Role of Women in the Quit India Movement in Odisha, PK Rath

Tags: India, Congress, Rama Devi, Quit India Movement, the Congress, Srimati Malati Choudhury, British withdrawal from India, Sir Stafford Cripps, China British Government, colonial government, Chiang Kai Shek, Prahalad Ray Lath, Orissa, Executive Council of Viceroy, Congress committees, Nandini Devi, Gandhiji, All India Congress Working Committee, Pravabati Devi, Indian National Congress, Congress leaders, British Government, Surendranath Dwivedi
Content: August - 2014
Odisha Review
role of women in the Quit India Movement in Odisha
Dr. Prabodh Kumar Rath
ABSTRACT The failure of the Cripps mission to solve the political deadlock in India and the fear of Japanese aggression led the Congress to launch another mass movement under the leadership of Gandhiji against the British. A resolution to that effect was brought in the All India Congress Working Committee at Wardha in July, 1942 and it was placed before the Bombay Session of the Congress. Under the Presidentship of M.A.K. Azad it passed the historic `Quit India' resolution on 8th August 1942. The Congress decided to launch a country-wide non-violent movement under the leadership of Gandhiji. The British Govt. arrested top ranking national and provincial Congress leaders, declared Congress offices as illegal and were seized. The people of Orissa suffering from War-time restrictions reacted strongly to the arrest of their leaders. The movement spread rapidly from Balasore in the North to Koraput in South. The active participation of Odia women like Rama Devi, Nandini Devi, Gurubari Meher, Pravabati Devi, Parbati Giri and many others opened a new chapter in the history of Orissa.
India's struggle for freedom under the leadership of Gandhiji is unparalled in the history of mankind. Gandhiji launched five movements of all India character against the British rulers during his steward-ship of the Indian National Congress from 1919 to 1947. These are the Noncooperation movements of 1919 and 1921, the civil disobedience movements of 1930 and 1932 and the "Quit India Movements of 1942". The movements of twenties and thirties had many things in common. Their goal was the attainment of Self Government or Swaraj through constitutional and non-violent struggle. During the course of these movements, the people were urged to promote Swedeshi, particularly to revive spinning and weaving, remove untouchability,
promote unity among Hindus and Muslims and exercise prohibition. During these movements Gandhiji used Satyagrah technology which was a process of purification and penance. The most important result of these movements was the intensification of political consciousness among the people which paved way for attainment of Swaraj. In 1939 the Second World War broke out. The war time Viceroy Lord Linlithgow with out consulting the Central Assembly or peoples representatives declared India to be at war. That declaration vehemently protested by the Congress and said it would co-operate in the war if India was declared as an independent country. On the
Odisha Review
August- 2014
contrary, the colonial government was agreed to modify the 1935 Act after the war was over, in protest Congress ministries resigned in seven provinces. Due to the change of war scenario, Congress offered to co-operate with British government if a provisional national government. was setup at Centre and the right to independence was recognized. In Aug. 40 British Government offered to expand the Executive Council of Viceroy with more Indian members and after war a representative Indian body to frame constitution. The Congress rejected this proposal. With the entry of Japan on the opposite side of England and their march nearer to India generated alarm. Due to pressure of President Roosevelt of United States of America and Chiang Kai Shek of China British Government sent Sir Stafford Cripps to solve the deadlock. The proposal of Cripps was failed to satisfy the demands of the people. So Gandhiji now asked for complete British withdrawal from India. AICC met on 8 August at Bombay approved the Quit India resolution, "The Do or Die era commenced". Top ranking Congress leaders of Orissa such as H. K. Mahtab, Srimati Malati Choudhury, Surendranath Dwivedi, Prahalad Ray Lath, and Laxmi Narayan Mishra represented Orissa in the Bombay session of the Congress. Early next morning Gandhiji along with other leaders were taken into custody under the Defence of India Rules. H.K. Mahtab was arrested at Bombay and 24 top ranking leaders were arrested from various places of Orissa. Government declared District Congress committees, Town Congress Committees and Congress Ashramas numbering 38 as illegal. Surendranath Dwivedi at that time was the chief brain behind the Quit India Movement in Orissa. He published two bulletins Congress Barta and Satya Sambad to guide the movement.1 At that juncture other parties of Orissa, such as the Socialists, the Forward Blocists, the Communists, and the student federationists combined together
