Communists’ Contribution to India’s Independence: A few words

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

In the history of India’s freedom movement, the 1942 ‘Quit India’ call of Gandhiji is to stay forever a turning point that ended the role of Gandhian non-violence in the struggle for independence.

Even if not deliberate, it was an act of failure on the part of Gandhiji and his blind yes-men in the Congress Party to read the motive behind ‘Operation Orient’ that had metamorphosed into the machination of fascist design aimed at engulfing India before it become a free nation.

“What was the grand fascist plan in 1942 which they called Operation Orient?” Pursuing this question, Dilip Bose in his well documented disquisition captioned ‘1942 August Struggle and The Communist Party of India’ has informed.

“Japan had occupied Rangoon by 8 March 1942 and was waiting for the other prong of the fascist wing to advance through Stalingrad to India via Persia and Afghanistan. Today we know in detail that this “Operation Orient” failed because the heroic Red Army fought almost a superhuman battle to block the German Nazi Army at Stalingrad. The fiercest battle took place at Stalingrad between November 1942 to the 1st week of February 1943 when Field Marshal Von Paulus of Germany surrendered to the Red Army. Therefore, August 1942 was taking place exactly when Stalingrad battle was taking place in full fury.”

Thus, it was essential for the people of India to rise up as a nation against fascism and it was essential for the Congress to lead the nation in this regard, as “the progressive forces of the world are now aligned with the groups represented by Russia, Britain, America and China” to quote the resolution of the Congress Working Committee held in December 1941 at Bardoli.

But the rash call of Gandhiji to the British to quit India, with the most unscientific support of Congress top brass to the said call not only deserted the collective wisdom expressed in Bardoli, but also denied the Indians to be one with the forces fighting “the grand fascist plan”.

While supporting the preamble of the Quit India resolution that aimed to “defend India and resist aggression with all the armed as well as the non-violent forces at its command, together with Allied Powers”, the Communists opposed the operative part of the resolution concerning the “struggle” aspect, because, the envisaged ‘struggle’ in the prevailing context could mean a struggle against the allies against fascism.

Britain being one of the allies, the Quit India call at that juncture was to provoke the British to repress the Indian leadership for staying unperturbedly addressed to the war. In Communist perception, that was to render the necessary leadership unavailable to Indians in the peoples’ war against fascism.

In fact, in an open letter dated 26 July 1942 addressed to the Congress leadership, it had raised the question: Is it not plain enough that to start your ‘struggle’ is just to play the game of the imperialists and the bureaucrats? What will happen if and when you start the struggle?

“They will quietly put you and thousands of active Congress workers inside jails and sanctimoniously declare that it is their unfortunate duty to be able to save India from the fascist invaders.

“They would have divorced you from contact with the people who need you and every patriot in their own midst more than ever before. It is your historic responsibility to organize our people for national resistance. And here you will leave them leaderless and at the mercy of the mad bureaucrats”, the letter had warned.

This exactly had happened.

There was “wholesale arrests of the Congress leaders” by the end of the night of August 9, 1942, which Gandhiji had to indicate in his letter to Viceroy Linlithgow, dated 23 September 1942.

In this situation of sudden absence of leadership, with passion for freedom having already been ignited, the people of India suffered the worst of repression and torture in the hands of the British imperialists and bureaucrats.

Within four months from August 9, according to statement of the Home Member in the Central Assembly, 60,229 persons were arrested, 18,000 detained under Defence of India Regulation, 1630 were injured in firing by the police and military that had also killed 940 Indians in encounters.

In admitting the loss occurred by not heeding to the Communists’ advice, though advancing a face-saving statement, the Congress in its 1945 bulletin captioned ‘The Struggle and After’, had to say, “The earnest appeal made by the AICC at its last meeting held on August 8, 1942 for creating conditions necessary for full cooperation with the United Nations in the cause of world freedom was ignored and the suggested attempts to solve the Indian problem by negotiations were answered by the government by an all-out attack on the Indian people and by subjecting an unarmed India to many of the horrors which accompany an invasion.”

However, the history stands witness to how in absence of Congress leadership it is the Communists that had led the post August 9 ‘revolution’ for freedom that overwhelmed the brutal repressions unleashed by the British with the supreme sacrifices, a tiny sample of which has been quoted supra from the statement of the Home Member in the Central Assembly, forcing the imperialists to seriously think of leaving India.

What was at best a ‘struggle’ in the plan of the Congress, was transformed into an indomitable ‘revolution’ by the Communists and, in fact, August 9 is not known as ‘August Struggle’, but is known as ‘August Revolution’.

And, this most heroic phase of India’s revolution for freedom was not based on Gandhian non-violence.

Be it Baishnav Pattanayak’s armed attack on citadel of Shankar Pratap – the tyrant royal ally of the British – at Parjang in Dhenkanal or RIN revolt at Bombey, every instance that really expedited independence after the expected incarceration of the Mahatma and all his men in the Congress following the August resolution, was radically violent, sharpened by the concept and support generated and given by the Communists.

If erudition inspires one for progress, it may be gainful to peruse the pages of history of India’s freedom movement post August 9, 1942 to know how sharp and specific was the Communists’ strategy to expeditiously expel the British from our soil.

In fact, the last phase of Indian freedom movement that had expedited our independence, was led by the Communists, not by the non-Communists.

Reflecting this reality, after the British had to quit India, the Manchester Guardian had noted in an editorial on 11 October 1947, “It may be hard to disentangle whether the British action was based on high principle or on a less glorious desire to retreat to shelter before the storm broke”.

British Labor Minister A. V. Alexander had written on July 18, 1946: “I am certain, we should have faced a position of uprising and of bloodshed and disturbances in India and with a future military commitment that no one could at present overcast”.

This was official admission of the British that the aggressive phase of Indian freedom movement that had forced the British to quit was not the non-violent movement led by Gandhiji, but the brave war of patriotism the Communists had ignited and guided and waged against imperialism.

When Viceroy Lord Linlithgo had written on August 16, 1942 that the Communist Party of India was “practically lining up with the Congress”, the Government’s report on the 1st Party Congress of CPI, (Bombay 1943) had noted that the Communist Party was “solely interested in the speedy and violent overthrow of British rule in India”, as it’s paramount aim was “liberation from imperialist enslavement”.

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.

I shall, Shashi Bhai, Never Say, You Are No More

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Every human-being belongs to mankind. But mankind does not comprise a single type of human-beings; because they are basically of two types. They may be either male or female, either rich or poor, either indigenous or alien, either industrialists or workers, either politicians or gentlemen, either exploiters or exploited et cetera, et cetera; but all of them belong to only two types: patriots and traitors.

Shashi Bhai, who breathed his last on 22 january 2011 was a patriot.

He was the only son of legendary freedom fighter Gourang Charan Das. In my public life there was a time when I was blessed with an opportunity to work with Gourang Babu. And that had given me the fortune of friendship with Shashi Bhusan Das, Shashi Bhai.

He was deeply affectionate but immensely magnanimous. Incomparably simple but simply majestic. Arriving instantly at the bright side of a seemingly notorious person was his forte wherefrom with utmost ease he was emitting positive thinking that was transforming a foe into a friend for ever.

He was an epitome of humanitarian feelings. Of universal brotherhood.

Some one may not have kept contact with Shashi Bhai for years; but it can be certainly said that in the heart of his heart he must have remained very close to him. On his sad demise, he must have cried inconsolably in the secret chamber of his soul.

I am not going to elaborate on how nice a man was he. I will only say how incomparable was he in contemporary society.

As said supra, he was the only son of the legendary freedom fighter Gourang Charan Das. But he was his comrade in sacrifice for the cause of the Country.

