Peasants, Tribals and the National Movement in Orissa (1921-1936)
THIS is a preliminary attempt to highlight the role of the peasants and tribals in the national movement in Orissa.1 At the outset it must be made adequately clear that a major limitation of this work is that it deals with quite a vast period. Moreover, since Orissa before 1936 was not a united province, my attempt might seem to have a tilt towards the portion which was considered Orissa proper between 1921 and 1936.2 The first may result in the underemphasising of certain features; the latter is perhaps a reflection of the lack of sufficient material.
We begin with an examination of the Non-Cooperation Movement in Orissa and the popular responses which converged with it. The basic effort of the Provincial Congress Committee (hereafter, PCC) was to harness all potential enclaves of discontent within Orissa and politicise them. This was a situation in which there did not exist any organised movement from below; cosequently, the task of the PCC was to attempt at organising it from above.
The Satyabadi school which had been established by Gopabandhu in 1909 played a very important role during this phase. In fact, it was the very basis of the Non-Cooperation Movement in Orissa. It had established a trend in Oriya literature which is characterised as being nationalistic.3 Through the Samaj (established in 1919) attempts had been made to infuse this spirit into the educated sections of society; side by side, the necessity of primary and scientific education, women's education,4 and reforming Brahmin society had been emphasised, which explain the influence of the Satyabadi school and of Gopabandhu on the urban mind. Moreover, Gopabandhu's role as a relief worker during floods and famines had brought him closer to the people of the three coastal districts*5
Gandhi's timely visit to the province on the eve of the Non-Cooperation Movement was important, when one considers the various meetings he addressed and the places he visited.6 It also
^Teaches history at Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi.