The Civil Disobedience Movement in Odisha

The Lahore session of the INC, held in December 1929, declared complete independence as its goal to be achieved by Civil Disobedience. The 26 th January 1930, was celebrated as the day of independence by the Congress men of Odisha and at Cuttack, Gopabandhu Choudhury read out the declaration of independence. During this time some Congressmen of Odisha resigned from the ‘Bihar and Odisha Legislative Council and Central Legislative Assembly in order to take part in the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Beginning of Civil Disobedience Movement in Odisha

Gandhiji started his march with 78 followers from the Sabarmati Ashram towards Dandi on 12 March 1930, for manufacturing salt in violation of salt laws made by the British. The Odisha Congress leaders like Gopabandhu Choudhury and Harekrushna Mahatab planned to launch a similar agitation in Odisha for violation of salt law of the British Government . In March 1930, the Utkal Provincial Congress Committee decided to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement in Odisha by manufacturing contraband salt at Inchudi near Balasore and Gopabandhu Choudhury was given the responsibility for organizing the movement. On the other hand Harekrushna Mahtab, and Surendranath Das of Balasore mobilized the villagers in the surrounding villages of Inchudi to take part in the salt agitation. On 6 April 1930 Gopabandhu Chaudhury, Acharya Harihar Das, and twenty one Satyagrahis began their foot march from the Swarajya Ashram of Cuttack towards Inchudi in Balsore. In order to suppress the movement on 8 th April 1930 Gopabandhu Choudhury was arrested at Chandol for having addressed a meeting at Cuttack on 23 March1930. Now, Acharya Harihar became the next commander of Satyagrahis. On 12 April, 1930, the Satyagrahis led by Acharya Harihar, reached at lnchudi in Balasore. Large number of Satyagrahis from various parts of Odisha like Puri, Ganjam, Sarnbalpur and Baripada joined them. Despite the oppression by the police, the Satyagrahis manufactured the contraband salt at Inchudi on 14 April 1930. After that Acharya Harihar and his associates and Surendra Nath Das were arrested. The manufacturing of salt continued there for a number of days in spite of the police oppression. On 20 th April, led by Ramadevi, and Malati Devi, a number of women took part in the Salt Satyagraha at Inchudi, The Salt Satyagraha at Inchudi was highly successful. It was considered next only to Gandhi’s Satyagraha at Dandi.

Salt Satyagraha in different places of Odisha

The credit for arranging this Salt Satyagraha goes to the local Congress leader of Balasore, surendra Nath Das. This contraband salt was manufactured in other places of Odisha like Sartha (Balasore district), Kujang (Cuttack dlstrlct), Kuhudi, Singheswari and Latra (Puri district) and Huma (Ganjam district). The Satyagraha at Sartha was organised by Mathura Mohan Behera, Karunakar Panigrahi and Nilamber Das. In the Puri district Nilakantha Das and Jagannath Rath organised the salt Satyagraha. In the Ganjarn district the Satyagraha was led by Biswanath Das, Niranjan Patnaik and Sarala Devi. At Kujang, led by Rani Bhagyabati Devi of the Kujang royal family, 500 women took part in the manufacturing of contraband salt. The Civil Disobedience was also carried on in other forms such as boycott of the foreign cloth, picketing before the excise shops, refusal to pay Chowkidari tax, and spread of Khadi. The school as well as college students also took active part in the Civil Disobedience Movement. The volunteers were physically harassed by the police. Yet, the manufacturing of contraband salt continued. The common people supported the Satyagrahis. The Government arrested and imprisoned the leaders. On 26th April 1930 H, K Mahtab and Gopabandhy Chaudhury, the president and secretary of the U.P.C.C. were arrested at Balasore and sentenced to eighteen months rigorous imprisonment. The Congress offices and ashrams were seized in connection with Civil Disobedience Movement.

End of Civil Disobedience movement in Odisha

As an effect of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact on 5 March 1931, the Civil Disobedience movement was discontinued and Congress decided to participate in the second session of Round Table Conference at London. As a result of this agreement, many Congress leaders and volunteers of Odisha were released from the jail. They were given heroic reception in Balasore and Cuttack. Towards the end of December 1931, Gandhi returned broken hearted from the London Round Table Conference to India. After that the Civil Disobedience was resumed in Odisha as in the rest of India. The Government adopted repressive measures, such as arresting Congress leaders; seizing Congress offices in Puri, Cuttack, Sambalpur and Balasore districts. Due to repressive measures of the British Government, Congressmen like Surendra Nath Das, Nilambar Das, Binod Kanungo and Surendra Nath Patnaik, etc carried on underground movement in Odisha. However, the Civil Disobedience movement was suspended by Mahatma Gandhi on 7 April 1934 and it was cooled down in Odisha also. Thus, the Civil Disobedience movement had become active and the women leaders made this movement more popular. From 1934 to 1940, the Utkal Pradesh Congress Committee and the Congress workers of Odisha devoted themselves to various constructive programmes of Gandhiji like Charakha programme, abolition of untouchability, Kisan movements, Harijan movement, etc. In May 1934 Gandhi made a Harijan tour to Odisha. He came from Jharsuguda to Puri. But he did not enter the temple of Lord Jagannath as the Harijans of Odisha had no access to it.

Individual Civil Disobedience Movement in Odisha

However, the Ramgarh session of the Indian National Congress, held in March 1940, decided to launch Individual Civil Disobedience Movement. It was also decided to work out with full vigour the Gandhian constructive programme and not to co-operate with the British Government in any form. The Congress volunteers were given training in Bari training camp about the civil disobedience and the Gandhian constructive programme. At the same time four departments were formed by the Utkal Pradesh Congress Committee for carrying out the party work in the state. The departments were:
(a) Programme Department, under H.K. Mahtab,
(b) Harijan Department under the charge of Radhakrishna Biswas Roy,
(c) Minority Department under Maulana Muhammad Atahar and
(d) Charkha Department under a sub-committee UPCC.

On 27 September 1940, the Utkal Pradesh Congress Committee appointed H.K. Mahtab as the general director of the Individual Civil Disobedience movement in Odisha and gave other Congress leaders almost dictatorial powers to reorganize the Congress in their locality. According to the direction of the Congress high command the Congress Party of Odisha started the Individual Civil Disobedience Movement on 1 st December 1940. H.K. Mahtab courted arrest after delivering an anti-war speech at Remuna on the same day. In this connection, nine others such as Bodhram Dubey, Sadasiva Tripathy, Sarala Devi, Lokanath Misra, Nityanand Kanungo, Mohan Das, Nabakrushna Chaudhury, Radhakwshria Biswas Roy and Biswanath Das were also arrested. Those who could not offer Satyagraha engaged themselves in the Gandhian constructive work. Towards the beginning of March 1941, the Individual Civil Disobedience had faded away.

1. Dr M. K. Das, History of Odisha Vol-III
1. A.C. Pradhan, A Study of History of Odisha, 2006.
2. K.C. Panigrahi, History of Odisha,2008.
3. H.H. Panda, History of Odisha, 2008.
4. D.B. Mishra, Concise History of Odisha,2009.