In 1938, when a student of Minor School, he joined his father in freedom movement and within two years he made a mark as a dependable fighter. Came 1942. Quit India movement commenced. Whosoever leader the British could cast eyes on was arrested. Bagalpur, Gourang babu’s village in the then district of Cuttack, emerged as a center of freedom movement under his leadership. The School where Shashi Bhai was a student was used as a production point of revolutionary leaflets containing messages of freedom struggle. Daring the British intelligence, Shashi Bhai, the youngest amongst the fighters, was carrying the cyclostyled leaflets to freedom fighters of various villages in the region spread from Biridi to Ersama. He was the link between the great revolutionary Gobind Chandra Mohanty and others and a regular reporter of events of revolution at Mallipur center of freedom struggle that the famous Binod Kanungo was running. He had been frequenting in the night the dreaded cremation ground – Sati Chaura of Cuttack, which a boy of his age would never have dared to visit even in the day time, to collect freedom leaflets from Banka Behari Das that Surendranath Dwivedy was issuing from the secret center run in the residence of Mathuri Sahu of Alisha Bazar. He had become a challenge for the British despite his tender age. As he was active in planning for paralyzing the British administration in his area of operation, on 1 February 1943 the British police zeroed in on him and he was punished with 18 months of imprisonment. He had refused to appeal against this order as that would have made him accept the legitimacy of the alien court.

When the country achieved independence Shashi Bhai devoted himself to Gandhian programs than hankering, like many others, after power-positions.

If Mother India stays for ever proud of any numbers of her children, Shashi Bhai must stay one of them.

He shall stay for ever a synonym of the romance of sacrifice for the motherland and generations to come will look at this epitome of patriotism for inspiration.

When fellows having no history of sacrifice for the country, have usurped power and have already subjugated India to imperialistic hegemony of foreigners and our republic is rushing into the traps of plutocracy, a man like Shashi Bhai shall appear to every loyal child of the motherland more relevant than when he was alive.

I shall, Shashi Bhai, never say, you are no more. Never.

To me, and I am sure to all who know you and enjoy the romance of sacrifice, you are immortal.

India vs Indians :: Orissa’s Freedom Struggle

Saswat Pattanayak
Courtesy: Radical Notes

This article published in Radical Notes in three parts is a must to know Peoples’ History of Orissa’s Dispossessed. Hence it is here.(SCP)

If laws are meant to protect the people, then the only thing illegal in India must be the Government.

Only a morally bankrupt, democratically inept and humanistically regressive group of parasites can sustain corruptible power through twisted legal clauses organically designed to crush collective aspirations.

It is only logical that a group of vandals in active collaborations with their masters stationed abroad get united to use the name of a country to misappropriate authorities, subjugate millions of informed as well as ignorant people, and repress dissent as though indifferent silence on part of the people were a virtue, enforced cowardice a boon and act of their withdrawal from organized solidarity movement a progress.

Only a perniciously evil group of power-wielders can fantasize about their achievements through stamping out the radical roots deeply embedded within the humanity. Using the shield of a country and the notions of sovereign indivisibility can the ruling class throttle the dissent of its subjects.

MacMohan Singh regime’s control over the Republic of India and Naveen Patnaik’s monopoly over Orissa’s fortunes are instances of despotic tendencies masquerading as democratic setups. When fraudulent acquisitions of natural resources are forbidden even by laws of nature, then governments such as the above are instituted to play debased brokers. And when proscribed negotiations over what is entitled to the indigenous are maneuvered for private profits, legal injunctions are recreated by the State powers to arrogate the land, and assault the people.

Recent interventions by the Government of India to clamp down on the democratic rights of the dispossessed by prescribing 10 years imprisonment for any person who supports whoever the ruling classes feel free to declare as terrorists, is an incursion into a historical territory that must serve as a warning to the rulers and as a weapon for the ruled.

Indian government’s frontal assaults on a freethinking people’s ability to challenge administrative and police atrocities in their own lands is not of recent origin. Throughout its history, Indian subcontinent has been subjected to arbitrary rules by opportunistic royalists, colonialists and democrats. And all throughout, the majority of people have suffered immensely, dispossessed for the most part as they had been rendered.

The biggest sufferers of organized State assaults have been the indigenous. From the days of the Aryan invaders, to the trickery of the British traders, to electoral victories of the domestic capitalist class in cohort with Western imperialistic powers – the idea of India has triumphed at the expense of the Indians.

The indigenous tillers and cultivators, the forest dwellers, the river worshippers, the upholders of matriarchy, the huge majority of Indian population have been constantly harassed by their feudal lords – of various colors and races. And yet, never have the poorest section of the society suffered silently. Through rebellions and revolutions, through armed struggles and insurgencies, they have fought back against the perpetrators.

The peasants and the factory workers of India, the landless and the dispossessed of the biggest so-called democracy in the world, those that are the refugees in their own lands, who cultivate and yet never benefit, who withstand the worst natural calamities and yet commit suicides to avoid corporate banking penalties, those that consider their children as their only treasures and yet have to put them up on sale so the children can survive the bureaucratic assaults, those that tend to the forests and the rivers only to witness them being snatched away by the agents of the government at the behest of multinational firms – these are the people who have always known that they shall lose the battles against the mammoth militia, sponsored by unaudited parliamentary budgets. And yet, these are the people, the working poor that constitute the unfortunate majority of Indians, who have never given up in their resolution to fight the power.

They fight the power braving the scorching sun, bringing along bows and arrows, organizing in hand-weaved red flags, lining up to raise their voices, dry and hungry, with babies in arms, soiled towels to wipe away the sweats off the forehead. They miss several meals, several more working days in protesting against the encroachment of their lands. The lands that are their own, are the only thing they call their own. Without their lands, they are landless in settlements and statistics in slums. Just as India’s sovereignty is supreme with the states and union territories intact and untouched by foreign powers, their sovereignty is equally a matter of pride and dignity. After all, they are the majority Indians.

They are the Indians that weakened the feudal structures, fought the exploitative kings, organized the movements against the British, and finally led India to a new awakening in 1947. And yet, the majority Indians are the unfree Indians. Little did they know that the concept of freedom is not universally applicable. That, equality and liberty do not distribute as democratically as the electoral promises of the free Indians.

The free Indians are different species altogether, forever exulting in their personal achievements, in career growths and televised glories. The free Indians are forever expanding their ambitions and territorial profit schemes. The free Indians are represented by political parties that actually work for them to set up engineering colleges and international airports. The free Indians read newspapers and watch television channels that reward the industrialists, update dinner minutes between Singh and Obama, immortalize Ratan Tata, interviews Anil Agarwal and manufactures opinion polls among urban youths that reestablishes the credibilities of Naveen Patnaik.

The free Indians are the ones for whom the country exists, the law and order system exists, the educational infrastructure exists, the collaborative business model exists. Even the official political parties – right, left and centrists – exist. The conversation about the country is an exclusive conversation among the free Indians.

During one such exclusive conversation among the free Indians, it has been decided that the long standing demands of indigenous peoples in Orissa and elsewhere should no more be ignored. Breaking all conventions in the past, it has now been decided that the demands of the poorest sections be heard. In fact, the demands be recorded well. Not only their demands, but also of those people who extend any amount of overt or covert support to them. For once, the free India has decided in favor of listening to the captive people, so that, for once and for all, they can all be forcibly silenced. 10 years or fine, or both – for all people who express solidarity with the majority Indians. At long last, the majority Indians are going to be recorded.

For most people, the corporate houses are faces of terror because it is they that expand their profiteering bases without consideration towards the inhabitants, especially the poor and destitute class. But the Indian government finds it otherwise. It paints the victims as the terrorists. And those that support the victims then are branded as sympathizers of terrorism.

