sreeramulu, I will win freedom (from British rule) in a year." Such was the grit, dedication and commitment of Sreeramulu. He went on fast for 56 days after launching the fast-unto-death on 19 October 1952. There were unconfirmed reports that the then-Rajaji (C Rajagopalachari) government did not keep any emergenccy medical aid in place, to rescue Sreeramulu from hunger death.
On 15 December, on the 56th day of the fast, Sreeramulu whose health had deteriorated heavily went into coma and died in Chennai.
His body was taken in a procession on Mount Road, Chennai. Thousands of people raised slogans and hailed Sreeramulu's sacrifice, before resorting to hold violent strikes in cities like Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Eluru, Guntur, Tenali, Ongole and Nellore, which caused extensive damage to public property. Seven people were killed in police firing in Anakapalle and Vijayawada. Then only, the Union Government, headed by the then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, announced to form the Andhra state.
Before Sreeramulu, Jatin Das is also said to have died on hunger strike for the cause of separate state for Telugu-speaking people.
Sreeramulu was born in Madras, (now Chennai) to Potti Guravayya and Mahalakshmamma on 16 March 1901. His ancestors were from Guntur district. He was a diploma engineer in sanitary works from the Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute in Mumbai.
Sreeramulu, a staunch disciple of Gandhi, quit his job in the Great India Peninsular Railway in 1927 to join Mahatma's Non-Cooperation Movement at a very young age, after the death of his wife. It is said that before taking the plunge into the freedom struggle, he divided his property among his brothers. Then he enrolled in Sabarmati Ashram, took part in various agitations and earned the appreciation of Gandhi.
Prior to the formation of AP, the Andhra state was formed on 1 October 1953, with Kurnool as its capital. Then, on 1 November 1956, Andhra Pradesh was formed with Hyderabad as its capital. The formation of Andhra Pradesh gave way to the birth of other linguistic states in India. Kerala and Karnataka were announced by the Centre on the same day. Then Gujarat and Maharashtra were formed in 1960.
Now, the Union government has been widely criticised for the procedure it adopted to carve out Telangana from united Andhra Pradesh, following protests from general public in the Seemandhra region.
Now, Telugu actor and new party Jana Sena's founder Pawan Kalyan went on a tirade and blamed the Congress-headed UPA government for "the way it divided Andhra Pradesh."
Noted journalist TJS George writes: "The issue is not Telangana or Hyderabad's capital status. The issue is our country's fall from democracy to disorder. The government added its own disgraceful contribution by disregarding procedural rules, showing undue haste in bulldozing things through and, astonishingly, contriving a 'technical hitch' that blocked television coverage. A "House adjourned" card appeared on TV screens when the House had not in fact adjourned. This must be the first time when Parliament officially broadcast an official lie."
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