The pages of history often glorify the tales of well-known freedom fighters who bravely challenged the oppressive British regime. However, amidst the spotlight, lie the unsung heroes of India, whose courage, sacrifices, and unwavering spirit played an equally significant role in India’s fight for independence. These forgotten warriors, hailing from the heartland of Odisha, exemplify the indomitable spirit that courses through the veins of the land. Their stories are a testament to the power of determination, resilience, and the unbreakable bond between a people and their homeland.
Narayan Birabar Samanta, known as ‘Kujanga Gandhi,’ was born in 1900 and adopted by his uncle. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, he left college to join the freedom movement, focusing on Kujang and surrounding areas. He married Ratnamali Jema, participated in Salt Satyagraha and Harijan movement, and later engaged in Quit India movement. He authored ‘Kujang Chitra,’ served as an MLA and Deputy Speaker, and passed away at 99 in 1999 after contributing significantly to India’s struggle for independence and social issues.
Madhab Singh Bariha, also known as Madho Singh, was the steadfast Binjhal Zamindar overseeing Ghess locality in Bargarh district, Odisha. An unwavering ally of Veer Surendra Sai, he etched his name in history by fiercely resisting the British East India Company during the Sambalpur uprising. At 72 years old, he met a tragic end on December 31, 1858, hanged at Jail Chowk in Sambalpur for his fearless and heroic resistance against the British’s oppressive policies. Three of his sons met martyrdom, and his eldest was sentenced to life imprisonment. In a heart-wrenching turn, his granddaughter Purnima committed suicide after her rebellious husband was hanged by the British in Raipur’s Sonakhan Zamindari. Madhab Singh Bariha’s legacy remains an enduring symbol of courage and defiance, inspiring generations to embrace the flames of liberty and justice.
During the fervent struggle for freedom, even tribal youth were impassioned against the oppressive British rule. Poya Bahini, alongside fellow freedom fighter Tama Dora, emerged as exemplars of courage among adivasis. Their resolute armed resistance compelled the British to retreat momentarily. In the Jaipur province under Madras Presidency, they valiantly attacked British officers in Badidhas village, displaying remarkable bravery. Despite facing overwhelming odds, Poya Bahini and her followers refused to surrender, ultimately meeting a tragic end at the hands of the British forces. Her unwavering sacrifice remains a testament to her unyielding commitment to the cause of independence.
As we traverse the corridors of history, it is imperative to shed light on the often-overshadowed narratives of unsung heroes. The stories of another Baji Rout, Laxman Naik, Veer Surendra Sai, and Rani Maa Suryamani exemplify the spirit of Odisha – a spirit that refuses to be subjugated, a spirit that fights against all odds, and a spirit that reverberates through the ages. These forgotten freedom fighters not only shaped the destiny of their land but also continue to inspire generations to rise above challenges and fight for a better tomorrow. It is our duty to remember, honor and draw strength from their courage as we march forward, keeping their legacy alive in our hearts and in the annals of history.
Written by Biswajit Parida, 2nd Year