Statue of Surendra Sai at Jail Chhak
23 January 1809|
Khinda, Sambalpur, Odisha
|Died||23 May 1884citation needed]
Surendra Sai was an Indian freedom fighter who sacrificed his life fighting against the British and died in obscurity. Surendra Sai and his associates Madho Singh, Kunjal Singh, Airi Singh, Bairi Sing, Uddant Sai, Ujjal Sai, Khageswar Dao, Salegram Bariha, Govind Singh, Pahar Singh, Rajee Ghasia, Kamal Singh, Hati Singh, Salik Ram Bariha, Loknath Panda/Gadtia, Mrutunjaya Panigrahi, Jagabandu Hota, Padmanave Guru, Trilochan Panigrahi and many others resisted the British and successfully protected most parts of Western Odisha region for some time from the British rule. Most of them died unnoticed fighting for freedom from the British. Many of them were hanged by the British; a few died in the Cellular Jail in the Andamans. Surendra Sai himself died in Asirgarh Jail on 28 February 1884.
Early life and background
Sai was born on 23 January 1809 in a Khinda village near Lapanga on the way to Jharsuguda about 40 km to the north of Sambalpur, Odisha. He was one of the seven children of his father Dharma Singh. Surendra Sai was a direct descendant from Madhukar Sai, the fourth Chauhan king of Sambalpur and therefore was eligible as a candidate to be crowned as king of Sambalpur after demise of King Maharaja Sai in 1827.
Revolt for the throne
King Maharaja Sai died without an heir. The British Government allowed his widow Rani Mohan Kumari to succeed him, as a result of which disturbance broke out and conflict increased between the recognised ruler and other claimants for the throne of Sambalpur. The most prominent claimant among them was Surendra Sai. In time Rani Mohan Kumari became unpopular. Her land revenue policy did not satisfy the Gondi people and Binjhal[clarification needed] tribal zamindars and subjects. The British authorities removed Rani Mohan Kumari from power and put Narayan Singh, a descendant of royal family but born of a low caste, as the king of Sambalpur. The British Government ignored the claim of Surendra Sai for succession. Rebellion broke out in the regime of Narayan Singh. Surendra Sai and his close associates, the Gond zamindars, created many disturbances. In an encounter with the British troops Surendra Sai, his brother Udyanta Sai and his uncle Balaram Singh were captured and sent to the Hazaribagh Jail where Balaram Singh died. King Narayan Singh died in 1849. By virtue of the Doctrine of Lapse, Lord Dalhousie annexed Sambalpur in 1849, as Narayan Singh had no male successor to succeed him. During the uprising of 1857 the sepoys set Surendra Sai and his brother Udyant Sai free. The resistance to British continued in Sambalpur under the leadership of Surendra Sai. He was supported by his brothers, sons, relatives and some Zamindars.
Sai espoused the cause of the downtrodden tribal people in Sambalpur by promoting their language and culture in response to the higher castes and the British trying to exploit them to establishment their political power in Sambalpur region. He began protesting the British at age 18 in 1827, moved operations to the hilly tracts of Western Odisha in 1857 and continued until he surrendered in 1862 and went to Hazaribagh Jail. Before his surrender he spent 17 years in prison and after his final arrest served a term of 20 years including his detention of 19 years in the remote Asirgarh hill fort until he died.
Attempts made to suppress him
The Indian Revolution collapsed by the end of 1858 and law and order was restored by the British throughout India, but he continued his revolution. The military resources of the British were pulled up against him and the brilliant Generals like Major Forster, Capt. L. Smith and others earned credit in suppressing the rebellion elsewhere in India were brought to Sambalpur to stamp out his revolution. But all attempts failed and Surendra Sai succeeded in foiling strategy of the British for a long time. Major Forster, the reputed general who was vested with full military and civil power and the authorities of a Commissioner to suppress Surendra Sai and his followers, was removed by the British authority in 1861 after three years in Sambalpur. His successor Major Impey could not defeat Sai. The British seized the entire food-stock of the rebels but also stopped all resources of the supply of food and other necessaries of life for them. Major Impey abandoned the idea of violent war and cautiously followed the policy of peace and good-will with the approval of the Government of India. Surendra Sai, one of the greatest revolutionaries in history, and a warrior who knew no defeat in his life surrendered with full faith in the honesty and integrity of the British Government. However, after the death of Impey, situations took a sudden change and the British administrators revived their hostility towards the great hero.
Sambalpur was brought under the jurisdiction of the newly created Central Provinces on 30 April 1862; Surendra Sai decided to surrender soon after that. However, he was said to have been disillusioned and the new setup indulged in reversal of the old liberal policy. The administrators found that the surrender of Surendra Sai did not bring the revolution to an end. They stepped down to organise a conspiracy and made sudden arrest of Surendra Sai and all his relations, friends and followers. Sai and six of his followers were subsequently detained in the Asirgarh hill fort. Sai spent the last part of his life in captivity. In 1884 on 23 May, Surendra Sai died in the Asirgarh fort, away from his native land.
Sambalpur was one of the last patch of land to be occupied by the British Empire in India, not counting the Princely States. This was largely due to the effort of Surendra Sai. He was a very good swordsman. People of the region affectionately called him as Bira (or "Veer" meaning courageous) Surendra Sai.
Recognitions for Sai
Citizens of Sambalpur region feels Surendra Sai, should have been recorded with greater importance in the history of India's struggle for independence. According to them, he is yet to get the right place because of the state administration's ignorance and carelessness. Even historians and research scholars also have been blamed. Many important documents and papers relating to Sundar Sai are said to be still existing at different archives in Bhopal, Nagpur and Raipur. The Government of Odisha is said to have done nothing in this regard.
- In 2009, The Government of Orissa changed the name of University College of Engineering the oldest engineering college of the state to Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology, Burla in honour of this great leader.
- In 2005, Government of India decided to put a statue of Surendra Sai at the premises of Parliament of India.
- One of the oldest colleges in Odisha has been named after him as Veer Surendra Sai Medical College, located in Burla, Sambalpur, it is operating since 1959.
- Government of India has released a postal stamp in his honour.
On 23 January 2009 people of Odisha as well as India celebrated the 2nd Birth Centenary of Surendra Sai. On the occasion, 'Paschim Odisha Agrani Sangathan' of Bhubaneswar brought out a book titled Surendra Sai edited by Dr. Chitrasen Pasayat and Dr. Prabhas Kumar Singh. Also, another book titled Veer Surendra Sai: The Great Revolutionary edited by Dr. Chitrasen Pasayat and Sri Sasanka Sekhar Panda has been published by Anusheelan, Sambalpur.
Notes and references
- "Associates of Veer Surendra Sai". Orissa Govt.
- "Official Web Site Of Sambalpur District". sambalpur.nic.in. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
Born on 23 January 1809
- "Eminent Persons -123orissa.com". 123orissa.com. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
In the year 1827 King Maharaja Singh died without any child and successor.
- "UCE changes to VSSUT".
- "Centre okays patriot statue". The Telegraph.
- Veer Surendra Sai, Stamp Record. "Govt. of India honours Veer Surendra Sai by a stamp".
- Pasayat, C. (eds.) (2009), Veer Surendra Sai, Bhubaneswar: Paschim Odisha Agrani Sangathan.
- Pasayat, C. and S. S. Panda (eds.) (2009), Veer Surendra Sai: The Great Revolutionary, Sambalpur: Anusheelan.