Andhra Formation Day
Andhra Day is celebrated every year on 1st November in Andhra Pradesh as well as in Mauritius by the Telugus. It commemorates the struggle of those stalwarts who fought body and soul to obtain a common linguistic state for the 65 million Telugu speaking Andhras.
The first Andhra state with T.Prakaasam as chief minister and Kurnool as capital was inaugurated on October 1st 1953 by the first Indian Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru after India achieved Independence in 1947, and Vishaal Andhra (extended Andhra, i.e Andhra Pradesh) was formed on the 1st November 1956 with Hyderabad as Capital and the Nizam state included in the linguistic state.
The land of the Telugus was divided into bits and pieces like Rayalaseema, Andhra and Telengaana. By the patriotic labours of many Andhra leaders like Venkatapaiah, Gopala krishnayya, Tanguturi Prakasam, Kasinathuni Nageswara Rao, Pattabhi Sitaramayya and sacrifice of Potti Sriramulu, the Andhras were able to achieve their goal at last and obtain a state of their own, with all Telugu regions united on a linguistic basis.
The movement and struggle to obtain an Andhra state has a long history almost as long as that of the Freedom Movement which was started to obtain independence of India.
In Spite of the fact that the Indian National Congress was formed in 1885 and Freedom Struggle took a new dimension with the partition of Bengal in 1905, political awakening in Andhra came much later.
The Swadeshi Movement which started under the dynamic leadership of Surendranath Banerjee in Bengal became popular and it spread the ideas of Swaraj to every nook and corner of India. New leaders like Balagangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal appeared on the national Scene. Vandemataram, the immortal hymn of the motherland was sung to inspire Indians to rise against the rulers. This movement received great impetus in Andhra when Bipin Chandra Pal toured Coastal Andhra in April 1907.
The Vandamataram and Swadeshi movements created among the Andhras a lively interest in their language, literature and their past history. Another landmark in the history of the Andhra movement was the publication of the book “ Andhrula Charitramu” ( History of the Andhras) in 1910 by the Vignaana Chandrika Mandali. This work became very popular and the Telugus became keenly aware of their contemporary backwardness. Although the Telugus represented 58% in the Madras Presidency, they had no effective voice in the politics of the region. Their intellectual attainment was nil and all educational institutions in the Andhra town like Bapatla, Machilipatnam, Rajamundry, Visakhapatnam etc, were headed by non-Telugus. Patriotic articles in the press contributed a lot to raise the opinions of the Andhras and to speed up the urge for sub-nationalism. Representations were made to the British government and grievances of the Telugus were exposed but as the British officers who ruled over the Andhras had very little knowledge of Telugu, many of their requests met with deaf ears. As a result of wide discussion in the press, the subject of the formation of a separate province came up for consideration in May 1912.
The first Andhra Conference with representatives from all the Telugu districts of the Madras Presidency met at Bapatla on 26 May 1913 under the presidentship of B. N. Sarma who was then a member of the legislative council of Madras.
The second Andhra Conference took place at Vijayawada on 11 April 1924 and henceforth the meeting became known as the Andhra Maha Sabha.
The Andhra Maha Sabha conferences succeeded one after the other each year but some Andhra leaders later diverted their attention to issues of national importance, like a United Congress, demand for Home rule etc. Demand for a separate Andhra province receded into the background. They gave priority to the nationalist movement. Their objective was that their motherland must be liberated from the British.
The Home Rule Movement subsequently gained momentum and Britain promised reforms of the impending constitutions. This was a great satisfaction to the Andhras and they keenly looked forward to an early formation of Andhra province.
The year 1919 saw the entry of Mahatma Gandhi into the arena of politics and marked an important landmark in the freedom struggle of India.
From 1921-1931, struggle in Andhra took a new dimension. During these years, the Andhras followed Gandhiji’ leadership heart and soul and made splendid sacrifices for the freedom of the country.
Inspired leadership was provided by eminent personalities like Venkatapaiah, Gopala krishnayya, Tanguturi Prakasam, Kasinathuni Nageswara Rao, Pattabhi Sitaramayya etc.
The Simon commission was set up to report on the reforms of the Constitution, but the Andhra Maha Sabha decided to boycott since no Indian was member of that commission. T. Prakasam took a leading part in getting the Andhras to boycott the visit of the Commission in Madras city. The police opened fire at the protesters in Parry’s Corner, the busy centre of the city, and a young volunteer died on the spot. The procession leaders asked the police officer to allow them to identify the victim. Pointing his rifle at the processionists, he threatened them with dire consequences, and none dared to approach the body. But one leader among them bravely unbuttoned his coat showing his chest before the rifleman and shouted: ”Shoot me”. Fearing fatal consequences, the police officer withdrew the rifle, whereupon a plethora of voices came from the crowd shouting loudly `Andhra Kesari ki Jai’. That was Tanguturi Prakasam Pantulu, who from then onwards came to be reverentially called ‘Andhra Kesari’ The brave and courageous march of Prakasam won him the title Andhra Kesari(Lion of Andhra).
