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Monday, April 22, 2024

A Pilgrimage of Blood


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28th September 1942. United under the single oath to rather die than surrender, over 10000 peaceful protestors led by 24 year old Kamala Prasad Kar, met in the famed congregation ground of Eram to decide their next course of action against British Raj.

A contingent of British Police led by then Bhadrak Sub-Divisional Police Officer Kunjabihari Mohanty marched towards the ground as soon as the news spread. The fact that the resistance was a very real threat to the British administration, and not just for the congregation, was hidden to no one. Utter humiliation for the police was when boatman Kusha Tarai, a freedom fighter in his own right, bluntly refused to ferry the officers across the river that stood in their way to the ground and the men had to direct the boats themselves. At the site of the agitation, enraged by the public’s audacity, the SDPO appeared to forget that he was a son of the very soil as well and opened fire at the unarmed masses. With rivers on three sides and the fourth sided opening into the vast expanse of the ocean, the innocents had nowhere to run to.

10 minutes, 304 bullets, over 29 deaths, and a picture no different from the Jallianwala Bagh situated far off in Amritsar. Yet, to the British’s sheer terror and true to the protestor’s oath, all that could be heard above the carnage were cries of ‘Vande Mataram!’, ‘Inquilab Zindabad!’ and ‘Goli Se Nahin Darenge!’ that reverberated throughout the land as if shaking the very foundation of British Raj.

Earlier, in 1930, when walking on the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi a salt march was carried out in the nearby sea side village of Inchudi, Eram too had witnessed thousands of nationalists gather at her beaches and defy British dictates to be a part of the satyagraha, under the leadership of revolutionary poet Banchhanidhi Mohanty.

“Utkalara suta hua hai jagrata,
  Jananira runa kara hai mukata!”

(O child of Utkala, arise and awake,
Pay off your motherland’s debt!)

Carrying on the legacy of the brave poet even after his demise, Eram had rose as an immensely powerful force against the oppressors by forming an independent state, called Swadhin Banchhanidhi Chakla, with over twenty seven villages and six panchayats. Resplendent with a president, a prime minister and armed with an army, judiciary and an intelligence unit, this government of Eram had scripted a novel chapter in the history of the independence movement, leaving the British stunned and shaken.

And on that fateful September day, the crimson tinge of the evening sky was reflected on the ground of Eram washed by the blood of her brave children that rightfully gave her the name of ‘Rakta Tirtha’!

A Pilgrimage of Blood - #AugustKranti, #Eram, #FreedomStruggle, #history, #IndependenceMovement, #JallianwalaBagh, #Martyr, #PaikaBidroha, #PaikaVidroh, #PariBewa, #RaktaTirtha, #Sacrifice, india, Odisha
PaikaVidroh by OdishaBytes

Odisha, that had led the very first rebellion against the British, in 1817 under Buxi Jagabandhu, yet again proved to be a citadel of nationalism, gallantry and immense bravery. Basudevpur, that had proved to be at the vanguard of the freedom movement by spectacularly forming a parallel government, gave one of the youngest martyrs in the form of 13 year old Biruli Das. And Eram, that had time and again been the seat of glorious moments throughout the span of history, became the testimony of a pilgrimage of blood; of a second Jallianwala Bagh.

A Pilgrimage of Blood - #AugustKranti, #Eram, #FreedomStruggle, #history, #IndependenceMovement, #JallianwalaBagh, #Martyr, #PaikaBidroha, #PaikaVidroh, #PariBewa, #RaktaTirtha, #Sacrifice, india, Odisha
JallianwalaBagh by Wikipedia

Even though the incident claimed the lives of so many people and left a lot more shattered, it could not contain the whirlwind of nationalism that rose with renewed passion and vigour creating ripples throughout the state. Similar congregations were carried out in Cuttack, Jajpur, Khordha and many more and almost all of them faced the same fate. 24 in Koraput; 19 in Nabarangpur; 30 in Talcher; a total of around 200 patriots happily laid down their lives at the altar of their motherland’s freedom during the Quit India Movement alone. And among the names of all those warriors who kept smiling in the face of death was Pari Bewa, the first and perhaps the only woman killed in police firing.

140 years ago, the state of Odisha had bid the nation rise against the British Empire. And 60 years hence, it was the very state’s saga of sacrifice that stood with national leaders, undaunted through all perils and penned several of the most fearless chapters in the entire history of the country.

Yet the current generations remains oblivious to all this. Today, not only the massacre of 1942 but most of the state’s contribution to the freedom struggle lay ruined in some far off corner of the memory and the Rakta Tirtha, like its many other sister memorials, stands on the deserted field only as the reminder of a past forgotten.

A Pilgrimage of Blood - #AugustKranti, #Eram, #FreedomStruggle, #history, #IndependenceMovement, #JallianwalaBagh, #Martyr, #PaikaBidroha, #PaikaVidroh, #PariBewa, #RaktaTirtha, #Sacrifice, india, Odisha
Rakta Tirtha by Wikipedia

Like a crude joke on the supreme sacrifice of hundreds of gallant fighters, Rakta Tirtha has been deemed a ‘Tourist Place’ by the government when in reality it deserves to be counted among the foremost of national memorials. And 40 km away from the town of Bhadrak, the lone pillar stands seeking the heavens as if mocking the ignorance of us who have failed to recognise the meaning of its existence.

But it’s never too late to embrace the bravery of one’s ancestors. The pilgrimage of blood might stand secluded today, but it is up to us to make certain that the memoirs of Eram get the respect they are worthy of. It’s the call of the hour for us to ensure that the brutality of our oppressors is not forgiven and the valour of our freedom fighters is not forgotten. It’s the call of the hour to wage a war against those who denies our past and its glory. It’s the call of the hour to reclaim our nation’s legacy.

For like many other glorious chapters, elite historians might have succeeded in erasing this story from our legends and textbooks as well. But what they can never triumph in is obliterating these unsung tales of bravery from our hearts.

 [author title=”Megha Satapathy” image=”http://goachronicle.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/IMG_20210205_095950.jpg”]Journalist, Goa Chronicle

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Megha Satapathy
Megha Satapathy
"An orator, musician, bibliophile, and above all a nationalist. At 17, the author believes that anyone can make a difference in the universe, if they are daring enough!"

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