Mainstream Editor Hired and Fired: Servants of People Society Suspected of Unfair Practice


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chandrabhanu Patnaik, who was hired as editor of ‘The Samaja’ a couple of months ago, has been fired in the mean time behind back of the readers, making it once again clear that freedom of Press in Orissa is in danger, as plutocracy has kept our polity vitiated with an environment of money-owners’ hegemony.

Either loss of faith in labor law implementation machinery or aversion to litigations has kept Patnaik mum as yet, but his thwarting from The Samaja has alarmed the entire segment of journalists employed in this conservative but mainstream newspaper.

‘The Samaja’, established by Pundit Gopabandhu Das (Utkalmani) was reportedly willed away by him to the Servants of the People Society hereinafter called the Servants Society, founded by Lala Lajpat Rai.

Once upon a time it had emerged as the most circulated daily of Orissa. But since long, it has emerged as a corruption joint from where top functionaries have gone even to jails under charges of misappropriation and other heinous crimes involving property and sex.

The Servants Society was formed with the feeling that amateur and holiday politicians could not do justice to their work and to their country; and that the country’s greatest need was a number of whole-time national workers pledged to a life of poverty and sacrifice. Therefore it was founded “as a nucleus for the training of selected young men for social and political service”.

Its present bosses have clandestinely killed this basic objective.

The Servants Society was inaugurated on 9 November 1921. Lalaji was arrested on 3 December 1921 and sent to prison. In a letter from the prison “to the young men who had been initiated into the society” he had said, “The freedom of the country and her progress depends on the purity of motive, the loyalty and the spirit of sacrifice of her political workers”. Therefore, like Medical College provides education to would be doctors or Law College to would be lawyers, the Servants Society’s “Tilak School of Politics has been started to train up those who would work in the political field”, he had said and had subsequently gone up to formulating the curriculum of this political school.

Inspired by this noble and farsighted program of Lalaji, Utkalmani, founder of then Orissa’s famous institute of patriotic learning – the Satyavadi School – had joined the Society. After his death, the Society has usurped The Samaja by strength of a document purported to be his will.

But Utkalmani’s sacrifice seems to have gone in vain.

The Servants Society is running schools from Balwadies to Senior Secondary level with government grants and profuse funds collected from various sources, the Samaja as well as the students at Delhi; Allahabad, Kanpur (U.P.), Hoshiarpur, Dhudike, Fatehgarh Panjtoor (Punjab) and Vadodra (Gujarat). But, no institute “for the training of selected young men for social and political service”, which was its basic objective any more exists in its list of institutions.

Curiously, the Samaja stands in its list of activities as “political”, as if this is the forum for imparting training in politics conceived by Lalaji!

According to the Servants Society, “About 80% of the net profit of The Samaja is spent for the welfare activities of the people of Orissa by way of extending stipend to needy students, by helping the patients and victims of natural calamities and through miscellaneous charity and donations. A large amount goes to the Gopabandhu Institute of Medical Science and Research which is in the verge of completion at Athgarh, Orissa”.

Net profit of the paper is not known to the public. Not even to the journalists employed by it, whose salaries in wage board terms depend on net revenue earned by the newspaper. Not to the authorities, whose duty is to collect levy for Press Council of India from the newspaper on the basis of its income. So, the claim that 80% of its net profit is spent for welfare activities of the people of Orissa is not a stable claim. So also the claim of “a large amount” going to its Athgarh institute has no credibility as no particular amount is specified.

The Samaja is severely lacking in transparency in its income and expenditure under the management of Servants Society as the net statement shows.

Its conduct in respect to Chandrabhanu Patnaik shows further lack of transparency in the matter of personnel management.

Chandrabhanu was appointed as the editor by virtue of his success in the interview conducted for the purpose. That was notified to the readers of the Samaja. And, he had steered the newspaper into a journalistically better horizon within a very short span of time. But the management has fired him and that he has been fired is not notified to the readers.

Unceremonious dismissal of an editor in medieval manners in 2010 by an organization that claims the legacy of Lalaji and Utkalmani is not at all tenable, specifically when the paper had entered into a new era of newsworthiness under his stewardship.

