Friday, July 12, 2024

MS Acharya, a freedom fighter and a dedicated journalist

This is 99th year of M S Acharya, entering century of Janadharma Journalist

When M.S. Acharya settled his family at Suryapet, he was acquainted with the late Sri Devulapalli Venkateswara Rao (D.V). Sri D.V. Rao often visited my grandfather for treatment. My father used to slip away when D.V. came.

Acquaintance with Devulapalliand Communist Seeds

Sri D.V. was a big attraction for the youth in those days. The youth flocked whenever he arrived at a place.  Young Acharya was surprised at this. He, too, was gradually carried away by the phenomenon.  Thus, he started association with Sri D.V. Acharya and began visiting the villages- Chandupatla, Repala, Tekumatla, Vallabhapuram, and Nakirekal of Nalgonda district. Until he was fifteen, he was in this area for six years. Sri Acharya imbibed the doctrines and theories taught by D.V. The thoughts of looting the rich created excitement. At an adolescent age, he was implicated in a theft case because of some immature and audacious acts, though later, he came clean in those cases. During that period, P.C. Joshi was the Secretary of the All India Communist Party, and D.V. was the Secretary of the Provincial Committee. Acharya was discussing theories, debating poverty and getting acquainted with atheist groups. During this period, his mother died of cancer. Prasanna Raghavacharya, MS Acharya’s father, struggled with poverty and many other issues and had to migrate to Nellikuduru, shifting the whole family. From there, they shifted to Warangal again to make both ends meet. The elder brother of M.S. Acharya, Sri Venkata Narasimhacharylu, studied linguistics and learnt music with self-study. He began teaching music and earning money. After a while, their father, too, taught Sanskrit and music and earned money. The family was too big, and M.S. Acharya could not continue his studies.  He began searching for jobs.

Acharya in Hindu Seva Sangh

His first ever job as a compounder for Rs. 12 per month began under Laxman Sapavar. His main works included pounding the medicines and making concoctions. He came into contact with Sri Rajanna of Bachchevala. And Acharya shifted to Secunderabad.  He was employed in Bachchevala Hiren’s silk shop for Rs. 15 per month. Acharya had to go to Surat, Dharmavaram, Gadag, Bangalore, Madras, Kanchipuram, Salem, etc as part of his job. Though he was doing odd jobs for livelihood, from the core of his heart, he wanted to study further. That was why he was attracted to the Madura library, which was opposite his shop.  He often visited the library. Umarjikar was running ‘Hindu Seva Sangh’ on the library’s top floor. Acharya always wanted to do something for his country and people in his life. That longing pushed Acharya’s heart towards the Hindu Sangham. The acquaintance with Umarjikar pulled his interest towards the organisation. Dr Mooraji of Nagpur Sainik School came to Secunderabad. His stimulating speech on the country’s economic woes ignited thoughts in Acharya. He decided to join the organisation. This organisation was akin to RSS. But during those days, no one knew what RSS was.

‘Pratapa Rudra Dalam’ for the Youth

Now Acharya had settled at Warangal. He was deeply involved in building youth organisations. He organised gyms, sports and competitions in games. From these activities, ‘Pratapa Rudra Dalam’ was born.

Late Mustyala Sankara Rao and Acharya’s friend was the agent for the magazine Janmabhoomi. Acharya also developed relations with this magazine and a friendship with Mustyala Sankara Rao. Pratapa Rudra Dalam grew relationships with other voluntary organisations and individuals, like, M. Veeraswamy, Bhatti Kishan Singh, Kusam Vaikuntham, Cycle shop Rajanna, Narasimha Reddy, Bhupati Ratnam, Dakshina Murthy, Raja Govind, Dr Amaram Ramarao,  working in anti-Razakar activities.  Sri Mustyala Sankara Rao applied for the agency of Andhra Patrika. Since he had the agency of Janmabhoomi, the agency of Andhra Patrika was denied to him. Acharya got the agency with the financial help of KodimelaRajaiah. The agency was given in the name of Rajeswara Sastry. Before Acharya repaid the money, Rajaiah passed away.

Struggle against Razakars

As the freedom and anti-Razakar movements were in high tide, the sale of Andhra Patrika newspaper had picked up. Earlier, Andhra Prabha sold 200 copies, and Janmabhhomi sold 500 copies. Andhra Patrika was selling only a few copies. From this poor score, Acharya boosted magazine sales to 1450. His love for journalism grew over time. Vavilala Gopala Krishnayya conducted a training camp on Telugu Journalism at Tenali. Acharya attended the training classes.

Flood of Migrations

Razakars were on the leash. Families from villages and towns were leaving Telangana areas for border areas. Acharya’s family, too, migrated to Guntur District. However, Acharya remained at Warangal only. Along with Mustyala Sankara Rao, Acharya stayed on rent at Warangal at Pallerla Chandramouli’s house. Their routine was collecting news and distributing the newspapers.

