Sitarama Raju's Rebellion: A Response
HAVING read with great interest Murali Atlurv's recent article on 'Alluri Sitarama Raju and the Mnnyam Rebellion of 1922-24' (Social Scienist,no. 131, April 1984), I would like to comment on some of the arguments he presents and to reply to some of his criticisms of my earlier account of the rebellion (in 'Rebellious Hillmen : The Gudem-Ramp^ Risings, 1839-1924, in Ranajit Guha ^ed.), Subaltern Studies 1, 1982). I feel it is necessary to make this response not just because some of my arguments have been misrepresented or brushed aside without any serious attempt to consider their relevance, but also because the differences in our interpretations of this episode have i wider significance for the discussion of popular movements and nationalism in nineteenth and twentieth-century India.
I tried in my essay to show that the 1922-24 rebellion could not be adequately understood by treating it in isolation from the long series of fituris (risings or rebellions) that had occurred in the Rampa and Gudem hills since at least the 1830s. Murali Atlury, by contrast, argues (or, more accurately, assumes) that these earlier uprisings were of little or no relevance. Indeed, he goes so far as to avoid applying to the events of 1922-24 the termfituri altogether because of its 'ambiguity' (footnote 1, p. 3). The implication of this is two-fold—that the colonial authorities' use of the term in 1922-24 denigrated a significant phase of the freedom struggle in Andhra to the level of mere banditry and self-interested, self-centred rebellion, and that the previous uprisings (bv contrast with that led by Sitarama Raju) were, indeed, of this inferior nature. Atlury is perhaps here somewhat misled by Gandhi's observation (Youn^ India, 18 July 1929, p, 234) that, to judge by M. Annapurniah's account, Sitarama Raju was 'not afituri (sic) but a great hero.' This apparent distinction is elaborated further on in Atlurv's essay. When speaking of the 1922-24 rebellion, he observes that it was 'undoubtedly anti-colonial in character and thereby political' (p. 27), and, further on adds that 'Unlike the earlier "fituris" popular participation in the Manyam rebellion made it a form of peasant protest from below' (p. 33).
While it is no doubt true that the colonial regime appropriated the term fitvri to signify ^vhat it saw as illegitimate resistance to state authority, or mere trouble-making and banditiv in the hills, all the evidence I could find suggested that, though not native to the hills, this was the term the hillmen of Rampa, Gudem and neighbouring tracts themselves employed. Its precise connotations may k»ave shifted between 1839 and 1924, as did the nature of the risings themselves, but it appears to have conveyed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the idea of a just and popular war against external intervention and oppression. To denv the wr^fituri to the 1922-24