A Father and his Son: the Rare and the Immortal Pair in the History of our Fight for Emancipation

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

In India’s freedom movement, most rare was the phenomenon when a father and his son had together staked their lives out in cause of the country and had emerged as a formidable force against not only the British, but also against the local oppressors that were in nexus with the British.

Revered revolutionary Gouranga Charan Das and his son Shashi Bhusan were such a rare pair.

When Pt. Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal were from the highly advantaged echelon of the society, Gourang Charan, though born to an elite caste called Karana in Orissa, hailed from the most disadvantaged economic environment. Physically handicapped by birth, he was not supposed to be the man to challenge the British. But he did. And with such vigor that a like of him was not found elsewhere by his compatriots, at least in Orissa.

He epitomized the struggle for freedom and was a living spirit behind applied Gandhism in Orissa. Yet, he was beyond the political economy of Gandhism. His creed was political economy of socialism even in the days of freedom movement and howsoever misconceived might it be, he had found Gandhiji’s village reconstruction program more practically akin to socialism in Indian climate and therefore, he had addressed himself to village reconstruction than parliamentary politics. He was unopposed elected to Orissa Assembly in 1945, when the nation had addressed itself to pre-independence experience in democracy,but did not show any eagerness for election thereto in later years. In post-independence era, as it was suitable to his orientation, he headed the district board of Cuttack. But neither he hankered after power nor he lessened his priority on village reconstruction. In fact, this priority did not allow him to stay a politician in power.

He was suffocated in the climate of corruption that Prime Minister Nehru had given birth to in encouraging collection of election funds from private industries. He was shaken to the core by climate of elitism that Nehru had ushered in by distancing administration from the people. As Nehru’s daughter also went ahead with absolutizing the climate of opportunism that first Prime Minister had commenced through compromise with the rising mafia, he, under sheer force of patriotic calls against the massive misrule that had then engulfed the country, had pinned his last hope in Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, to whom Gandhiji had respected as his conscience-keeper, and joined the Swatantra Party founded by Rajaji, then appearing as the strongest opposition to Congress; but soon his last hope became a lost hope, as the ex-kings of Orissa, constituting the top brass of this party, were in no mood to cooperate with him, as for them it was impossible to forget how the people’s movement in their principalities, which had forced them to surrender their kingship, was strengthened by Gouranga Charan.

I have seen how sad was he as political pollution was tightening its grip on many a freedom fighters of the day. He was spending his time with a dream in his heart that a day will come when India shall rise again against the anti-people politicians because of whom dreams of freedom had gone disarray. But that day did not come till his last day, 19 February 1972.

But one man had stayed tuned to his dreams till the last moment. And, he was his son, his compatriot, his comrade, his fellow sufferer in freedom movement, his fellow traveller in the mission of nation reconstruction, Shashi Bhusan Das.

When a school student he had joined his father in the movement in 1935, rendered matchless assistance to fighters underground, circulated movement instructions amongst them and their camps, acted as the most alert but secret carrier of freedom messages to the wits’ end of British intelligence. The authorities had a great relief when he was arrested on 1st February 1943. He was imprisoned for 18 months; but he had refused to appeal against the imprisonment as that would have been his recognition of legitimacy of the justice system of the foreigners. And, till he breathed his last on 22 January 2011, he had not changed, though most of freedom fighters had changed into self-seekers in the mafia raj that has taken over the country after independence.

I bow to the sacred memories of both the father and the son.

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