History repeats itself. In India’s history, several times over. As in the past, the illusions of permanent freedom are once again fading away. For, one can use a transient administrative machinery to cowardly assassinate the revolutionaries, but no one can ever eliminate the historical inevitabilities of revolutions.

Arrest us all, if you must. Every person that cries in despair at the state of subjugation that is called India today, is guilty of supporting the victims in the class war waged against the expansionist politico-corporate nexus. Perhaps those of you that enjoy the power corridors and make way for the billionaires to spread their empires are enjoying the freedom of trickled down bribes. However, for the rest of us, our freedom is not conditional upon the success of the ruling class structures and your economic masters.

Our freedom is not about piecemeal compensations as agreed upon by corporate giants of South Korea, Japan and the United States. Our freedom is not open to half-hearted round table negotiations. We are yet to attain the freedom we have been dying for since generations. And we are yet to give up the hope that one day, we shall collectively inhabit the planet, without submitting any portion thereof to any greedy private capitalistic interests, irrespective of geographical territories.

You can call us unacceptable names, attribute us with political stigmas, categorize us into one way or the other for your divisive ruling habits. But the working people of the world demand immediate withdrawal of profiteering interests from common lands. From Orissa to Chiapas, we are united by our belief in formation of a world, devoid of imperialistic intents. And this collective conviction for human freedom is not up for demise within next 10 years, or anytime thereafter.

TWO

Freedom will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear….
I do not need freedom when I’m dead
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread

(Langston Hughes)

Using brute police force to silence indigenous peoples’ mass uprising in Orissa is not just an act of sheer cowardice and criminality; it is a decision founded upon gross ignorance of the unique stream of struggles which characterize the class war in the land that has witnessed more organized revolutions than enforced reforms.

Orissan tribal uprising has a definitive historical pattern. It is not exclusive to the current state of unrest. The administrations – both Union and the State – deliberately fail to acknowledge the peoples’ organized movements as thus. It is not a Maoist prerogative
to envision the path of violent resistance among the oppressed in Orissa. Quite the contrary, actually – it is the continuation of radical dissent among the peoples of Orissa that has generated a certain Maoist character within the struggle.

The indigenous in Orissa have never retired from their relentless rebellions against the land-grabbers. They have violently challenged the zamindars, formed alliances against the kings, conspired to overthrow the British, and have demonstrated ample courage in
battling caste supremacism. Tribal resistance movements in Orissa have consistently targeted foreign interventions via expropriation of their lands that threaten to result in economic distress.

Prof J. H. Hutton (quoted in G.S. Ghurye’s “The Scheduled Tribes”, 1961) observes, “All these rebellions were defensive movements: they were the last resort of tribesmen driven to despair by the encroachments of outsiders on their land or economic resources. As such they could have all been avoided had the authorities recognized the aboriginals’ grievances and taken steps to remedy them out… but before the pressure on the tribesmen had made an outbreak unavoidable. Indeed anyone with first hand experience of conditions in the backward areas must be surprised, not by the occurrence of risings, but by the infrequency of violent reactions on the part of the
aboriginals to the loss of their ancestral lands and to their economic enslavement.”

Ghumsar Risings:

One of the first organized revolts by the indigenous, known as Ghumsar risings, during early 19th century, illustrates how the people have cried for freedom from invaders, both local and global.

Ghumsar, a small estate in Ganjam district was ruled by the Bhanja
dynasty. Owing to default in revenue payment to the Empire, the British intervened in the affairs of Ghumsar and its ruler Srikar Bhanja was deposed in 1800 CE. When the British took control of Ghumsar after overthrowing Srikar’s son Dhananjaya, it was Dora Bisoi, a leader of the Kandhs (who was awarded the title of Birabar Patra) who won the support of the common people as well as Kandh chiefs to decide on the fate of Ghumsar. Since a Kandh leader could not be allowed to rule, Bisoi brought a 12-yr old girl and substituted Dhananjaya’s son of that age with her and ruled the estate on her behalf. Dora Bisoi was the leader of the masses and this was the reason why the Collector of Ganjam failed to arrest him for over three years.

Administrative officers did their best to harass Bisoi and finally, he escaped to Torabadi at Soroda. The Kandhs then garnered support of the Savaras in this movement against the British and the royals. In the meantime, Srikar Bhanja was again placed on the throne, but he failed to manage the affairs properly upon which his son Dhananjaya was
reinstalled on the condition that he paid the dues to the British. British force under Sir Henry Taylor finally occupied Ghumsar in 1834.

Dora Bisoi, the leader of the anti-Bhanja rebellion now led a revolt against the British which claimed lives of several British soldiers and burnt down British camps. British Government appointed a special officer George Russell to capture Dora. Rebel leaders including Kollada, Galeri, and Durgaprasad lent support to Dora in their collective fight
against the British, while they found shelter in the mountains of Daspalla and Nayagarh.

Special Commissioner Russell unleashed one of the cruelest assaults upon a resisting people that changed the character of India’s freedom movement. The British offered an unprecedented Rs 5,000 as a reward to anyone who could capture Dora. Many rebel leaders were captured and hanged, but Dora escaped first to Patna before escaping to Angul. It was there that the Raja of Angul handed him over to the British and received the reward.

Dora Bisoi died tortured in a state prison of Madras.

But his ability to lead and create many rebel leaders in Orissa continued to inspire. Great Oriya patriot and nephew of Dora Bisoi, Chakradhar Bisoi took his place and Ganjam’s destinies were reshaped after what the people demanded, not what was imposed from above.

In Banpur, the Kandhs along with another low caste people Panas organized their struggle under the leaderships of Krutibas Patasahani, Sadhu Jani and Dunai Jani. Kandhs of Baudh also joined the movement and were united by leaders such as Nabaghana Kahnar, Bira Kahnar, and Madhab Kanhar. The Kandhs remained united in struggle for social justice and economic improvements against both the British and their
Rajas. All efforts by the British to divide and rule over the tribals drastically failed.

Mariah Revolt

Elsewhere in India, people used to heed to their Kings as mediators between them and the British. Not so in Orissa.

When the British could not accept their defeat in the hands of the Bisois and people of Ganjam, they used the Kandh practice of Mariah sacrifice as a moral justification to attack the indigenous.

Chakra Bisoi flat refused to negotiate and the British brought the King of Baudh to intervene. Chakra Bisoi and his comrades not only defied the Baudh King, they burnt down the camp of the British agent and forced the Raja to be sent back with them.

Chakradhar successfully organized the Kandhs in the territories of Angul, Ghumsar, Boudh, Patna, Kalahandi and Paralakhemundi. He also led the Savaras in Paralakhemundi, the peasants in Nayagarh, as well as the Kandhs of Ranpur and Daspalla.

In 1846, right after rainy season, British officer Macpherson marched into Kandhamal to recover his prestige. His troops managed to burn down some houses of the Kandhs.

But the Kandhs organized to strike back and plundered in every direction, making the revolt more widespread than before. Orissa’s tribal revolt against the royal thrones as well as British officers became such a matter of concern that the Madras unit of British Government sent a whole army under the command of General Dyee to control the
situation. Government of Bengal cooperated with General Dyee to put an end to indigenous revolts.

Tribal leader Nabaghan Kahnar of Baudh and Chakra Bisoi harassed the British no end.

Rani of Sonepur, Raja of Angul and Raja of Baudh tried their best to apprehend them and a reward of Rs 3,000 was declared this time. Failing in all their efforts to suppress tribal resistance, Raja of Baudh had to cede Kandhamal to the British.

Governments – both British and the feudal – tried all measures, including arresting Rendon Majhi, head of Borikiya Kandhs of Kalahandi on charges of performing human sacrifices.