In public perception, he is a victim of caste conspiracy. The Servants Society, owner of the Samaja, as far as Orissa is concerned, is running under three Brahmins, two of who, Kishore Chandra Tripathy and Ms. Manorama Mohapatra are life members and one, Niranjan Rath is a life worker. The entire organization has 32 numbers of “important Life Members” since the day of its inception. When Lalaji is shown in the 1st position in the list being admitted as a member in 1921, Tripathy, admitted in 1965 occupies serial number 26 and Ms. Mohapatra, admitted in 1985 is at serial number 31. Besides Pt. Gopabandhu Das at serial number 6 (admitted in 1926) the other Oriyas in the list are Radhanath Rath, serial number 12 with admission in 1928 and Biswanath Dash, serial number 18 with admission in 1959. Niranjan Rath is not a life member, but a life worker. When, as such, in Orissa, the Servants Society has been monopolized by the people of Brahmin caste, Chandrabhanu Patnaik is Karan by caste and hence, his joining as editor of the Samaja, though was ensured by his success in interview in response to the organization’s advertisement, was not bearable to the Brahmin members of the Servants Society in Orissa. Had Chandrabhanu not been subjected to medieval manners of hire and fire, such an acrid feeling might never have spread.

We do not put any premium on this feeling, but nonetheless we feel, for better appreciation of the public, the Servants Society should clarify its position in this respect.

Freedom of Press cannot and must not be subjected to caste supremacy on the one hand, and on the other, to money-managers’ hegemony. Dismissal of Chandrabhanu in medieval manner tantamount to money-managers playing with freedom of Press, as the editor of the newspaper personifies the phenomenon of Press freedom.

The Servants Society founded by Lalaji and strengthened by Utkalmani and taking it’s breathe with public contributions must not be allowed to play havoc with freedom of Press and subject modern law of employment to medieval practices.

Orissa Human Rights Commission asks for a Factual Report on Mob-Killing of Lodhas

Collector of the Mayurbhanj District has been asked by the Human Rights Commission, Orissa to submit “a general note on performance of the employment guarantee programme and other poverty alleviation schemes for the improvement of the condition of Lodhas”.

Taking up the case filed by Journalist Prasanta Patnaik and Advocate Biswapriya Kanungo on mob-killing of four of the landless and wretchedly poor Lodhas, details of which were rendered in these pages earlier, the Commission have noted, “The allegation made in the petition prima-facie reveals a sad state of affairs of a community for whom the state is supposed to take integrated development programmes and provide them protection”.

The Commission has sent a copy of the petition along with enclosures to the Collector requesting him “to get the matter inquired into and submit a factual report to the commission on the incident of 10 October 2010”.

The Commission expects that the factual report on mob-attack on the Lodhas leading to death of four of them as well as the general note on performance of programmes meant for their well-being would be submitted by the District Collector “within six weeks”.

MEDIA UNITY FOR FREEDOM OF PRESS (MUFP) CONDEMNS ATTACK ON EPA WEEKLY

A language weekly has been attacked today by a gang of women allegedly as its leader and her NGO had hit its headline in the first part of October, 2010. The embarrassed and intimidated editor of the weekly has moved the Capital Police Station seeking action against the miscreants and protection of his office and staff. Media Unity for freedom of Press has condemned the attack. Below is its statement:

Editor of EPA weekly, Aneel Prasad Mishra has informed the Capital Police Station by way of FIR today (26 Oct.2010) that a group of about 150 ladies led by Smt. Rutuparna Mohanty of “Maa Ghar” forcibly entered into his office at about 12 noon and abused him in vulgar languages. They threatened him with dire consequences also.

On what Mrs. Mohanty and her troop pivoted their assault on the Weekly transpired to be a report in its Vol. 11, Issue No. 28 edition
published on 14 October, 2010.

If Maa Ghar and Mrs Mohanty are aggrieved by a published report, they
are free to take any step permitted by law against the concerned
media. But their group showed scant respect for law and the way they
tried to intimidate Sri Mishra and his staff is clearly an organized
infringement on freedom of press.

