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Andhra Pradesh: Chirala-Perala stir sowed seeds of non-cooperation movement

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CHIRALA: Small protests often lead to big revolutions. It was one such protest by locals in Chirala town in 1919 that spurred what later became the non-cooperation movement against the British regime.

A young graduate from Edinburg University, Duggirala Gopalakrishnayya, virtually moved the entire population of the town to the outskirts to avoid payment of taxes imposed by British. Taking a cue from the novel mass protest known as Chirala-Perala movement, Mahatma Gandhi gave a call for nationwide non-cooperation against the British regime soon after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

Gopalakrishnayya, who lost his mother at a very early age, went to Edinburg where he graduated in Economics. After returning to India, he worked as a lecturer in Rajahmundry for some days but later quit his job and returned to Chirala to play a key role in India's freedom struggle. He took the movement to a new height when the British upgraded Chirala and surrounding villages including Perala, Jandrapet and Vetapalem into a municipal town and imposed high taxes on locals.

Gopalakrishnayya, an authority over economics and taxation subjects, put forward a proposal before the committee of locals to vacate the entire city and move to a new area. He convinced the locals that living in a makeshift village for a few months would make the British regime kneel down and accept their demands.

Upon learning about the protest, Mahatma Gandhi, who came to Vijayawada to attend an AICC session, visited Chirala and extended his support to locals.

Gopalakrishnayya explained his proposal to Gandhi, who gave the green signal. Locals soon vacated the town. They constructed temporary sheds and created a new village, Ram Nagar, on the outskirts of Chirala. About 13,000 people of the town moved to Ram Nagar. Though the Chirala-Perala movement fizzled out a year after its launch following the arrest of Gopalakrishnayya at Trichnopoly, the novel agitation to take on the unruly British had its impact on the freedom struggle across the country.

Gopalakrishnayya, who was given the title of 'Andhra Rathna', died at the young age of 39 due to TB.

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