In the saga of indomitable courage and valour of Odisha, four places namely Singhoda pass near Chhattisgarh border, Ghess, Debrigarh and Panimora in Bargarh district occupy a place of pride.
Singhoda pass, situated near a hillock and surrounded by dense and impregnable forest, provided the perfect venue for the guerilla warfare of legendary freedom fighter Veer Surendra Sai.
Veer Surendra Sai and his valiant followers established their supremacy over the British much before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
Another place of eminence in the armed struggle against the British was Ghess.
The entire clan of Ghess Zamindar Madho Singh extended their crucial support to Veer Surendra Sai.
The gallant sons of Madho Singh, Hatee Singh, Bairi Singh, Airi Singh and Kunjel Singh put up a valiant armed struggle.
Hatee Singh’s name remains at the forefront as one of the earliest freedom fighters from Odisha, who was transported to the Andaman Islands for life imprisonment.
The revolutionary spirit was no less in the adjoining areas of Rajbodasambar, Kesaepali, Patkulunda, Bheden, Padampur and Sonakhan who also rose up after Veer Surendra Sai called for ‘Ulgulaan’-the revolt.
Another place where the British forces received stiff resistance was Debrigarh inside the Barpahad range.
The Lakhanpur Zamindar Balabhadra Singh Dao’s son Kamal Singh Dao along with his brothers Khageswar Singh and Neelambar Singh were in charge of defending Debrigarh in the Barapahar range.
The spirit of struggle against injustice, oppression and foreign rule was kept aflame by Veer Surendra Sai till 1864.
Subsequently, in the Gandhian era, Panimora village emerged as the centre of struggle as more than 30 youth from Panimora village participated in the Quit India movement launched by Gandhiji in 1942.
However, the spirit of fight against British and the appeal of Gandhiji’s ideologies ran in the veins of the ‘foot soldiers of Mahatma Gandhi’ from Panimora. Even today, ‘Ramdhun’ gets played every day in the morning as a mark of respect and commitment to Gandhian principles.
Honourable Sri Jitendriya Pradhan from Panimora, who had participated in the 1942 Quit India movement, remains a great source of inspiration for wider dissemination and application of Gandhian thought.
11 Murthee at Sohela
These four places remain burning symbols of both armed struggle and the valiant non-violent struggle against British tyranny and injustice.
A place named Sohela remains at the centre point of the four places of struggle.
As a befitting tribute to the gallant freedom fighters and their struggle, a huge pavilion of Gandhiji and his followers is going to be unveiled under the aegis of the Swatantrata Sangramme Samiti, Panimora on August 09, 2020.
The pavilion is a beautifully artistic creation of the young and talented sculptor – Amulya Bhoi from Kapashira village.
It has been inspired by the 11 Murthee [11 Statues] installed in New Delhi.
Created originally by noted sculptor Devi Prasad Roychoudhry, the 11 Murthee depict the iconic Dandi march led by Mahatma Gandhi against the oppressive salt tax of the British.
Gandhi: The man of the masses:
Gandhiji was the man of the masses. Upon returning from South Africa, Gandhiji made it a point to go around the country in a train.
This journey across the country helped Gandhi to understand the ground realities, the need of the masses, the interface of socio-political-economic factors at the grassroots etc.
Subsequently, Gandhi launched various strategies to defeat the British government and at the same time lay down the foundation of a prosperous India.
The historic Dandi March, with a select group of 79 followers, began on 12 March 1930 from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and got over on 05 April 1930.
The Dandi march inspired a mass satyagraha and became a mass civil disobedience within a very short span of time.
Gandhi used Satyagraha against the 1182 Salt Act imposed by British.
Gandhiji’s strategy paid off with mass civil disobedience gaining wide acceptance. It gave impetus to the Indian freedom struggle against the British.
Initially thought to be a small incident, the non-violent defiance of the Salt Act became the symbol of struggle against injustice. By raising a lump of saltmud, Gandhiji declared, “With this, I am shaking the foundation of British empire.”
Capture of Sambalpur Court by Gandhiji’s foot soldiers in Odisha
Gandhiji’s appeal got reverberated in Odisha also. People defied the Salt Act in Inchudi. Among the 79 followers who accompanied Gandhiji in the Dandi March, Motibas Das was from Odisha.
The struggle against the British continued and got galvanized in 1942 when Gandhiji gave the clarion call for ‘Quit India’ movement.
Youth from Panimora village became satyagrahis and turned into the ‘foot soldiers of Mahatma Gandhi’. Some of them captured the court at Sambalpur.
Satyagrahi Chamru Parida became the ‘judge’; Jitendriya Pradhan became the ‘orderly’ and Purnachandra Pradhan became the ‘Peshkar’.
It was certainly an act of bravery and valour. The satyagrahis ran the court and ordered to submit the petitions addressed to Mahatma Gandhi and not the British. And that too in 1942.
The ‘capture’ of the court in British era was certainly an act of defiance with indomitable courage demonstrated by the foot soldiers of Mahatma Gandhi from Panimora.
By installing the ’11 murthee’ at Sohela which is at the junction of the four historic places of struggle; the Swatantrata Sangramee Samiti will recreate the magic of the struggle for freedom and enliven the spirit of indomitable valour of valiant freedom fighters Veer Surendra Sai, all gallant family members of Ghess zamindar Madho Singh and Gandhian foot soldiers from Panimora.
*The author is public policy experts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , +91-9868766705