Most warrior class among the Kandhs, the Kutiya Kandhs joined the larger tribal movements and demanded the release of Majhi.

Zamindar of Madanpur was removed when he failed to act against the rising violent rebellions.

In the meantime, Chakra Bisoi escaped to Ganjam and joined with the Saoras to rise in rebellion under leadership of Radhakrushna Dandasena. The British ruthlessly attacked and burnt down scores of villages and hanged Dandasena.

Many rebel leaders were hanged and eliminated by the British forces. But this never stopped the march of the revolts. When the Baudha Raja in collaboration with the British oppressed the downtrodden in his state, a new leader Narayan Maliah led the Kandhs to lead yet another violent rebellion.

Bhuinya Risings:

In 1868, the Bhuinya revolts determined the shape of things to come in Keonjhar.

The newly appointed King Dhanurjaya was not recognized by the Bhuinyas. Tired of being brutalized by the royal family, tribal leader Ratna Naik led a popular agitation against the king. The Dewan of Keonjhar Nanda Dhal took help of officer Ravenshaw, the Superintendent of the Tributary Mahals.

But the Bhuinyas did not remain silent for long. They rose in revolt, captured Nanda Dhal and Raja’s other associates, and plundered Keonjhargada, the kingdom.

The Bhuinyas found support from the Juangs and the Kols. The Deputy Commissioner of Singhbhum marched to Keonjhar and demanded that the indigenous groups return the captives. The Bhuinyas refused to cooperate and the Deputy Hayes requisitioned for another contingent of army from Singhbhum. Equipped with bows, arrows and swords, the Bhuinyas bravely confronted the British armies but had to finally surrender.

Ratna Naik was captured by the Paiks of Pallahara on August 15, 1868 and brought to Cuttack.

Paiks who were agents of the British helped arrest several hundreds of tribal revolutionaries. In a show trial, seven were sentenced to death, 27 were transported for life and 149 revolutionaries were imprisoned. Ratna Naik and three of his comrades were hanged in Cuttack.

Dharani Meli

Minor in age, but a boy of immense moral courage, Dharanidhar Naik of Bhuinya tribe was well educated for his age. The Raja of Keonjhar even appreciated his talents. But when he attempted to educate the fellow Bhuinyas, it did not sit well with the king.

Dharanidhar, his brother and friends did not bury the lessons of their education. They organized the bonded labor class of Keonjhar against the King and demanded that they be paid for their work.

This infuriated the King of Keonjhar who had fancied that his tribal subjects were forever deemed to remain as slaves. Dharanidhar, even at such young age, did not submit to various temptations as offered by the King, and went ahead to foster a spirit of resistance among the oppressed indigenous peoples. Many of them then joined Dharanidhar in submitting a petition to the Superintendent of Tributary Mahals. The
Superintendent obviously did not act upon the petition and the Raja arrested the petitioners.

Dharanidhar then went on to organize the people to revolt against the Raja. This shocked the ruling class. Dharanidhar led the people inside the palace and looted the palace and distributed the ill-gotten wealth among the people. The King of Keonjhar fled to Anandapur and sent his Assistant Dewan Fakirmohan Senapati to control the situation. Superintendent Ravenshaw also helped the King by sending a detachment of British force to Keonjhar.

Fakirmohan resorted to ugly tricks against the tribal leader. He assured Dharanidhar that the British police was there to help the tribal people. Dharanidhar on good faith appeared before the police officer, but little did he know that Fakirmohan was acting on behalf of the King and the British to punish the poor people who demanded their rights to dignity of life. Dharanidhar and his comrades were arrested and sent to years of rigorous imprisonment by the royal-feudal-bureaucratic-British nexus.

Sambalpur Revolution

Not only were the Adivasis exploited economically, they were also culturally forced to submit to higher-caste whims. The tribal deities were Hinduised and the indigenous were compelled to show allegiance to the protectors of their new Gods. In the guise of developing personal relationships between the rulers and the ruled, the indigenous
peoples were routinely recruited to fight on behalf of the ruling class.

Sambalpur was a classic instance of cultural exploitation during the Sepoy Mutiny.

Surendra Sai, a claimant to the guddee of Sambalpur used the Gond and Binjhal tribal chiefs to wage a war against the British Government because the British opposed Sai’s demands. The Gonds of course cooperated in resisting the British, but they also figured out that they were being manipulated by the ambitious ruling class hierarchies.

Sambalpur and adjoining areas were inhabited by the Gonds and the Binjhal tribes who enjoyed autonomy in governance, economic and political. When the king of Sambalpur died without a son, the British Government let his widow Rani Mohan Kumari to succeed him. The patriarchal upper-caste mindset prevalent in the kingdom could not
allow a woman to govern the state. The biggest opponent happened to be Surendra Sai, a royal descendant from the Chauhan Raja of Sambalpur, who himself aspired to the throne.

Under the prevailing tensions, the British removed the Rani and replaced her with Narayan Singh who was also from the royal family. The Gonds agitated against Narayan Singh who was appeasing the higher castes by creating 37 Maufi tenures. The Gonds made remarkable progress in Sambalpur. They shook the foundation of royal families which were ambitious in their designs and atrocious in their actions against the dispossessed indigenous.

The Gonds brought Sambalpur to a standstill and organized mass movements to teach a lesson to the Brahmins and the royal family collaborators. In a historic episode now described as “Gond Maru”, the Gonds attacked higher caste people, burnt down their ill-gotten wealth and killed the caste supremacists who were encouraged by the royal
families. King of Sambalpur entrusted a Brahmin talukdar of 96 villages with the task of putting down the tribal agitation. The Adivasis rose in revolt against the prescript and killed several Brahmin landlords. The British Government directly intervened to suppress the uprising, but considerably failed to.

Kalahandi Uprising

Kalahandi revolt was a direct result of economic exploitation of the Kandhs by the Koltas, a class of prosperous agriculturists from Western Orissa.

Kandhs had been the pioneering agronomists in Kalahandi for generations, and yet, the Koltas, with financial and military backing of the kings expanded their reach. The Rajas supported the Koltas under the pretext of receiving higher rents, and the Koltas stopped at nothing to exploit the Kandhs, resulting in an agrarian revolt by the latter.

In May 1878, the Kandhs organized a meeting in Balwaspur where they decided to defend themselves against the Koltas.

The British Superintendent of the State intervened to stop the Kandhs agitation. The Kandhs resolved to attack whoever came on their way. Several Koltas were killed and many more taken captives by the Kandhs in a mass agitation movement.

The British, acting on behalf of the wealthy, sent additional forces from Raipur, Ganjam and Sambalpur to suppress the Kandhs’ agitation. Ten Kandh leaders were hanged.

Although “peace” was restored, the Koltas were afraid of committing any more atrocities upon the Kandhs in the region.

Gangpur Revolt

Attacks on the tribal sovereignty in Orissa continued from both the British regime and the rulers of the princely states.

In 1897, several tribal village chiefs were forcibly replaced by the royal ruling class. In Gangpur, the Raja installed the aristocratic oligarchy of Sambalpur in charge of the tribal population.

The indigenous peoples led by Madri Kalo organized a mass agitation movement against Agharia and the rich elites. The Raja sought help from the British to suppress the tribal agitation, but open revolt by the oppressed remained difficult to counter. Many poor people were captured on charges of committing dacoities, but the class/caste war
in Gangpur continued without a pause. In 1938, Gangpur witnessed a serious agrarian discontent when Mundas were forced to pay higher rents. The Munda uprising led by Nirmal Munda demanding exemption from payment of land revenues to the colonialists resulted in British intervention causing the Simko firing which killed 41 tribal rebels.

