The Paika rebellion was one of the most significant events that took place in the history of Odisha. Also known as ‘Paika Bidroha’ was an armed rebellion against the British East India company’s rule in 1817. It briefly shook the foundations of the British rule in the eastern part of India.
The Paikas were the traditional militia of Odisha who rendered military services to the kings during the times of war while taking up cultivation during the time of peace. So the story here begins from the rule of Maratha in 1803, however, after the second Anglo-Maratha war, the Maratha were forced to cede most of what is today’s Odisha to the British rule. The people of Orissa thought that giving away their land to the Britishers would save them from the exploitation of Maratha.
The Paika rebellion had several social, economical and political reasons and the Britishers, therefore, took over the rent-free lands after the conquest of Khurda. The hopes and aspirations of the people of the Odisha got shattered on the rock of frustration when they experienced the administrative structure and economic exploitation. People were also subjected to oppression and suppression at the hands of the new rule and its servants. Added to these miseries, were the faulty land revenue policies, salt monopoly, and deprivation of allowances and basic human rights too, in some cases.
The Paikas played a major role in acting as rebellion along with locals of the nearby villages like Ghumusar and took active participation in whatever they did. The Paikas then attacked the British symbols of power, set ablaze police stations, administrative offices, and the treasury. The rebellion enjoyed widespread support in Oriya society with feudal chiefs, common people and zamindars participating in it.
Today if you go to see, not many people are aware of this tribe called ‘Paika’. The result of the fight was that there was suppression followed by many killed and imprisoned. Though the Paika Bidroha enjoys a cult status in Odisha, with children growing up listening to the stories of the brave, it has unfortunately received less attention at the national level than it should’ve got. Today the government has put efforts to recognize this as a part of their history by commemorating its 200 anniversary in a befitting manner.