Being a victim of the social or economic oppression, it is NOT very surprising to fight for one’s own rights and privileges. But, born with silver spoon, as the son of a rich zamindar, it is not common and definitely heartening to know that there was once such a great personality who fought against his own fellow zamindars standing up for the rights of the poor farmers. And, Jananayak Dr. Chowdari Satyanarayana is one such example.
On 13th day of July in the year 1908, ‘Jananayak’ Dr. Chowdari Satyanarayana(CSN) was born to Chowdari Purushottama Naidu & Narayanamma in SM Puram (Sher Mohammad Puram) village of Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh (erstwhile Ganjam district in Madras Province under British Raj). As his father was a landlord, Chowdari Satyanarayana inherited copious wealth and properties.
Chowdari Satyanarayana was just eight years old when he married Saraswatamma. Saraswatamma was the daughter of Boddepalli Rammurthy Naidu & Lakshmamma who belongs to Kanugulavalasa Village, Amadalavalasa Mandalam, Srikakulam District. She was only six months old at the time of her marriage! Chowdari Satyanarayana & Saraswatamma had nine survived children – five girls and four boys. Two more died at the birth.
Inspite of his riches, he was simple and generous since his childhood. He had his schooling in his native village, SM Puram. Being a hardcore patriot, he was attracted by the National Movement and not long before he joined the Indian freedom movement. Just at an age of 13 he raised his voice and spirit for country’s freedom. He was a school student and had completed his 8th class when he began his inspirational journey.
Indian Freedom Movement
In his quest for free India, Jananayak Dr. Chowdari Satyanarayana participated and organised many activities against the British Raj in India. In this course of his great fight he was subjected to lathi charge and imprisonment numerous times.
The first leap into the movement by CSN was during his school boycott against the British government when he was an young boy studying in Government High School (now, NTR Municipal High School) in Srikakulam. Inspired by the then leaders of the freedom movement, CSN, who was just in teens, stood firm against the British rule. In the year 1921, Chowdari Satyanarayana led a team in his school to boycott the classes in a protest against the British. The incident turned deadly for him. As he was leading a team raising slogans of Vandemataram, the police treated him very badly. He was beaten severely without mercy even for his age. Thinking the young boy was dead, the police threw him in the drainage canal. But, God has rescued CSN through an unknown person and was taken to home.
It took more than 6 months for the young CSN to recover from the fatal injuries. But, the cruelty of the British police couldn’t induce any cowardice. Rather, he emerged stronger in mind and heart. He committed his full time in the freedom movement.
His father wished that Chowdari Satyanarayana would go for higher studies. But, the aspirations and goals of the young boy were different. He quit school after completing 8th standard and dedicated himself to fight against the tyranny of British government and free India from the clutches of foreign rule. Beginning then, until his last breathe devoted himself in the service of the country both in Pre & Post Independence periods.
In the year 1927, he participated in protest march against the British. Under his leadership, large crowds gathered and walked 200kms. All through the protest march, created a spur of nationalism and prepared masses to take part in the freedom movement. The British government arrested CSN and his followers.
After his release from jail, in the early 1928, Chowdari Satyanarayana along with his followers planned to organise a public meeting in Srikakulam. Knowing about it, the police imposed ban on any such meetings organised by CSN. But, the indomitable Will of the leader could not be quiet. He proceeded to organise the public meeting. As the day arrived, the police, anticipating large gathering, house arrested CSN and other leaders. But, the general public had taken the streets against the police knowing the arrest of their leader.
In 1929, Ramalingam Master gave a call to loot the salt heaps in Naupada, a coastal village in Srikakulam District, which was a strategic salt production field for the British. CSN along with his team participated in looting the salt heaps under the leadership of Ramalingam Master and was arrested. The incident has been popularly known as “Uppu Kuppala Dopidi” (salt lots looting) in the native lang. It helped in uniting and bringing more people on to the platform to take part in the freedom movement.
CSN made SM Puram, Kinthali, Kanimetta, Tholapi, Kothapeta, Thotada, Dusi etc villages as his main centres of action from where he operated and coordinated his activities.
During Salt Satyagraha in 1930, he mobilised large masses of people and contributed to civil disobedience movement. As part of the Satyagraha, he led many protests and was arrested almost every time.
In 1940, Chowdari Satyanarayana along with his colleagues led a march to Delhi from Srikakulam protesting the rule of British in India. The police arrested him and was put in jail.
By 1942, the Indian struggle for freedom has taken vibrant form with inclusion of people from every sect and from every corner of the country. The soil of India and the hearts of the Indians were aspiring for freedom. Chowdari Satyanarayana spirited the people of his district and mobilised large movement against the British government to quit India. In the course of his fight for the Nation, lathi charges and arrests were a regular course.
During the same time, CSN met Mahatma Gandhi in Dusi Railway Station in Srikakulam District where he received appreciation from Gandhi for his heroic efforts. It was then, CSN gifted dhoti (panchi, as referred in native language) woven from Ponduru Khadi to Mahatma who since then developed a sense of appreciation and liking towards the one of the finest handmade cloth.