Revolution Never Ends:

Orissa’s indigenous never ceased their strikes against the oppressors. Countless revolts – varying in scale – resulted from the organized dissent. This is the nature of struggle that the poorest section of Orissa have engaged in since centuries. It is unlikely that they shall abandon their freedom movement now, simply because the seat of power has been transferred from the white-skinned elites to the brown-skinned ones.

And just as the indigenous organizers were correct in their assessment of human values in the past, it is more likely that keeping in view the status quo of power dynamics in independent India, their dissent towards the power this time around, too, is indicative of appropriate impatience towards prevailing rampant social injustice.

THREE

Tribal uprisings in Orissa were the first of organized assaults on the British, against the Hindu Kings, as well as on the caste supremacists.

The indigenous were united against oppression way before the Sepoy Mutiny took shape. They had no loyalty towards the kings and unlike the Paikas and Sepoys, they had no interest in releasing the royal families from British domains.

In fact, the tribals shone in their capacity to challenge the Rajas as much as they expressed disdain towards British agents.

Therefore, when the native Kings of Khurda, Kanika and Kujang made a confederation to oppose the British invasion, the tribal agitators knew the kings had no motives other than to safeguard their royal privileges.

Although Khurda Movement is usually declared as the first mass movement against the British following hanging of Jayakrishna Rajguru who has been eulogized profusely, its anti-imperialistic nature is highly suspect.

Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar and his chief associate Krushna Chandra Bhramarbar Ray have been equally immortalized in history for their involvement in the anti-British movement. But the true champions of the organized revolt upon which the royal clan depended for survival were the forgotten tribal masses of rebels.

Khurda Movement did not start with Bakshi Jagabandhu, it started with 400 Kandhs in Banpur who came from the neighboring territory of Ghumsar. For seven years the movement lasted with the help of fellow tribals – the Kandhs, Savaras and Panas of Banpur, Nayagarh, Boudh and Daspalla. It was not the loyalists of the royal families, but
their dissenting and oppressed subjects who took to arms and fought the British which indirectly benefited the needs of the local kings of the time. But the tribals never gave in to the manipulative designs of the kings either, thus constituting an independent stream in Orissa’s freedom movement, inviting wrath from the mainstream historians.

A. Das in “Life of Surendra Sai” (1963) decries the tribal revolts in Sambalpur. While glorifying Surendra Sai as a freedom fighter, the actual heroes of the revolt – the indigenous masses – have been portrayed as nothing less than crazy looters. Tribal uprisings have been compared with “the tyranny and lootings carried on by the Burgees of the Maratha days.”

Surendra Sai, despite being a rebel claimant to the guddee of Sambalpur, was solely interested in the throne. To eulogize him as the charismatic anti-British hero while attacking the Gonds upon whose abilities he rode high, would be to use history as a paternalistic tool. And yet, for years into historical research, this is exactly what has been done. Surendra Sai has become a hero, while the tribal uprisings have been denounced as daylight robberies.

Ramnarayan Mishra in his paper, sponsored by Indian Council of Historical Research (1980), writes about Sambalpur following tribal uprising, “Life and properties were quite unsafe, the ryots could not raise their crops in their lands and as soon as they were ripe, they were looted and removed from the fields by these bands of robbers. There were day-light robberies and dacoity; the economic and social life of the people were completely paralyzed…Even now the days are remembered with alarm as the memories have come down from generations to generations. The atrocities of minor nature were
the looting of cakes, which were being prepared by the housewife a certain evening, and the looting of all the belongings of the bride when she was on a procession to her father-in-law’s house for marriage….”

It is astounding to notice how the historians have continually felt sympathies with the landlords and the propertied class of Orissa.

Mishra recalled the days with alarm when the tribal rose in revolt against the Brahmins in Sambalpur. Little did he pause to imagine the days from the lens of those that were forced to revolt. Much of the histories about Orissa still continue to be produced from the ruling class elitist visions of the past, part of the reason why the true history of peoples’ struggles is yet to be documented in totality.

Andrew Fraser speaking of his days Among Indian Rajahs and Ryots (1912) describes the Kalahandi revolution as though it were the responsibility of the Kandhs to forgive the Koltas. “The wretched prisoners fell at the feet of the leading Khonds and begged them to spare their lives; but they were told that none of the men among them would be spared,” he writes.

L.S.S. O’Malley in “Modern India and the East: A Study of the Interaction of their Civilization” laments the passage of the British interventions.

Ramnarayan Mishra agrees with the old British thesis and writes, “The old ceremonies called the Mariah sacrifice which had been put down with great difficulty by the British officers some years before was revived. The sacrifice involved killing captives and hacking off pieces of their flesh which they buried in the fields as an offering to the earth goddess which would ensure their fertility.”

What O’Malley and subsequently, Mishra have omitted out of their deconstructions is that Mariah sacrifice was not merely about human captives. The tribal resistance was not nonviolent in nature, principally because it was always part of a defensive reaction, as opposed to the oppressors’ tactics which were premeditated murders.

It is presumptuous to assume that the historically oppressed and dispossessed tribal population of Orissa show solidarity with the ruling class hooligans of Rajput and British origin who were profiting from the lands of the indigenous by imposing bonded labor terms upon them.
Therefore, even as ruling class histories suggest Orissa lost her independence after death of the last Hindu King Mukunda Harichandan, the tribals never really thought so.

Contrary to mainstream belief that Muslim rule in Orissa was oppressive, there was no recorded revolt by the tribals against the Muslim rule.

Prasanna Kumar Mishra in “Political Unrest in Orissa in the 19th Century” (1983) writes, “The people of Orissa lost their independence from the sixteenth century, but could not fully express their dissatisfaction against the aliens throughout the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. Only when a foreign trading company began to rule through exploitation and oppressed them socio psychologically, the people woke up from their slumber and began to raise their voice against this foreign rule.”

What is crucial here is the fact that the first organized mass rebellions were organized by the tribal people of Orissa. They were organized against the British as well as against the Hindu (of Rajput origin) rulers of Orissa. Both the anti-British and anti-royal movements were part of the larger national struggle that were to arrive following the footsteps of the Orissan tribal revolutions.

In this context, it is important to observe the Mariah sacrifices.

Dismissing them as mere tribal superstitions bordering on criminality is also a dismissal of their roles in the national freedom movements orchestrated by the oppressed subjects against the ruling classes.

The human “sacrifices” had elements of not just violence as a last resort, but also of targeted violence with a distinct class character that eliminated landlords, dewans, British agents and associates of royal families.

The British were afraid of the tribal movements precisely because of the violent nature of their resistance. It was an economic war justly organized by the majority oppressed against their minority oppressors. Not some religious abstractions, as later historians tend to stress.

Ramnarayan Mishra dismisses the tribal movement as nothing other than a selfish pursuit to guard their traditional interests, that had no bearing upon the freedom movement against the British. He writes, “The resistance movement (against the British) in the States was a middle class movement sponsored by the people of coastal areas and it had nothing to do with tribal solidarity.”

P. Mukherjee in “History of Orissa” (1954) writes that the reason behind tribal uprisings in Orissa was their apprehensions that alien rule intended to “assess their lands, punish their leaders for the religious rites performed by them.”

H. K. Mahtab in “History of the Freedom Movement in Orissa (1957) writes, “The Khond risings in Baudh, Ghumsar and Khandmal during the years 1846-1848 were just temporary show of disaffection and resentment of the Khonds at the governmental interference in their religious rites.”

Not only have the tribal contributions been grossly overlooked, and their participations have been looked down upon as anarchical, even many false heroes have been recreated in the process to overshadow the real ones.

Fakir Mohan Senapati is one such historical character who has been eulogized at the expense of Dharanidhar Naik.

