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  • Bhairab Chandra Mahanti- A Profile(Part-1)

    • Posted on Monday, November 07, 2011 by Prof . Bhaskar Chandra Khatai

    • “The trials, turmoil’s and tribulation in Bhairab Babu’s political career were many. There are several incident and intricate political developments in the life of Bhairab Babu as amember of the Legislative Assembly as a minister and as a Member of parliament,which one could narrate at length. But this article is largely confined to his contribution towards the evaluation and development of sports culture inOrissa. His political philosophy can be summed up in his words when he said. Themajority party installs the political apparatus to Govern. But the Government isnonpolitical.”

      The millennium city of Katak, having a glorious past, has been the cultural nerve centre of Orissa. It is the pivot that propels the political and economic activities of the state yet, its distinction lies in its being the citadel of Orissa culture. The legacy bequeathed by the`Sadhabapua’ and the `Dhanapati’ Saudagara is perpetuated even to day with the week long celebration of the Bali Yatra to commemorate the memory of the Oriyas ailors who sailed to distant Bali on an enter occeanic journey from the Mahanadi in Katak. On the banks of the Mahanadi stands the historic Barabati Fort, symbolizing the pride and might of the Oriya stragically and ironically enough the Barabati Fort, also witnessed the capitulation of the Oriyas at the hands of the British. For more than a century and a half, Katak remained in the thick of turmoils and tribulations of intense political activities. It did emerge as the silver city, noted for its universally acclaimed silver filigree work, but by the 50s of the twentieth century, katak emerged as the nerve center of another kind of culture the Sports culture- a new lexicon that captivated the imagination of people of all walks of life during the initial years of post independence period.

            Sports culture and katak are inextricably linked with the life – time dedication and contribution of one man, Late Bhairab Chandra Mahanti. Bhairab Babu was a multi dimensional personality who combined in him a sportsman journalist, social activist and a politician. A veteran Freedom Fighter, three times member of Orissa legislative Assembly, onetime Minister and Member of Parliament, his greatness or rather contributions as a politician appear dim when compared to his stupendous contributions in the field of Sport and his tireless penance for creating an awakening for the love of sport in the minds of the people of Orissa. This in no way , now ever,diminishes his greatness as a politician, but while making an objective analysis of the man, there appears a clear-cut dichotomy in his personality. He was a sportsman and a politician, and had sports not been his passion, he would have been one of the most outstanding politicians of the post – independence era. Sport for him was a mission, a religion which he strove to serve. He accomplished it with a degree of finesse that has very few peers.

