Odisha has a glorious history of her indomitable spirit of fighting against injustice, foreign rule.
Odisha has the unique distinction of initiating resistance against the British empire in 1817 which is forty years before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
The tradition of valour in veins of Odia which contributed significantly towards India winning independence.
Bhabani Charan Patnaik was one of the freedom fighter from Odisha-the land of indomitable spirit and courage.
Bhabani Charan Patnaik was also one of the youngest freedom fighter from Odisha ; apart from the legendary Baji Rout.
Bhabani Charan Patnaik had joined the freedom struggle while he was a school going boy at the age of 10 in Nimapada, Odisha.
In 2017 I was doing research for two books on the unsung freedom fighters and the unknown aspects of freedom struggle in Odisha which started almost forty years before the Sepoy Mutiny.
Time was very short and the task was Herculean in nature.
However, my reverence for my native place and inquisitiveness became the motivating forces to complete the task.
I searched many historical documents in libraries, archives; went through the files in district record rooms in various districts in Odisha etc in order to prepare one book in Odia and another in English; which would be enriched with academic contents, historical photos and aesthetic look.
I came across the name of freedom fighter Bhabani Charan Patnaik from Nimapada who enjoys legendry status.
I reached out to Bhabani Charan Patnaik over phone with much trepidation.
To my utter surprise, I received the sweetest reply to my telephonic call.
Bhabani Charan Patnaik was above 95, yet his voice was full of the indomitable spirit and courage.
He was full of praise when he was apprised about the two forthcoming books.
His voice was full of humbleness when I unfolded the idea of writing about his participation freedom struggle since school days.
Subsequently, Bhabani Charan Patnaik left school education midway by getting influenced by the clarion call by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942.
Bhabani Charan Patnaik’s dedication, hardwork and dedication made him a close associate of freedom fighters and stalwarts like Dr Harekrushna Mahatab, Biju Patniak, Nabakrushna Choudhry, Neelamani Routray etc.
When I asked him over phone about the most memorable incident during th efredom struggle days; Bhabani Charan Patnaik narrated eloquently the firing by British police on the peaceful protestors led by Bhabani Charan Patnaik and his colleagues like Lokanatha Senapati and Padma Charan Samantsinhar in Nimapada during freedom struggle.
His voice got choked with emotion when he remembered the name of Utsav Mallik who was martyred in the firing by the British police.
Bhabani Charan Patnaik was put behind bars in Puri jail as he led the protest against the British.
Though Bhabani Charan Patnaik was jailed, that could not dampen his dedication to Gandhian principles and values.
When Bhabani Charan Patnaik evoked the name of Mahatma Gandhi, his voice tone became more baritone.
Without a pause, Bhabani Charan Patnaik went on describing with minute details about the numerous visits of Mahatma Gnadhi to Odisha starting with 1921.
According to Bhabani Charan Patnaik, it was the famine in Udaar in Puri which was highlighted by Utkalmani Gopabandhu Dash in his latters to Mahatma Gandhi brought Gandhi to Odisha.
Bhabani Charan Patnaik made a candid confession that it was Gandhiji’s simplicity, concerns for ordinary human-beings, and unflinching dedication to Non-violence bowled him completely.
He was completely hypnotized by Mahatma’s personality.
Upon being asked about the relevance of Gandhi in contemporary world, Bhabani Charan Patnaik paused for a moment and took a deep breath.
A sense of disappointment loomed large over his voice.
Bhabani Charan Patnaik said by neglecting Gandhian philosophy India’s progress is not inclusive and broad-based.
Gandhian philosophy has become increasingly relevant in recent times and there must be attempts to connect the younger generation with the Gandhian ideology.
The long conversation led to a personal bonding, although over phone.
Bhabani Charan Patnaik’s eagerness to see my two books , which I could not.
However, Bhabani Charan Patnaik kept me motivated with his insightful reflections on many contemporary problems ailing the country.
My two books, namely ‘Valour in Veins’ in English and ‘ Dhamanee re Shourya’ in Odia have the unique distinction of featuring few living freedom fighters like Dayanidhi Nayak and Jeetendra Pradhan from Panimora village in Bargarh district and Bhanai Charan Patnaik from Nimapada.
I feel blessed as I had the privilege of interacting with these ‘foot-soldiers of Mahtma Gandhi’ and honour of featuring them in my two books.
The author is a policy analyst and can be reached by firstname.lastname@example.org and +91-9868766705