A.G.K. Murthy–Humanist Pioneer in Andhra

Dr. N. Innaiah

Avula Gopala Krishnamurthy, rather “A.G.K.” as he was more popularly and affectionately called, was born on April 29, 1917 at Mulpur village near Tenali of Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh. He hailed from a middle class agriculture family. He graduated in Law and Literature from Andhra and Lucknow Universities. He settled down for law practice at Tenali and made it a center of activities in the field of Humanism, influenced as he was by M.N. Roy.
. For about 8 years he was in the forefront of the Radical Democratic Party in Andhra Pradesh, as secretary and member of its central executive. After the dissolution of the party, he was acknowledged as the foremost leader of the Radical Humanist movement in Andhra Pradesh until his death in 1967.
In 1949 he associated himself with such great rationalist personalities like Dr. R.P. Paranjape, Gora, C.N. Annadurai and S. Ramanathan in starting the Indian Rationalist Association. He was a member of the first working committee of the Indian Rationalist Association. The association’s first conference was inaugurated by M.N. Roy. AGK inaugurated the 6th convention of the Rationalist Association held at Madras. Elected Vice President of the Association, he held office until his death in 1967 at the age of 49.
His passion for social reforms and compassion for the downtrodden were proverbial. He pioneered the backward class movement in Andhra. He was the champion and protagonist of inter-caste marriages. He officiated hundreds of such marriages. People used to gather in large numbers to hear his speeches on such occasions.
He was elected Municipal Chairman of Tenali and during his tenure, he laid roads and provided electricity in slum areas. He visited the USA in 1964 at the invitation of the US Government. The fanatic Hindus including the editor of Andhra Prabha Mr. Neelamraju Venkataseshaiah demanded the government to call him back when AGK commented that he would tell the truth about Vivekananda if some one asks for details in USA. During his tour in USA he made certain remarks against Jawaharlal Nehru which made the then ambassador B.K Nehru furious but he could not do anything. After his return from USA, AGK gave his impressions in public meetings which were hailed as excellent assessment. He translated M.N. Roy’s work “New Humanism” into Telugu and published “My Tour of the USA”.
AGK studied Roy’s principles thoroughly and extensively propagated them but did not blindly follow them. In fact, he propagated the principles scientifically. He did not accept Roy as a communist. AGK often said that Roy was afraid of the Communist Secret Police chasing him, as he knew well how they eliminated their opponents in the international communist movement. AGK used to heckle Roy for keeping the photo of Stalin in his drawing room even in the last days of Stalin.
AGK realized that Netaji turned to be a “Social fascist”. When Subhas was defeated as president of Congress none received him in Lucknow but AGK received him and maintained cordial relations. AGK was studying postgraduate course in Lucknow and staying in hostel. He wrote that Netaji committed a blunder in seeking the support of and fascists in his fight against British imperialism.
AGK used to write articles in both small and big newspapers whichever was willing to publish them. He was popularly called a ‘theoretician’ in Radical circles. His general speeches were ferocious, and attracted special attention. Mr. Abburi Ramakrishna rao complained against AGK to M N Roy when AGK wrote bitter criticism against Gandhi during war days. When no magazine came forward to publish some of his thoughts, he launched a Radical magazine from Tenali during the Second World War.
He tried his best to bring several persons involved in social and women emancipation in Andhra region under the influence of Roy. As part of his endeavors, he could make the famous feminist writer Chalam meet Roy. However, it was a failure as Chalam was not fluent in English and did not have modern views on various subjects. Chalam could not rise to Roy’s level of thinking.
AGK thought that a meeting of Tripuraneni Ramaswamy with Roy would be fruitful. Ramaswamy did not possess in-depth philosophical knowledge. In addition, he could not come out of Hindu mythologies and caste inequities. Hence, here also AGK was dissatisfied. Ramaswamy did not live long afterward and there was no occasion for AGK to try again for their meeting.
Humanist :By 1948, AGK played a prominent role at the national level in the Radical Humanist movement, worked together with Mr. Ramanathan, Vice – President and invited Annadurai from Tamil Nadu to Andhra Pradesh. He continued to be National Vice-President for about ten years. He wrote a number of articles and addressed several meetings. He propagated the thoughts of eminent humanists like Ingersol, Bradlaugh, Thomas Paine and several others in Andhra areas.
After Independence, AGK excelled as a full-time Radical. While practicing at Tenali as an advocate, he conducted many training camps and imparted knowledge to youth.
Marriages: He cultivated the art of delivering speeches at the time of marriages. He also organized several humanist weddings. Even people who did not agree with his ideas heard him in rapt attention.
Friend of Dalits: AGK prepared Dalits in Andhra Pradesh to fight for their rights. Former Chief Minister Sanjivaiah visited him frequently for advice. Many Dalit poets had the privilege of his doing the ‘foreword’ for their works. AGK waged a relentless fight against untouchability. On a visit to Vijayawada as Chief Minister, Sanjivaiah had to cancel his engagements at a Harijan Hostel located atop a hillock as he could not climb. When the reporter of Andhra Patrika, Telugu daily, brought the issue to AGK’s notice by, AGK remarked that when Sanjiviah could climb up to the position of Chief Minister, how was it he could not climb up to the Harijan Hostel on the hillock. Andhra Patrika carried a story on the subject. Reacting to it immediately, Sanjivaiah offered apologies to AGK. He later attended the hostel function. Sanjivaiah was a generous politician who received criticism in its true spirit. From Athota Venkata Ratnam to Jashua, many Dalit poets were AGK’s friends.
Agitations for Secularism: The then Endowments Minister Kalluri Chandramouli spent Government funds in the name of renovation of temples lavishly. AGK wrote a number of articles and delivered speeches objecting to this and suggested that the Government should maintain a distance from religion. During the tenure of Pattabhi Ramarao as Education Minister, textbooks were nationalized and AGK opposed the move. In the 5th standard textbooks, a piece written by Viswanadha Styanarayana in which Budha was described as Satan was published. AGK agitated against it as a result of which the Government was forced to remove it from the textbook. This was a victory scored by Humanists under the leadership of AGK against the State Government. Pattabhi Ramarao frequently entered into arguments with AGK but could not succeed.
Viswanadha Satyanarayana afraid to attend any meeting attended by AGK. He could not face the rational literary criticism of AGK. At a farewell meeting organized by the Advocates Association on the eve of his American tour, many requested AGK to lavishly praise Swamy Vivekananda but AGK said that he would state only the facts about Swamiji.
Andhra Prabha, under the editorship of Neelamraju Venkata Seshiah, started a big campaign seeking the recall of AGK. Many fundamentalists cried foul about his speeches in the States. AGK did not have an occasion to rebut their contentions.
Several Humanists right from M.V. Sastry used to consult AGK because of his position in the movement. Gopichand and others were afraid of AGK. People, who often change their views as easily as changing parties, were afraid of him.
A comprehensive book on AGK’s efforts to propagate Humanist, secular and radical movements in Andhra is warranted.
AGK turned Tenali into an important Humanist center. From M.N. Roy to A.B. Shah, hundreds of Humanist leaders visited Tenali and had discussions with AGK. People acquainted with AGK felt that they were in the company of a great intellectual.
AGK edited Radical, Radical Humanist, Samiksha – all Humanist journals in Telugu published from Tenali. He also edited souvenirs on Tripuraneni Ramaswami, Etuduri Venkata Narasaiah and a few other literary giants in Telugu. He associated himself with famous journalists like Narla Venkateshwara Rao and influenced their thoughts. AGK turned out hundreds of Humanists through training camps and study centers.