Odisha approves proposal to declare Paika Bidroha as first war of Indian independence

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Article by Sujit Kumar Bisoyi, Originally published in The Times of India online edition on 18th July, 2017

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BHUBANESWAR: The state cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposal to recommend the Centre to declare the 1817 'Paika Birdoha' as the first war of independence in India.

The state culture department would soon submit a proposal in this regard with full document support before the Union culture ministry, said cultural and tourism minister Ashok Panda after the cabinet meeting.

The state government's move is seen as a counter strategy as the BJP-led NDA government has lined up a programme on July 20 to celebrate bi-centenary celebration of the historical event. The Centre has made special budgetary provision for the purpose. During his visit to Odisha in April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tried to strike a chord with Odia emotions by felicitating the descendants of Paika rebellion.

Justifying Odisha's move, the culture minister said the rebellion of 1817 in Khurda led by Buxi Jagabandhu took place 40 years before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 which is considered as the first Indian war of independence.

"The 1857 mutiny resulted in the end of company rule and the beginning of the direct authority of the British government. Since the colonial rule of India had its origins in the East India Company, the genesis of the events that led to the Sepoy Mutiny and its consequence need to be traced back to the earlier instances of organized rebellion against the company rule," Panda said adding the Paika rebellion was essentially a people's movement.

The 1817 rebellion was started from the Kondhs of Ghumsur (now in Ganjam) and subsequently spread to Banpur, Khurda, Pipli, Puri, Kujanga, Pattamundai and Keonjhar. The minister claimed of finding crucial documents which substantiates that the movement continued up to 1936.

"All sections of the people—the paikas, zamindars, malangis (salt manufacturers), peasants and tribals participated in Paika Bidroha. It was a pluralistic people's movement which transcended the boundaries of caste, creed and class," the minister added.

Quoting historian B C Ray, who did research on Buxi Jagabandhu's rebellion in the School of Oriental African Studies, London, Panda said the rebellion of 1817 was better organized than many such early movements in other areas of the country.

The state government has also been celebrating the bi-centenary of the Paika rebellion. While it has organized a three-day programme at Khurda in March, another programme is planned in September-October.

The Odisha Sahitya Akademi would organize a workshop in New Delhi and a special book is published to commemorate the occasion. Earlier, chief minister Naveen Patnaik urged the Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu to run a special train from Khurda to Mumbai in the name of Buxi Jagabandhu.