Poet of the masses Manmohan Mishra is yet of utmost Relevance for real Republic: Asish Mohapatra

Dismissing a misconceived suggestion that Manmohan Mishra was a panegyrist who eulogized Marx and Lenin, well known leftist intellectual and author Asish Mohapatra observed that the great revolutionary was a poet of the masses, who had immensely inspired the freedom fighters and the working class by writing and singing his songs for them in their own language and rhythm, while leading them in their struggles.

It was very becoming of the poet to have eulogized Marx in some of his poems. Marx is the only one in the entire world and its history who has given the way for emancipation and, therefore, if Manmohan has praised him in his poems, there is nothing unusual in that, he roared.

The poet’s 13th death anniversary was observed on November 19 with launching of a compilation of rare poems that he had written and sung, often instantly, while leading the masses in freedom struggle against the British and in post-independence mass struggles against maladministration, against official adoption of capitalist methods in nullification of the spirit of freedom struggle, against exploitation of the workers by industries, against misuse of State Exchequer for benefit of a few when the majority was being jostled into wretchedness, against treachery of politicians in power after independence. Dreams of freedom fighters for a People’s Republic having been lost in the labyrinth of capitalistic control over administration, Manmohan’s poems are of utmost relevance to guide the Republic into its track again, said the compiler.

The compilation captioned ‘Kotikanthara Spandan: Manmohan’(Manmohan, the vibrating rhythm of millions of voices) is done by Mohapatra, a renowned Communist, who, himself being the nephew of Mishra, has prefixed his poems with a realistic critique on the poet and his works.

Mohapatra, a top leftist intellectual of the State, is well known for his books such as Itihasara Lohita Chakrabala (The Red Horizon of History), Sahityara Atma (The Soul of Literature), Mukti O Samatara Mahayoddha (The Great Warrior of Emancipation and Equality), Lal Tarakara Desh (The Land of Red Star), Viplav-Mukti Sangram O Ehara Mahanayak (Revolution – War of Emancipation and its Great Leader), Karl Marxnka Jibani (Biography of Karl Marx), to mention a few. He has interpreted Manmohan’s collected poems not only on the basis of close understanding he had with him as his nephew, but also as a Marxist scholar with expertise in interpreting the dialectics of revolution in poetic expression. Hence the book promises immense scope for study of the poetic stream of struggle for emancipation in this part of the globe.

The book was released by Orissa’s famous progressive figure, former President of Bar Council of India, Advocate Jagannath Pattanaik.

Citing samples of songs that Manmohan had written and sung often on various spots of mass action, Pattanaik recapitulated how his piercing oratory was injecting strength into the oppressed and the wretched with the electrifying effect of his songs, his poetic expressions.

In the critical juncture where India has landed now, to whomsoever the people are important, Manmohan and his sufferings, and his sacrifices, and his poems would stay ever relevant sources of inspiration, he said.

Utkal Prasanga editor Hussain Ravi Gandhi described Manmohan as the matchless leader of letters who had never deviated from writing for the people. Regretting that none of the national award winning poets of the State are with the people, Gandhi said, writing poems of the highest quality in the language of people perishing in the lowest layer of the society was Mnmohan’s specialty. Let the writers write against auctioning away the country to foreigners and that would be the befitting homage to Manmohan, he said.

Another top leftist intellectual Prof. Laxminarayan Raysingh recalled many moments of mass action like the creation of Patia Bandha by the people that Manmohan had inspired by his lucid yet electrifying poems and incendiary oratory.

CPI(M) leader and former MP Shivaji Pattanaik informed how the poet’s revolutionary anthology ‘Kotikanthe’(In the voice of millions) was banned by the government of Orissa after independence. He described Manmohan as a poet of the masses. He was a part of the revolution of the people and was the voice of the people and therefore, was giving voice to his own poems, said Pattanaik. Giving many anecdotes from the life of Manmohan, he told the audience that the revolutionary poet was the leader of many battles against exploitation, starting from the days of the British imperialism to the post independence exploitation by traders and landlords. He was the leader of trade union movements. His writings were shaped by the struggle of the people. His first poem was on Madhubabu, the most revered and immortal leader of Orissa and his last poem was on Marx, he revealed.