      Born in a remote village in Balisugri in kissannagar of katak district on 13 July 1913, to very humble parents, Bhairab Babu till his very last emphasized that he was of a peasant family. Having lost both parents at the tender age of four, he was brought up by his uncle Late Nishamani Mohanti. Poverty and family burdens forced Nishamani Babu to move out to Patna and Bhairab Babu too spent his early formative Years in Bihar. Often taunted and jeered by Biharis and Bengalis, he was determined to Prove the worth of oriyas.Since his school days he had a tremendous fascination for sports and possessed an inherent organizational capacity that became an envy of many. In school he was a regular participant in all games and sports activities like football , hockey,cricket and athletics. In fact, he always said that he moved around with a cricket ball in his pocket and with the slightest opportunity woul draw three stumps on the school wall and bowl at them. He was also a very bright student and since he always remained at the top in studies as well as in sports , Bihara nd  Bengali student of the Patna High School were deeply envious of him .A small incident of his life world substantiate the point. While studying at Muzaffarpur, he was playing for his college team and he fractured his right hand. that did not deter him from sitting in the examination .He painstakingly practiced writing with the left hand and passed the I. Sc. examination .with a first division. Left hand writing proved to be a hunger blessing in disguise in his later poltical career, Responding to Gandhijis clarion call to join the quit India Movement Shri Mahanti quit Government Service and became active in thef reedom struggle. He was charged with writing provocative literature and pamphlets to incite people against the British rule. Trial began against him after he was arrested while escaping from Sambalpur through the Rairakhol forest. His fate was almost seated when the white man sitting  in judgment declared Bhairab Babu guilty of treason and would have awarded death by hanging, but for the doubt expressed by the hand writing expert from Culcutta. Upon verification of his writing with the right hand and the writing with the left hand the expert commented that there was great similarity between the two but it could not be said with certainly that both the writings were of the same person. It was over this benifit of doubt, Bhairab Babu’s life was spared. In 1934, Bhairab babu came to Patna to continue his studies for the Bachelor’s Degree, Which he got in 1936. Here in Patna he organized and setup the Oriya. Association to counteract the ignominy heaped on the Oriyas by the Biharis and Bengalis. Multi faceted and versatile as Bhairab Babu was, he was also a dramatist and a great actor. Under his guidance and direction, Oriya dramas were organized in Patna and despite all the jeering, they were always acknowledged to be the best. Through sheer dedication and indefatigable pursuit of an objective, Bhairab Babu gradually became the most popular Oriya in the college as well as in the playground. He always insisted that if one is organized, fulfillment of his justified demands become much easier and that is exactly what he did through the Oriya Association in Patna.During his college career he diligently participated in all sports and games activities and was recognized an outstanding sportsman. He steadfastly believed that every game and sport must be played or perform as per the norms set up for every game & sport.Thus during those days he was the only player/ sportsman who used the running the spike. He was allergic to the idea of deviating from sports norms.

           With the formation of Orissa as a separate province in April 1936, Bhairab Babu came to Orissa and joined the Development Department of the Orissa secretariat. With his organizing skill he initiated the secretariat club and was chosen its first secretary. In 1936 too, he joined the katak Town club and participated in the football and cricket matches. Of course, then great football players like Brahmananda  Mohapatra, Subodh kumar Biswas Nand Amiya kumar Sen gave him strong encouragement.

            Meanwhile the freedom struggle had entered a critical phase and in 1942. Bhairab Babu quit service in the Orissa secretariat to join the freedom movement. He was among the very few who opposed Indian support for the British in the second world war and between 1942-45, he was in and out of jail sometime like a fugitive on the run and sometime distributing pamphlets to incite people to join the Gandhian movement. Overexertion had its toll on his health and he was imprisoned with sores and scars all over his body. He was removed to the hospital in 1945 and it was here for the first time he met Dr. Harekrishna Mahatab, who had come to visit him.Bhairab Babu often recalled this meeting with great nostalgia and tears in his eyes. He always used to say that meeting was more like the first meeting between Drona and Arjuna or between Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. Dr.Mahtab also recalled this meeting after the sudden death of Bhairab Babu at Moscow. In his obituary(July 1980) Dr. Mahtab wrote- when I first met him, he asked me, how far is independence? I answered, dawn is approaching independence is not far off.

           Till then Bhairab Babu had been in the freedom struggle largely because of an emotional bonding but he lacked the guidance of an ideal leader. He was still to find a direction and purpose. This chance meeting with the greatest stalwart of orissa gave a new dimension that shaped the future political career of Bhairab Babu. The year 1946 marked of a turning point in Bhairab Babu’s career, for it witnessed the manifestation of thev ersatility of this man. He emerged as a succesed the manifestation of the versatility of this man. He emerged as a successful legislator, administrator, journalist and above all a veteran sports organizer. In 1941, he was elected to the Orissa legislative Assembly from the kissanagar constituency for a five year period.Subsequently, he was elected from the Gobindpur constituency in 1952 and from the katak city constituency in 1971, As member of the legislative Assembly in1946, he became member of the pay committee. In 1946 he was appointed the first Editor of the Oriya Daily Prajatantra established by Dr. Harekrushna Mahtab, again in 1949 with the launching of the English Daily Eastern Times by Dr. Mahtab, Bhairab Babu became its first editor too. While he was the editor of the Prajatantra, the Meena Bazaar, for the development of children’s literaryqualities, was initiated.