to lend their support to the national cause. The demonstrations were expressed in the form of strikes, picketing, protest meetings and pasting of threatening posters on the walls. From 3rd week of August people all over Orissa openly defied the government authorities, broke the law and paid no taxes. Without proper guidance people resorted to violence such as burning Post Offices, Police stations, government offices, looting and act of sabotage in different regions. On 20 August 1942, the news of the arrest of Gopabandhu Choudhury and Rama Devi reached Bari and adjacent areas. Rama Devi had great influence on social, political and cultural life of the then Orissa.2 The people of neighbouring villagers assembled in front of the granary office located at Kaipada. On that day Annapurna Maharana was addressing a meeting at Sanyasipur. Before her arrival at Kaipada, police reached there and detained some leaders, which was seriously protested by the people. This led to confrontation which resulted in blank firing. Police took the arrested persons to Kaipada Sevashram. People demanded their release and sent their representative Hadibandhu Panda for negotiation, but he was whipped and driven out. Police then proceeded to Binjharpur Police station. Thousands of people followed them. On the way the people met Annapurna Maharana. She also requested the police to release the arrested persons, but police arrested few more. So situation turned tense which led to firing and the mob dispersed.3 Nandini Devi at the age of 12 led an anti British procession and was arrested. She was dropped in Chandaka jungle on 16th August. Mangala Devi along with twelve women were arrested while burning uniforms of Choukidars and police officers. In Ersama area Bela Devi was arrested for inciting the people against the government. Sashibala Devi helped in the distribution of secret bulletins and pamphlets issued by underground organizations from
August - 2014
Odisha Review
Cuttack. Kiranbala Mohanty preached the message of "Quit India" in the villages and was imprisoned in Cuttack Jail. In Ganjam women leaders like A. Laxmi Bai, Champa Devi, Suryamma, P. Taramma, and Sobha Devi joined the agitation. Bimala Devi, Musu Mate, Sunamani Devi, Uma Bharatiya, Gunamanjari Devi were prominent participants of Puri district. On 20th August in a meeting held on Goradiha hat near Delang, Sunamani Devi , Ushamani Devi and Uma Sundari Devi delivered provocative speeches against the government which was attended by thousands of people. Sulakshna Mali Jena, the wife of Zamindar of Manijang gave plan to occupy Nimapara Police Station, which led to police firing and a person Uchhab Mallik died on the spot.4 On 28 September, 1942 at Eram in Basudevpur police station of Balasore district about 6000 people assembled from neighbouring areas at Melana ground. Many among them were women. Revolutionary speeches were delivered and situation was turned tense. Police fired in which 29 people died, one women Pari Bewa was killed on the spot.5 In Sonepur, people revolted against excessive revenue. They were on a procession. A patriotic woman Gurubari Meher at the front of the procession was shouting not to give revenue to the British Government. The police started firing at the procession and she had to sacrifice her life.6 Mesakasani and Subarna Lahara of Dabugaon Police Station of Koraput district had to give their lives after being subject to Mass rape.7 This tragic incident occurred when they protested police exaction and torture. The involvement of Malati Choudhury, the outstanding leader in the underground activities was significant. She guided the movement by sending instructions to different places. In Sambalpur, prominent women leaders like Pravavati Devi, Jambubati Devi, Parbati Giri
actively participated in the Quit India Movement. Parbati Giri led a procession of women of Pradhanpada and organized a meeting at Hatapada, where she made an appeal to destroy the liquor shops in Bargarh town. She also led a procession to S.D.O.'s Office and overpowered the S.D.O. and tied him up. Then she was arrested and imprisoned. Women leaders like Sunamani Devi, Priyambada Devi, Haripriya Devi, Haramani Devi, Haramani Kanungo, Sasibala Kanungo, Bela Devi, Nishamani Devi, Bilasi Devi, Usha Devi, Sakuntala Devi, Kshetramani Devi, Uttara Choudhury, Mangala Devi, Sobharani Panda, Bimala Devi, Sushila Devi and Prabhabati Devi rendered courageous and selfless service in the cause of India's freedom. Their sufferings and sacrifices will continue to inspire the women of Odisha to work for the good of the country.8 These women leaders and thousands of their followers participated in the freedom struggle in the face of opposition from their family members. They suffered from social ostracism and prosecution. References : 1. J. Patnaik, Landmarks of Quit India Movement, Cuttack, 1992, P.34 2. S. Patnaik, Orissare Swadhinata Andolan (O) , Cuttack, 1972, P.173 3. Orissa Review, Vol. XIVI, August, 1989, P.174. 4. S.C. Barik, D. Sahoo (ed), Women's Participation in the freedom movement in Orissa, Jajpur, 2005, P.27 5. Ibid, P.29 6. Sambad, 2 April, 1989 7. Ibid 8. S. Tripathy, Role of Women in the History of Modern Orissa, Cuttack, 1998, P.99 Dr. Prabodh Kumar Rath, 184, Paikanagar, Bhubaneswar - 751003.

PK Rath

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