Even as MUFP is strong in its opinion that Press should be
meticulously cautious in reporting on women, it wants to make it clear
that reporting any matter of public importance cannot be vitiated with
gender considerations. The MUFP, therefore, condemns equally strongly
the gang act of intimidation resorted to by the organized group of
ladies that Mrs. Mohanty led against the weekly and calls upon the
Police to take action against the gang of ladies for the alarm it has
caused to the weekly editor and his staff by trespassing into its
office and by shattering its work-environment.

MUFP condemns in strongest terms any attempt to gag or threaten
newspersons or news media organizations for any news published or aired by them especially when various legal options of redressal are available to the affected person or institution. It also demand stringent action against all those found guilty after due inquiry by the police.

MUFP will continue to monitor the developments in this case and will take appropriate steps to protect freedom of Press.

For MEDIA UNITY FOR FREEDOM OF PRESS,
Prasanta Patnaik,
Subhas Chandra Pattanayak,
Sampad Mohapatra.
D.N. Singh,
Rabi Das,
Gopal Mohapatra,
Prafulla Das,
Dwijen Padhi.

Orissa Administration: Govt. Bungalow is used for Drug Joint and Prostitution

VE-1 in Unit – 6, Bhubaneswar is a Government Bungalow of Type-5 and in Estate Directorate parlance, a diamond quarter, which stand in close vicinity of the Raj Bhawan, the official residence of the State Governor. Government Officers of Joint Secretary and above rank are usually considered for allotment of residential quarters of this type of quarter. Lower categories of Officers do not dare to apply for allotment of this type of quarter.

But this precious Bungalow is lying abandoned for around a year. The iron grills both in the front and back side of the quarter have been taken away by miscreants. All the wooden panels of doors and windows are also gone.

From the front, the Bungalow now looks like a haunted house. In the rooms, denuded of doors and windows, drug peddlers and casual prostitutes find their heavens. The floors are spread with straws that the debauchee use as beds and the piles of ash speak of how the drug addicts act.

Sometimes ago, a Type-6 quarter in this locality was also in use for such nefarious activities for more than a year. It has now been allotted to a new occupier and therefore the joint has shifted its venue, perhaps to this abandoned bungalow.

Besides being quite adjacent to the Governor’s house, this particular bungalow is very near to the Heads of Departments building and the Secretariat. Both the capital maintenance office and the office of the chief engineer of buildings are within a distance of half a kilometer from this bungalow.

But this is happening without any official intervention. This is Orissa administration!

(Pictures: Laxmi Prasad Pattanayak)

Supreme Court Should Open the Names of “Definitely Corrupt” Chief Justices; This may Free Judiciary from being Looked at Askance

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

I have subscribed to a demand before President Smt Pratibha Patil for an independent enquiry into earmarking of eight of the former Chief Justices of India as “definitely corrupt”, as the accusation has come from a top ranking lawyer and former Law Minister of the country, Sri Shanti Bhusan.

Bhusan has enlisted 16 former Chief Justices of India namely Ranganath Mishra, K N Singh, M H Kania, L M Sharma, M N Venkatachalliah, A M Ahmadi, J S Verma, M M Punchhi, A S Anand, S P Bharucha, B N Kirpal, G B Patnaik, Rajendra Babu, R C Lahoti, V N Khare and Y K Sabharwa, categorizing eight of them as “definitely corrupt”, six as “definitely honest” whereas he has no definite opinion on the rest two.

The category-wise names are given to the Supreme Court in closed envelop challenging the Court to draw contempt proceeding against him if his naming of eight judges as “definitely corrupt”, is considered contemptuous to the Apex Court.

His challenge has not yet been accepted.

Many illustrious judges in the past have also given vent to their agony over corruption in higher judiciary. But for the first time a list of “definitely corrupt” Chief Justices of India has been placed before the Supreme Court by a man regarded as one of the finest lawyers of India and a former Law Minister of the country.

Any delay on part of the Supreme Court to take action on Bhusan’s assertion is harmful to rule of law.