In his Presidential address, famous novelist Bibhuti Patnaik recalled how the Chief Minister’s wife Malati Choudhury had challenged the government of her husband Nabakrushna Choudhury, when Manmohan, the leader of mass uprise against curtailment of Orissa’s limbs – Sareikala and Kharasuan, constituting Singhbhum – in 1956 was thrown into the jail by the State Government. Patnaik, who himself was also arrested along with Manmohan, while leading the Students Union in the same movement, described the event as unique; because, despite being inseparably one with her husband in every mass movement before and after independence, Smt. Choudhury had taken over the reign of the movement in expression of solidarity with and protest against incarceration of Manmohan and his team by the government of her husband. This was how Manmohan was relevant to legendary revolutionaries of his time.

Santosh Das, the editor of Samyavadi, which has published the book, in his introductory address gave an account of how it was programmed by Manmohan Smruti Sansad and how meticulously Asish babu has compiled it. Suresh Panigrahi proposed the vote of thanks.

Amongst others, Prof. Bishwamohan Mishra, Rabi Dash, Dwarika Mohan Mishra, Janardan Pati, Prados Patnaik, Subhas Chandra Pattanayak, Sudhir Patnaik, Shanti Mishra, Dr. Seba Mohapatra, Pramod Mohanty, Asit Mohanty, Dr. Pramod Acharya, Ms. Puspa Das, Ms. Tapasi Praharaj, Baghambar Pattanayak were in the audience.


Subservience of people’s interest to commercial interest in the Fourth Estate must stop, if democracy is to be salvaged from the pernicious grip of plutocracy, emphasized veteran journalist Subhas Chandra Pattanayak while inaugurating the annual function of Athgarh Prahari.

Athgarh Prahari, a rural newspaper published from Athgarh in the district of Cuttack celebrated its sixth anniversary on the day of Makara Samkranti, observed in Orissa as a day of solidarity amongst agro-based communities.

Enkindling the ceremonial candle, Sri Pattanayak called upon the working journalists to consolidate their class strength to retrieve their lost freedom from the fiefdom of the media merchants.

Capitalists who need freedom to multiply their profits by using newspapers and audio-visual networks that they own, must no more be allowed to project that freedom as ‘Freedom of Press’, he said.

Rare Chapter of Journalism in Orissa

Felicitating posthumously the legendary journalist Surit Ranjan Pattnaik, who was born in Athgarh, Sri Pattanayak dwelt on a rare chapter of journalism in Orissa that may be termed as the single most remarkable battle of Press for freedom from owner’s fiefdom.

In a flashback he said: Surit Pattnaik was reporter of the daily Kalinga, founded and possessed by Biju Patnaik, the first mafia then in rise in Indian politics, who was using his chief-ministerial position to further his fortune from trade and industry in the early sixties, last century. One of Surit’s reports went against TATAs. Biju summoned him to his chamber and rebuked him for having written against TATAs and demanded an explanation on why had he written the story that may mar his rapport with the industrial tycoon. In utter wrath Biju further asked Surit to file a fresh story depicting the one he had published as a product of misconception and to remember not to write against TATAs in future.

Slap on Biju’s Face

Surit paid Biju Patnaik a patient ear as an employee ought to pay to his employer and then told Biju the like of which had never been told in India to any newspaper owner by any working journalist till then.

He told Biju in no uncertain terms that as owner of the paper he was a trade operator when as a reporter he was a conscience-keeper of the society. He made it clear that he was a working journalist and under the working journalists(Condition of Services and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, he was answerable only to his editor, not and never to the owner.

He also told Biju that as a journalist he was a sentinel of Freedom of Press which he cannot allow to be diminished under Press owner’s over-lordship. It was a sharp slap on Biju’s face.

Man Mohan Mishra’s uniqueness as Editor

This enraged Biju so much that he summoned the manager and ordered him to dismiss Surit summarily under charges of insubordination. Editor Man Mohan Mishra supported Surit and condemned managerial intervention in the matter of reporting and Biju got such a thrash that he preferred to pretend to have accepted the norm of Press Freedom by desisting from taking any action against Surit. But the issue did not die; it went on simmering, till at last Kalinga was closed down by Biju Patnaik and beyond, till the owners in mainstream media succeeded in misappropriating Press Freedom donning editors’ robe, as in Hindustan Times K.K.Birla replacing B.G.Verghese.

