GLIMPSES OF FREEDOM STRUGGLE IN JHARSUGUDA DISTRICT
The Role played by the revolutionaries of Jharsuguda in the armed revolt under Surendra Sai during the mid 19th century shall remain engraved in golden letters.
Like wise, the role played by the people of Jharsuguda in the non violent freedom struggle in the mid –20th Century under Mahatma Gandhi cannot be ignored or under estimated. The 1st surge of nonviolent movement started in Jharsuguda in the year 1921. In this year during the month of April, late Gopa Bandhu Das came to Jharsuguda to propagate the congress movement. A local contractor known as Mahadev Prasad Singh donated too generously. At that time a congress office was established at Mungapada by late Bihari Ram Tanti, late Bhagirathi Pattnaik, late Chintamani Pujari and late Pandit Lakhmi Narayan Mishra. Struggle against untouchability and alcohol consumption use of foreign goods and article had already started. Movement in favour of spinning had also been started among the women. In 1921 in response to the call given by the ‘ALL INDIA CONGRESS COMMITTEE (AICC) to observe the nation wide hartal in Jharsuguda.
In 1922 from 6th –13th April a movement was observed in Jharsuguda to commemorate the Jalianwalla Bhag Massacre & late Bhagirathi Pattnaik, late Chintamani Pujari, late Sukharam and is Kasturam Tanti were imprisoned. In 1923 late Lakhmi Narayan Mishra and late Kasturam Tanti were arrested and imprisoned in Nagpur while picketing on the railway line.
On Dec, 22nd 1928 Mahatma Gandhi, Kasturbha , Debdash Gandhi and the secretary of Mahatma Gandhi, Mahadev Desai arrived at Jharsuguda. After addressing many meetings at Jharsuguda they proceeded to Sambalpur. Late Pandit Lakhmi Narayan Mishra and late Chintamani Pujari attended theCalcutta session of Congress in 1928.
In 1929 a printing press was established in Panchapada village by late Chintamani Pujari and late Pandit Lakhmi narayan Mishra, where posters & pamphlets of the congress were printed and a magazine known as ‘Swadin Bharat’ was published. The press was subsequently closed by the British.
On Jan, 26th 1930 National Independence Day was observed in the whole country in response to the call given by the ‘ALL INDIA CONGRESS COMMITTEE’ and ignoring the repressive measures of the British the Cong. Workers hoisted the National Flag at ‘Jhanda Chowk’ under the leadership of late Mahavir Prasad Singh. On 11th Jan, 1930 it was decided by the AICC to observe ‘Labana Satyagraha’ or Salt march. On the 5th April a Satyagraha similar to Dandi march was observed in Inchori of Balasore district. Late Mahavir Prasad Singh took part in the Satyagraha and was made court arrest with other leaders and workers.
On 2nd March, 1931 late Bihari Ram Tanti of Jharsuguda participated in the Farmers’ Meeting at Sambalpur and was arrested along with late Bhagirathi Pattnaik, late Laxmi Narayan Mishra and late Dayanand Satapathi and was sent to Patna first and then imprisoned in Cuttack jail for one year.
In the month of August 1932 a picketing was organised by late Bihari Ram Tanti and late Ram Ugresen Tanti in front of a Distillery. The then OIC of Police Jharsuguda Lt. Manabodh Panda reported the matter to the then Dept. Commissioner of Sambalpur Mr.Nilamani Senapati and the cong. Worker Kasturam Tanti, late Ughresen Tanti and late Bihari Ram Tanti were arrested A strong protest was made by the Cong. on the ground that these arrests violated the spirit of Gandhi-Irwin pact. Late Harekrushna Mahatab, late Nilakantha Das, late Gopabandhu Choudhury, late Sarala Devi came to Jharsuguda to inquire into the matter.