If the Court does not accept Bhusan’s categorization, that should be based on public hearing with every bit thereof available to any Indian absolutely freely and instantly. If it accepts, rigorous punishment, even posthumously, need be given to the persons that being “definitely corrupt” have ruined credibility of Indian judiciary.

It is better for the Supreme Court to open the names of the Chief Justices placed under the “definitely corrupt” category, so that, they can personally defend themselves or admit their respective wrongs and accept punishment with retrospective effect.

The demand I have subscribed to puts premium on enquiry by an independent body outside the Supreme Court as judging the cases against formers Chief Justices by the incumbent judges may not be considered by common public as credible.

Yet I feel, open adjudication on Bhusan’s accusation should be preferred, as the accused judges should be defending themselves before the eyes of the people, the accuser marshalling his evidences in justification of his allegations.

Bhusan has definitely pushed the country into a deep predicament as his action has made us look the highest judiciary at askance. This is the bitterest harm to democracy of India within our living memory. This is more harmful than Man Mohan Singh subjecting the country to American nuke design and winning vote of confidence courtesy the JMM and Jadav horses as well as the right viruses.

The sooner this predicament is over the better.

Mob-Murder in Mayurbhanj: Baripada Police Boss Needs Be Punished Besides LDA Authority-in-Charge

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

These pages carry eminent journalist Prasanta Patnaik’s exclusive report on brutal killing of four poor persons of Lodha community by a mob in Mayurbhanj on speculative suspicion of theft.

As the Police seem to have taken the matter lightly, Patnaik, along with human rights activist, Advocate Biswapriya Kanungo, has, in a petition before the State Human Rights Commission, attracted attention to:

(1). The brutal murder of four young and innocent tribal Lodhas without
any free, fair and public trial by a illegal mob;

(2). The casual approach of Senior Police Officer in regard to this serious heinous crime committed by the mob and failure of the police to apprehend any of the assailants;

(3).Utter failure of Lodha Development Agency for all-round improvement of conditions of Lodhas;

(4). Utter failure of Employment Guarantee Programmes and other poverty alleviation schemes for improvement of the economic condition of the Lodha community, generally landless and uneducated;

(5). Improper inquiry of cases of theft and robbery in the jurisdiction of Baripada Sadar Police Station and Kuliana Police Station and

(6).Lack of proper rehabilitation of Lodha primitive tribes to live with human dignity.

After the petition hit headlines, the Police have arrested six suspected killers. And, Orissa knows how criminals are escaping law because of lacunae in post-arrest prosecution.

The points raised by Patnaik and Kanungo go beyond mere arrest of suspected killers. Besides pointing at the “casual approach” of Police to this heinous crime, they have raised the issue of the failure of Lodha Development Agency (LDA) in bringing out their welfare. This particular Agency was created in recognition of Human Rights of the Lodhas, who collectively had raised a severe armed revolution against the British invaders and therefore had been declared as a Criminal Tribe in 1871 after Orissa was annexed and the foreigners had well settled their hegemony. They were dispossessed and every possible step was taken to keep them demoralized. After independence, the official notification branding them as a criminal tribe was withdrawn in 1956 and eventually LDA was created with funds for their all round development. Utter failure of this Agency is equal to brutal contempt against human rights of the Lodhas. These two and other issues raised by Patnaik and Kanungo before the Human Rights Commission are of very national concern.

We hope, the Human Rights Commission would take up these issues in right earnest and on review of the activities of LDA, shall set it on right rails so that human rights of the primitive tribe of Lodhas are safeguarded sans delay. It should take to task the Chief Minister in person for having reduced administration to a non-functioning machine in protecting human rights, specifically on matters enumerated by Patnaik and Kanungo.

Arrest of the suspected killers is not enough in a climate of ever increasing nexus between police and the criminals and of prosecution left in incompetent novice hands. The state must ask the police to punish them fast, failing which the police officers /prosecutors must be personally subjected to exemplary punishment.

