The revolt of Dharanidhar Naik, a Bhuyan leader of Keonjhar against Dhanurjay Bhanja constitutes another inglorious chapter during the British rule in Odisha. The Bhuyans became more organised under his leadership and challenged the king. Of course, the British Government ruthlessly suppressed it.
Factors responsible for the revolt of Dharani Naik
The causes of the discontentment of the Bhuyans were many.
Firstly They had to render bethi to the king. This was a burden which the Bhuyans had to suffer. They wanted to discard this practice.
Secondly, King Dhanurjay Bhanja was a tyrannical ruler. His administration was the other name of exploitation. The tribal people were grossly exploited by the king which made them violent in later stage.
Thirdly, the appointment of Fakir Mohan Senapati as a Diwan of Keonjhargarh was not liked by Dharanidhar Bhuyan, the leader of the Bhuyans. Somehow or other, they thought that Fakir Mohan Senapati was a stumbling block to their progress.
Fourthly, the role of Bichitrananda Das, a constant adviser to King Dhanurjay precipitated the situation. For building a dam across the stream Machha Kandana, he ordered the Bhuyans and other tribes to engage themselves in the building of this dam. It was difficult on their part to do this forced labour after maintaining their family through a little earning. This gave a spark to the outbreak of the revolt.
Finally, the dissatisfaction of Dharani Naik gave a final shape to the Bhuyan uprising in Keonjhar. The way he had to lose his job through treachery led him to be rebellious and they began the ‘Dharani meli’.
Life and work of Dharanidhar Naik
Dharanidhar Naik was born on 5 May 1864 at Kusumita village from Baigani Devi and Laichhan Naik. After receiving education in the locality, Dharanidhar was sent to Tulsipur at Cuttack to receive survey overseer training. After completion of training he returned to Keonjhar and at last he was absorbed in the service of the State of Dhanurjay Bhanja. His regards for work drew nearer to the administration. However, Bichitrananda Das could not tolerate Dharanidhar. Meanwhile, Dharanidhar was entrusted with the task of settling a dispute between Lungikud and Godhuli. He accomplished the task and sent the map and other records with a Paik to handover it to King Dhanurjay. He then went to the house of his sister at Padmapur. The clever Bichitrananda managed to get all these papers from the Paik and endorsed it from an Englishofficer that he had done the work. He submitted the papers to Dhanurjay who was dissatisfied with Dharanidhar and dismissed him from service. This treachery made Dharanidhar furious who wanted to settle score with Dhanurjay Bhanja and Bichitrananda.
Revolt of Dharanidhar
Now Dharanidhar gathered around him the Ehuyans, Kohlas and Juangs around him and became their leader. Dharanidhar proceeded with him to Champakpur and killed Nanda Dhal, the former Diwan of the king. After receiving this news the king left the palace and went to Anandpur. Fakir Mohan Senapati, the Dewan of Keonjhargarh proceeded to meet G.Toynbee, the Commissioner at Cuttack, but he was captured by Dharanidhar on the way. Now H.Dowson, the Deputy Commissioner of Chaibasa marched Keonjhargarh to putdown the rebellion. Dhanurjay went to Cuttack to meet the Commissioner. Being furious, the rebels looted the houses of the officers who did not support them. They broke the gates of the royal prison and freed the prisoners. Fakir Mohan Senapati, who was captive by Dharanidhar now by the latter’s permission wrote a letter to his friend Bholanath Dey, a Court Surveyor at Anandpur to send 100 betel leaves and 200 betel nuts for the Queen’s son Dharanidhar who was very fond of betel. The sugarcane field is to be irrigated by digging canal from the north. Otherwise, the sugarcane field will be destroyed. A wire was attached with the letter. Meanwhile, Dharanidhar had declared himself as the adopted son of the queen of Keonjhargarh who never wanted Dhanurjay to continue as the king of Keonjhar. This letter was well interpreted and instruction was given to attack the palace from northern side by bullets of the sepoys. Dharanidhar was advised by Fakir Mohan to meet Dawson Sahib to obtain his grace. Dharanidhar obeyed it and met Dawson near Ruchir village. As per the previous plan, he was captured and arrested.
Consequences of the revolt
With the capitulation of Dharanidhar and other rebels, the meli came to an end. Dharanidhar was tried and sent to Cuttack Central Jail for 7 years. Other rebels also got imprisonment. Being released from Cuttack Jail in 1897, Dharanidhar changed the way of his life. He lived at Banki Muhana nearer to Puri in a hermitage and breathed his last in 1944. With him ended a chapter of revolt associated with Keonjhar which was aimed against the British Raj.The result of the Dharani meli were far reaching.
At first, the British Government realised the discontentment of the subjects of Keonjhargarh. So, the British agent H.P. Wylly came and took over the charge of Keonjhargarh.
Secondly, Fakir Mohan resigned and left Keonjhargarh. Durga Das Mukherjee was appointed in his place. He concentrated on the developmental projects of the kingdom
Thirdly, the administration at Keonjhar now became humane. The subjects were not treated with scorn and contempt. Their grievances were heard with due justice. The revolt of Dharanidhar opened the eyes of the authority who now took keen interest to solve the problem of the subjects.
Fourthly, Dhanurjay Bhanja submitted a petition to the Commissioner to restore him to the throne of Keonjhargarh. After much consideration his petition was accepted and he got back his throne. However, a Political Agent was to be appointed there to have a check on his authority. Accordingly, Ray Bahadur Nanda Kishore Das was appointed as the Political Agent.
Fifthly, the followers of Dharanidhar Bhuyan like Mani Mohapatra, Aguan Singh and Banamali MahaNaik were sentenced to transportation for life. Others were given sentences of imprisonment.
Finally, this rebellion opened the eye of the British Government. They wanted to make their rule by effectively implementing their administration with a touch of humanity. In this way, the Dharani meli of Keonjhar came to a dead end by the British intervention. Of course, the injustice done to Dharanidhar Naik was not met with justice. His effort was commendable and his name still glitters as a great son of the soils.