Bulusu Sambamurthy – Freedom Fighter (b 1886, Godavari)
Compiled by – Sri Ramakrishna Prasad – Chennai
It is dispiriting that no department of any government either the centre or the state has any record of many prominent freedom fighters. It is tragic that a man who had offered up everything to the nation faced deep humiliation in government departments in post independence India. Neither the office of his home town nor the secretariat of the state knew anything about him, less than a decade after independence. Inspite of the fact that the first linguistic state of India, the state of Andhra, was literally formed at his residence. All that remains is a few pictures from the postal department. This postal stamp was issued in 2008. Some five decades after his passing away. This is not an unusual case. Such has been the fate of many freedom fighters who gave up everything in the struggle for India’s freedom. Utter and humiliating neglect by the government of independent India. To evoke a very famous phrase, “This is the most unkindest cut of all.”
Sri Bulusu Sambamurthy was born on the 4th March 1886 to Subbavadhanulu, in Dulla village in the East Godavari District, in an orthodox family of vedic pundits. He got graduated in science from the Madras University and after a brief stint of service as lecturer in physics in the Maharaja’s College at Vizianagaram, he acquired a degree in law in 1911 and settled as a criminal lawyer at Kakinada. As a practicing lawyer, he proved his worth soon and appeared in the Madras High Court, along with the Late Tanguturi Prakasam Pantulu in many famous criminal cases. He was and is also known as Maharishi Bulusu Sambamurthy.
Inspired the call of Mahatma Gandhi in 1921 for the triple boycott i.e. (boycott of courts, councils and colleges), this great man gave up is roaring and lucrative legal practice and plunged into the freedom movement. Sri Sambamurthy led a luxurious life. He was fond of silk suits and riding a motorcycle those days. Though his liking of expensive clothing, Sri Sambamurthy took to wearing loin cloth in 1921 itself much before Gandhiji wore and popularized it. He was a victim of the brutal lathi charge inflicted by two police officers namely Mustafa Ali Khan and Dappula Subba Rao. These two officers were known for their brutality. Dappula Subbarao acquired the name ‘Dappula’ not because it was his surname but because he used to beat people the way a drummer would beat the drum. The word ‘Dappu’ in Telugu means a drum. His actual name was B. Subbaraydu. The manner he used to beat people was similar to beating drums. Dappula Subba Rao stripped all those protesters wearing khadi/khadhar clothes including Sri Sambamurthy and beat them very badly. Undeterred Sri Sambamurthy stood like a stone pillar. Subsequently Maharishi faced a number arrests, criminal trials and imprisonments.
He was the General Secretary Reception Committee for the All India Congress Session held at Kakinada, which was known as the famous Kakinada Session. As the General Secretary of the reception committee he was in charge of the hospitality and the well being of the delegates who attended the Kakinada Session. A tragedy struck Maharishi during the session when his only son, a young boy, succumbed to death due to a snake bite. Despite of the big blow he suffered he ensured that the Kakinada Session continued as scheduled. When Mahatma Gandhi got the news about this tragedy he suspended the session to offer condolences to Maharashi Sambamurthy. In the words of Smt. Sarojini Naidu “Sambamurthy turned the drops of his tears into diamonds and welcomed the national leaders attending the Congress Session.” Such was this great man who sacrificed his family obligations for the freedom movement.
In 1926 during the Lahore Session of the Congress, when a number of Congress leaders including Nehru and others were still demanding only a ‘Dominion Status’ for India, Maharishi Sambamurthy had moved a resolution in the Congress Session calling for ‘Poorna Swaraj’. He led the Salt Satyagraha Movement in 1930 and he participated in Salt Satyagraha at Chollangi near Kakinada and was arrested on April 18, 1930 and sent to Vellore jail. Maharishi Sambamurthy had vowed not to eat salt till the British Government lifted the Salt Tax and had lived up to his oath.
