If citizens want to assert their rights in a democracy, who has the guts to stop them? No one.
Freedom fighter and Telangana’s poet, Kaloji Narayana Rao said these courageous words in an interview with All India Radio, after he was conferred the Padma Bhushan in the year 1992.
The Telangana government celebrated Kaloji’s birth anniversary on Wednesday. Commemorating Kaloji’s centenary in 2015, the government declared to celebrate his birth anniversary as the Telangana Language Day and honour his life and literary contributions.
Early years and activism
Praja Kavi (People’s Poet), as he is popularly known, Raghuveer Narayan Laxmikanth Srinivasa Rao Ram Raja Kaloji was born in Rattihalli of Bijapur district in the erstwhile Hyderabad State. His family later migrated to Madikonda of the unified Warangal district. His elder brother Rameshwar Rao, a towering fraternal figure in Kaloji’s life, also wrote poetry in Urdu under the pen name ‘Shaad’.
After briefly studying in Hyderabad’s Chowmahalla School, he completed his higher education in Collegiate High School in Hanamkonda, Warangal. Later, he graduated in Law from Hyderabad High Court-affiliated Law school. A fierce voice against injustices of the imperial and feudal forces alike, Kaloji extensively wrote and spoke in Telugu, Urdu, Kannada, Marathi, Hindi and English.
An ardent fan of Mahatma Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan, Kaloji took an active part in the Library Movement, which intended to spread literary and reading culture among the masses, since the early 1930s. He was also associated with Arya Samaj. Along with popular leaders like Madapati Hanumantha Rao, Suravaram Pratapa Reddy, Jamalapuram Keshava Rao, Burgula Rama Krishna Rao and P.V Narasimha Rao, he took a proactive role in several political movements. He also played an instrumental role in setting up Andhra Saraswata Parishad in Telangana in the year 1934.
“Why are these agonies in my heart? I cannot correct, nor can I show the path. I am not empowered to punish the guilty, nor can I come to the rescue of the distraught.”
In his poetry collection Naa Godava (My Protest), that is unique in both style and content, Kaloji provides a framework for his life, literature and activism throughout. The great Telugu poet Dasaradhi called it ‘running commentary on contemporary history’. It is essentially the poetry of dissent and eloquent testimony to his concern for reform and courage to revolt. His other notable literary works are Kaloji Kathalu, Thudi Vijayam Manadi Jayam, Parthiva Vyavam and Telangana Udyama Kavithalu and translations titled ‘Na Bharata Desha Yatra and Jeevana Geetha.
He also wrote fervently against the Nizam’s autocratic rule. He condemned the evils of the feudal systems in his writings, which also led to several imprisonments. His initiative and courage shown in the conduct of the Second Conclave of the Andhra Saraswata Parishad, resisting the tyranny of the Razakars, is still remembered by many.
Kaloji was a member of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly during 1958-60. In 1977, he contested in a lost cause against the then Chief Minister Jalagam Vengala Rao as an independent candidate from Sattupalli (Khammam district).
He supported the demands for a separate Telangana state in 1969 and remained a sympathizer ever since. He opposed Congress’ Vishalandra stance and the domination of Coastal Andhra leaders over Telangana people.
“I am today’s reality, yesterday’s dream and tomorrow’s memory,” wrote Kaloji, who passed away in 2002.