Wednesday, August 29, 2012

South-west sentinel

That is how this statue, at the south-west corner of the Madras High Court campus, was described by a Judge of the Madras High Court. Like its counterpart at the north-east corner (that of Rajaji), this statue too honours a barrister who gave up his practice to participate in the freedom struggle. The road this statute looks on to, known earlier as Broadway, was renamed in his honour as "Prakasam Salai".

It was not because Tanguturi Prakasam Pantulu lived on Broadway. It was on that road, in 1928 that a black flag demonstration was being held against the visiting Simon Commission. A nervous police force watched the demonstration gathering strength as they marched south on Broadway; finally, when it reached the China Bazaar junction of the Esplanade (what is now NSC Bose Road), the police opened fire. The shots sent the crowd back - except Parthasarathy, one of the demonstrators, who had been killed by the bullets. His body lay at the junction. The police swore to shoot anyone who approached the body. Enraged by that attitude, it was Prakasam, who ripped open his shirt and, daring the policemen to target his chest, walked up to lift Parthasarathy's body and continue on the march. It was this courage which brought him the sobriquet "Andhra Kesari" (the Lion of Andhra). The courage was demonstrated again when, heedless of his personal safety, he visited the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1948 to convince him to join the Indian Union, at a time when the Razakars were out to get him.

The plaque on the statue also calls him 'Andhra Kesari'. That he was the Premier of the Madras Presidency (1946-47) is mentioned in much smaller letters. This sentinel can be better cared for, surely!

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