Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
An axiom floated by ancient Oriya wisdom says, if one tells a lie, he may need to contrive a thousand lies to cover it up.
Lingaraj Mishra and Radhanath Rath, the two former ministers of Orissa, who benefitted the most, as editors of The Samaja, fully fit into this axiom. They have produced many lies to cover up the first lie they had concocted to cheat everybody in the matter of Gopabandhu’s Will.
As already exposed, Rath had taken dictation of the Will of Gopabandhu on his deathbed. But he suppressed or destroyed that Will in order to form a nexus with Lingaraj Mishra to usurp ‘The Samaja’ by using the route of SoPS.
Rathwas an employee of Gopabandhu. But by rendering inconsequential the will of Gopabandhu in matter of the Satyabadi Press, he had committed not only a blatant breech of trust that Gopabandhu had in him, but also the most heinous crime a servant may commit against a believing and loving as well as well-wishing master.
Orissa as a whole has been cheated by this treacherous duo – Radhanath Rath and Lingaraj Mishra.
Let us start with the second man, because, this is the man who has authored the forged Will of Gopabandhu in the environment the former had created.
Men of dubious conduct: Lingaraj and Radhanath
After Gopabandhu’s death, Lingaraj Mishra was the lone Oriya who was in SoPS as an “Associate Member Under Training”.
His conduct was not satisfactory, as transpires from communications between SoPS founder Lala Lajpat Rai and Gopabandhu.
Lalaji had informed Gopabandhu on 10.12.1927 that he was not satisfied with Lingaraj, whom he had recommended for membership. Gopabandhu, in his reply dated 23.12.1927 to Lalaji, also confirmed that he was not satisfied with Lingaraj either.
He had made some confidential mention about Lingaraj in this letter; and yet had urged upon Lalaji to keep him further under training lest he may improve.
On receiving this reply, Lalaji had written back on 26.12.1927 a mail of solace wherein he had assured Gopabandhu that he was not going to dismiss him immediately. “I have not yet formed any final opinion adverse to him”, he had said.
These very quoted words of Lalaji make it clear that he had a prima facie adverse opinion on Lingaraj.
Yet, because of Gopabandhu’s appeal, Lingaraj was not dismissed. He continued under training till 1930 and became a life member in the special circumstances caused by Gopabandhu’s demise in absence of any other person from Orissa in its enrollment.
According to Gopabandhu, as noted in his letter of 23.12.1927, Lingaraj was “a bit of easygoing nature” and had “not much initiative and imagination”.
But Radhanath Rath was a shrewd person with vast ambitions.
A mere low-paid servant of Gopabandhu, he had projected himself as his most trusted associate after his master’s death, and had emerged so arrogantly aggressive that Gopabandhu’s closest friend, patron and co-founder of ‘The Samaja’ – Pt. Nilakantha Das – was thrown out from the premises of Satyabadi Press and editorship of the paper quite “rudely” a few months after Gopabandhu passed away. Pandit Nilakantha who had seen how Radhanath Rath, as an paid servant of Gopabandhu, had taken the dictation of the Will, had vehemently opposed the Will purported to have been written by Lingaraj Mishra to Gopabandhu’s dictation, used for establishing ownership of SoPS over the Samaja. Rath’s most layal protege Udayanath Sarangi, who had acted as the paper’s printer and publisher, as well as News Editor, has, in his book ‘Gandhi Maharajanka Shishya’, given an account of how Pandit Nilakantha Das and Pandit Godavarish Mishra were often in contretemps and altercations with Radhanath Rath over the issue of the Will.
Such circumstantial evidences prod us to apprehend that Rath used Lingaraj to create a forged Will of Gopabandhu. He must have instigated Lingaraj to write the forged Will, the exact photo copy of which was published by Radhanath in the Samaja on 7.7.1986, as thereby greater personal benefit would be available to both of them.
Mens rea behind this illegal adventure is not difficult to locate.
Rath was a very ambitious person with a poor income.
He was a servant of Gopabandhu, not a friend or political disciple or colleague as he has made others believe, after his master’s death.
He was in the habit of raising disputes with Gopabandhu for higher pay and threatening him to resign from his service if his wages were not hiked. In reply to his demands, Gopabandhu had told him to seek employment elsewhere if thereby he gets better wages. The condition of the Press was not permitting a pay hike and there was no hope for any improvement in near future either. Hence he was asked to take the final decision on the question of his continuance in the job as quickly as possible, so that Gopabandhu would no more suffer from the environment of uncertainty he was creating (Reply of Gopabandhu to Rath’s letter on 6.1.1928).
From this letter it is clear that the propaganda that Rath had given up his government service in forest department to join Gopabandhu and was posted as Manager of Satyabadi Press and The Samaja from the beginning, is a false propaganda generated by Rath himself to show his importance in the circle of Gopabandhu.
