Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy
Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy
|Cause of death||hanged|
Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy (died 22 February 1847) was the son of a former Indian Polygar who was at the heart of a rebellion in 1846, where 5000 peasants rose up against the British East India Company (EIC) in Kurnool district, then in Madras Presidency. They were protesting changes to the traditional agrarian system introduced by the British in the first half of the nineteenth century. Those changes, which included the introduction of the ryotwari system and other attempts to maximize revenue impacted lower-status cultivators by depleting their crops and leaving them impoverished.
The father of Narasimha Reddy was related to the Polygar family of Uyyalawada in Koilkuntla taluk, Kurnool district, and had married two daughters of the Polygar of Nossam. He had three sons, of whom Naramsimha was the youngest.. He married Siddhamma.
The EIC's introduction to the Madras Presidency of the 1803 Permanent Settlement, which had first been enacted in Bengal Presidency ten years previously, replaced the agrarian socio-economic status quo with a more egalitarian arrangement where anyone could cultivate provided that they paid a fixed sum to the EIC for the privilege of doing so.
According to social historian K. Venugopal Reddy, the Polygars and other higher-status people who preferred the old agrarian system "represented the decadent social order", were in many cases "upstarts" and "were also the heirs of a social system in which various orders of Hindu society were integrated through ages". These people were dispossessed of their lands, which were then redistributed, but the primary purpose of the changes was to increase production rather than to restructure the social order. In some cases, it coincided with a punishment because among the dispossessed were those who had recently been involved in fighting the EIC in the Polygar Wars. Some received pensions in lieu of the lost lands but at inconsistent rates.
The changes, which included the introduction of the ryotwari system and other attempts to maximise revenue, deprived village headmen and other higher-status people of their role as revenue collectors and position as landholders, while also impacting on lower-status cultivators by depleting their crops and leaving them impoverished. The population came to the view that the British were taking their wealth and that those who were dependent on the traditional system no longer had a means of making a living. As the old order collapsed into disarray, the once-authoritative Polygars, including Narasimha Reddy, became the focus of attention from sufferers, whose pleas fell on deaf British ears. The Polygars saw a change to mobilise peasant opposition both for self-serving and genuine social reasons.
Reddy's own objections to the changes was based on their outcomes. Compared to the Polygar of Nossam, the pension awarded to his family upon their dispossession was paltry and the authorities refused to increase it by redistributing some of the Nossam monies when that latter family became extinct in 1821. At the same time, some of his relatives were facing proposals for further reductions in their land rights, including by a reform of the village policing system that granted officials of America
Things came to a head in 1846 when the British authorities assumed land rights previously held by various people who had died in the villages of Goodladurty, Koilkuntla and Nossum. Encouraged by the discontent of others, Reddy became the figurehead for an uprising....
An armed group, initially comprising those dispossessed of inam lands around Koilkuntla, was led by Reddy in July 1846. The Acting Collector for the area, J. H. Cochrane, believed that Reddy had material support from fellow pensioners in Hyderabad and Kurnool, whose land rights had also been appropriated. The group soon attracted support from the peasantry and was reported by British authorities to have rampaged in Koilkuntla, looting the treasury there and evading the police before killing several officers at Mittapally. They also plundered Rudravaram before moving to an area near to Almore, pursued by the British military forces who then surrounded them.
A battle between Reddy's 5000-strong band and a much smaller British contingent then took place, with around 200 of the rebels being killed and others captured before they were able to break out in the direction of Kotakota, Giddalur where Reddy's family were situated. Having collected his family, he and the rest of the rebels moved into the Nallamala Hills. The British offered incentives for information regarding the rebels, who were again surrounded amidst reports that unrest was now growing in other villages of the area. In a further skirmish between the rebels and the British, who had sent for reinforcements, 40 - 50 rebels were killed and 90 were captured, including Reddy.
Warrants were issued for the arrest of nearly 1000 of the rebels, of which 412 were released without charge. A further 273 were bailed and 112 were convicted. Reddy, too, was convicted and in his case received the death penalty. On 22 February 1847, he was executed in Koilkuntla in front of a silent crowd of over 2000 people.
British kept his head on the fort wall in public view until 1877. The East India Company reported in their district manual of 1886 that
Since 1839 nothing of political importance has occurred, unless we mention the disturbance in 1847 caused by Narasimha Reddy, a pensioned Poligar of Uyyalavada in Koilkuntla Taluk, then part of Cuddapah district. He was a poor man in receipt of a pension of Rs.11 a month. As a grandson of Jayaram Reddy, the last powerful Zamindar of Nossam, he was sorely disappointed when the Government refused to pay him any portion of the lapsed pension of that family. Just before this time the question of resuming Kattubadi Inams has been brought under the consideration of Government, which made the Kattubadis discontented. Narasimha Reddy collected these men and attacked the Koilkuntla treasury, which, however, was well defended. He moved from place to place and sheltered himself in thepi hill forts of the Erramalas and Nallamalas, and though pursued by troops from Cuddapah and Kurnool, he continued to commit his ravages in Koilkuntla and Cumbum. At Giddalur he gave battle to Lieutenant Watson and killed the Tahsildar of Cumbum. He then escaped into the Nallamalas, and after roving about the hills for several months was caught near Perusomala on a hill in Koilkuntla taluk and hanged. His head kept hung in the fort on the gibbet till 1877, when the scaffold falling into decay, it was not thought necessary to repair it.
The Renati Surya Chandrua Smaraka Samithi was formed to preserve the memory of Reddy and the philanthropist Budda Vengal Reddy, both of whom were born in yyalawada village. The committee published a book in both Telugu and English, titled Renati Surya Chandrulu (The Sun and Moon of Renadu), in 2015. It contains excerpts from research papers by historians.
In popular culture
A biopic of Narasimha Reddy, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy directed by Surender Reddy, is being made in the Tollywood film industry, with Chiranjeevi playing the role of Narasimha Reddy and his son Ram Charan producing it. The flim is set to be a muti-lingual flim and has a star studded cast featuring Amitabh Bachan, Vijay Sethupathi, Nayanthara, Tammanaah Bhatia, Sudeep, Jagapathi Babu, Niharika Konidela, Anushka Shetty, Ravi Kishan and so on.
- Reddy, K. Venugopal (2010). "Dominance and Resistance: A Study of Narasimha Reddy's Revolt in Andhra (1846-47)". Social Scientist. 38: 23–36. JSTOR 25621954.
- Chetty, Narahari Venkatakrishnamaiah (1992) . The Manual of Kurnool District in the Presidency of Madras (PDF). Government of Andhra Pradesh. pp. 55–56.