History Rebooted

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It was winter and travelling in Odisha is something I always look forward to. I packed my bags and headed towards Rourkela – the place where I spent the best part of my life. I was received by a warm welcome at my cousin’s place. The evening was reserved for brothers over bonfire, barbeque and beverages. Odisha history took over the khatti.

My elder brother, Rajkumar said “Hey! Bro Coffee Bytes is doing good in reviving back the priceless history of Odisha but why do you focus mainly on coastal belt?” I replied “We have covered famous Prahallad Rai Lath and Shital Shasti of Sambalpur, which aren’t from the coastal belt”. I further added “In this trip, I will cover AMCO-SIMCO.” With utterance of the name AMCO-SIMCO, all eyes looked puzzled. “Is it a name of a MNC?” Rajkumar asked. Rajat, my younger cousin said “We have been here for so long but have never come across something called AMCO-SIMCO!” Observing the reactions, I was surprised by their ignorance. “AMCO-SIMCO is a place which has got a historical relevance”, I replied.

The very next day, I started for the historical site from the Steel city, Rourkela. I crossed Vedvyas chowk, mining area of Bisra Stone Lime Company Limited-BSL (*initially mining undertaken by British through Birds India Limited) and reached Simco village which is located in Biramitrapur along the Odisha-Jharkhand border. A little further ahead I reached my destination which was enveloped with greenery, picturesque sights and tranquility. It was AMCO-SIMCO Saheed Smruti Pitha. In the history of anti-colonial resistance movement in Odisha, AMCO-SIMCO was where the major tribal blood bath incident took place.

While researching about Eram massacre, I had come across a note about a personality Late Dhananjaya Mohanty who had brought the AMCO-SIMCO massacre (firing by Britishers to the gathering of the tribal peasants) to the lime light and brought it to the notice of Mahatma Gandhi while he was travelling to Kolkata (Calcutta) via Rourkela in train. At the AMCO-SIMCO Saheed Smruti Pitha, I saw two stones wherein the history and the names of the martyrs were painted. I was amazed to know the massacre had taken place on April 25th, 1939. A date in between Jallianwala Bagh and Eram massacre.

To know more about the significance of the place, I spoke to one of the senior villager Herman Samat of Simco village. He said “I have heard from my father that local Adivasis used to cultivate in the forest lands as per Khuntkati tradition. But then the British Government along with Gangpur state started collecting tax from the Adivasis by force in 1931 and doubled it in 1932. Challenging the imposition of tax, the tribals got united and decided to revolt under the leadership of Nirmal Munda(ex-military). The Adivasis launched ‘No rent’ campaign and demanded before the Gangpur Province administrative head Regent Rani Saheba Janaki Ratnadevi to abolish the imposition of tax and restitution of their Khuntkati rights. The Regent turned down the demand and sought help from British to crush the revolt. On the fateful day April 25, 1939, while Nirmal Munda was addressing a meeting at this site, Captain Boscoe of British government along with armed police force led by SP Gourishankar Sekhar Deo arrived and asked people to identify Nirmal Munda. The protestors at the meeting confronted the armed police force collectively saying – “I am Nirmal Munda”. After a scuffle between police and protestors, the British officer went inside the small house in search of the leader but accidently he hit his head on the low door frame. Reflexively thinking it to be an attack from protestor, he alerted the forces. On the signal, police force showered bullets on the protestors which turned the colour of soil to red within minutes. In this massacre, as many as 46 protestors were killed and 81 severely injured on the spot. The dead bodies of the martyrs were planned to be put into kiln of BSL mines but on refusal, they were taken to a place near Birmitrapur and buried”. In recent times the State Government has included the AMCO-SIMCO site in its tourist map and sanctioned funds for construction of the memorial pillar. An obvious question crossed my mind …If the massacre during the struggle against British rule like the Jallianwala Bagh of 1919 could receive wide recognition in the history books, how could the AMCO-SIMCO firing of 1939 in Odisha failed to receive the equivalent credits? If we think it is okay to ignore or neglect our heroes and history, how can we expect the younger generation to respect the same?

Let us bring out these stories about people who have contributed in the struggle for independent India and recognise their efforts by giving them their dues – Aprosperous, happy nation.

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