Rath has admitted in his letter dated 12.2.1928 to Gopabandhu that, by that time, he was kept in charge of management of the Press for only a little more than 2 months.
“It is more than 2 months that I have been in charge of the Press. In the meantime you have not looked to its condition nor have you enquired about my question. I only received your letter but could not find you alone to have my say finally” Radhanath had said in this letter.
What was he to “say finally” to Gopabandhu? He says in the same letter, “When I have to take a final step, I must know for certain my position as it stands at present and would stand in future”.
So it is clear that, even on 12.2.1928, Radhanath was a low-paid employee of Gopabandhu, very unsure of his future, yet far away from any alternative job elsewhere.
The kindhearted Gopabandhu had, however, offered him a salary of Rs.50 per month, if he decides to continue in his job.
Radhanath was not getting a better job with higher wages. Therefore, he was continuing in his service under Gopabandhu.
From this wretched condition, after Gopabandhu’s demise, he was eager to fly into prosperity.
That was to come to him by acquiring the Samaja under a cover and the cover was SoPS.
This is the mens rea behind his manufacturing a forged Will in nexus with Lingaraj.
Rath was tutoring Gopabandhu
I have already quoted from Gopabandhu’s letter to Rath how he had not even been given Rs. 20/- only from the income of his Press, despite his waiting for the same in what became his death bed. Now I am quoting from Gopabandu’s reply to Rath to show how the later was mentally torturing him. In this communication, Gopabandhu had requested Rath to leave his Press for any other pasture if he so likes, as thereby he could be saved from the uncertainty over management of the Press.
“If you have made up your mind to leave the job, you should tell me in advance about when you would leave, so that I may decide what alternative arrangement could be made. …… If you are to leave, take a decision quickly, as thereby the constant agony of uncertainty, suspicion and apprehension I am being tortured with will end”, Gopabandhu had written to Rath brokenhearted in that letter (translated from Oriya). Rath, despite this, had not resigned, as he was waiting for a chance as Gopabandhu was deteriorating continuously.
Rath had a hidden agenda matching his high ambition.
He was conscious of the change the freedom struggle was ushering in.
He was sure of a political carrier if the Servants of the People Society, the reputed socio-political forum, famous in Orissa because of Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das, could be used as his platform.
Except Lingaraj Mishra, there was no second man from Orissa in SoPS after demise of Gopabandhu. He wanted to be a member thereof.
True, a politically known man like Lingaraj with a stint in Bihar-Orissa Council was yet to be confirmed as a member of SoPS, it was certainly not easy for Rath to enter into that society.
But late Gopabandhu Das was a revered person in SoPS. His wishes may not be ignored by SoPS, specifically as he was dead.
Therefore, Rath must have wanted to convince SoPS authorities that Gopabandhu had wished him to be enrolled into the organization. And to do this, he must have wanted to insert such a wish of Gopabandhu in the Will he had dictated. Therefore, while taking the dictation, he must have rapidly and shrewdly inserted the words “I had a mind to take Babu Radhanath Rath as my assistant under the Servants of the People Society”, which, Lingaraj must have copied to the fair copy he had written for Gopabandhu’s signature.
A plain reading of Para 6 of the Will’s Avatar in use, makes it clear that, the above quoted sentence does not fit into the flow of the sentences in that Para. After saying, “ For future management of the Satyabadi Press I had an elaborate scheme in my mind but I cannot draw it out at the present moment”, it was natural on his part to dictate, “The short cut that appears to me at the present moment is that I shall make over the (charges of the) whole Press to the Servants of the People Society so that a permanent institution of the Society may continue in Orissa”. Taking the structure of this part into consideration, the sentence about Radhanath Rath looks absolutely odd and wrong-placed between these two sentences.
So, certainly the said sentence was inserted in Para 6 clandestinely by Radhanath Rath while taking dictation of the draft Will, which, as per his scheme, helped him get enrolled to SoPS. and later, as already mentioned, the text of the Will was willfully changed to incorporate vesting of ownership of the Samaja in SoPS in the forged Will authenticated by the Sheristadar of the probate court, contrary to contents of the probated Will.
In this nasty design, Lingaraj Mishra had actively cooperated, in personal interest.
Rath must have convinced the “easy-going” Lingaraj that his confirmation could be easier if he recommends him as a colleague of Gopabandhu for membership of SoPS. In return, Rath would help him capture the Samaja for his political benefit through the route of SoPS.
And, as Rath was continuing to manage the Press after demise of Gopabandhu, this must have clicked.
And thus the Will that the SoPS is using for its ownership over the Samaja must have been created with Radhanath Rath and Lingaraj Mishra partnering with each other.
Their crime is so grievous that even posthumous punishment would look lighter.