It is time to appreciate that people of Orissa have lost their faith in administration as a result of which they are instantly taking law to their own hands. Killing of the Ladhas by a mob under Sadar Police Station of Baripada is an instance only. Had police ever been able to stop frequent theft in the locality, the people would never have run after speculating about who might be the thief and on the basis of their speculation, howsoever wrong it be, they would never have killed human beings.

Let there be curb on police inaction by fixation of responsibility on area boss of the police wherever any suspected criminal is killed by a mob, accepting such mob action as unfailing evidence of police collaboration with the continuous crime in that locality, which maddens the common man to take law to his own hand under common wrath.

The Human Right Commission should take up this point effectively while acting on the petition filed by Patnaik and Kanungo in the instant case, if intention would be not to make its outcome a farce.

IIMC, Dhenkanal Launches Mobile News Service

Dhenkanal, Oct. 21: Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Dhenkanal has launched an innovative Short News Service (SNS) over the mobile platform here on Wednesday.

The SNS or Mobile News Service will provide real-time news updates on sports, business, politics, entertainment and everything. The service is exclusively meant for the students and staff members of the institute. They would be receiving news updates on their hand-held devices once a day for the first 15 days. Then, it would be extended four times a day. The service will be operated by the students.

Inaugurating the service, Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee, Professor and Head of the institute said, ‘Mobile phone is ubiquitous now. SMS is becoming increasingly popular mode of communication. It is fast, inexpensive, unobtrusive and user-friendly.”

The SNS will provide a competitive edge to our students when they join the media industry, said Dr. Chatterjee.

Mobile platform is the most effective tool to disseminate news as it breaks to the larger audience. This market is emerging in India. As per the latest TRAI data, there are nearly 65 crore mobile phone users in the country. In order to tap this potential market, media houses are setting up separate departments for SMS service.

Blacklist POSCO and Take Steps against its Agents in Administration

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Navin’s reign of corruption is ruining Orissa. But that, it has gone up to corrupting the central decision in matter of POSCO is a shocking revelation, which the Mina Gupta Committee has made.

The Committee has submitted a split report with Ms. Gupta having preferred to submit her views separately.

However, there is reason to apprehend that her personal views reduced to her part of the report were governed more by the motive to help POSCO than locating the reality.

There is nothing to be surprised, as it is she who was heading the executive in the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) when POSCO was being patronized in violation of Laws. It was her duty to monitor the implementation of the central Acts in POSCO matters, but she did not. Now therefore it is natural on her part to make light of the crime committed against the people at the behest of POSCO.

Except Ms. Gupta, all the other three members are subject-matter specialists such as Dr Urmila Pingle, an expert on tribal issues; Dr Devendra Pandey, former Director, Forest Survey of India and Dr V. Suresh, an eminent practitioner of environmental laws. These three experts together differ from Ms. Gupta in answering the terms of reference.

The terms of Reference:

The MoEF in partially modifying its earlier order, set out on 27 August 2010 the following terms of reference:

(1) Investigation and ascertainment of the status of the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006(FRA) in and around the forest land;

(2) Investigation and ascertainment of the status of the implementation of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement provisions in respect of the said project;

(3) Review compliance with Environmental (EIA), Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and other clearances and permissions under various statutes, rules, notifications etc.

(4) Review compliance with pari passu conditionality imposed in item (3) and (4) above;

(5) Any other matter in furtherance of the above objectives.

The Committee was required to submit its report finally by 18 October 2010, which has been done.

How have they answered:

In working over the first reference, they have found that the Government of Orissa has blatantly violated the FRA inasmuch as falsehood has been resorted to about completion of its process. “A large number of documentary and oral evidences have been found to support the presence of forest dwelling STs and OTFDs in the proposed POSCO project area contrary to the claim made by the district administration and the Orissa government that there are none”, they have concluded. Stating that the “District administration of Jagatsinghpur has not been fair and democratic in implementing the FRA in the project affected villages” their report has made it clear that in “Recognizing the role of Gram Sabha in implementation of FRA as well as in diversion of forest land for non-forestry purpose, the MoEF in its circular dated 3 Aug 2009 made it clear that a letter from each of the concerned Gram Sabha indicating completion of the process of the FRA and of prior informed consent for any diversion of the forest land is a pre-condition that must be satisfied before final forest clearance is granted. Instead of obtaining certificate from Gram Sabhas, Orissa Government, vide letter dated 16 March 2010, forwarded certificate of the Collector of Jagatsinghpur enclosing proceedings of the Sub-Divisional Level Committee of FRA. This is clearly not in compliance with but actually in violation of the conditions imposed by the MoEF”.

