Amarajeevi Sri Potti Sreeramulu (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, patriotism and objectives such as Harijan upliftment.
Potti Sreeramulu Born to Guravayya and Mahalakshmamma at house no. 165, Annapillai street, Chennai. He belonged to the Arya Vysya caste. The caste members claim to be Vysya’s of the south and are brought up in strict vegetarianism and belief in non – violence. He was naturally influenced by Gandhi who was leading the freedom movement of India through non – violent ways. He studied in Madras till he was 20. Later, he studied Sanitary Engineering in the Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute in Bombay.
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.
In the 13th century, Arabs migrated to the shores of this lake in four boats after they were banished from Mecca for refusing to pay tributes to a new calif. Streets with dilapidated masonry houses, once occupied by these Arabian Muslims, are still found in the area. Some remaining resident families claim records in Arabic testifying their migration to this area.
The next recorded history of foreign colonizers is that of the Portuguese. In 1515, they built a church dedicated to Nossa Senhora Dus Prazeres (Our Lady of Joys), which is now in dilapidated condition. The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch.
Dutch people drifted to this lagoon as their ships got stuck on the shores of the Karimanal Village, on the opposite side of the mouth of the lake, from where the coast line got the name ‘Coramandal’. During the Dutch rule Pulicat was known by the name Pallaicatta Pulicat today bears testimony to this fact (period 1606 to 1690) with the Dutch Fort in ruins, dating back to 1609, a Dutch Church, Dutch Cemetery with 22 protected tombs (1631 to 1655) and a Dutch Cemetery with 76 tombs and mausoleums protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The Dutch built Fort Geldria at Pulicat, from where they transacted business with the British East India Company and other countries in the region.
A scientific study of the palynological characteristics of the lagoon was conducted by taking sedimentary soil samples from four test pits. It shows that.
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 Dalit 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 Andhra 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 Andhra 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)
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. 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.
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.