Mahatma Gandhi came to Jharsuguda accompanied by the Merabein on 4th August, 1934 and a female harijan delegation led by Jambubati Devi received him. In a field in front of the present quarter of the Sub-Collector, Jharsuguda, Mahmata Gandhi addressed a public meeting and a saree & an umbrella were auctioned and sufficient amount was collected. The amount was donated to the Freedom Fund through Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi was guest of late Bihari Ram Tanti and spent a night in his house.
In the year 1937 a spinning club was established in the Talpatia village near Jharsuguda. In this club about 300 harijan males & females under the leadership of late Budhadev mahandna were arrested while distributing pamphlets against alcohol consumption along with his supporters at the Sukrabar Bazaar of Talpatia. Later late Mahadev singh took charge of this movement.
In 1937 unrest developed in Telenpali village, 10 kms. Away from Jharsuguda in connection with the acquisition of land for a proposed Paper Mill. A primary unit of the cong. was established under the leadership of late Bansidhar Das and late Gnagadatta Das was made the Secretary of this committee.
There was a liquor distillery near the present Municipality office and the local Cong. Workers were demonstrating in front of it on the leadership of late Kasturam Tanti. One Raghu Ram Tanti of Jharsuguda attracted the notice of hundreds by sitting on the horse back in a reverse direction in protest. Kasturam Tanti however was arrested by the police.
A huge cong. Meeting was organised on 17th May, 1939 at 2 p.m. in the Mango garden by the side of the river ‘IB’ Late Dr. Shraddhakar Supkar presided over the meeting. It was decided to organise one such meeting in each police station area. Because of the huge gathering police force with magistrate had been diploid. In 1939 protesting against the decision of the British Govt. for India to participate of 2nd World War it was decided by the Cong. Party to launch Satyagraha against the British. Late Bihari Ram Tanti and Bansidhar Das were arrested in front of the Ramchand Club of Telepali village, while lunching Satyagraha against participation of India in the 2nd World War. In 1939 late Amrit lal Thakar came from Bhave Nagar of Gujrat. He established an Ashram for the welfare of Harijans of Scheduled Tribe through the ‘Harijan Seva Sangha’ because of his proximity to Mahatma Gandhi and through the ‘ST Sebak Sangha’ presided by late Rajendra Prasad in the capacity of its Secretary. The workers of this Ashram traveled from village to village to spread massages in favour of prohibition and against bad culture. This Ashram was active fill 1940.
In 1940 Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sri Bijaya Laxmi Pandit, Amrit Lal Thakar and Indira Gandhi attained a meeting in the field in front of Purana basti Jharsuguda (present Patel Saw Mill).
In 1940 Budhadev Mahananda of Talpatia, Jaga Magar of Nisuguda, Makunda Tanti of Chandarpur and Artatran Pujari of Pujaripali were arrested while participating in the demonstration organised by the cong. In front of a Dharmasala and were imprisoned.
While the dark cloud of 2nd World War was thus engulfing the British authorities decided to construct an Aerodrome near Malimunda and to acquire land for this purpose. At that time there was railway connection only upto Nagpur from Calcutta, hence an Aerodrome was essential for transporting fuel & war materials to Bombay. The aerodrome was to be constructed as per design of Lahari Shed of Kanpur. A Cantonment was also constructed on the Easter side of the Aerodrome. Here 500 American shoulders were stationed under Capt. James. The tropes used to target practice on the eastern – western side of the present Pahadheswar Temple.
There was however, strong public resentment against the irregularity of the British Govt. regarding the payment to the villagers whose land had been acquired for the construction of the aerodrome. Public agitation protesting against this injustice was organised in Durlaga village by the Cong. Party as a result the British Govt. was forced to increase the amount of compensation. In 1949 Ayodhya Prasad Saraf of village Raghunathpali attained the Ramgarh session of the Cong as an active member. He had been attracted to freedom movement from an early age. While distributing pamphlets and pastures in the rural area. He became as suspect in the eyes of British police. He used to escape for want of evidence. He was arrested by the police and was detained in Sambalpur Jail for 3 months. However, he was subsequently acquitted by the court for want of adequate evidence.