Against reference No.2, the Committee observes that Orissa Government, eager to patronize POSCO, has shown no concern for the poorest people. “A large number of fishing communities depend on fishing in the Jatadharmohan creek area in which the POSCO project is located. They have old and recognized customary rights of fishing in the area which have been overlooked and left out of the R & R scheme”. Similarly, “Landless workers, economically the most vulnerable social section, have not been included in the list of affected persons”, the report has pointed out.

In the matter of Reference No.3, the report has unambiguously exposed that there have been “many serious lapses and illegalities in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process”. On the matrix of Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), Paradeep, already “a severely polluted area” is almost a critically polluted industrial cluster with 69.26 score in the index. The Orissa State Pollution Control Board, despite in know of this and notwithstanding POSCO’s mum over many queries it had made about matters of substantial importance, specially air pollution, rushed to recommend for clearances and issue of Consent to establish, which, the committee held to be “ a serious abdication of statutory responsibility”. On the other hand, by fixing public hearing venue at Kujang, about 15 Km distance away from affected villages while keeping people cowed down by “a strong police force” posted “at the venue of the public hearing a day prior to the hearing itself”, the State had made “a mockery of rule of law and procedural safeguards”, the report has noted. The report has held the State government guilty of suppression of information as is evidenced in its non-revelation of allocation of additional water to POSCO from Hansua Nalla for construction purpose.

The fourth Reference has been answered with observations that there are “a number of serious lapses and violations, including suppression of facts”.

These are only samples of lapses. The report is full of many more such defects with details.

We had in these pages shown that to protect POSCO interest, the government run by Navin Ptnaik in Oissa has been creating cleavage amongst the people. The committee in its report has said the same thing.

“The POSCO project has, unfortunately, divided the villagers of the eight project-villages into opposing camps and has created a great deal of hostility within the Villages, in what was earlier a peaceful, agricultural area. The hostility has reached levels where violent assaults among the villagers have taken place, as well as
confrontation with the police, resulting in grievous injuries and even in one death”, it has mentioned.

MoEF has asked Orissa Government to react to the report.

Navin and his troop have started saying that the lapses pointed out by the committee would be studied and if found necessary, suitable remedial steps could be taken.

Remedy of lapses in respect of projects is not significant; because, that has to happen if they are to proceed.

What is important at the moment is that POSCO is a foreign firm that has used the Government of Orissa as its instrument in hitting its target. Navin Patnaik administration has acted as its rubber stamp. Starting from Collector of Jagatsingpur to Pollution Control Board, from lower bureaucracy to Chief Secretary, from the ruling party’s local elements to the Chief Minister, in every relevant office of this Government, the agents of POSCO have ruled the roost.

Steps should be taken to determine the reasons of Orissa Government functionaries acting as facilitators of POSCO. But as from the Committee report it is clear that many illegalities and violation of Acts and Rules have been committed by the Government both in the State and the Central administration to help the foreign firm achieve its aims, it is necessary in national interest to blacklist POSCO immediately.

If the political leadership has an iota of probity and patriotism, this is the minimum that is expected.

Durga of Chandinichowk: Fish Curry and Oriya Heritage

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The greatest Oriya poet for all times to come, the immortal bard of love, Sri Jaya Dev, in his Dasavatara Stuti, prefixed to his Sahajia Astapadi songs published under the caption of Geeta Govinda, has given primacy to fish as the epitome of benevolence to human beings.

Tantra, the science of the body, holds fish as one of the five factors of invigoration.

When the Oriyas enter into conjugal age, negotiations succeed and preparations for marriage commence, the first act of reciprocation between both the sides of the bride and the groom commences with gift of curd and fish.