               The trials, turmoil’s and tribulations in Bhairab Babu’s political career were many. There are several incidents and intricate political developments in the life of Bhairab Babu as a member of the Legislative Assembly as a Minister and as a member of parliament, which one could narrate at length. But this article is largely confined to his contribution towards the evaluation and development of sports culture in Orissa. His political philosophy can be summed up in his words when he said.The Majority party installs the political apparatus to govern. But the Government is nonpolitical.

      During his life time he visited several foreign counties assuming various responsibilities and in various capacities as manager and Treasurer. In 1954, he visited Manila, Philippines,as the Manager of the Indian Football Team, to participate in the Asian Games.His first visit to Moscow was in 1955 as the joint Manager of the Indian Football Team. In 1958, he was a member of the Indian Delegation to participate in the world Disarmament conference at Stockholm.As Treasurer of the Indian Cricket Team he went to England in 1974 and in 1978 he visited East Germany as the leader of the Indian culture Delegation. While in Moscow in 1955, news reached him that there was a breach in the famous Dalei Ghai and he emmediately returned to Orissa for relief of the flood devastated people. On behalf of the Orissa Olympic Association, he organized the Barabati Rafflef lood Relief fund. As mentioned earlier, despite the vicissitudes of a fluctuating political career, and often undergoing severe financial strain,Bhairab Babu never gave up. His indomitable strength of mind and exemplary spirit of determination, gave him the courage to move on tragically enough, it was during this lean phase in his political career that he visualized and executed the creation of the paradise of sports Lovers the Barabati stadium. With the shifting of the capital to Bhubaneswar, the ancient city of katak was gradually being depleted of its former grander.But katak still continues to be the citadel of sports in Orissa, since it is here that the nationally acclaimed Barabati stadium has raised its head. The history of Orissan  Sport and the historyof Barabati stadium, is the history of life and achievements of Bhairab Babu.Since 1947 for more than 33 years, he spent more than half of his life span to nourish and develop the Barabati stadium. A visionary and a dreamer, he was also a schemer who conceptualized and visualized the creation of a composite stadium having a comprehensive character. Long before fully covered Stadium could be conceived of in any other part of India, Bhairab Babu had started working upon the setting up of a massive concrete stature that would become the cynosure of all lover of sport. Having a deep attraction towards games and sports, he had a firm conviction that nation building was possible through the medium of sports since sports and strict discipline were inseparable twins andfor nation- building was a basic ingredient.

      Since Bhairab Babu was deeply associated with sports in Orissa for the greater part of his life it would be pertinent to give a brief i.e about the growth and development of sports in thestate long before the dawn of the twentieth century, katak was the centre for cricket, football, tennis and Athletic activities. But such activities were confined only to Europeans. For football various trophies were instituted. Beginning in 1905 was the k.G. Gupta cup, the Prusly cup in 1908 and in 1909 was instituted the art ware shield in the name of Utkal Gourav Madhusudan Das. For cricket in 1911 came the Sudhansu Cup and the Uma Charan Cup in 1919 was instituted for Hockey. In 1910 kanika Cup was awarded for Athletic and in 1911 the Gurtoo Coronation Cup was instituted for Tennis. Besides, there were several other trophies through which various sports contests were conducted in Orissa. But these events were again confined to katak, Berhampur, Parlakhemundi, Baripada and khurda. The Orissa athletic Association was conducting these sports activities since 1909. But it was onlyin 1947 that the Orissa Olympic Association came into being as an effective sports control and developing body in Orissa. Dr harekrushna Mahtab was the lifetime president of this association and Bhairab Babu became the secretary.Till then, however, the Orissa Athletic Association was being conducted by Shri Peari Shankar Roy.

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