In 1940 one ‘Rushbha Mahananda’ was arrested while addressing a public meeting near Ekatali village. He was imprisoned for 15 days and was fined a sum of Rs.45/- only. As he did not pay the fine, the Police raided his house and auctioned all his movable properties. Rushaba Mahananda had been drawn to the Cong. Movement since 1934 after attending the Jharsuguda meeting of Mahatma Gandhi. In February, 1941 he was arrested by the police for taking part in the Satyagraha movement and was detained in Sambalpur Jail for a period of 6 months and then transferred to the Cuttack Jail.
Late Bhanu Sankar Mohan Lal Joshi a Gujrati resident of Purnanabsti Jharsuguda participated in the freedom movement as a local Cong. leader. He had migrated to Jharsuguda from the Rajkot region of Gujrat and hence enjoyed the confidence of Mahatma Gandhi. He was one of the members of 11 members Orissa Pradesh Cong. Committee. Many important workers and leaders of Cong. used to visit him. Important among the visitors were late Gopabandhu Choudhury, late Naba Krushna choudhury, late Hare krushna Mohatab, late Sarla Devi, late Sarangadhar Das and late Prana Krushna Padhiary from Orissa and late Amritlal Thakar, late Balbant Ray Mahanta, late Mirabain and late Mahadev Desai from Gujrat.
Once while leading a Cong. Movement at Bamda late Bhanu Sankar Joshi was detained by the police pot because of his close association with late Bhanu Ganga Dev the ruler of Bamda state. He escaped from the police. His house was raided 7 times by the police for distribution of pastures, pamphlets and other objectionable activities. All these raids however turned to be futile and a warrant of arrest had been issued against him.
On 18th Jan, 1941, the police arrested late Bhanu Sankar Joshi and forwarded him to the Sambalpur Jail. After 3 months and 15 days, he was again arrested and transferred to Cuttack Jail for non payment of a fine of Rs.300/- and their he was detained for a period of 4 months. Inside the Cuttack Jail he resorted to fasting along with other cong. Leaders. A unit of the ‘Cong. Seva Dal’ had been formed at Jharsuguda under the leadership of a senior cong leader late Bihari Ram Tanti. The burial ground of Buromal village was the meeting place of the ‘Seva Dal’ and important discussions and decisions were made here. Shri Chamanlal Shrivas, Siva Prasad Shraf, Kasturam Tanti, Chandra Mahanand, Pravu Sankar Awasthi, Sukhdev Shrivas, Anithu Tanti, Anitha Tanti, Ratanlal, P.Rama Rao, Netri Tanti, Ramchandra Sharma, Chottulal, Badku etc. joined in the Seva Dal and started participating in distribution of posters and palm plates and other activities. In August, 1942 the ‘Quit India movement’ was launched throughout the country by the Congress. The Congress workers were spreading the messages for boycotting foreign goods, non payment of taxes and donations for the 2nd World War from village to village. At that time one Golak Bihari Baliwar Singh was the Officer-in-charge of Jharsuguda police Station. The call for Quit India movement was given in Jharsuguda by the congress. It was planned to include the school students also over and above hundreds of Congress workers and the general public. The students of Jharsuguda High School boycotted their classes and paraded in the Main Road, Jharsuguda. The OIC of police Mr. Balihar Singh tried to break the rally. At first one of the demonstrators Sukh Dev Srivas was arrested near Manmohan M.E.School. When a procession had further progressed the student leaders P.Rama Rao & Ratan lal were arrested near the Dharmasala. Inspite of all these the rally advanced till the Jharsuguda police station. One of the members of the student rally Chaman Lal Srivas hoisted the National Flag on the police station and on the post office. The rally ended in a huge public meeting near the Jhanda Chowk and Shri Chaman Lal Srivas was arrested while addressing the meeting. On this day, Chaman Lal Srivas was jailed for 8 months. Sukh Dev Srivas for one and half years and Ratanlal and P.Rama Rao for 8 months each and they were forwarded to Sambalpur Jail. As a result of this there was lot of tension in Jharsuguda town. In August 1942 Late Pandit Laxmi Narayan Mishra was arrested at Jharsuguda while returning from Bombay after attending the Congress Committee meeting and was sent to Sambalpur Jail while leading an agitation at Bamra. Late Dayananda Satpathy of Sambalpur and Ratnakar Patel of Jhirlapali were arrested and sent to Sambalpur Jail.
