Updated | May 21, 2017 12:56 IST
Potti Sreeramulu was born on 16th January 1901 in Madras in a Banian family. He lost his wife while serving in the G.I.R Railway. So he resigned his job in 1927 and joined Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram to dedicate his life to the country. Astonished at his exemplary life, Gandhi remarked that if he had ten such disciples, he would win Swaraj for India in a year. Next, for four years, he worked for village uplift and for one year he preached the gospel of Charka with missionary zeal, going from door to door in the Nellore district.
He took to Harijan uplift and surpassed Gandhi in his service. By fasting on four occasions, he made Harijan temple-entry an accomplished fact and came to be called “Second Gandhi”. Even after Independence, the laws relating to Harijan temple-entry and untouchability remained a dead letter.
He, therefore, fasted for their enforcement before the chief minister’s office, with the result he was put into jail for a month. On coming out, he fasted for 28 days at Wardha for self-purification. Moved by this President Rajendraprasad got a directive issued to the States to observe the Harijan day.
He found that corruption infected the Congress at all levels. With a view to keeping away from politics, he worked as a Pracharak for collecting Gandhi Memorial Fund, on a monthly salary of Rs.59/- though he was appointed on Rs.150/-. He found no response in the matter of contributions to the fund in Andhra and diagnosed the cause to be frustration following their failure to get a province for themselves. The main hurdle was the settlement of the question of Madras.
He naturally appealed to Prakasam and Ranga to fast for the formation of the Andhra Province but to no purpose. So he issued a statement that he would fast to death for the formation of the Andhra State, the question of Madras being settled amicably to all the minorities concerned.
The historic fast up to death began on 19th October 1952 at the Residence of Maharshi Sambamurthy. At the commencement, he took an assurance from the Maharshi and the doctors attending upon him, that no food should be given to him by mouth or otherwise even in his fast told him that he was entering the state from which recovery was an impossibility meaning that he should give up the fast, when Sreeramulu signified his surprise and smiled.
Nehru’s Telegram asking him to give up the fast was deservedly commented upon by Sambamurthy in his remark ” Nehru wants to make us fools”. He soul departed on the 58th day of the fast. The Center’s decision to form the Andhra State excluding the disputed areas was received while the funeral procession was on the way.
Next morning the selfless leader, Tenneti Viswanadham rightly resigned his assembly membership. If the other Andhra assembly members had followed in his footsteps and started agitation throughout the Andhra area, the modest dream of Sreeramulu would have been realized and his sacrifice purposeful. Sad to say the present truncated state of Andhra was carved without Madras being declared at least a Chief Commissioner’s Province has envisaged in the centrally sponsored Dhar committee report.
Potti Sreeramulu went to Jail five times, fasted on five occasions and proved a true follower of Gandhian cult than Gandhi himself in respect of the propagation of the gospel of the Charka, his service for the uplift of the Harijans and rural India, self-denial as a Pracharak-finally he proved a better martyr than Christor Gandhi, in that he dedicated his life for a noble cause by self-immolation.
If it was given to Gandhi to demonstrate the potentialities of fasting, it feel to Amarajeevi Sreeramulu to purge it of its impurities and imperfections such as – threat, demand, bargain and undignified compromise. Thus the unassuming, Karma Yogi has given to the world the most sublime concept of martyrdom(Prayopavesam) by fasting unto death for a great cause with a smile on the lips and with no thought for the result, and he was deservedly been canonised a Saint.
After Potti Sreeramulu, the world had produced only two others who ranked next to him. One is Makswine, an Irishman, who fasted to death for the freedom of his country, and the other is Jathendradas of the Punjab who died fasting in jail under British rule.
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