Villages fight over martyr’s death place

Villages fight over martyr’s death place

Residents of two neighbouring villages in Balasore district are fighting over the death place of Odisha’s first martyr Jayee Rajguru. This has led to a bitter feud between people on both sides.

Rajguru, who was born in 1739 in an eminent scholarly family in Bira Harekrushnapur village, near Puri, was killed by the Britishers in a gruesome  manner on December 6, 1806. His legs were tied to two different branches of a banyan tree in Medinipur village here and the branches were let off splitting his body into two parts.

Until recently, his death place was obscure as there was no proper identification of the place. Initially, historians had claimed that Medinipur village fell in West Bengal though the scholars here did not agree citing that there was no such evidence that could establish the claim.  While the State Government believed that the village belonged to Balasore district when a team of historians and officials led by secretary of ‘Jayee Rajguru Smruti Sansad’ Jatadhari Mishra visited Medinipur, about 15 km from Balasore town in 2008, the residents of Anantapur, adjacent to Medinipur, claimed the death place of Rajguru was part of their village.

Citing an old banyan tree, Anantapur villagers, who claim it to be a part of Medinipur, said as per the history a narrow water passage called ‘Baghi nullah’ was still flowing through the village. Though the original Medinipur village has split into four hamlets, including Anantapur and Madhabpur, locals said it was earlier one village. There was also an orchard called ‘Baghi Tota’ in the village.

Villagers of Medinipur, however, differ. They said from time immemorial Medinipur and Anantapur were two separate villages and Rajguru was assassinated in their village only. Jayee Rajguru Yubak Sangha president Manoranjan Sahu said they had built a statue and a memorial at the death place of the martyr.

“We have been observing his death anniversary on December 6 every year since 1990 without any contribution from the State Government. But now the people of Anantapur have been claiming their village as the place of his assassination which is entirely false,” he said. 

Locals had informed the survey team that most of the residents of the village were from Khurda district and of ‘Khandayat’ (earlier known as Paika) by caste. The residents with Nayak surname were known as Senanayaks earlier.

One Karunakar Mohanty said as per the land records Medinipur and Anantapur were two separate villages and ruled by two zamindars. “So how can it be one village? The people of Anantapur are claiming it without any valid documents. We want the government to study it properly and demarcate the exact death place,” he said. The Anantapur people have also built a statue of the martyr this year.  

Rajguru has been declared as the first martyr of Odisha. But historians claim he is actually the first martyr in the country’s freedom movement because none was killed by the Britishers before 1806. They alleged the State Culture Department has also done nothing to remember the martyr.

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The New Indian Express