Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
When occasion arises to cite a noble soul, people of Orissa cite Gopabandhu Das, who was pioneer in making education the fountainhead of patriotism and in whom, people of this land were finding an incomparable paragon of all humanitarian virtues. To them, he was Utkalmani, the precious jewel of Orissa.
He had founded a people’s mouthpiece that he had named ‘Samaja’ (meaning the entire society), to which, with the help of Pt. Nilakantha Das, he had dedicated a printing press named the Satyabadi Press. Besides printing the newspaper ‘The Samaja’, the press was also generating some money for Gopabandhu to run the Satyabadi School where patriotism was the soul of education.
Towards the last part of his life, Servants of the People Society (SoPS) founded by Lala Lajpat Rai for imparting patriotic training to political aspirants became the platform of his social services. Gopabandhu had recruited Lingaraj Mishra as a member of SoPS.
When Pt. Nilakantha continued as his friend, philosopher and guide in matters of Orissa, Radhanath Rath through his personal service had ingratiated himself with Utkalmani and was being viewed as a personal aid of the great leader along with Mishra.
Both Rath and Mishra had tremendous political ambitions, which they were thinking of fulfilling under the impact of their proximity to Gopabandhu. In fact, Gopabandhu had launched Mishra in parliamentary politics, which he was eager to stick to, when Rath was dreaming of achieving political eminence by using Gopabandhu’s name.
Both of them were so eager to exploit Gopabandhu’s name for personal benefits that when Pt. Nilakantha sensed a rat in their conduct, he was unceremoniously thwarted out of editorship of the Samaja, which post he had taken over after the sad demise of his friend, the Utkalmani.
Mishra and Rath, like the demons Atapi and Batapi whose legends are depicted in Mahabharat in context of the sage Agasti, were collaborating partners and had, in course of time, emerged as editor and printer-publisher of the Samaja (with the later staying editor till death in subsequent days) respectively and had also become powerful enough, by using the name and fame of the Samaja, to grab ministerial berths in Orissa.
But using the name of the Samaja was not easy for them. They had contrived an idea of grabbing the paper through SoPS as that was Gopabandhu’s last platform for social service. If SoPS could be bestowed upon with the reign of the Samaja, as its only member from Orissa, Mishra was sure to become its controller and Rath was sure of having a berth to manage it. Under such a design, they were to forge the Will of Pt. Gopabandhu Das. They did it. Pt. Gopabandhu had given dictation of a Will on his death bed which was noted down by Radhanath Rath. They destroyed this dictation and forged a WILL to grab the Samaja through SoPS. In this forged Will, wrongfully shown as dictation of Gopabandhu written by Lingaraj Mishra, the Samaja was shown as made over to SoPS and over and above Mishra, Rath was projected as a man whom Gopabandhu had the desire to take into SoPS as his assistant.
In the climate of national sorrow over demise of Gopabandhu, these two fellows could play this mischief sans any attention from anybody in his family and friends. Media of the day carried the information that Gopabandhu had dictated a WILL on his death bed without publishing the text of the WILL and merely on hearsay as deliberately spread by the above duo. So, except perhaps Pt Nilakanth Das, who was present on the spot at the last moment of Gopabandhu and had seen Gopabandhu giving dictation of his WILL to Radhanath Rath, nobody could know that the WILL shown as written by Mishra to Gopabandhu’s dictation, was not the genuine WILL. Obviously, he did not accept the SoPS claim over the Samaja and therefore was thwarted out of its editorship, which eventually came to Mishra as per his design.
Gopabandhu had never given more importance to his family vis a vis the people. Therefore his family was not in a mentality to disbelieve that the very same persons whom Gopabandhu was relying upon had tampered with his WILL. His elder son-in-law Ratnakar Pati, known for scholarly and discernibly detached life, was a lecturer in the education department and had no inclination for power, which his stake in the Samaja could have launched him to. He was also too afraid of political power to raise any objection against the forged WILL as both Mishra and Rath had developed tremendous support bases by using media power of the Samaja and had become minister of education in Orissa one after the other. When later Gopabandhu’s youngest daughter could gather courage to challenge the will, situation was created to force her into a compromise with a paltry sum of Rs.2 thousand only.
Politicians were thronging the Samaja office to get publicity and official top brasses were seeking blessings of the Samaja editor – Mishra and then Rath – to stay safe from exposure of their misdeeds. Thus their mischiefs never came to light. And, thus the SoPS became the owner of the Samaja by using the forged WILL.
And the funds generated by employees of the Samaja became funds of the SoPS to be looted by its members.
In course of time internecine quarrels over sharing the loot have become too monstrous to be kept hidden.
Members of SoPS have raised disputes against each other’s fractional rivals and police stations in Delhi as well as in Cuttack district have been flooded with FIRs and counter FIRs. Situations have gone so sore that the SoPS has been forced time and again to appoint captive commissions of inquiry into allegations of embezzlement, corruption and moral turpitude and they have found factual the felonies as alleged. But SoPS having shrunk to a body of around only ten members most of whom are involved with the located misdeeds, none of the reports have led to punishment of the fellows involve with the crimes of embezzlement and corruption and moral turpitude. But, never there is halt in internecine battle for occupying office of SoPS, the safe haven for money grabbing through malpractice. In this internecine battle, as the axiom goes that a fair lady belongs to the man of more muscular power, the SoPS office has gone into the fold of the fraction led by Manubhai Patel.
Manubhai is a man whom Radhanath Rath had shown to the SoPS top brass as a man who was not retuning the huge money he had taken from the Samaja fund to use in his electioneering in Gujurat. He has also shown him as an immoral person. To settle the score, Patel having captured the SoPS has caused the dismantlement of Gopabandhu’s statue in the Samaja campus as the same was based on a platform carrying a plate with Rath’s name inscribed as inaugurator of the statue. This is a sacrilege that needs punishment.
But, surprisingly, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has consented to inaugurate another statue of Gopabandhu to comply with the preference of Patel and his gang.
As reported in orissamatters.com, on July 6, the ‘Save the Samaj Forum’ has informed the CM about this sacrilege and urged upon him not to be associated with the miscreants. His reaction thereto is yet to be defined by CMO.
But our strong opinion is that the CM, instead of helping the miscreants gain credibility, should initiate action to punish the illegal occupiers of the Samaja for the offense they have committed by dismantling the statue of Pt. Gopabandhu Das in the Gopabandhu Bhawan premises.