Bhubaneswar: Veer Surendra Sai- a name Odisha utters with pride and respect. Around 21 km away from Sambalpur, this ‘veer’ (warrior) was born on January 23, 1809, in Khinda village.
He was a direct descendant of King Madhukar Sai, the fourth king of the Chauhan dynasty, but the British refused this right to him after the demise of Maharaja Sai. This is when began the ‘resistance’ movement in Odisha and Surendra Sai’s journey of becoming a hero for all of us.
When Maharaja Sai died in 1827 without a son, British, as per their law ‘Doctrine of Lapse’, nominated the widow of a deceased king, Rani Mohan Kumar, to which Surendra Sai protested. The 18-year-old Surendra Sai stood firm and strong for the rights he was entitled to. Surendra brought together the tribals and the zamindars of Khinda, Barapali, Sonepur, Gauntias, and his brothers to revolt against the British imperialism and Queen Mohan Kumari.
British tried muffling the uprise with the military operation but the failure forced them to change the king of Sambalpur. They then appointed Narayan Singh, an old man of the Chauhan dynasty as the king in 1833, which disappointed the people of that region. Surendra Sai, his brother Udanta and uncle Balaram Singh were sent to the Hazaribagh jail in 1840 for killing the father and son of Durjaya Singh, the only zamindar supporting Narayan Singh.
After the death of Narayan Singh in 1849, British took over Sambalpur but the uprising had already begun and the 1857 revolt shook the entire British empire. During their revolt, sepoys broke the Hazaribagh jail and the prisoners were set free. Among them were Surendra Sai and his brother, who then fled to Sambalpur. They were welcomed by family members and others from Sambalpur and many there joined hands with the rebels under the guidance of Surendra Sai.
It was followed by a letter of negotiation to Surendra Sai. He promised to not revolt if only his brother and him, was exempted from imprisonment and given the throne of Sambalpur instead. The first proposal was readily accepted, but he was asked to stay at Sambalpur with 20 followers for the consideration of the second proposal.
He declared an open revolt against the British authority on November 1, 1857, along with all his followers in Sambalpur. British’s conspiracies and efforts by stopping the supply of all resources of basic amenities failed to dampen his spirits. He kept fighting against the British. When Major Impey took charge, he promised a peaceful policy and Surendra Sai surrendered but things changed after Impey’s death. Surendra Sai’s surrender brought not many changes in the overall scenario among his followers. The British planned a conspiracy and arrested Surendra Sai, his relatives, friends and followers. He was detained in Asigarh hill fort where he breathed his last on May 2, 1884.
Even after his death, the impact his headstrong efforts had is invincible. He managed his life, his fight and his rights, single-handedly with villagers following him for the undying spirits even after being beaten by the British conspiracies. Man of such valour is remembered today and will be remembered for all years to come.