Collective celebration of Fakir Mohan as a literary champion has also necessitated the destruction of his challenger, the other literary genius in Dharanidhar. Dharanidhar was duped not only because Fakir Mohan was a state agent interested to earn loyalty points from his beloved king who was otherwise an oppressive ruler, but also because Naik belonged to a lower caste not worthy of literary celebration.

Likewise, British agent Superintendent Ravenshaw who organized military tactics to capture Dharanidhar remains immortalized to this day, whereas his roles in suppressing the tribal uprisings have been held with esteem.

It is again astounding as to how an entire state can celebrate the act of immoral trickery on part of the oppressive ruling class to capture a tribal hero. And yet, every primary school student in Orissa is taught precisely this. Capture of Dharanidhar is almost a climax in Oriya nationalism, whereas nothing could be farther from the truth.

And when Dharanidhar emerged more popular after his imprisonment in the hands of Fakir Mohan, the upper caste upholders of Brahminical education started portraying the tribal revolutionary into a universal saint. Pandit Nilakantha Das and Pandit Gopabandhu Das subsequently claimed to have learnt from Dharanidhar, the saint, about life’s essences. Apparently, Dharanidhar gave them an apt philosophical lesson, “First try to be a true human being, and then only free the country.”

Ironically, the last of the tribal revolutionaries in the pre-1947 era, Laxmana Naik is celebrated today as the foremost tribal leader. It is so understood because Laxmana Naik led the movement which for the first time collaborated with the mainstream Congress strategies.

Naik was beyond doubt one of the bravest and most courageous of leaders to have emerged anywhere. But he was only a successor to a long history of indigenous revolts in Orissa that witnessed countless distinguished tribal leaders like Dora Bisoi, Chakra Bisoi, Sadhu Jani, Nabaghana Kahnar, Bira Kahnar, Ratna Naik, Dharanidhar Naik, Nirmal Munda among others.

And more importantly, these leaders found their subsistence not through royal scriptures or British mentions of honor, or national awards by the independent republic, but through innumerable masses of people who supported them throughout their long and historic struggles against land-grabbers – both foreign and domestic. Their historic struggles ever so radical, fundamentally unforgiving towards their oppressors.

And no matter how much the lousy, corrupt, and incompetent administrations of this day work overtime to ignore the vision of the indigenous for a socially just world of equality and prosperity, of ecological respect and communitarian solidarity, the courageous
blood of the tribal ancestors still boils in the veins of their successors. And through the movements today once again against the oppressive ruling elites stationed in Bhubaneswar, New Delhi, Washington DC, London, Kolkata and Seoul – the blood shows.

The blood narrates Orissa’s history as the history of tribal uprisings against socioeconomic injustice. And that, her future, too, shall be shaped by the mandates of the dispossessed, not by the whims of the oligarchs.

Gouranga Charan Das – Unforgettable Freedom Fighter in Times of Free Market Capitalism

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Gouranga Charan Das, eminent freedom fighter, was born in Bagalpur, the village of Karana aristocracy in the district of Cuttack in Orissa on 26 January 1899. He was physically handicapped by birth with his right hand critically crippled. But in early youth he joined the freedom movement and soon led the people whose sacrifice made India a Sovereign Republic on his 50th birth anniversary.

Imprisoned for more than five years by the British authorities he had started his first journey to jails on 13 April 1930 by leading the salt movement at Inchudi, a movement that was meant to make people of India self-dependant.

He was the man who made history by changing aristocrat Karans of his village to allow Harijans into the famous Dadhibamana temple.

Gouranga Charan Das


A legendary Gandhian, he was simple in nature but strong in decisions. He was deeply involved with Charakha movement but one of the stalwart organizers of Congress socialist party.

He had been elected uncontested to Orissa Assembly in 1945 and was chairman of Cuttack district Board from 1961 to 1967.

He breathed his last on 19 February 1972. But despite holding positions of power, he was without any money in his possession as always.

Gouranga Charan Das, who fought for India’s freedom from colonialism is today ever more relevant in people’s struggles against Free Market Capitalism imposed upon them by the ruling political combines.

DON’T CRY MOTHER, DON’T CRY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Don’t cry Mother, don’t cry.

Don’t cry at least for today. This is the Republic day.

This is the day of rejoice for some of your children, Mother! Let them enjoy. Don’t cry.

In the name of democracy, Mother, horse traders and power grabbers and pimps of foreigners shall exercise their rights to unfurl the tricolor. Uniformed peoples who draw salaries from the exchequer and students, who aspire for jobs in future but need certificates of activities extra-curricular, will obey commands to pay salutes to the official flag-hoisters, Mother! and mass media organizations will carry whatever they utter. Let them enjoy the opportunity; because this being the election year who knows if they get a few months hereafter this chance so rare! Mother, allow them to enjoy the moment therefore.

Son of a man who around three decades prior to his death was a mere three hundred rupees monthly wage earner is building up for his use a house that media projects to be the costliest one under the sky in the private sector! It happens, Mother, when the Government creates an environment where a swindler becomes a hero. And, the architects of this swindling environment are in power, Mother, in power.

For them the Republic day is the day for their pleasure.

The day is the day of pleasure for swindlers of shares; and, also for all the looters of surplus value of labor. For them the Republic day is the day for their pleasure.

They will now unfurl on their respective masts the Tricolor, Mother; because they are so far the victors.

They will not see your tears, Mother, they will not see your tears.

They will not see the tears that the farmers shed while distress-selling their crops to the miller.

They will not see the tears that a mother sheds while distress-selling her baby, the sweetest of everything that was her dear.

They will not see the tears that a nubile girl sheds while distress-selling her body or an intellectual sheds while distress-selling his brain or the workers shed while distress-selling their labor.

They have built up their own impregnable empires, Mother, where shall never reach your cries of despair.

Today is their day of pleasure, Mother, the day of their flag-hoisting, the day for them to show the world how have you prospered under their care!

So stop your tears, Mother, stop your tears. You cannot say that you are not theirs. And, your innumerable children, too inanimate to overcome them, cannot rip open their crust at the moment to show the world that your dreams are corpse and they are the vultures.

But don’t cry Mother, don’t cry.

For millenniums together, generations after generations, scoundrels posing as kings, establishing dynasties, exploiting and oppressing your peace-loving children, were basking under self-acquired epithets that were projecting them as gods in human forms. They were the hereditary owners of all the lands, all the animals, all the humans, all the minerals, all the means of productions found within the boundary under their control.

But, Mother, where now are they?

A single boy of thirteen years, a child of a wretchedly poor widow living in a tiny village called Nilakanthapur in Dhenkanal of Orissa,
Baji Raut wiped them out from the scenario of power. The armed personnel of the king of Dhenkanal and his protector British crown killed the boy brutally as he defied their command to ferry them in chase after the leader of peoples’ movement Baisnab Charan Pattanayak and entering into martyrdom, he inspired the peoples of the Princely States so much that the subjects who were worshipping the kings as gods thrashed them off their thrones. The kings of Orissa were compelled to merge their States in your new set up and the rest of the so-called Royals that were offending you with their filthy presence followed suit in order to escape public wrath. In compelling the kings to surrender, the States’ peoples had shown the way to build up your new era on the basis of obliteration of private property. But the people who formed the Governments have betrayed them.

Don’t cry Mother, over this betrayal. Even as no remedy is readily available, your tears shall push your innocent children to further anguish and deep despair.

Do not worry dear Mother! It is not that the remedy shall not come for ever.

Your most innocent and utterly disadvantaged and brutally exploited children have many Baji Rauts amidst them. Unknown. Unrecognized. Unsung. But, as always, loyal to you and to you alone.