At the national level Maharishi was the President of Hindustan Seva Dal, which was organized by Dr. N.S. Hardikar. Though he hailed from an orthodox family he contributed a lot for the upliftment of women and the downtrodden.
Maharishi encouraged Smt. Durgabai Deshmukh then a small time volunteer at the Kakinada session and with his encouragement she studied law became an Advocate. Much later as we all know Smt. Durgabai Deshmukh became a leader of national stature.
In 1937, he was elected as the first President of the Madras Legislature (today a position equivalent as to that of a Speaker of a state legislature). He was one of the founders of the ‘Chennapuri Andhra Maha Sabha’. During those early days at Madras Legislature, Maharishi Sambamurthy was part of Andhrodyamam (Andhra movement) being a hard and active advocate for a separate Telugu Province comprising Telugu areas in Madras Presidency. Maharishi Sambamurthy asked the legislators from Telugu speaking areas to speak Telugu (instead of English) in the legislature to paralyse the proceedings of the house. One can say that much prior to Swami Sitharam (Sri Gollapudi Sitharama Sastry) and later Sri Potti Sriramulu here was one of the leaders who had also been leading the demand of a separate province for the Telugu speaking people. Sambamurthi was the Speaker of Madras’s first elected assembly which met in the University of Madras’ Senate House in 1937. He served as the President of the Madras Legislature from 1937 to 1942 when he resigned due to the outbreak of the Quit India Movement. Sambamurthy took to loin cloth discarding shirt in the true Gandhian style.
Post Independence when many of our stalwart leaders started clinging to the Kursi (Chair/Position) culture, Maharishi held no high office, he could have atleast been a Minister in the Madras Province or could have been in the Constituent Assembly, but his contemporaries did not bother about him nor did he bother about any Kursi. Later when Potti Sriramulu wanted to start fast unto death for a separate State for the Telugus none of the leaders showed any interest as Swami Sitharam (Sri Gollapudi Sitharama Sastry) fast unto death did not lead to formation of the State as demanded and many of the powerful leaders felt that Potti Sriramulu fast will be a futile exercise. Since none of the leaders showed any interest or supported the idea of Potti Sriramulu, he approached Maharishi. Maharishi offered him shelter in his home and advised him to start his fast unto death on the verandah of Maharishi’s palatial house at Mylapore, Chennai. This house was adjacent to the other palatial house called ‘Sri Bagh’ where the famous Sri Bagh Pact was signed. Potti Sriramulu fast unto death resulted in his demise and later formation of Andhra State.
Strangely, Maharishi Sambamurthy was not invited to inauguration of Andhra State. His house at Mylapore got converted into Potti Sriramulu memorial. Today the Mylapore home has been demolished and new building stands in its place as library and Potti Sriramulu memorial. Maharishi was rendered homeless from Madras (Now Chennai). No compensation was paid to Maharishi for this house being acquired as Potti Sriramulu memorial or probably Mahrishi himself refused compensation, the facts are not clear. Ultimately, Maharishi returned to Kakinada and his daily routine was visiting temples and residing in his home. Those who followed, adored and admired him shunned him. Hearing his plight Shri Govind Vallabh Pant rendered financial assistance. He led a life of penury and breathed his last on 2nd February 1958. He died as a neglected patriot. When his widowed daughter applied for financial assistance, powers-that-be in the Secretariat wanted to know who Sambamurthy was.
Today a small bust statue of Maharishi stands at the Town Hall at Kakinada at the very place where he braved the lathis of the British Police, particularly those of the brutal Mustafa Ali Khan and Dappula Subba Rao. Some like minded people from Kakinada lead by Mr. T. Srinivasa Rao, who retired from the Shipping industry, established the Maharishi Sambamurthy Institute of Social and Development Studies at Kakinada. This institute caters to the development and support to the physically challenged persons. A postal stamp came to be released in memory of Maharishi in the year 2008. The Kakinada Municipal Corporation has named an area in Kakinada as ‘Sambamurthy Nagar’.