Bhubaneswar, Aug. 26: The Paika rebellion, which the Odisha government wants declared as the first war of Independence, is ironically missing from the pages of school history textbooks in the state.
The uprising finds a mention only in the chapter titled Resistance to British Rule in the history book prescribed for Class VIII students.
The third chapter of the book profiles two prominent heroes - Jai Rajguru and Buxi Jagabandhu. The book traces their rise as freedom fighters and underscores their role in turning paikas (soldiers) into a martial race.
However, the descriptions are sketchy and limited to only four pages (pages 23 to 26 -).
School and mass education minister Badri Narayan Patra admitted that the rebellion did not figure prominently in school books but said there was a proposal to do this in the history books in the state in future. "However, a final decision is yet to be taken," said Patra.
On July 18, the state cabinet proposed to the Centre to declare the Paika rebellion as the first struggle against the Raj, and the next day, chief minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to Union home minister Rajnath Singh to this effect.
The BJP, which has been making desperate attempts to appropriate local icons, is in the forefront. The Centre commemorated the bi-centenary of the rebellion on July 20 in a big way. It was addressed by the then President, Pranab Mukherjee, who had urged historians to concentrate on indigenous source materials to dig out the true account of the struggle.
Early this week, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan had written to Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma to take appropriate steps to set up a memorial in the Barunei hills, the hub of the rebellion.
However, the core issue remains as to whether this was the first war of Indian Independence. There is a section of historians from Odisha who argue that it was indeed the first war of Indian Independence, though its scale might not have been as big as that of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny which is recognised as the first war of Independence.
Historians in general, however, do not appear convinced with the proposal for declaring the Paika rebellion as the first war of Independence. "The demand cannot be supported by historical facts," is the view of historian Pritish Acharya.
He said: "Of course, it was a major revolt. Odias should be proud of it. But, it should not be categorised in terms of first or second revolt."
History professor in Ranenshaw University Chandi Prasad Nanda said: "Opinion is divided on the issue. In fact, nobody has officially labelled the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny as the first war of Independence."
However, there is a view that history should be rewritten to put historical facts in perspective. "It is high time we took a critical look at the tradition of history writing," said Nanda.
Former history professor at Utkal University Atul Chandra Pradhan said: "History may be rewritten where it is necessary."
But, there was unanimity of view that the Paika rebellion should be duly placed in the textbooks in Odisha. "Our school textbooks should reflect the historical facts properly. Students need to know their region and their heroes," said Nanda.
Pradhan echoed him.