Later during the Quit India Movement, on call from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Chowdari Satyanarayana led a team and removed the railway track that was between Dusi Railway Station and Boddepalli Peta village. Just after completing the operation, the British police saw the people near the track and chased Chowdari Satyanarayana and others. The police even fired but the whole team had a narrow escape.
Jananayak & the team involved in various other activities like destroying the post offices, telegraph lines and other communication systems of the British. Chowdari Satyanarayana was arrested and was in jail for months together.
For about 26 tireless years, beginning from school boycott in 1921 until India’s Independence in 1947, Jananayak Dr. Chowdary Satyanarayana significantly contributed to Indian Freedom Movement. As a loving warrior of mother India, he participated in many activities against the tyranny of foreign rule in India.
In his noble journey, he sacrificed his riches and all his personal comforts and at all times adhered to being a humble son of this soil. He gave away his lands and wealth, that which inherited from his zamindar father, to the poor and the landless peasants. Due to which, he had to undergo critical financial crisis during his final years. He struggled so much that he even found difficult to perform marriages to his last two daughters!
In the year 1972, on the occasion of India celebrating 25 years of Independence, the Government of India honoured Jananayak Dr. Chowdari Satyanarayana with TAMRA PATRA (Bronze Plate) in recognition to his outstanding contribution to India’s freedom movement. The then Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi felicitated him with the award.
Anti Zamindari System & Kissan Movement
Chowdari Satyanarayana was a man of vision and highest patriotism. He gave away his lands to the poor peasants and became an advocate of land reforms.
In the year 1936, he took up “Rythu Rakshana Yatra” (Farmers Protection march) as part of the Kissan movement in India. This march lasted from Ichapuram to Madras for a length of over 1000 Kms over a period of two months by walk. Chowdari Satyanarayana led the yatra from Srikakulam.
During the yatra, when heading towards Madras, Jananayak and others were arrested and put in Cuddalore jail for more than 3 months.
Though a landlord by birth, in 1945, Chowdari Satyanarayana actively took part in Mandasa Zamindari Vyatireka Poratam (Farmers Revolution against Zamindari System) and stood as an example among his peers. He along with other leaders battled for the rights of the farmers. He was arrested and put in jail. It was the first of its kind in the history of farmer led revolutions in South India. Later, many such revolutions erupted across India which resulted in abolition of Zamindari system and introduction of land ceiling Act by the Indian government.
Chowdari Satyanarayana closely worked with VV Giri (former President of India) and Prof. NG Ranga. Both the stalwarts had a generous relation with Chowdari Satyanarayana. VV Giri appreciated and personally liked Chowdari Satyanarayana very much; especially for his dedication and above all the fact that he was fighting relentlessly for the landless peasants, though Jananayak being himself the son of a Zamindar.
“Ubhaya Visakha Mandala Dvitiya Kisan Congress Maha Sabha” was organised by Chowdari Satyanarayana in his native village SM Puram on 7th April 1947. Knowing the Charisma of CSN among the masses VV Giri referred CSN as “Jananayak” since when it found its place before his name.
As a social reformer, Chowdari Satyanarayana strongly insisted against untouchability and inequality. His house was a paradise to such oppressed people in and around his village. He used to organize SAHAPANKTI BHOJANAM (Lunch with all) in his house to create social awareness to eradicate this inhumane activity.
Jananayak once said, “All are equal – for soul and for this soil; then why shall the blood & flesh, that are only temporary, discriminate you & me?“
During those times of orthodox beliefs of untouchability, Chowdari Satyanarayana never cared for anything that is not justifiable. He believed that all are equal without any discriminations of caste, creed or gender.
Chowdari Satyanarayana had nine children out of which five of them are girls. He not only talked about equality of men and women but proved it in action by the way he brought up his children. He always believed in gender equality. Neither he nor his wife Saraswatamma encouraged inequalities between men & women.
All children were provided with equal opportunities with respect to food, education, and other necessities. Hence, three of his daughters chose social work as their profession which proves Chowdari Satyanarayana’s commitment.
He strongly advocated social reforms as a means to achieve self-reliance.
Pioneer of Human Rights
As a freedom fighter and a believer of rights for every individual, Jananayak Dr. Chowdari Satyanarayana observed violation of human rights in the social order. He supposed that without understanding ones rights of an individual living in a society, there is no meaning of a country attaining independence. A famous saying of Chowdari Satyanarayana was “Unless you observe your rights, you can’t feel the essence of independence.”
As an MLA, he supported and welcomed the speech of Tarimella Nagireddy (before his resignation as MLA) in the Andhra Pradesh assembly against the human rights violations in the State.
