The Paika Rebellion, also known as the Paika Bidroha and Paik Rebellion, was an armed rebellion by Paiks against the British East Company in Odisha in the year 1817. The Paiks were the traditional landed militia inhabiting Odisha.
As the East India Company conquered Odisha in 1803 and dethroned the king of Khurda, the period of fall in the power and prestige of Paiks began. In 1817, led by Bakshi Jagabandhu, the commander of forces of king of Khurda, the Paiks rose in rebellion which quickly spread across a large part of the state.
The primary reasons behind the rebellion were discontent among Paiks over policies of the company, rise in price of salt because of the tax imposed by the new British government, extortionist land revenue policy, abolition of the established cowrie currency system of the state, and oppression of masses at the hands of company government.
Despite all the efforts by Paikas and Bakshi Jagabandhu, their leader, the rebellion was put down ruthlessly by the East India Company. In 1817 itself, British posted judges to Khurda who announced sentences of death, transportation and long-term imprisonment to the captured rebels. Those who managed to escape were captured and put to death later.
In Odisha, and surrounding areas of the country, Paika Rebellion was a popular and powerful war against the British for independence. It is interesting to note that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the Paika Rebellion. The occasion is also being celebrated in the National Capital with the organization of a special event on July 20, 2017.
Now the rebellion has become a point of discussion as Naveen Patnaik, the present chief minister of Odisha, has put forth a demand in front of the Central Government to declare Paika Rebellion as the First War of Independence in India. The proposal has already been passed by the state cabinet.
Until now, the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 is considered the First War of Independence of India. In January 2016, Ashok Panda, the state tourism and culture minister of Odisha had put forth the same demand.
Now Naveen Patnaik has written to Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, requesting the government to consider the proposal of declaring the Paika rebellion the First War of Indian Independence so that “people of India appreciate, in correct perspective, the events that led to the India freedom struggle and our historic independence from foreign rule”.
According to Patnaik, the rebellion not only took place years before the 1857 rebellion but involved all sections of people, was a broad based and well organized struggle against the rule of the British East India Company.