Profit motive of media merchants ruins the Press

Dwelling on how subservience of public interest to profit motive of media merchants has spread since those days, Sri Pattanayak bared the tricks the Press owners play against Free Press. One such trick is obliterating or dismantling the designation and status of journalists as envisaged in and defined under the Working Journalists Act. Sudden and arbitrary change of Nalapat’s designation from Chief of Bureau (a category of working journalist defined under the Law) at Delhi to that of Political Analyst (not at all defined under the Law) by the Times of India is an instance, he said. He pointed out how for having refused to render extra-professional help in securing release of Asok Jain, chairman of the Times of India group arrested then for FERA offences, H.K.Dua, the celebrated editor had to be summarily dismissed in 1998 by use of an offending method of replacement of his name with that of Executive Director Ramesh Chandra showing him as in additional charge of Managing Editor in the print-line of the paper. This trick of obliterating law-defined categories of working journalists and creation of undefined desks in editorial wing is not only playing havoc with editorial independence but also subjugating journalism to business. And such a situation is helping plutocracy to consolidate, he alleged.

Pointing out that the recent Supreme Court Judgment in the matter of Laws put under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution of India has failed to stir public mind because a plutocratic Press is not showing due diligence in weighing the judgment on the matrix of the necessities of the poor, deprived and disadvantaged people, Sri Pattanayak called upon the working journalists to change this scenario. People have a right to know every aspect of every act of management of their Country and therefore, the Press must be salvaged from the grip of plutocracy and restored back as people’s Press. When a Plutocratic Press reduces people’s right to a non-entity and transforms information to a commercial commodity, which is happening in India, Pattanayak pointed out that a People’s Press educates the people in the matter of how best to manage their affairs through their informed participation in democracy.

Surit Pattanayak the unseen Polestar

When K.K.Birla snatched away for himself the robe of editor of Hindustan Times from B.G.Verghese in the seventies because he refused to compromise with editorial independence or when H.K.Dua was summarily dismissed in the late nineties because he did not agree to misuse his journalistic position for securing release of the times of India Chairman from FERA prison or earlier when Dilip Padgaonkar had to relinquish the position of Editor in Times of India in early nineties in favor of the management man Gautam Adhikari taking over as Executive Editor, or when a principled person like Nalapat was dismantled from the position of Chief of Bureau to be stashed in a out-of-category post of political analyst, had the working Journalists defended Press Freedom like Surit Pattanayak had done defying Biju Patnaik, the situation would not have been such precarious, Pattanayak said.

Rural Press must coalesce with rural people

In the prevailing climate, as people in the unorganized sector like the victims of Kalinga Nagar land grab have been making their supreme sacrifices to safeguard their collective interest, working journalists must unite to thwart away the plutocratic over-lordship on Freedom of Press, he said, putting emphasis on rural people making a coalition with rural newspapers run by rural journalists whom corporate culture has not yet corrupted. People must help rural newspapers in building up a People’s Press so that their own interest does no more suffer a blackout, and the Country is saved, told Sri Pattanayak while calling upon the local intelligentsia that predominated the audience to take leadership in this regard.

Prahari reaching more people: Narayan Das

Sri Narayan Das, self-employed Editor of Athgarh Prahari (AP), in his welcome address, presented a detail picture of how local interest has been best served by his paper and how for that reasons only, its popularity has spread beyond Athgarh. The AP has its circulation in 13 out of the 30 districts of Orissa and day by day its circulation is increasing and he said, he was sure, his paper will reach the rest of Orissa within two years.

Closer to the people

Ratnakar Beura who has been representing Orissa’s premier newspaper Samaja at Athgarh for last three decades, told the audience that AP is closer to the hearts of the people of the locality than the mainstream papers of Orissa because people find “their news” more accurately and elaborately in its pages than in their’s.

Mainstrem media hand-in-glove with money-grabbers

Veteran social worker Biswanath Sahu alleged that the funds provided for development in budgets are being looted by the executive. Mainstream media being hand-in-glove with the money-grabbers, the modus operandi of the executive is kept willfully secret from the people. Rural newspapers like AP run by self-employed journalist are therefore the only forum available to the people through which they can develop their collective barricades against corruption and save the country.

Social activist Basanta Kumar Sahani warned people of impending danger from mega as well as minor industries to rural environment. Rural newspapers free from influence of the industrialists as they mostly are, are the best weapons available to people to safeguard their interests, he stressed.

Posthumous Honor to Surit Pattanayak

Chief Guest Sri Pattanayak presented the citation of posthumous honor to Surit Ranjan Pattanayak, which the daughter of the late scribe Ms. Jayanti Pattanayak received. Surit Ranjan had breathed his last on 21 December 2005.

Felicitations were also given to educationist Narayan Panda for poetry, advocate Bimbadhar Raut for essay, Journalists Partha Sarathi Patnaik and Sujit Rashmi Mohanty for rural reporting. Ms. Babita Pattnaik read out the citations.

Journalist Satchidananda Panda presided.