He felt the necessity to educate people on human rights. He believed that a country’s freedom would be absolute only when its citizens had the freedom to observe the highest values of human rights. He along with Srirangam Srinivasa Rao (popularly known as Sri Sri – a progressive poet & writer) and Tarimella Nagireddy (visionary and a social activist) collaboratively worked in advocating and protecting the human rights across the State of Andhra Pradesh. The trio conducted various awareness camps, public meetings and through such other modalities strived to educate the people. Even though the transportation system was limited in those days, Dr. Chowdari Satyanarayana travelled vigorously the length and breadth of then Ganjam and Visakhapatnam districts (now comprised of Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram & Visakhapatnam areas) to create awareness about human rights among the people. He was the pioneer of Human Rights in Srikakulam & Vijayanagaram districts.
He also provided legal aid to the poor, tribes and other weaker sections of the society. He preached non-violent methodologies and extended his all support to the needy.
Dr. Chowdari Satyanarayana, as MLA, raised the issue of human rights violations in the assembly. He also emphasised the need for a proper mechanism that was necessary to be established by the government which safeguards the people’s freedom and the individual rights.
Jananayak continued with his people centric work and always strived for the benefit of the common man until he died in 1981.
Post Independence Politics
In free India, Jananayak Dr. Chowdari Satyanarayana served people as Member of Legislative Assembly, Andhra Pradesh for twelve years. In the year 1955, in the Second General Elections, he contested as candidate of Krushikar Lok Party (KLP) from SM Puram constituency and was elected as MLA for the first time. Later in 1967, for the second time, he contested as candidate of Rajagopalachari’s Swatantra Party from Ponduru constituency and won with thumbing majority.
During his entire 12 year tenure as an MLA, he never misused his authority nor tried to benefit anything for his self. He only possessed an old cycle which formed his means of transport in the constituency. He always went on bicycle that may be to a collector’s office or to some other place as the need may be. If he had to go with someone whose need is to be addressed in some government office, Jananayak used to lift him on his cycle to the concerned office and address the grievance on his part. Since Jananayak used only cycle as his transportation even though he was an MLA, he was greatly admired by all for his simplicity and down to earth nature. And, hence, many fondly referred and called him as CYCLE MLA.
During his tenure as MLA, Chowdari Satyanarayana was allocated with quarter # 47 in Old MLA quarters, Hyderabad. To his greatness of simplicity, he used to sleep on floor in the quarters. He never ran after any false prestige nor desired for luxury.
As an MLA, he always represented the voice of the people in the assembly. Above all other priorities, he gave utmost priority to put the grievances of the people before the Assembly for a rational and rightful solution.
One such example, which proves his farmer biased nature of Chowdari Satyanarayana was his movement against heavy taxation of government i.e. Adhika Sistu Satyagraha in 1960s.
In free India, under the rule of Indian government, ‘Jananayak’ Dr. Chowdari Satyanarayana was moved by the struggles faced by the farmers, and other below middle class families in paying various taxes to the government. In the interest of the common man at large, he along with his former freedom fighters, communists & other socialist groups, led protests against the government to reduce taxes.
Chowdari Satyanarayana actively participated in “Geeta Satyagraham” in 1954. For working against the government in support of the poor toddy families, he was put in jail for 7 months. After release from the jail, he contested in AP General Elections and was elected to Assembly.
Chowdary Satyanarayana, as an MLA, led “Jai Andhra” movement in Srikakulam. He also debated in the Assembly in support of a separate Andhra.
During late 60’s he actively organised “Visakha Ukku Udyamam” and fought for the rights of the local people and their opportunities in the Vizag Steel Plant.
He never worked for his vested interests nor misrepresented his authority for any unlawful activity. Jananayak always stood up for the social and economically weaker sections of the society to make them self reliant.
In this process of his rightful living, his wealth diminished but never gained any monitory benefit. He was entitled to get benefits in the form of land from state and central governments under freedom fighter’s quota for which he asked the government to distribute to the poor rather than to him. Such was his greatness!
He played an incredible role from freedom struggle to kisan movements, from social reforms to human rights activities and as a freedom fighter to people’s representative. In every walk of his work, he had his worth mentioning footprints
and established benchmarks for his future generations.
As a freedom fighter since from the first fatal attack by the British police on him when he was a young boy until independence for more than two and half decades, he displayed a brave and committed heart always. He stood as a motivation to the rest.
He was an icon of humanity and social justice. He showed it in his actions and conveyed message of oneness and equality irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender. He was one of the forefront leaders of social activists in his area.
He was a politician of the masses; a politician who was loved by his people. As a Member of Legislative Assembly, he depicted through his performance how an elected representative shall be. He stands as a role model for today’s legislators in simplicity, honesty and integrity.
He was the pioneer of human rights activists in Srikakulam District. Today, taking inspiration from him, many social groups are working on educating and safeguarding human rights.
In which ever sphere of movement he might be, all his activities contributed for a progressive society.
On 15th July 1981, Jananayak passed away suffering from cancer. Throughout his great journey he gained nothing in money or matter except the eternal love of his people.
Our nation needs leaders like Jananyak Dr. Chowdari Satyanarayana who can lead India and devote to true development of the nation.