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Kamatham Shanmugam

(1897-1957) – (Andhra Pradesh)

Kamatham Shanmugam (Aged 60), born on July 15, 1897, in Kampalem, Venkatagiri town, located in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, India, hailed from a humble Harijan family, with Shri Santhaiah and Smt. Chinnamma as his parents. He was known as Kaam Shanmugam or Kaam, following his education, he pursued a career as a teacher.

The remarkable bravery of the Katikaneni brothers, who openly challenged the Rajas of Venkatagiri in their own domain, left an enduring impression on his mind. The Non-Cooperation Movement had a significant impact on him as well. Moreover, Mahatma Gandhiji’s call for the eradication of untouchability deeply resonated with his heart and soul. He took up the leadership role in the struggle for the admission of Harijan students to Venkatagiri High School. Kaam was actively engaged in the fight for India’s independence and provided support to fellow freedom fighters.

Kaam Shanmugam was not only a freedom fighter but also an activist, poet, melodious singer, harmonist, and a Harikatha exponent. He held a strong belief and unwavering devotion to Lord Rama. In the battle against untouchability, he used the story of Nanda in the style of Harikatha (Yakshagana) and it became a prominent tool, earning him the title ‘Harijan Bhagavathar’ from Gandhiji. Throughout his life, Kaam resided in a thatched shelter, even after serving as a legislator for four terms from 1937 to 1957. In 1933, he invited Gandhiji to his Harijanawada to lay the foundation stone for a library and reading room.

Kaam was instrumental in establishing the Nellore District Adi-Andhra Association in 1926 and organized a conference at the Satyagraha Ashram in Pallepadu. He held the position of President for this association on three occasions. Kaam Shanmugam also set up separate hostels for Harijan boys and girls in Venkatagiri. In 1936, he resigned from his teaching profession to become a full-time Congress activist. He was arrested and detained in Vellore jail for his participation in the Individual Satyagraha in 1941. He served as the editor of the magazine ‘Vyavasaya Coolie’ (Agricultural Laborers) published in the Madras region at the time. Kaam was elected to the Nellore District Board and the Madras Provincial Assembly in 1937, 1946, and 1952. In 1955, he represented Kandukur in the Andhra State Legislative Assembly and dedicated his life to the service of the nation until his passing in 1957.