Saswat Singhdeo

Bhubaneswar: The claims made by Chiranjeevi-starrer Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy that the revolt led by the freedom fighter Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy some decades before 1857 has raised questions on the tag of Odisha's Paika Bidroha (Paika Rebellion) of 1817 as the first war of Independence.

Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Chiranjeevi and many other prominent actors, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is scheduled for release in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam languages on October 2.

While the story of the upcoming movie has been touted as the first revolt against the British empire, it contradicts the history of the Paika Rebellion which has been widely recognised as the First War of Independence against the British.

However, various political leaders have come out to express their disagreement with the Telugu movie's claims. Speaking on the issue, BJP national vice-president Baijayant Jay Panda said, “As far as history is concerned, Paika rebellion is considered to be the first such revolt against the British and it is there in written form.”

Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswa Bhushan Harichandan too said, “As an Odia, I can say that Paika Bidroha is a prominent event in the history of Indian revolution against the British. But it won’t be appropriate to say anything else other than that."

Similarly, Union Minister Pratap Sarangi said, "I am no expert but I can say that if Andhra filmmakers can try to claim that their revolt is first Independence struggle, why can't Odia movie makers do something to prove the views on Paika Bidroha."

Culture Minister Jyotiprakash Panigrahi said, “We consider Paika rebellion as first war of independence. Once we get appropriate documents to support it, we will definitely take steps.”

Not only, politicians, but experts have also come forward to express their views on the matter with Professor Basant Mallick, Head Of History Department in Utkal University saying that this movie will create confusion in the minds of young students regarding the history of India’s independence.

Paikas, essentially the peasant militias of the Gajapati rulers of Odisha who rendered military service to the king during times of war and take up cultivation during times of peace, briefly shook the foundations of British rule in the eastern part of India with their armed revolt. They unfurled the banner of rebellion against the British under the leadership of Baxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhara Mohapatra as early as 1817.

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the rebellion in 2017, Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar had announced that Paika rebellion would be recognised as the first War of Independence. The celebrations of the Paika Rebellion was held on July 20, 2017 in New Delhi in the presence of then President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, CM Naveen and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Even the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced allocation of a budget worth Rs 200 crore for the Bi-centenary celebrations of the Paika Rebellion.