The looters of your assets and their associates are in habit of equating some of them with terrorists who operate from beyond the border and unleash State terror on all opponents of exploitation taking advantage of the natural aversion of all your noble, innocent, simpleminded, peace loving children to violence. And to preempt any uprising against the loot raj, they patronize and promote soothsayers, Babas or Seers under the attire of positive thinking to keep their domain safe. But Mother, your every child would one day read the reality and like Baji Raut would sure lit the light of liberty. Real liberty. Do not worry Mother, do not cry.

When all your Baji Rauts will rise, there shall be no soothsayer to misguide them, no Baba or Seer to derail their determination, no Sri Sri to say that revolution against exploitation is a negative agenda of life. Be sure Mother, be sure of this.

The Republic you had given birth to has been shanghaied into the black empire of the economic offenders. Your tortured children shall certainly retrieve it Mother, certainly; because you belong to them and they to you.

Till then, don’t cry. Allow the black sheep to enjoy the Republic Day. Don’t cry, Mother, don’t cry.

BAJI RAUT: THE YOUNGEST MARTYR OF INDIA

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

“NUHEN BANDHU, NUHEN EHA CHITA,
E DESHA TIMIRA TALE E ALIBHA MUKATI SALITA”.

(It is not a pyre, O Friends! When the country is in dark despair, it is the light of our liberty. It is our freedom-fire.)

When the dead body of BAJI RAUT was burning in the pyre, Sachi Rautroy, who was one of the seven Marxist revolutionaries whom time had chosen to be immortal by burning the mortal remains of THE YOUNGEST MARTYR OF INDIA, had, in the light of the pyre, on the cremation ground of Khannagar, Cuttack, in the night of an unforgettable October 10, 1938, had given this wordy expression to the inconsolable cries of his heart, while his other comrades: Baishnav Pattanayak, Ananta Pattanayak, Govinda Mohanty, Rabi Ghosh, Motilal Tripathy and Bishwanath Pasayat were doing the last service to his co-martyrs: Hurushi Pradhan, Raghu Nayak, Guri Nayak, Nata Malik, Laxmana Malik and Fagu Sahu.

The stanza quoted above is the first stanza of Sachi Rautroy’s famous poem “BAJI ROUT”, which translated into English by Harindranath Chattopadyaya, had set the entire nation on an unprecedented motion for freedom of people from the Kings of princely States. People in various States were agitating against their respective ruling chiefs. But the supreme sacrifice the thirteen-year-old boy Baji Raut had given the necessary momentum to the movement that ultimately wiped out kingship from India.

Baji Raut, the light of liberty, was born in 1925 in the Village of Nilakanthapur in Dhenkanal, His father Hari Raut, had passed away when he was a tiny tot. He was brought up by his mother who was thriving on wages earned by rice-husking in the neighborhood. He had watched how mercilessly the King of Dhenkanal, Shankar Pratap Singhdeo was fleecing the poor villagers including his mother of their earnings by using armed forces. So, when Baishnav Charan Pattanayak of Dhenkanal town, later famous as Veer Baisnav, raised a banner of revolt against the King and founded Prajamandal, Baji joined it despite tender age.

Baishnav Charan Pattanayak deliberately joined as a painter in the Railways in order to be able to move from place to place free of cost by using a railway pass he was to obtain. Taking advantage of this Pass he not only started moving from place to place along the Railway track, instigating people against the King, but also established contacts with leaders of National Congress at Cuttack and attracted their attention to the plight of the people of Dhenkanal.

He associated himself with the only revolutionary journal of those days, THE KRUSHAKA, which was being produced and published by the Marxists. Thus, while educating himself in Marxist revolutionary theory and practices, he prevailed upon local intellectual Hara Mohan Pattanayak and founded the people’s movement called “Prajamandala Andolana”. The tortured people of Dhenkanal joined this movement with rare and unheard of courage. Soon, subjects of adjoining Princely States also formed Praja Mandalas in their respective States.

Seeing this, many other kings offered their cooperation to the king of Dhenkanal to suppress the people’s movement. King of Bolangir R.N.Singhdeo, King of Kalahandi P.K.Deo, Shankar Patap’s father-in-law who was the King of Sareikela and the king of Keonjhar sent their armed troops to Dhenkanal to terrorize the people. The British authorities also sent from Calcutta a platoon of soldiers comprising 200 gunmen to assist him. The King of Dhenkanal unleashed a reign of terror to suppress the mass movement.

For maintenance of these outside forces, Shankar Pratap clamped another tax on the people, called ‘Rajabhakta Tax’ or Loyalty Tax. He declared that whosoever fails to pay this tax, shall be adjudged a traitor and punished accordingly.

The houses of the people who did not pay the Rajbhakta Tax were being razed to ground by use of royal elephants and all their properties were being confiscated. Such repressive measures failed to deter the people from joining the movement.

Deciding to crush the movement forever, the king pressed his entire force against the leaders of the movement. All the ancestral properties of Veer Baishnav were confiscated. Hara Mohan Pattanayak and other top leaders were taken into custody in a surprise raid on September 22, 1938. But the royal forces could not arrest Veer Baishnav Pattanayak.

While frantically searching for him, news reached the palace that he was camping in the Village of Bhuban. The armed forces of the King attacked Bhuban on October 10, 1938 for the third time and destroyed many houses by using the elephants and tortured many a persons. But they could not elicit any information on Veer Baishnav despite use of all sorts of brutality.

They arrested as many as eight persons and let loose terror to elicit information on Baishnav Pattanayak. At this stage a source informed that he has escaped by jumping into the river Brahmani and swam across to the villages on the other side. The troop started immediate chase. People obstructed. To disperse them, they started firing. Two of the villagers lost their life on the spot. The troop rushed to the nearest ferry at Nilakanthapur on River Brahmani.

Baji Raut was on the guard at the Ghat at that time. He was ordered by the troop to ferry them across. He refused.

By that time he had heard from those who fled from Bhuban details of the brutality the troop had resorted to there and had understood that if Veer Baisnav Pattanayak was to be protected, the troops were to be obstructed. He therefore refused to comply with the command.

The royal troop threatened to kill him if he did not ferry them across immediately. He rejected their orders again. Surrender to the Pajamandal first, he retorted.

A soldier hit his head with the butt of his gun that fractured his skull severely. He collapsed. But he rose. He collected whatever little strength was left in him, and raising his voice to the highest pitch beyond even his strength, warned his villagers of the presence of the royal troop. A soldier pierced his bayonet into the soft skull of the brave boy even as another fired at him. Somebody who was watching this cruelty run to the people and informed them. Charged with wrath and contempt, people in hundreds rushed to the spot like angry lions. Seeing them, instead of running after Baisnav Pattanayak, the panicked troop fled for life.

Taking hold of Baji’s boat after killing him, the troop oared away in utmost haste; but while escaping, opened fire on the chasing masses causing four more deaths.

Baishnav Pattanayak collected the corpses and brought them by the train to Cuttack. The news spread like wild fire. People rushed to the Cuttack Station and received the dead bodies raising revolutionary slogans with Lal Salaam to the martyrs. Post mortem tests on bodies of the martyrs were conducted at Cuttack medical. Eminent leaders of freedom movement like Sarangadhar Das, Nabakrshna Chowdhury, Bhagabati Panigrahi, Gouranga Charan Das, Sudhir Ghosh, Surendra Dwivedy and Gurucharan Pattanayak discussed with Veer Baisnav Pattanayak and it was decided to lead the last journey of Baji Raut and his co-martyrs to Khannagar crematorium through the lanes of the town so that everybody in Cuttack including the women and children could have glimpses of the immortal sons of Orissa, who sacrificed their lives to emancipate their people from tyranny in the dark State (Andhari Mulaka) of Dhenkanal.

