Tragedy At Bapatla
Tragedy At Bapatla
The year was 1931; the month of June. Earlier that year on 23rd March, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Raj Guru were hung to death for purported incendiary activities against the suzerains.
These firebrand revolutionaries who were part of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association were tried for treason and paid the ultimate price as they were executed by hanging.
The party in its former avatar was called the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), when founded by Ram Prasad Bismil in 1923 to oppose abandoning the non-cooperation movement by Mahatma Gandhi in 1922 in the aftermath of the Chauri Chaura incident, where 22 police personnel were incinerated by a violent mob.
Vellanki Prasad Sarma of Bapatla who was pursuing a degree in sciences from Andhra Christian College in Guntur was a leading face of the Andhra chapter of the party and advocated violent acts to achieve the ultimate goal of freedom from the foreign yoke. This was not quite approved by his grandfather, a peacenik, and a Gandhian.
Some years passed by …
The balmy weather in Bapatla, a bijou town in Guntur district of Madras Presidency turned blustery. Waves in the Bay of Bengal assumed monstrous heights; the radiant, crimson red sun sank in the depths of the longest bay of the world. The azure sky turned dark and grey and there was an unseasonal downpour.
Meanwhile, a bullock cart trudged its way into the lane inhabited by the twice-born. Vellanki Prasad Sarma along with his infirm, octogenarian grandfather received the bullock cart at the doorstep of their house.
The bullock cart carried the charred bodies of his parents and older siblings who were attacked a group of brigands (apparently planted by the British) as they were returning back from Rajahmundry to Bapatla after attending the festivities of a family wedding.
Tragically they did not receive any medical attention on the imperious directives of the Imperial Police forces and thus precious lives were snuffed out.
Vellanki Krishna Sarma was devastated at seeing the charred corpses of his son, daughter-in-law, and grandsons. He was choked by the catastrophic event.
After performing the last rites along with the only surviving scion of the Sarma household, he walked into the precincts of Bhavanaranaswamy Temple and transfixed his gaze at the idol of Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of this temple which was constructed during the reign of the Chola dynasty.
The fatalistic and pacific Gandhian Krishna Sarma attributed the misadventures on account of his youngest grandson’s association with the Hindustan Republican Association - the curse of the dead policemen at Chauri Chaura.
“Twenty-two of them were burnt alive by revolutionaries and five of my family have been torched to death, this is nothing but Karma,” mused the elderly as a fountain of tears gushed from his eyes. “Lord Shiva did not approve of the killing,” the old one burst out in agony.
For several years the grandfather and the youngest grandson were often locked in animated conversations about the strategy Indians ought to adopt to gain freedom from colonial rule over mugs of cool buttermilk spiked by ginger and coconut water to soothe frayed tempers to the much amusement of members of the Vellanki family.
After performing the last rites the eldest Vellanki had an intimate dialogue with Lord Shiva. Thereafter in the dead of the night, the old man silently tiptoed to the vast beach of Bay of Bengal. The following morning, a group of fishermen found the bloated body of an old man washed up ashore.
This was a double whammy for Vellanki Prasad Sarma who was absolutely nonplussed with the unfolding of catastrophic events in his life, which seemed hunky-dory till a day back. He was now the only surviving member of the Sarma family. All he could see was darkness. His entire persona was clouded by tenebrosity due to the cataclysmic events in the family.
The strapping youngster had to perform the last rites of his grandfather. Within two days he had cremated the closest members of his family.
Suddenly the weather turned tumultuous and it rained heavily. “Looks like the Gods from the empyrean have joined in shedding tears,” whispered Pandit Bharadwaj, the chief priest of Bhavanaranaswamy Temple to the young one. Vellanki was ashen-faced, absolutely gutted, and screamed for cover and mercy.
“I swear by the presiding deity of Bhavanaranaswamy Temple to eschew my revolutionary activities and become a doctor and follow the path of non-violence,” howled Sarma as he slumped to the ground.
All of a sudden the clouds cleared; there was a rainbow in the sky. At a far end of the sky was a mass of clouds which strangely appeared as Lord Shiva.
“The time for retribution is over, peace prevails, and your party has paid for the loss of the lives of the twenty-two policeman at Chauri Chaura. The temple will pay for your education in medicine,” remarked the seasoned and clairvoyant Pandit Bharadwaja as he held Vellanki Prasad Sarma’s hands.