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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Though Odisha breathed it easy from the anticipated ravaging winds of cyclone Jawad, the storm inside the State Assembly refused to subside after the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Monday made a demand to the Centre to accord the ‘Paika Bidroha’ India’s first fight for freedom.

The BJD legislators wore masks of the leader of Paika Bidroha (uprising), the legendary Jayi Rajguru and sat below the Mahatma Gandhi statue in the Assembly premises demanding to make it India’s maiden movement for freedom.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Odisha government had earlier put forth the demand with the Culture Ministry over the same. However, the Union Culture Minister G Kishen Reddy had rejected the demand.

Replying to a question raised by BJD MP Prashant Nanda in Rajya Sabha, Reddy said, “The matter was examined in consultation with Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) under the Ministry of HRD (Now Ministry of Education). As per comments received from ICHR, Paika uprising cannot be called the First War of Independence.”

“However, from a historical point of view, it can be said that the ‘Paika Bidroha’, which was set off in March,1817 and continued until May,1825, had set an example for the classes as well as the masses in India to follow later on,” Reddy said.

Accordingly, considering that this is one of the beginnings of popular uprisings against the British in India, the Union government has decided to include it as a ‘case-study’ in the Class VIII history textbook of NCERT, which deals with the 1857 event (Sepoy uprising).

This seemed to have not gone down well with the BJD which is already gasping for air following the ceaseless attacks by the Opposition over the Mamita Meher murder case and Mahanga double murder during this Winter Session.

Odisha MoS for Science & Technology, Public Enterprises, Social Security & Empowerment of Persons with Disability, Ashok Chandra Panda said, “The demand was first raised by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the Vigyan Bhawan in a meeting chaired by the then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee and he was assured that the Centre will consider the demand. It is really unfortunate that the Union government backtracked from it.”

Meanwhile, the Deputy Leader of Opposition in Odisha Assembly, Bishnu Sethi termed the agitation as a ‘drama’ by the BJD and said, “It is a ploy to divert the media and public attention from more serious issues like BJD Ministers’ alleged involvement in Mamita Meher murder case and Mahanga double murder.”

BJP leader and descendant of Buxi Jagabandhu, the leader of ‘Paika Bidroha’, Lalitendu Vidyadhar Mohapatra said, “In his 21 years of rule, Naveen Patnaik never cared for the Paikas. The State government failed to produce sufficient proof and data supporting their demand, so the ICHR rejected it.”

“However, the Modi government has done much more for the Paikas than the Naveen government in Odisha. There is already a proposal to erect a grand memorial of the Paika Uprising at Barunei Hill. Even the NCERT has decided to include the event in its history book,” Mohapatra added.

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