Nabarangpur: The crumbling walls of its dilapidated façade and eerie looks of the surrounding overgrown vegetation evoke memories of the horrors hundreds of freedom fighters endured in its tiny cubicular cells during the colonial oppression.
Locals claim to hear wails of torture followed by chants of ‘Vande Mataram’ escaping the brick walls of this ramshackle structure sending shivers down the spines in the dead of the night.
This 90-year-old jail at the Treasury and Tehsil office in Nabrangapur, which is a symbol of Odisha’s unputdownable struggle against the British occupation forces, is a sight of neglect and apathy at present.
As we celebrate the 100th year of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Odisha today, a flashback of the sacrifices of our freedom fighters on the face of the most inhuman torture in the cellular (read molecular) jail at Nabarangpur makes us bow down our heads in respect to those brave hearts of Odisha. They embraced torture, incarceration, and death while chanting the lore of the motherland so that the future generation could breathe the sweet air of freedom.
Built around 1932, this jail served as a transit detention center for prisoners who were later shifted to Koraput and Berhampur jails following the announcement of punishment by the courts, which never went in favor of the freedom fighters.
Splashes of the blood of the incarcerated freedom fighters can be seen on the walls of the dark and dingy cells of the prison. Only 14 tiny cells which housed no less than 250 prisoners speak volumes about the level of inhuman treatment and torments they had been subjected to.
Locals say the chants of Vande Mataram and screams of torture that resonates through the jail on countless nights perhaps belong to the fighters while attaining martyrdom in those dark years.
Tragically, the prison cells that once housed freedom fighters of the likes of Dr. Sadashiv Tripathy (who went on to become the Chief Minister of Odisha after independence), Sonu Majhi, Martyr Baga, Pujari, Mohammed Baji, Jagannath Tripathy, and Miru Harijan are all but good.
Huge banyan trees coming out of the walls of the jail and brick openings providing shelter to squirrels and sparrows makes one ponder our will to preserve our legacy and history.
However, the good news is that the movement to declare the jail as a National Monument is gaining ground with every passing day, of late. Muna Tripathy, president of the Odisha Saheed Smriti Committee, said, "We have submitted multiple memorandums to the Chief Minister and the Governor with prayers to preserve this monument. However, our prayers have fallen in deaf ears,” Tripathy said adding, “however, we are not going to give up.”
Similarly, another concerned local, Uttam Tripathy said, "Given the present condition of the structure, the future generation will never be able to see this edifice that stands testimony to the supreme sacrifice our ancestors made for getting us freedom. I request the administration to preserve the jail so that generations will see and get inspired."
Meanwhile, District Collector, Ajit Kumar Mishra while admitting to the negligence in maintaining the structure, said he would ensure the repair and preservation of the jail.