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Paika plea at Rajnath door

A day after the state cabinet decided to propose to the central government that the Paika vidroha (rebellion) be declared the first war of Indian Independence, chief minister Naveen Patnaik today wrote to Union home minister Rajnath Singh to consider the proposal.

By SUBRAT DAS in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 20.07.17
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An exhibit depicting the Paika rebellion at State Museum in Bhubaneswar. Picture by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar, July 19: A day after the state cabinet decided to propose to the central government that the Paika vidroha (rebellion) be declared the first war of Indian Independence, chief minister Naveen Patnaik today wrote to Union home minister Rajnath Singh to consider the proposal.

"I think that would be a befitting tribute to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Paika rebellion. I request the Government of India to consider this proposal positively so that the people of India appreciate, in correct perspective, the events that led to the Indian freedom struggle and our historic independence from the foreign rule," said Naveen in his letter to Singh.

Naveen left for New Delhi today to attend a special event being organised by the Union government at Vigyan Bhavan tomorrow to celebrate the bi-centenary of the Paika rebellion.

Singh heads a committee for the celebration, of which Naveen is a member.

Paika rebellion, which first started from a few feudatory estates, such as Khurda, Tapanga, Chandaka and Ranpur, later spread to Ghumsur in Ganjam and the tribal heartland of the state.

The banner of revolt was not only raised by the paikas (professional soldiers) against the British rulers, but also by the zamindars, salt manufacturers and ordinary peasants and tribal folk.

When the British wanted to change the revenue system in 1803, the farming community of Odisha rebelled.

During this time, Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar - the military chief of the King of Khurda - led his small army of Paikas forcing the British East India Company forces to retreat. This attack came to be known as Paika vidroha.

Justifying the state government's request, Naveen said: "Paika (1817 AD) of Odisha, which took place 40 years before the Sepoy Mutiny (1857 AD), eminently qualifies to be called as the 'first war of Indian Independence' not simply because it took place four decades prior to the Sepoy Mutiny, but due to its very nature and characteristic features."

"The Paika rebellion was broad based and well organised plural struggle against the oppressive rule of British East India Company. It involved all sections of the people," he said.

Stating that the genesis of the events that led to the Sepoy Mutiny needs to be traced back to the earlier instances of organised rebellion against the East India Company, Naveen said the Paika rebellion stood out prominently as it was essentially a broad-based people's movement.

"It played the role of a torchbearer and catalyst in shaping a people's movement of resistance, which led to the Indian Independence movement," he said.