Then such a thing happened which has no parallel in our history. You can take it as the rarest of the rare events of our freedom movement. People volunteered to carry the bodies of the martyrs in their bullock carts in a procession to the cremation ground. Quite unusual it was. The peoples of Orissa worship bullocks. One cannot imagine that a person of Orissa can allow his bullocks to carry a corpse. But this happened. Such a thing had never happened earlier and has never happened thereafter. Patriotic fervor was so high. Ah! How it pains to feel that we have now become a different people altogether!

Sachi Rautray, Anant Pattnaik, Govind Ch Mohanty, Bishwanath Pashayat, Rabi Ghosh and Motilal Tripathy drove bullock carts carrying the martyrs’ bodies. Thousands and thousands of people thronged the streets to join that unheard of obituary march led by Veer Baisnav Pattanayak and other luminaries of our freedom struggle like Bhagavati Panigrahi, Prana Nath Pattanayak, Guru Charan Pattanayak, Nabakrushna Chowdhury, Surendranath Dwivedy, Pranakrushna Padhiari, Sarangadhara Das, Gouranga Charan Das and Sudhir Ghosh etc. Excepting only the occasion of cremation of Kulabruddha Madhusudan Das, (the immortal Madhubabu) Cuttack had never, and has never, witnessed such an obituary procession.

Sachi Rautroy took several days to regain his composure to finish his poem Baji Raut that he had started on the cremation ground itself in the light of the pyre.

When, after elapse of long sixty-seven years, this episode strikes the mind, somebody from within cries helplessly at the ghastly fall of our society where the supreme sacrifice of this splendid boy has been lost in the labyrinth of vested interests that has taken over our beloved motherland.

Time has changed. Our democracy has changed into plutocracy. Shankar Pratap, the very person under whose tyrannical grip Baji Raut had lost his life has been immortalized as a man on whose “sad” demise, the Parliament of India had to rise in respect.

I must make you note that the people of Dhenkanal had not sent him to the Parliament. But he had become a member of our Parliament by the help of his old collaborators in crime, R.N.Singhdeo and P.K.Deo, who had formed a political outfit of their own and by corrupting election process had succeeded in capturing so much seats in the State Assembly that they could send tyrants like Shankar Pratap to the upper chamber of Parliament. What more disrespect to the memory of Baji Raut could have been committed in this Country?

We have, as a people, failed. Therefore, not only the tyrant Shankar Pratap, but also his wife and son have occupied seats in the ramparts of our democracy many a times!

We have, as a people, measurably failed. Therefore, history has witnessed that those, who were sabotaging our freedom struggle, have befooled us to the extent of becoming Prime and Deputy Prime Ministers of our country.

Those who have redefined our independence to be dependant on foreign powers have grabbed the highest political posts in our Country. And, those who should have opposed this mischief have allied with them in the style of safeguarding secularity! Those who should have remained unfazed on the issue of political economy of capitalism vrs socialism, have, only in order to remain in close proximity to power, been parading new ideas of political philosophy of secularism versus communalism! All the traitors!

Commission agents have basked in various top positions. Even in the very State of Orissa where boys like Baji Raut had never hesitated to lay down life for benefit of fellow beings, commission agents have occupied Chief Minister Gadi many a times.

Time has taken a turn towards the worse. Our brilliant boys have been leaving our Country in search of better living avenues in foreign lands.

In such a situation, when Baji Raut comes to mind, if every iota of patriotism is not extinguished, how can one suppress his agony?

Before parting, I would like you to know the following three aspects of Baji, which the history has not yet noted. They are:

(a) He is the youngest martyr of India in the in the struggle for her freedom.
(b) History did not create him. He created history. And,
(c) It is he, for whom alone the India we see now has been able to take this form.

Let me elaborate.

(a) Born in 1925, he was killed on October 10, 1938. (Who’s Who of Indian Martyrs, compiled and published by Government of India, Vol.2, p.271) He was 13 then. No Indian patriot has sacrificed life at more a tender age in the way Baji did. I have searched the Who’s Who of Indian Martyrs in its entirety and found none to compare with Baji. Hence he is the youngest martyr of India of his genre. The world should be made aware of this unique position.

(b) Many martyrs have been made by history. The two villagers of Bhuban who succumbed to firing by police as noted above were martyrs created by history. There are many such instances. But Baji was different. He obstructed the royal troops to protect the Prajamandal leader. He could have saved his life by complying with the orders of the troop. But he bravely refused to heed to them, even though he knew that the bloody bruits were capable of killing him. He stood loyal to his people till he breathed his last and although injured beyond endurance, he never forgot to make people aware of the arrival of police so that they could hide their leader in a safer place. He dared death to defeat the evil design of the tyrant king. Therefore, he was a martyr whom history did not make but who made history.

(c) All of us know that there were 618 Princely States in India when we gained our independence. All of us know that the British Crown had restored sovereignty in all of them at the time we got our freedom. But none of us acknowledge that Baji Raut was the basic factor behind merger of all those States with the new independent India. Had he not been born, the India of now might never have taken this geographical form.

His heroic sacrifice inspired all the people of Princely States who, being highlanders, once provoked, were beyond control of the kings. The tyranny of the king of Dhenkanal having been convincingly exposed by Veer Baishnav Pattanayak and exposure of oppressions let loose in other Princely States having come to lime light by the Praja Mandal organizations of those States, the National Congress also formed a fact finding committee headed by Harekrushna Mahtab in Orissa. This Committee was convinced that unless the Princely States are taken over, plight of the majority people of Orissa (because most of Orissa was under Princely rule) would not end. With independent patches of land having their own sovereign rulers at various parts of Orissa, and for that matter, of the country, shall also play havoc with administration when India becomes independent, the committee concluded.

The Kings of Orissa met in a conference in July 1946 at Alipore and resolved to form a Feudal Union. It was clear that they shall not allow their people to be free from their rule.

In sharp reaction to this evil design of the kings, Veer Baishnav Pattanayak took the first militant steps against Shankar Pratap, the King of Dhenkanal. He transformed the passive Praja Mandal movement to armed revolution. It is to be noted that people of Nilagiri where a brother of Shankar Pratap of Dhenkanal was also the king, heightened their militant attack on the Palace under leadership of famous Marxist leader Banamali Das, compelling the King to flee. In most of the Princely States of Orissa, militant attacks were made by Praja Mandal activists on the Kings and their cronies causing panicky in them. The kings felt that if they do not merge their States with India, the Praja Mandal activists will eliminate them, their protector, the British, having left the Country. Hence under that extraordinary situation, they agreed to surrender their kingship and to merge their respective State with independent India. Kings of Dhenkanal and Nilagiri were the first persons to agree. On watching this development, Mahtab prevailed upon Sardar Patel to come to Orissa finalize merger terms. He came along with V.P.Menon, the then Secretary in the Department of States to Cuttack on December 13 and on the next day held a detail discussion with the Kings. Finalization of the terms and conditions of merger took a fortnight and On January 01, 1948 all the Princely States except Mayurbhanj merged in Orissa. The later volunteered to merge on January 1st in the following year. The Orissa experience prompted all the Kings in all other provinces to merge their respective States with Independent India to escape violent uprising of their people. And thus, with merger of all the 618 Feudal States, left as Sovereigns by the British, the modern India became able to take this new form.

If the people of Orissa had the English Media at their command, and had the historians been able to interpret events without fear, martyrdom of Baji Raut could have been recognized as the main factor behind elimination of Kingdoms and creation of the new geographical shape of the modern India. The Peoples Movement in Dhenkanal being basically lunched and led by a Communist revolutionary was never to be given its due importance by post-independence intelligentsia. In consequence, Baji Raut has not yet been properly evaluated, even though he is mentioned in the Who’s Who of Indian Martyrs, published by Government of India.

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