Why Naveen Patnaik’s Govt Reluctant For Paika Freedom Movement Memorial?

Even though six years have now passed to the completion of 200 years of the Paika Freedom Movement (a valiant uprising of Paikas in 1817 against British Rule ) and three years to the foundation stone laying ceremony for the memorial project at Khurdha Fort, the memorial project is yet to make a tangible headway. Former President Ram Nath Kovind laid the foundation stone for the project in 2019.  The Union Ministry of culture is executing the project, which BJP had promised in its manifesto ahead of the simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly polls in Odisha. The Indian Oil Foundation had approved a fund of Rs 90 crore for the memorial.

Though the Odisha government had provided 10 acres of land for the project after several protests, and follow-ups, it is now again demanding funds from central govt under various heads. As a result, the project is yet to see the light of the day.

“It is a symbol of Odia pride. It is not a factory, rail or road project. The Central government’s culture department is ready to abide by all norms. But the response of the Odisha government is looking like they are not interested in the project,” said Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan recently.

While laying the foundation stone of the memorial during 2019, President Ram Nath Kovind had said that it will be a place of inspiration for future generations. “I am hopeful that the ten-acre memorial would turn into a place of pilgrimage in future because of the heroic saga and valour of the Paikas,” the President had said. 

The memorial was planned in 2017 with a fund allocation made in the Union Budget by the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Later in July 2017, a programme was organized to mark the 200-year of Paika Revolt in New Delhi in the presence of then the President. 

Later on December 24, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a coin and a postal stamp in memory of the revolt. On December 8, 2019, former President Ramnath Covind laid the foundation stone for the Paika Bidroh Memorial. 

The NCERT has included Paika Freedom Movement of Odisha of the early 19th century in Class VIII history textbooks. But in Odisha’s school text book it is limited to only paragraph. 

Paika Freedom Movement

The Paika Freedom Movement, also called the Paika Sangram, was an early armed fight against British rule in India in 1817. The Paikas fought against Britishers under their leader Bakshi Jagabandhu and projecting Lord Jagannath as the symbol of Odia unity, which quickly spread across most of Odisha before being put down by the Company’s forces.

The Royal Fort of “Khordhagada” is referred as the “last independent fort” of India by many renowned historians which was remained free from the clutches of East India Company till 1803. Notably Britishers were able to captured Odisha after other parts of the country they occupied. 

However, Khordha came fully under occupation of East India Company in 1827. The delay was a consequence of the strong resistance of the Paikas of Khordha that greatly affected the Company administration in this region. History witnessed the brawn and bravery of the Paikas of Khordha during the Paika Freedom Movement of 1817-18 under the command of Bakshi Jagabandhu.

It originated in Khordha soil and spread to other parts of Orissa in 1817 much prior to the outbreak of the historical Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. 

The British armed force advanced from Madras on 8th September 1803 and arrived at Puri on 16th September enroute Manikapatna. With the help of Fate Mohemmed of Malud (recruited by the Marathas as watchman) Colonel Harcourt reached Narasinghpatna after two days crossing the Chilika lake. The Britishers did not face any resistance while occupying Narasinghpatna and Puri. After occupying Jagannath temple of Puri, Colonel Harcourt proceeded to Cuttack crushing the feeble resistance of Marathas near Atharnala and Jagannath Sadak. The vanquished Maratha soldiers fled for life to Khordha jungle. Colonel Harcourt arrived at Cuttack enroute Barangagada crossing the river Kathajodi.

Under the able command of Captain Morgan a detachment of British troop arrived at Jampada of Balasore sea shore by ship and occupied the Maratha fort. Another detachment of British troop reached at Balasore enroute Medinipur (now Midnapore) under the command of Colonel Forgusson and joined the previous troop stationed at Balasore. The joint troops proceeded from Balasore to Cuttack and joined the soldiers of Colonel Harcourt and occupied the Barabati fort. In this way Odisha fell to the East India Company in the year 1803. Thus the Company became the ruler of most parts of India except the territory of Khordha.

In 1804 AD the English soldiers seized the fort of Khordha for three weeks and razed it to the ground by canon firing. They proclaimed Raja Mukund Dev-II as rebel, dethroned him and made him a prisoner of war. Raja Mukunda Dev-II submitted an appeal to the British authority stating that as per the instruction of Jayee Rajguru he had fought with them and he was in no way responsible for the battle. Considering the appeal the Britishers pardoned him and offered him the responsibility of managing the temple of Jagannath. He was also ordered to remain at Puri. Jayee Rajguru being the kingpin of Khordha Rebellion of 1804 was sentenced to death and was hanged on a banyan tree at Baghitota of Medinipur. The gruesome murder of Jayee Rajguru by the Company authority caused much discontentment among the Paiks of Khordha who thereafter under Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar decided for war against the Company. 

A large number of Paikas were mobilised under the leadership of Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar, who then confronted the British on April 2, 1817. Government buildings in Banapur were set on fire, policemen killed and the British treasury looted. Over the next few months, the revolt continued but was eventually overpowered by the British army. Bidyadhar was imprisoned in 1825 and died while still in jail four years later.

This article was first published in the Independence News.

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