A boat boy in Odisha fearlessly faced the British, he was gunned down by them. Baji Raut became India’s Youngest Martyr of freedom struggle at the age of 12.
famous poet Sachidananda Routray, a Jnanpith Award Winner, wrote a poem about Baji Rout when he his last rights were being carried out. which opens with the sentence,
“It is not a pyre, O Friends! When the country is in dark despair, it is the light of our liberty. It is our freedom-fire.”
Baji Raut was born in the year 1926. In a small village in Dhenkanal, Odisha. He lost his father soon after his birth. His mother brought him up. The poverty, and lack of decent income had made their life tougher.
At the time, the King of Dhenkanal was Shankar Pratap Singhdeo, infamous for snatching poor villagers of their earnings. Even Baji’s mother was a victim.
Baishnav Charan Pattanayak of Dhenkanal town who was usually called as Veer Baishnav, by the villegers, raised a revolt against the King, and founded Prajamandal, which had a Banar Sena wing of young children, which Baji had joined, despite being of tender age.
Pattanayak took up employment as a painter in the Indian Railways. He moved from place to place, using the Railway Pass, he was able to meet more people and establishing contacts with leaders of the National Congress in Cuttack, drawing their attention to the sorry state of the oppressed people of Dhenkanal.
The movement grew slowly but steadily, and seeing this the British contributed, sending a platoon of soldiers from Calcutta. They wanted to curb any kind of revolution at any cost. The English sent 250 gunmen, and they unleashed horror to suppress the mass movement.
King Shankar Pratap had placed a ‘Rajabhakta Tax’ or Loyalty Tax. Fed up with the revolution, king decided to end this once and for all. He used his entire force against the leaders of the movement, he targetted Veer Baishnav directly and confiscated his ancestral properties.
A surprise raid was planned to arrest Pattanayak but he escaped arrest. he had come tothe Bhuban village, camping. When The king and armed forces got this news they attacked the village on October 10th, 1938, for the third time, destroying houses and torturing people for information. But they couldn’t trace him.
It was said that Pattanayak had escaped by jumping into the Brahmani river to swim to safety to villages on the other side. The troops immediately started a pursuit. They met resistance by the villagers, who refused to give up their local hero.
The British forces then opened fire, killing two people, Raghu Naik and Quri Naik on the spot. The crowd parted, and the troops ran to the nearest ferry, at Nilkanthapur on the Brahmani river.
October 11th, 1938
A young kid Baji Rout, was on guard at the Ghat at the time, he was approached by these troops to ferry them across the river.. He was in charge of a country boat at the ghat and was sleeping when the troops arrived there.
the boy had been asked by senior activists to keep an eye on the ghat, to make sure that forces will not be ferried across the river.
Despite being just 12 years old, he refused to take the troops across the river.
The angry Britishers ordered Baji to carry them across the river on his boat, and Baji remained stubborn. Then, a soldier hit Baji on the head with the butt of his gun, fracturing the boy’s soft skull. Baji collapsed but continued raising his voice, warning villagers of the presence of the troop.
Another soldier pierced Baji’s skull with his bayonet. Witnessing this cruelty, someone ran back and told the villagers, who were angered beyond measure.
The villagers rushed to the spot, and the British cops saw them and panicked. Instead of running after their original target Pattanayak, they got into Baji’s boat and tried to flee from the village. Even while fleeing they opened fire on their pursuers, killing four more, as well as young Baji.
Basihnav Pattanayak was the one to collect the corpses, bringing them to Cuttack by train. People rushed to get the last glimpses of the martyrs. Post-mortem tests on the martyr’s bodies were conducted in Cuttack. Eminent freedom movement leaders with Pattanayak, decided that the last journey of the boy Baji Rout and other martyrs will be taken to the crematorium by carrying them through the lanes of Cuttack so that everyone could get a glimpse of the immortal sons of Odisha.
Thousands of people joined the largest funeral procession ever witnessed in the state.
Thus, Baji Rout was laid to rest at the crematorium at the age of 12, as a Banar Sena member, giving up his life in the struggle for our freedom.
The odisha government honours, achievers in various field with Baji Raut Samman. Dignitaries and revered artist pay tribute his ultimate sacrifice every year. Baji Raut will dominate hearts of every Indian.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth