New Delhi & Bhubaneswar: It was Karl Max who first described the 1857 rebellion, which the European historians called Sepoy Mutiny, as the first war of Independence against the British Empire.
But the people of Odisha and its historians beg to differ. Four decades before the 1857 rebellion, in 1817, the Paikas(a landed martial community) of Odisha had shaken the very foundation of the British Raj in Odisha. Had the ‘Paika Vidroh’ received support from other feudatory states in India, history would not have been the same.
Yet the great war and the warriors for a long time did not get their right place in history. For Odisha’s historians the Paika rebellion was the first war of independence against the British rule.
To mark the 200th year of the Paika Rebellion the BJP-led NDA government and the BJD government in Odisha are all set to celebrate it for a year.
Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, a member of the Centre’s committee set up to celebrate the rebellion has announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to attend a function marking the opening of the celebrations in Odisha. Pradhan said the celebrations would be held across the country for a year.
On July 20, the Culture Department of the NDA government will be celebrating the 200th anniversary in a gala way in New Delhi.
A proposal has also been sent to the National Implementation Committee headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh to build a permanent monument as a memorial to Paika warriors in the historic Barunei hills near Bhubaneswar.
The rebellion, by the landed militia of Khurda called the Paikas, has been one of the focal points of the BJP s political discourse in the state where assembly polls will be held simultaneously with Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
BJP national president Amit Shah, who was on a three day visit to the state earlier this month, hailed the warriors of the revolt as he launched the party’s grassroots connect drive ‘Mo Booth, Sabuthu Majhbut’ programme.
Prime Minister Modi, during his visit to Odisha in April, felicitated the descendants of 16 families associated with the uprising. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also mentioned it in his Budget speech this year.
Several historians in Odisha claim that the 1817 agitation was against salt laws, taxes, devaluation of currency and land laws which were the pre cursor to later movements like the Dandi March and even the 1857 revolt.