The Quit India Movement in Odisha

The dragging of India into the war scenario of the World War II by the British Government and expected Japan‟s plan to capture India, forced Gandhiji to declare Quit India movement in India. On 8 August 1942, the AICC passed the Quit India Resolution at Bombay to cast a final blow against the British imperialism. This movement also known as August Revolution was the culmination of the Gandhian struggle for freedom in India and its manifestations in Odisha. But on the very next day all the Congress leaders from various parts of the nation were arrested. Among the leaders of Odisha, H. K. Mahtab was the only leader who was arrested at Bombay and sent to the Ahmadnagar fort jail. The British Government by its gazette notification Nos. 137 and 147 dated 9 August they declared all Congress institutions in the Province as unlawful. All the Congress offices in the province were seized by the Police by 10 August 1942. All the district level prominent Congress workers were arrested by the police. The 1arge scale arrest of thenationalist leaders in Odisha boomeranged in the form of mass fury.

The British Government’s strategy to suppress the uprising through firm control of the urban centres went wrong. Leadership of the movement now devolved upon the younger generation of students. The situation seemed to be normal and quiet after these arrests. But within two weeks, cases of revolutionary activities were reported from the remote villages of Odisha where the police were not prepared to tackle the law and order problem. The students ofthe Revenshaw College organized meetings, processions and supporting the call of Mahatma Gandhi boycotted the classes. As a mark of protest against the arrest of their leaders they resolved to break laws and turned violent, setting fire to Government offices and assaulting the officers. They even resorted to harmful activities like damaging the railway tracks and cutting of telegraph lines etc.

Quit India movement in Koraput district

Despite the absence of leaders, there were spontaneous popular outbursts in a number of places. The anti-war propaganda which had already been conducted by the Congressmen and Socialists and the suffering of the people caused by the war had prepared the ground for the spontaneous outburst of the masses, even among the hill tribes of the Koraput district. The Civil Disobedience assumed serious character towards the later part of August 1942. Thinking that the Government machinery had collapsed, the people defied the Government authorities in the distant villages of Odisha. Without having guidance of the leaders who were in jail, they indulged themselves in violent activities. They attacked the Government institutions like post-offices, revenue offices, P.W.D. bungalows and police stations and burnt some of them. In some places, the telegraph lines were cut-off.

The Quit India movement took the character of a mass revolt in the backward district of Koraput which was mostly Adivasis populated area. The Adivasis became so enraged against the British authorities that they threatened to pull down all Government institutions in the district. Looking at this, the British Government suppressed the movement by arresting the leaders. Despite that the movement was started at Jeypore by two boys. These two boys, carrying Congress flags, preached the message of revolution on 13 August 1942. It was followed by hartals and campaigns for non-payment of taxes. The Congress workers organized big gatherings in various important places of the Koraput district and some workers were arrested on 16 August1942. On the very day a mob, consisting of 1,000 persons, invaded a taluka office. The violent mob was dispersed by the police with lathi charges. In the meantime the Congress workers started picketing before the excise shops, and shops having foreign articles.

Role of Laxman Naik

The violent mob burnt down some records at the Lakshmipur police-station. During the Quit India Movement the supreme heroism was exhibited in the Koraput district by Laxman Naik who was an ordinary illiterate four-anna member of the UPCC. With having leadership quality, he could mobilize public opinion in favour of the INC and against the British Government and its exploitation. In 1936 he was arrested for organizing no-tax campaign in the Mathili area of Koraput disrtict. He was also arrested twice and sentenced for nine months rigorous imprisonment for being involved in the Individual Civll Disobedience of 1940-41. On 31 July 1942, he had attended the meeting of Congress workers at Jeypore where instructions were issued to the Congress workers about the impending Quit India Movement.

Laxman Naik organized an army of 200 men, armed with saplings, cudgel and lathis to fight against the British Government. The followers of Laxman wearing Khadar, and carrying Congress flags and Gandhi’s portrait, marched through the intense jungle, damaged the liquor shops and attacked the Mathili police station on 21 August 1942. The violent mob did not care for the caution of the police and assaulted them. By this attack some policemen were injured. The policemen started firing at the mob which resulted in killing four persons and injuring four others. In this incident Laxman Naik himself got injured. He was arrestedand sent to Berhampur jail where he was executed on 29 March 1943 on the basis of the false charge of killing the forest guard Ramaya. He was not only a revolutionary but also a constructive Congress worker.

He had constructed a road, a bridge and a school in his locality with the help of his followers. In the last week of August 1942, the condition in the Peppadahandi area of the Nawarangpur Taluk became grave. A violent mob of four to five thousand persons marched towards the Peppadahandi police station on 24 th August 1942. The police asked the mob to go away. But the mob attacked the police at Peppadahandi police station. A subedar and a constable were injured. The police started firing in which 12 persons killed and 14 got injured and 3 died in the hospital.