Freedom Struggle

In those days, the bundles of Andhra Patrika were coming from Madras to Warangal via Vijayawada. Pamphlets, anti-Nizam magazines, and books were kept inside the newspaper bundles. No one was sure what was kept in these bundles. At times, the customs police would check.  Almost on a daily basis, the secret literature was rescued from the eagle eyes of the customs officials, and Acharya was sending the material safely to the respective destinations.  No one knew where the literature was coming from. This secret literature normally comprised poems of Ayodhya Rama Kavi, Varadhi magazine by Talluri Ramaswamy, Hyderabad, magazine by Dr Marri Chenna Reddy and Mulugolu magazine by Buchchaiah Choudhury. The British Raj banned all these magazines. However, these magazines were distributed skillfully. Later, Buchchaiah Choudhury gave practical suggestions for bringing out magazines. Before his death, he handed over the old volumes of Mulugolu magazine and his library to Acharya. Sri Acharya, in turn, donated the books- especially the ones belonging to technology studies, old volumes of Mulugolu magazine, and novels to Vasavi Library.

Brush with Razakars

While distributing the magazines, there were scuffles with Razakars. Open any bag, and there would be something or other that was objectionable to Razakars. Once, when some objectionable material was found by the Razakars in Old beat Bazar, Razakars were ready to thrash Acharya black and blue. The merchants of the area came to his rescue. They begged the Razakars and pleaded that Acharya was just a newspaper seller.  Sometime after, the bus to Vardhannapet stopped before the Intezarganj Police Station.  Acharya was to open the Andhra Patrika bundles and secretly place pamphlets for distribution. Meanwhile, a soldier from the military hit Acharya, and the soldier fell to the ground. Enraged by this mishap, he began to kick Acharya in the stomach with his knees. Irukulla Srisailam, watching all this, came out from a bus and embraced Acharya in order to protect him from the merciless kicks. He entreated the military person and saved Acharya from further thrashing. Undaunted by this unpleasant incident, Acharya went ahead with his mission of distributing the pamphlets and saw that the handbills had reached their destination.

Mustala Sankara Rao, while coming from Jammikunta of Karimnagar on a train, had a minor brush with a Muslim. Sankar Rao was already a known figure as a freedom fighter. And he was in the eyes of Razakars. The Razakars detained Sankar Rao and Palle Chandra Mouli. They bet both and left Chandra Mouli by the evening. Sankara Rao was detained in the house of Abdul Aziz. Abdul Aziz was the leader of Ittehadul Muslimeen. Batti Mallayya was a friend of one Mehatab Khan, who had the ear of Aziz. Acharya rushed to Bhatti Mallayya, the father of Bhatti Kishan Singh. A deal was struck to release Sankar Rao from the detention of Razakars and entrust him to the police. Mallayya bribed Rs 500 to the police, with the recommendation of the Police Patel, and with the surety of Tirumala Rajasekhar, Sankara Rao was released. Sankara Rao was beaten hard by the Razakars in the detention. His screams were heard outside the house where he was detained. Razakars, infuriated by the efforts of Acharya, who was behind the release of Sankara Rao, planned an attack on Acharya. As Acharya shifted his house, they could not trace him. He shifted lately into a house belonging to Vadle Kishtayya in June 1948. When he learned the Razakars’ plans to attack him, Acharya went to Repalle to meet his family. On 14th  September, he married in Repalle. As the first marriage failed, he married again in 1950. Indian Army entered Hyderabad. Nizam rule ended. Indian army occupied all the towns and all the important centres. Acharya returned to Warangal on 22 September 1948, when people began to breathe an air of freedom.

(Photo is from Pamulaparthi Niranjan Rao)

Journalist in the Making

A piece of news he wrote made Acharya think of becoming a journalist in future. The Government appointed Anandappa as a Commissioner to crush the communist movement that was going on before the Police Action. The armed forces killed twelve tree fellers, labelling them as communists. Acharya sent this news. The news got wide publicity. After the news came out, Palaniyappa, the Collector of Warangal and Obul Reddy, the Civil Administrator, did not arrest him, but he was harassed and questioned intensively by them. They were asking him the source of the news. Acharya was under three days of detention. He bore the brunt of psychological torture but refused to spill the beans.

Despite all his brave acts and undaunted participation in the freedom struggle, the sacrifices of fighters like Acharya remained an unsung hero of the freedom movement. Acharya or his close associates have never reached the list of the freedom fighters. They never became eligible for the pensions awarded to the freedom fighters. They joined a long list of freedom fighters deserving such benefits but never got them.

M.S. Acharya lived a hard life. A freedom fighter and post-1947, he fought to live up to the democratic values till his last breath. Spreading truth and democratic values through his magazine, Janadharma, became his life mission—an ordinary man who left an extraordinary legacy and indelible memories to all who were close to him.

(This article is based on interviews by the respected journalist Late Indurti Prabhakara Rao and Madabhushi Sridhar.)

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.


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