A traditional Oriya male observes fasting on the day of his marriage and after the marriage rituals are over, his life as a married man starts with Pakhala (boiled rice soaked in water) and fried fish taken from the hand of his new mother – the mother-in-law. This unique role of the mother-in-law is reminder of the matriarch heritage of Orissa.

In matriarch heritage, inheritance comes to the youngest daughter and she remains the object of affection of every relation and dependent.

Cuttack – the unique city of simplicity and affluence mixed together; the city of clan culture yet prevalent in Sahi feeling in which collective entity matters, not caste or creed; the city of unity where rural character influences urban activities – brings forth this matriarch tradition of Orissa alive every year on the occasion of Dasahara that manifests at Chandinichowk, the seat of the youngest amongst the three sisters comprising Durga of Balu Bazar (1st sister) and Durga of Chowdhury Bazar (2nd sister). Here Milan (get-together) of all the Devis takes place before immersion.

The youngest sister (Durga of Chandinichowk) distributes her Prasad of Anna (rice) and fish curry to all on this occasion.

This year more than five quintals of fish was cooked for Her Prasad. This unique Oriya tradition was resurrected by Laxman Swain in 1908 when assertion of Oriya uniqueness was essential in the context of British annexation of Orissa. The Chhancha (mould) of the Devi of Chandinichowk has been preserved since then by the Swain family and when the face of Devi images change elsewhere every year, it remains the same and unchanged in Chandinichowk.

The Mother Durga of Chandinichowk is the epitome of Oriya heritage.

Let the State Stay Away from Religious Affairs

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

In the temple of Bhagavati of Banpur, Dasahara festival could not be celebrated as the State interfered with the practice of Vali. The interference was obnoxious inasmuch as an officer with magisterial power entered into the temple with leather shoes on his leg along with a pack of armed police dressed with leather shoes and leather belts in search of goats meant for the Vali. People have strongly protested against this official disrespect to the deity they worship and priests have kept the temple closed till action is taken against those who desecrated the temple.

Constitution of India, in Article 26 has given Indians the right to manage their religious affairs. Vali in Devi temples belongs to religious affairs that the believers in the Goddesses have been managing from time immemorial. Who is anybody to ban or act against Vali when the right to manage religious affairs including Vali is a fundamental right that has never been dropped or withdrawn or deactivated by way of amendment in the Constitution?

On the other hand, a few Indians styling themselves as animal lovers with access to different layers of society starting from media to judiciary, have been harping on stoppage of Vali in temples of Goddesses. To them, Vali is an act of cruelty to animals. But in reality they do not know how ancient and archaic is this practice and how their objection to Vali is misconceived. Love for animals does not need discarding of the archaic components of culture.

As far as their opposition to animal sacrifice in the temples of Goddesses is concerned, theirs is naked hypocrisy. None of the opponents of Vali has given us any evidence that he/she is a true lover of animals. No opponent of Vali has ever opposed operation of non-veg hotels that serve customers in every nook and corner of the country. Non-Veg diets do not come from vegetables; they come from animal meat.

Animal breeding is not banned in India. If animals are not killed despite breeding, their over population will play havoc with human life. They are kept and bred to be killed so that human being get the necessary nurturing food. The breeders have the inherent right to sale or kill the animals as they like for shake of food. And, any of these two steps is cruel. If animal killing in the slaughter house is not objected to by the so-called opponents of cruelty to animals, why the Vali in the temples of the Goddesses should be opposed by them?

The plea that temples of Devi are too sacred to allow animal killing in their premises is not tenable.

Temples are relevant to two types of people. Firstly, the exploiters, who use the temples as shock absorbers for smooth running of their machine of exploitation and secondly, the exploited persons, who come to a temple to overcome their sense of insecurity in hope against hope that the worshiped deity may save them from the exploiters.