In the Cuttack district

After the arrest of the leaders, the students of the Ravenshaw College and other educational institutions carried on the movement in the Cuttack district. About 200 students from Ravenshaw College set fire to the office building on 15 th August 1942. The police arrested two student leaders- Surajmal Saha and Bibhudendra Mishra and sent them to the Berhampur Jail. The UPCC workers pasted posters in various places, asking the Government officials to resign and the people to stop payment of taxes and carry on various revolutionary activities. Some prominent persons including the lawyers of the town organized meetings at Cuttack in which resolutions were passed condemning the repressive measures of the Government, demanding the release of national leaders, etc. In some places the common men became violent and carried on revolutionary activities like arson and looting, etc.

Quit India movement in Jajpur subdivision of Cuttack

Maximum cases of revolutionary activities were reported in Jajpur subdivision of Cuttack district. The revolutionary mob at Jajpur set fire to the police uniforms in twenty six places, six canal revenue offices, four post-offices, five excisable articles, six zamindari Kutcheries, and four P.W.D. bungalows in August 1942. The violent mob started burning various Government offices and cut down the embankments, canals and telegraphs lines in different areas of Jajpur. In Binjharpur a violent mob attacked police persons when the latter were escorting some prisoners. The mob was dispersed after police firing. In some villages, young men formed defence associations for fighting against police oppressions in their areas. A mob of 10,000 in the Jajpur town proceeded towards the police station and S.D.O.’s office on 27 th August 1942. The mob was dispersed by the armed force by dropping dynamites among the people.

Quit India movement in Balasore district

The police oppression was most severe in Balasore district. The Congress workers went to the remote villages to organize revolutionary activities among the people. The students left schools and colleges and went on strike at various places in Balasore. The Balasore Zilla School was closed; hartals were organized in a number of markets; picketing was carried on before the courts and Government offices in Balsore. The students distributed among the public a pamphlet asking them to follow Congress programme in the district. The Congress workers requested the people through the pamphlet to plunder salt stocks, to obstruct Government servants by not furnishing them with any information, not to allow any domestic servants to work in the houses of the Government servants, not to supply any boat, motor or other conveyance to the Government servants, to compel merchants not to supply any food stuff to the Government servants, to close schools and colleges, to induce the Government servants to resign from their jobs, to disrupt communications, to observe hartal in factories and mills, to cut the telegraph lines and stop the communication of the postal papers and message and to break and loot the post-boxes, to form Swaraj panchaycits in the villages, to stop payment of taxes or assessments, to break laws by mass civil disobedience, to break forest laws and to persuade the Government servants to demand higher pay and wage.

In several places of the Balasore district clash took place between the police and the violent mob. A mob of about 5,000 armed men invaded the police station in the Bhandaripokhari village, injured the police officials, smashed the furniture and tore the records in the police station on 17 August 1942. The crowd also set fire to the post-office, dismantled a wooden bridge and cut the telegraph lines in different places. In order to penalize the people, the British Government imposed a collective fine of Rs. 6,0001- upon the twelve surrounding villages in the affected area. The police also arrested two leaders for this uprising-Jagannath Das and Dwarakanath Das both of whom were Congress M.L.As of Balsore In a clash between the police and the mob, six persons were kllled and five persons got injured on 21 st September 1942 at Dhamnagar.

Violence at Khairadihi

On 28 th September 1942, another clash between the police and the people took place in the village Khairadihi, situated under the Khaira police station. As a result of the police firing two persons were killed and one got injured.

Police oppression at Eram

The Quit India movement became very intense at Eram in Basudevpur. The most ghastly act of the police oppression took place in this village. This place had become a strong centre of Congress activities in the district. On 28 September 1942, people gathered at an open place (Melan Padia) and resolved not to pay tax. So, the police came to the Eram village to arrest some leaders. On the arrival of the police the people started blowing the conch and about five thousand people armed with lathis gathered. The police asked the mob to disperse. But instead of dispersing, they attacked the police. The place where the people had gathered had a narrow exitfrom the field. The D.S.P. closed the exit point and ordered firing in the evening. This resulted in 26 persons death and 54 persons got injured. But according to the unofficial estimate 35 persons were killed and 107 persons were injured. The Eram tragedy can be compared to the Jallianwallabagh massacre of the Punjab. Since that day Eram is famous as “Rakta Tirtha Eram”. After the police oppression an underground organization was formed by the Congress Socialist leaders of Odisha to carry on the civil disobedience movement.

The Quit India Movement in Odisha was a mass-oriented and widespread movement. It got tremendous support in towns, villages, Adivasi areas and even princely states. It had assumed the character of a militant, and in many cases violent mass upsurge in certain areas such as Papadahandi and Mathili (Koraput district), Nimapada (Puri district), Bhandaripokhari, Dhamnagar, Khaira, and.Eram (Balasore district), and Kaipara (Cuttack district) etc. As the top Congress leaders had been arrested and jailed immediately after the passing of Quit India resolution, the masses took resort to their own style of violent assertion. The people made violent attacks on such symbols of colonial government as post offices, revenue offices, police stations, dak bung lows, and telephone lines etc. and attacked constable, chowkidars and peons who resisted these attacks. The Quit India Movement was not only anti- colonial but also anti-feudal. People attacked the kutcheries of zamindars like Kalkala, Darpan, Madhupur and Kanika and stole paddy from stores of paddy owners and burnt accounts of money-lenders in different areas of Odisha.

1. Dr M. K. Das, History of Odisha Vol-III
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