The Andhra Maha sabha as early as 1931 at its first session demanded the creation of a separate university for Andhra as it felt that the Telugu language and literature was not receiving proper attention in the Madras University.
The controversy over the headquarters of the Andhra University created such ill-feelings between the Circars and Rayalaseema that it delayed the formation of Andhra province by several years.
Formation of Andhra State
When India attained independence on 15 August 1947 the Andhras hoped that their long cherished desire of a separate Andhra province would be fulfilled soon. Their optimism was based on the Congress election manifesto of 1946 wherein it was declared that the provinces of the country would have to be constituted as far as possible on the basis of language and culture. Many Andhra leaders like Prakasam and Ranga met Sardar Patel the Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, government of India, and requested him to see that the Andhra province was created before the new constitution was drafted. Patel promised to consider the legal implications. On 27 November 1947 Prime Minister Nehru announced that his government accepted the principle of linguistic provinces.
June 1948 a commission was set up with S. K. Dar, a retired judge of the Allahabad High Court to report on the creation of new provinces, but this was a big deception. The report of the Commission created an uproar in Andhra.
Another committee was set up to look after the creation of linguistic provinces. The members were J. Nehru, V. Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramayya (J.V.P. committee). The committee submitted its report in April 1949. It recommended the formation of Andhra province provided that the Andhras gave up their claim to the city of Madras.
Later there was clash of personalities between Prakasam and Pattabhi who became Congress President in 1948. The new Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950. The creation of Andhra state was left to oblivion.
Swami Sitaram’s Fast
Swami Sitaram felt that he should adopt the Gandhian technique to achieve the Andhra state. So he began his fast unto death on Independence Day 1951. The fast created a highly explosive situation in Andhra. Thereupon Acharya Vinoba Bhave advised the Swami to give up his fast so that the whole issue could be settled in a peaceful atmosphere. The Swami ended the fast of 34 days on 20 September 1951. But nothing came up after that.
Potti Sriramulu’s fast & Formation of Andhra state.
The people expressed their resentment towards Congress in the general election of 1952. The Congress suffered massive lost of seats. The communists and the Kisan Majdur Praja Party (KMPP) of Prakasam formed themselves into a United Democratic Front (UDF). Prakasam was elected leader of the UDF which had the support of 164 members. The UDF was the largest single group in the assembly but the governor did not invite Prakasam to form the ministry. He nominated C. Rajagopalachary to form the ministry. After Rajagopalachary became Chief Minister of Madras, he tried to utilize his position to develop Tamilnadu at the expense of Andhra. Andhras were very wild against the behaviour of Rajagopalachary.
In such a situation Potti Sriamulu began his fast unto death on 19 October 1952 at Madras. When the fast entered its 50th day Nehru criticized it. Next day in the Rajya Sabhah he repeated the same old statement that the government of India will form Andhra state without Madras city, provided that there is general agreement among the parties concerned. Sriramulu was not prepared to accept Nehru’s statement and continued his fast. The fast created an explosive situation in Andhra and on the night of 15 Decemebr 1952 Sriramulu attained martyrdom. When the news of the passing away of Sriramulu was heard the entire Andhra region was swept in chaos. For three days, mobs raided railway stations and other government buildings. Police had to open fire and many persons died during the disturbances.
The disturbances opened the eyes of the Indian government and on 19th December Nehru announced in the Lok Sabha that the government had decided to form Andhra state excluding Madras city. After the announcement, location of the capital was a heated debate and it took some time to reach a decision. The capital was shifted to Kurnool.
Sanjiva Reddy could not form a government with his Congress delegates and enlisted the support of Prakasam to prevent the Communists from taking power. T. Prakasam became the first Chief Minister of the Andhra state and Sanjiva Reddy became the Deputy Chief Minister. On first October 1953 Nehru inaugurated the Andhra state.
T. Prakasam was the most popular Andhra leader, a great fighter, editor and political leader. The people of Andhra Pradesh had widespread admiration for him and were greatly inspired by his dauntless courage and sacrifice. The ‘lion of Andhra’ breathed his last on May 20, 1957, and the famous editor of ‘Andrha Prabha’, Narla Venkateswara Rao, commented: ”Andhra is bereft of light” (Prakasa viheenamaina Andhra). A grateful Government carved a new distrcit out of Nellore and Guntur and named it ‘Praksam’.
In Mauritius an effigy of Potti Sriramulu has been placed in the yard of the Mauritius Andhra Maha Sabha, and every year important personalities of Mauritius meet to garland the martyr. A cultural programme is also organized.
Sources: History of Andhra and The Hindu newspaper.