When the first category indulges in pompous celebrations of the festivals just to show their love for the Goddess and thereby to hoodwink the exploited, the latter loves Her just like a child loves his/her mother. As a loyal child offers to his mother whatever tests good or whatever is good for health, innocent people, who because of innocence suffer exploitation, offer fish or meat to Mother Goddess. This is not unnatural and there is no wrong in this; just as there was no wrong in offering of fish to Mother Kali by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

It is to be noted that Vali is a ritual in Orissa during the Durga puja days. Vali is not offered to Goddess Laxmi, Kali or Saraswati whose puja follows the Durga puja successively.

Why this? In its answer lies the reason of sacrifice of goats and sheep during Durgapuja or Dasahara festival.

Dasahara is celebrated when harvesting days arrive.

It is wrong and illogical to say that Dasahara is celebrated in commemoration of Ram’s victory over Ravana, which he could accomplish only by worshiping Durga in the battle field.

Ram was never a real person as he was a character created from imagination by a sage called Valmiki in an epic written to espouse his own as well as his class outlook. In the Ramayan claimed to have been originally authored by Valmiki, there is no trace of Durga puja by Ram in the battle field. So, this must be an interpolation by any vested interest to hijack Devi Durga, which the farming community was propitiating in Dasahara for use in interest of the trading community. A deep look into the word ‘Dasahara’ makes the scenario clear.

Dasahara literally means end of bad days.

The word is an amalgamation of dasaa (bad days) + haraa (termination). Durga had ended the bad condition of the people. So the festival was named Dasaaharaa meaning termination of bad days. It has been corrupted into Dasahara.

In those ancient days, family was mother-centric. Men had no allegiance to women. Under biological urge, they were having union with the women and wandering away. The women were giving birth to children, whom they were also bringing up. So, leader of the families were naturally the women. The women had invented agriculture and therefore they were the owners of agricultural fields. Thus the agro society was matriarch.

The nomads, who by avocation were shepherds, were patriarchs and were against the matriarch society. They were empire builders and intimidators of farmers. They were attacking the scattered agro matriarch families and plundering their crops. Their character was akin to wild buffaloes that the farmers were calling Mahisa. So their chief was called Mahisasura.

Mahisa was destroying crops in the field and looting rice after harvest. So the bad condition of the people was getting worse. They were entering into a stage of durgati (days of decadence).

The plundered farmers felt that unless they unite, it was not possible to save their crops from Mahisa. They united. As they were matriarchs, their collective wrath against Mahisa looked like a form of female power. Every agro family (Deva) equipped this united female force with the best of its weapon. Thus the united female force, vanquished Mahisa and became Durgatinasini Durga. The agro families commemorate that victory by making Vali of buffaloes, goats and sheep before Durga images on occasion of Dasahara. So Vali symbolizes the strength of united farmers against exploiters.

It is worthwhile remembering that Durga had appeared in form of a female to destroy Mahisasura. Different Davas had given her their weapons with which she destroyed Mahisa.

Devas were not the Gods as is being said.

Notwithstanding how they were named, they were farmers. The word ‘Deva’ means one that gives sustenance. Anna (rice) was the source of sustenance. (Annad bhavanti Bhutani- Geeta). So the producers of Anna were the Devas.

But these Devas had no unity amongst themselves as they were staying in separate clusters with their respective mothers. When they united, their collective entity became Durga that destroyed Mahisasura.

The farmers observe that day of victory against Mahisasura as Dassaharaa and sacrifice the goats, sheep and buffaloes – properties of the invading nomads – to commemorate their victory over them.

This is why the well-to-do class and the traders are against Vali. They have hijacked Durga into the world of elite and are bent upon to destroy her social significance.

Banpur gives us an opportunity to understand why the State, anti-farmer in aptitude and attitude, run by agents of the rich and foreigners, with a system of justice susceptible to superficial slogans of opposition to cruelty to animals, has banned animal sacrifice even when butchering of animals in slaughter houses and road sides continues unabated through out the country.

The government and no other functionaries have any right to interfere with the right of people to manage their religious affairs. Moreover Vali is a practice of agro magic with its roots in tradition of tribal response to Mother Nature besides being a reminder of united indigenous farmers’ victory over invading shepherds of foreign origin.

Better leave the matter of Vali to the experienced judgment of the common man. Avoid splitting the society on non-issues.