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Freedom fighter passes away

Cuttack, Jan. 1: Rich tributes were paid to eminent freedom fighter and social reformer Annapurna Maharana, who died yesterday night after battling prolonged illness. She was 96 and is survived by two sons.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today paid floral tributes to one of the most towering personalities of the state at her residence at Bakhrabad.

“She would be missed not only in our state, but also in other parts of the country,” said Naveen.

Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik and other dignitaries and people from different walks of life also paid homage to the freedom fighter.

Born on November 3, 1917, Annapurna, also known as Chuni Apa, had dedicated her life to the freedom struggle of the country at a very early age.

Annapurna, the daughter of Gopabandhu Choudhry and Rama devi, was one of the ardent followers of Mahatma Gandhi. She was one of the leading campaigners of the Banar Sena and the British imprisoned her at the age of 13.

“Annapurna was a great follower of Gandhiji’s ideologies till her last breath. Apart from a leading role in the freedom struggle, she had actively worked for the welfare of women in the state,” said Gandhian scholar Pabak Kanungo.

She also actively took part in the march called the Harijan Andoloan from Puri to Bhadrak along with Gandhiji. Later, she was associated with Acharya Vinboba Bhave.

From 1934, she began her work for the uplift of harijans, primary education, khadi movement and 18 other welfare activities.

Annapurna played a crucial role in the Quit India Movement from 1942 to 1947 and led various public meetings organised against the British at Bari and Kalamatia. She was also held captive in jail twice at Cuttack and Jajpur from 1942 to 1944.

She had worked at Sevaghar Ashram in Bari and was a trustee at the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust.

After Independence, Annapurna was part of the Bhoodan movement and visited the Chambal valley to make dreaded dacoits join the mainstream.

“The body of Annapurna has been kept for public viewing today and the last rites would be performed at the electric crematorium at Khannagar tomorrow,” said Annapurna’s son, Karmadev Maharana.