Friday, 5 August 2011

Sardar Bapiah

Sardar Bapiah - Staunch Follower of Netaji
Peta Bapiah of Gampalagudem of Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh hailed from a lower middle-class family. Born in 1897, the year Subhas Chandra Bose too was born, he was a staunch follower of Netaji Bose.
Due to pecuniary circumstances, Bapiah was not able to pursue his studies beyond the IX standard. But with self effort, he gained proficiency in Telugu, Hindi and English languages. In his younger days he wrote poetry too.
Early in life, he came under the influence of Kotagiri Venkatakrishna Rao, the Kumara Raja of Gampalagudem. In 1917, the Kumara Raja, under the leadership of Annie Besant organised a movement against the Rowlatt Act.
Peta Bapiah and his friends assisted the Kumara Raja in this movement. That was the beginning of Peta Bapiah’s political career. In 1921, Kumara Raja, as President and Bapiah, as the Secretary, a few political leaders of Krishna District organised a meeting to extend support to the noncooperation movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi. The meeting attracted the attention of the entire Madras Presidency. The Government of the day arrested many of the leaders who took part in that meeting.
Bapiah was one of them.
Due to the initiative of Dr. Bhogaraju Pattabhiramayya in 1918, a separate Andhra Congress was formed. At about the same time the West Krishna Congress Committee also came into being, in which Peta Bapiah was to play a significant role. Bipin Chandra Pal, the eminent national leader who toured the region called upon the youth to become members of the Congress.
Inspired by Pal’s speeches many youngsters took up Gandhiji’s constructive programme. Bapiah was one of them. He was later sent to Sabarmati Ashram for training, this tenure there becoming a turning point in his public life.
The group led by Peta Bapiah in the constructive programme had to face severe opposition in the village. Even their own caste leaders and relatives were opposed to the movement. They had difficulty even to find food and shelter. But they faced it all bravely.
The annual session of the All India Congress was convened in Bezwada (later Vijayawada) in 1921. A large number of volunteers took active part in that session. Bapiah was prominent among them.
Incidentally, it was in this session that the national flag was approved. It was designed by Pingali Venkaiah in a single day under the instruction of Mahatma Gandhi. Several young men of Gampalagudem participated in the Salt Satyagraha under the leadership of the Kumara Raja at Machilipatnam. Peta Bapiah was given the responsibility of organising shelter and food for the Satyagrahis and later to organise the sale of salt in the district, defying the ban.
He was among the many who were arrested and imprisoned from the village along with Kataru Veeraswamy, Kataru Ranganayakulu, Kataru Govinda Rao, Suvarapu Venkiah et al.
In the context of the Montague Chelmsford reforms, the Congress Party was split into two, called Pre-changers and No- changers. Peta Bapiah joined the No-changers group which stood for no compromise with the British rulers. He was prominent among those who organised a protest demonstration at Vijayawada, against the Simon Commission.
After the failure of the Round Table Conference in 1932, many agitations were organised for the protection of the rights of farmers and to bring it to the notice of the British. Peta Bapiah was among the leaders arrested on the occasion. He was imprisoned. The starting of the Socialist Party in 1934 evoked lot of interest among Congress workers and in 1936 the All India Congress Socialist Party emerged. Its branch was set up in Andhra in which Peta Bapiah was the foremost. In 1936, he became the President of the West Krishna Congress Committee.
As the President, he had to attend several problems of farmers under unsympathetic zamindars and organise many protests. One such was at Kondaparva in which he was imprisoned. Though sought to be released by some of his colleagues, he preferred to stay in the prison rather than capitulating to the British.
At the end of this imprisonment for the cause of farmers, a huge procession and reception was organised by the farmers who conferred the title of ‘Sardar’ on Bapiah at the Public Meeting. Since then he came to be referred as Sardar Peta Bapiah.
In 1939, Subhas Chandra Bose was elected President in the Tripura Session of All India Congress, defeating Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramiah who was supported by Gandhiji. Gandhiji declared it as his own defeat and the members of the Working Committee did not cooperate with Subhas Bose against the wishes of Gandhiji.
Vexed, Subhas Chandra Bose resigned and formed a party called the Forward Bloc with extremist ideology. Peta Bapiah joined the Subhas Bose party opposing Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramiah, though he hailed from Andhra.
Subhas Chandra Bose was imprisoned, and in the jail he resorted to a hunger strike. He was shifted to his house and was kept under house arrest.
After the historic disappearance of Subhas Bose, all his followers in the country were arrested and imprisoned and Peta Bapiah was one among them. At the end of the Second World War, he was among the last batch to be released.
In 1946, Bapiah was chosen by the Congress to represent Tiruvuru constituency in the election for Legislature. He was opposed by his own son representing the Communist Party and was defeated. Both father and son lived in the same house, but politically opposed to each other.
Since then until 1967, when it became a Reserved seat, either father or son represented Tiruvuru constituency which, set a unique example in the country.
Bapiah was in prison for five years, 10 months and nine days in his political career which was the longest for any West Krishna leader.
After his release from prison in 1945, he was active in politics and was associated with several public institutions like the library movement, cooperative movement and several organisations working for the farmers. He was known for his impeccable honesty, straightforwardness without yielding to any sort of pressures. Sardar Peta Bapiah led a blemish free political life and the country is proud of such a leader.
When he passed away peacefully in 1983, leaders of all political parties joined in paying tributes to this valiant son of India.
Article by : K. V. Nageswara Rao
Source: Bhavan's Journal 15 July 2008
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