Biju sheltered freedom fighters, says daughter Gita

Bhubaneswar: Though the people of Odisha know that the life of the legendary Biju Patnaik was like an open page, his daughter, eminent litterateur Gita Mehta has brought to the fore some startling and unknown facts about her father from the pre-Independence period.

In her write-up in the Odia magazine Utkala Prasanga in its April edition this year, she said her parents, during their stay in Delhi, were busy in giving asylum to freedom fighters trying to evade arrest by the British police.

“A foreign freedom fighter, who was aware of the incident, had named our house as absconders’ paradise,” Mehta said in her write-up.

She has also mentioned that the British police had arrested her father as a radical nationalist.

“The reason was my father had some pistols. Soon after the British police handcuffed my father, he came to my mother and on the pretext of bidding goodbye to her, gave a hint to throw away the pistols. After my father was taken out of the house, my mother put the pistols inside a pillow cover and took them in a Sunbeam-Talbot car and threw them at a secluded place in the night,” she said.

She also said while her father was inside the jail and the police was frequently shifting him to other jails, her mother used to take her and her brother to the jail to meet him and pass on secret messages to him.

“This continued for four years and my mother managed to give secret letters to my father inside the jail by putting them inside the shoes of my younger brother. But my father managed to escape from the jail by jumping the boundary wall but fractured his hand in the process. To get cured, my father had kept his hand up for month together. My mother was afraid that the police would catch my father as he was tall, and would extradite him. Mercifully, this did not happen,” she added.

Mehta has also mentioned that her father, while inside the jail, had planned to print fake currency notes and circulate them across the country which he thought would ultimately result in the downfall of the British Raj.