Friday, 3 August 2018

The Paika rebellion (1817), Odisha - first war of independence against the British


Paika revolt, OdishaYouTube
In 1817 took place an armed rebellion against the British East India Company's rule in Odisha  called  the Paik Rebellion, also called the Paika Bidroha. Bakshi Jagabandhu, leader of the revolt, was a symbol of Odia unity a source of strength. The rebellion quickly gathered momentum  across most of Odisha  and finally   it was put down by the English company with ruthless force. It was the first rebellion of the paika (soldiers of Odisha) with the support of common people against the East India Company's (Proxy government of the British Crown) misrule. The contentious land revenue policy of the British was the primary cause of the rebellion in 1817. Not only Paikas, but also zamindrs, farmers and many sections of the people took the cudgels against the mischievous  British and their biased polices.  This revolt took place 40 years before Indian Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
Odisha. Newsfolo
The Paikas  of Odisha were the traditional  warriors of that state in charge of security and protection  during peacetime. They were fearless and aggressive in dealing with enemies.  Among them there were three groups /  ranks  based on  their occupation and the weapons they  were sporting. These were the Pahari:, the bearers of shields and the khanda sword, the Banuas:   they lead  distant expeditions and use matchlocks and the Dhenkiyas:  archers who also perform  various  duties in Odisha armies. 
Quora
The power and prestige of the Paikas declined when the English company in 1803 took over the control from the Raja of Khurda who was defeated by them. The attitude of the company toward the Paikas  changed and they no longer needed their military services. Consequently   they wanted to take over their land - rent free lands given to the Paikas for their military service to the state.  The reason was: The EIC did not trust Paikas and their loyalty to them. The company wanted to treat them   as common Ryots and  as such land  revenue and other taxes should be collected from them.  It simply means they have to fore go  their former Jagir lands and their legitimate rights over them. Now at stake was their livelihood, main source of income for their families.

Paiga rebellion, Odisha  Odisha Diary
Being diabolical and shrewd as they were, the British 's strategy was they wanted to have a hold on the aggressive Paikas  and their fighting nature by ruining their unity and economic status, roughly equal to removing the poisonous flanges and teeth from  Cobras. It was in the interest of British survival in Odisha and they kept their police force on high alert.
Statue of Bakshi Jagabandhu, leader of Paika Rebellion, Bhubaneswar.wikipedia org.
The Paika rebellion of Odisha had several social, economic and political ramifications. The very first step was systematic alienation of the  Paiks  by the British regime, who seized their hereditary rent-free lands granted to them after the conquest of Khurda.What infuriated the Paikas was they were subjected to extortion, intimidation tactics and out right oppression by the EIC officials.  The unjust and unnecessary
extortionist land revenue policy of the company affected the peasants and the zamindars alike. On top of it, they were asked to pay high taxes on common salt. The Proxy British government insisted that the taxes be  paid in silver and not in Cowrie currency which was in force earlier.  Discontentment and disappointment were writ on the face of the entire Paika community and others.  Their anger and frustration reached beyond  the line of tolerance and in 1804, Raja of Khurda himself planned to stage a rebellion against the unjust and cunning British rulers.  Soon, the British discovered the plot with the help of whistle-blowers plated by them and confiscated Raja's territory. 
Paiga rebellion, Odisha. Telegraph India

The rebellion by Paiks were led by Bakshi Jagabandhu Mohapatra Bhramarabar Ray, the former bakshi or commander of the forces of the Raja of Khurda.  In 1814, the British took over Jagabandhu's family estate of Killa Rorang  reducing him to live in abject poverty.  Once a rich and well-known commander  now became a pan handler by the British  

No sooner the rebellion broke out in March 1817 under the leadership. Raja Mukunda Deva, the last King of Khurda, than across Odisha people from all walks of life right from feudal chiefs to Zamidars had given  full  support to the rebellion.  Several Zamindars (land owners) joined the foray without any hesitation and the revolt, like a summer bush fire,  started spreading  from Banapur and Khurda  to many parts parts of Odisha such as Puri, Pipili and Cuttack, etc.  The Rajas of Kanika, Kujang, Nayagarh and Ghumusur aided Jagabandhu and Dalabehera Mirhaidar Alli of Jadupur was an important Muslim rebel.

Embers of hatred and discontentment over the oppressive policy of the East India Company had been simmering for sometime and in  March 1817 it began to over boil, A strong contingent of  400 highly spirited   Kandhas crossed over into Khurda from the State of Ghumsur, openly declaring their  revolt against the company's rule. The rebels became violent  to let out their suppressed  hatred for the British and their insulting treatment of them. Under  Jagbandhu, the Paiks  started looting and setting  fire to the government properties at  Banpur.  The same story at  Khurda   where they did not spare  native officials of the company and killed them.
E. Impey, the magistrate at Cuttack, in charge of the company affairs, sent forces to  Cuttack to put down the revolt where they met strong resistance resulting in  heavy losses; the English commander was killed. At Puri, on the other hand,  under Captain Wellington, they  faced little opposition. Soon the British forces took control of  Khurda and declared  martial law in that  territory.
Situation at Puri changed and the rebels led by 
Bakshi Jagabandhu  took control over the town  forced  the English company to retreat to Cuttack by 18 April. Consequently Cuttack remained cut off from the now rebel-held portions of southern Odisha,  The force's recapture of Khurda encouraged the commanding officer, Captain Le Fevere, to pursue the insurgents into Puri. This British  forces had no difficulty this time to put down the 1000 strong rebels because they were ill-equipped. They captured the temple town of Puri and the Raja before his escape.  With great difficulty the EIC reestablished their authority over the region   and by  May 1817 normalcy was returned to the region. 

The participating rebels who were hiding in many places were rounded up  and the company appointed judges in May 1817 gave them severe punishment ranging from death to long term imprisonment. The EIC official  between 1816 and 1826 combed the jungles and other remote places for the rebels, captured  them and put them to death. As for Jagabandhu, the rebel leader, he surrounded to the British in 1825 and spent his time in jail till 1827. The Raja of  Khurda refused any concession and died a British prisoner in November, 1817.
The newly appointed Commissioner of Cuttack Robert Ker  wanted some administrative changes to avoid recurrence of such a big rebellion. They were of no use. The Odisha region is a major transit point for the EIC between  presidencies of Madras and Bengal. The British policies in Odisha were not people friendly and later freedom struggle by Tapanga in 1827 and the Banapur Rebellion of 1835 showed the continued repressive policy of the foreign rulers. They were more bent on exploiting the natural resources of Odisha than giving importance to the sentiments of the native people there and the love of their land.
In October 2017, government of India recognized Paika revolt as the first war of independence prior to the famous Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 that began in the barracks of Meerut city.  Justifying the state government's request, Naveen Patnaik, CM said: "Paika (1817 AD) of Odisha, which took place 40 years before the Sepoy Mutiny (1857 AD), eminently qualifies to be called as the 'first war of Indian Independence' not simply because it took place four decades prior to the Sepoy Mutiny, but due to its very nature and characteristic features."

"The Paika rebellion was broad based and well organised plural struggle against the oppressive rule of British East India

 Company. It involved all sections of the people," Naveen  said.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/1170720/jsp/odisha/story_162765.jsp
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paika_Rebellion










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