Nandini Satpathy Fondly Recalled

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Nandini Satpathy had epitomized the determination against gender discrimination and was in her assertive best in the male dominated political scenario. In this respect she was the first in Orissa and one of the first few in India that have made their marks in applied democracy.

Orissa, to her credit, had, before emergence of Nandini, excellent leaders amongst the women like Sarala Devi, Rama Devi and Malati Choudhury. But, though legendary Gandhians, none of these leaders had ever been in assertive politics.

One of the three founders of Communist Party of India in Orissa, Bhagavati Charan Panigrahi, who philosophized annihilation of exploiters through his immortal character Ghinua, which depicted in Mrigaya bestowed upon Mithun Chakravarty his first national award for best acting, and who is regarded as the initiator of progressive writing in Orissa was her elder father. Bhagabati’s younger brother and who was the first to refuse to salute Sri Jagannath as the supreme deity of the land but saluted him as a mark of respect for all the labor of the artist who created his image and all those workers who built up his excellent temple in a powerfully speaking poem, Kalandi Charan Panigrahi was the father of Nandini. She not only inherited but also epitomized this revolutionary inheritance and therefore, it is she that could dominate the mail-dominated political spectrum. She defeated in elections most popular stalwarts like Biren Mitra and Malati Choudhury and in that all the shadow fighters including luminaries like Biju Patnaik and H.K.Mahtab. But amidst all her astuteness in assertive politics, she was absolutely humane, abundantly affectionate, immensely friendly and unfailingly motherly.

I was a victim of machinations in emergency as I was expressly against administrative interference on freedom of press. Over-enthusiast bureaucrats had made the climate so clumsy that emergency became synonymous with oppression. Because of her assertive manners, in the mass mind, she appeared to be the architect of all that denigrated democracy in the regime. And, to the best of my ability I had tried to expose the excesses. Naturally the bruised mandarins were eager to teach me a lesion and the time was such that for anything tyrannous, not the mandarins, but Nandini the Chief Minister was viewed responsible. I was not different in my perception too. But she was such in her private life that when my father Nishanath Pattanayak passed away, I got the first condolence message from her in writing through a special messenger.

She was in fact a wonderful personality in politics. She was in public perception the architect of emergency excesses in Orissa. But to the progressive people, she architected assertion of State against indiscipline. She architected land reform and accommodated the communists to the extent of reshaping state approach to progress. It is she who gave rural orientation to industry by commissioning a spinning mill at Govindpur of Dhenkanal to begin with, which in the context of those days was a unique instance of prioritization in planning beyond the beaten track. But remarkable was her ease in enjoying life like boundless commons sans artificiality of politics in the domain of her heart.

Her birthday was celebrated on 8th at the State Information Center she had founded in Bhubaneswar. The day had begun with an exhibition of her photos that are preserved by her son Tathagat Satpathy, M.P. and editor of Dharitri. In the evening, its auditorium was jam-packed to remember her and to hear eminent writer and activist Indira Goswamy as well as Sarojini Sahoo. Both of them, famous for emancipatory writing in interest of women, paid their rich tributes to Mrs Satpathy who had personified women emancipation even as they dealt with the unending psycho-physical trauma females are yet being subjected to in the male-dominated society. Juxtaposing the present time with the time of the formative stage of Mrs Satpathy, they praised her for having pioneered the rise of a new epoch where females feel free to face the challenge from the gender-supremacists.

The event with Tathagat Satpathy in the chair and coordinated by Bijay Malla was consecrated with a video show on Mrs Satpathy and with the magic of Orissi presented by famous danseuse Sujata Mohapatra.

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