In Belpahar the Freedom struggle was led by Late Mohan Singh of Banjari. Late Malati Choudhury addressed a mammoth meeting in Belpahar besides a pond.
In August 1942 Late Mohan Singh was arrested and his house was searched. Gradually the Quit India Movement spread to Telenpali and Khaliakani areas of Brajrajnagar and to Rampela, Bhejikud etc. The Jharsuguda police made a special drive to arrest the agitating leaders. A sharp vigil was put on the various meetings. In spite of the extensive search to locate and arrest the P.C.C. members Late Bhanu Sankar Joshi could not be traced. A reward of Rs.500/- was declared to capture him. However the local Congress leader Bihari Ram Tanti was arrested and sent to Patna camp Jail for 6 months, then his mother Tulsi Devi was arrested and imprisoned. Late Chintamani Pujari and Late Harachand Pujari of Panchapada, Chintamani Gupta, Dwaypayan Gupta, Arjun Gupta, Purna Chandra Gupta and Debananda Gupta of Phatapali, Artatrana Pujari of Pujaripali, Satyananda and Nityananda Pujari of Sahajbahal, Purusottam Panda and Dina Bandhu panda of Kumharbandha, Tikaru Bhoi of Tilia, Judhistra Panigrahi of Urdha,Sadhu Charan Pattnaik of Sahaspur, Ratnakar Patel of Jhirlapali, Masatdazan, Bagh, Aiman Bagh, Bholanath Patwari and Keshab Bukhra of Sailarama, Ajoi Saraf of Raghunathpali, Budhadev Mahananda and Bidyeswar Tanti of Talpatia, Nasta Ram Tanti of Tanyarpali, Jagan Magar of Naisuguda, Mukunda Tanti of Chandrapur, Ram Bharos Bibhar, and Chandra Mahananda of Mangapada, Jharsuguda were also were arrested by the police and sent to jail.
On 14th January, 1943 one Purandar Panda was arrested at Bhajikud while demonstrating against gambling during the Makarsankranti festival. Even before and after quit India movement in 1942. Prabhakar Mishra of Rajpur, Surendra Banarji, Brijmangal Singh, Malikram Yadav, Daitari Tanti, Sankar Prasad Pandey, Arjun Tripathy and Laxmanji, Krishnaji of Jharsuguda kept a close contact with the Congress organisation and strengthen the movement indirectly.
On 21st March, 1943 an important member of Congress one Gangadutta Dash was arrested from his house at Telenpali by Mr. Mukherjee the O.I.C. Brajrajnagar. It is worth mentioning here that 1943 while the 2nd world war was in progress huge quantity of fuel was being stocked in Jharsuguda Aerodrome for being transported to Nagpur, Bombay etc. Few militant Freedom fighters of Jharsuguda entered into the Aerodrome secretly and set fire to the tankers. However, the police extinguished the fire within few hours and not much damage was done. No one was arrested in connection with this incidence.
In this way hundreds of common men and women workers, volunteers and leaders of town and village of Jharsuguda region participated in the non- violent freedom struggle of Mahatma Gandhi till 1947 incessantly in spite of assaults and torture imprisonment and fines imposed by the British. By giving birth to such patriot warriors who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their country, the earth of Jharsuguda has become sacred by contact with their blood and tears.