Kailash Chandra Dash
Gopabandhu Choudhury(1895 to 1958) was a famous Gandhian leader and social activist in Odisha from 1921 till 1958. He had great contribution to the Congress movement of Mahatma Gandhi in Odisha. He was the son of Gokulananda Choudhury who belonged to Kherasa of Jagatsinghpur who was a great associate of Madhusudan Das in the Utkala Sabha and Utkala Sammilani. Gopabandhu was born in 1895 on May 8 in Cuttack in a building which became famous later on as Swarajya Sharma. He passed his Matriculation in 1908 from Cuttack Collegiate School in First class. He got FA degree from Ravenshaw College Cuttack in 1910 and then entered into Presidency College Calcutta where he completed his BA(Hons) in 1912 and MA in Mathematics in 1914. He had also law course in Calcutta University in 1916. But he could not complete it and entered into service from 1917. He joined Bihar Orissa Government Service as deputy magistrate. In 1919 he was associated with others in the establishment of Bharati Mandira lIbrary in Cuttack which was meant for political activities and studies. In 1920 he was a deputy magistrate in Jajpur and inspected the flood affected areas in Barua and Bari. He was moved by the actual suffering of the people of the areas there. When there was a famine in that area the Sub-divisional officer asked him to submit a report contrary to the actual fact to which he did not agree and consequently he resigned government job. He then joined the non-cooperation movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
Gopabandhu Choudhury was inspired to participate in the Gandhian programmes by Gopabandhu Das and it began the most significant part of his life which continued till his death.He became a member of the Odisha Congress Committee and also a permanent member of the Utkala Sammilani. His most significant work in this phase of Gandhian struggle for Swaraj was the establishment of Alakashrama in Jagatsinghpur in January 1922. He experimented Gandhian system of rural reconstruction and education in this ashrama. In 1922 he was a member of the All India Charkaha Sangha and this enabled him to take up the work of spinning and weaving in rural areas successfully. Under his guidance and supervision and with the collaboration of Bhagirathi Mahapatra, Pranakrushna Padhihari and many other Congress activists Alakashrama became well known as a famous Gandhian centre of constructive activities from 1922 to 1928.
In 1924 he was the Chairman of Cuttack District Board. Utkala Provincial Congress Committee had its first session on 28th June 1924 in Cuttack and Gopabandhu had a significant role in it as the Chairman of the Reception Committee. There he presented a brilliant discourse on Gandhian struggle for Swaraj and the active participation of Odisha in it. He had deep appreciation for Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy who was the president of that famous session. Gopanadhu in his address presented the significance of Khadar for the development of Odisha. He had all regard and appreciation for Madhusudan Das who for the first time in Odisha aroused the feeling of nationalism and identity. He described the problems in Odisha such as flood, famine and scarcity as well as deadly diseases like Malaria and Cholera. He wanted the Congress to take up all these crucial social issues and to experiment Gandhian constructive programmes. He also spoke on the abolition of untouchability in Odisha-the Land of Jagannatha which was accepted as the centre of the union of Brahmins and Patitas.
From 1924 he was more busy in implementing Gandhian programmes like spinning and weaving through Charkha. In 1925 he became the secretary of the Odisha branch of All india Charkha Sangha. Then he realised that nothing can be done in power politics as long as there is no mass consciousness. For this purpose intensive constructive works in rural areas by dedicated social activists without thinking of active politics is essential. After the death of Gopabandhu he was in charge of Gandhi Seva Sangha in Odisha and remained busy in implementing charkha works. In 1930 he became famous as the leader(Senapati) of the Civil disobedience movement and Salt Satyagraha launched by Mahatma Gandhi. Consequently he was arrested on 6th April 1930 and courted imprisonment till March 1931. After his return from the prison he was busy in Harijan works in 1932 and 1933. He also became a member of All India Harijan Sevak Sangha . He had also a great role and involvement in 1934 in the Harijana Yatra or Patitapabana Yatra of Mahatma Gandhi in Odisha from 6th May 1934 to 2nd June 1934. During this also from August 1934 his most significant work was the establishment of Seva Ghara in Bairi in Jajpur in the village Bagda which became a great centre of Gandhian constructive works.This Sevaghara of Bairi was run on the same lines as the famous Ashrama of Mahatma Gandhi in Wardha and its main activities were spinning , cultivation of cottage industries and following the rules of life prescribed by the Gandhian Seva Sangha. It was very active till the 1940s. From Bairi Sevaghara he edited Satyagrahi, a magazine from 1939. It mostly published translations from the Harijana. In 1938 there was the great Gandhi Seva Sangha Conference in Delanga(Puri) in which Choudhury had a significant role. He also then edited the magazine the Grama Seva Sangha. He was also the president of Basic education board for the spread of basis education in rural areas. He had an active involvement in the Quit India Movement of Mahatma Gandhi and courted imprisonment from 1942 till 1945. After his return from the prison in June 1945 he established Utkala Navajibana Mandala and then also Bari was his active centre. He was a key associate of Sarvodaya Samaj and was the chief Secretary of All India Sarvodaya Sangha. He became associated with the famous Bhoodan movement in the 1950s and then he toured the districts like Koraput for widening Bhoodan activities. He breathed his last on 29th April 1958 after a long and eventful career of implementing Gandhian programmes in rural Odisha.
Gopabandhu Choudhury had imperishable contribution in spreading Gandhian activities through literature. He published an important work entitled Gandhiji and Odisha which was a compilation of Gandhi’s march to Odisha from 1921 to 1938. In 1945 he also published from Bari Sevaghara his famous book entitled Chasi Mulia Gandhi . He translated into Odia several works of Mahatma Gandhi like Satyara Prayoga or Atma Katha and Delhi Diary in 1950. Gopabandhu Choudhury and his Gandhian programmes have been brilliantly presented in Dhuli Matira Santha of Gopinath Mohanty and Biplavi Gopabandhu by Annapurna Das which contain comprehensive studies . Despite critical remarks by the famous Gandhian leader Gobinda Mishra in his autobiography Jatiya Jibanara Atma Bikash in 1958 and several serious notes on him in Deshkatha, Niankhunta Gopabandhu Choudhury was the most significant Gandhian leader in action in Odisha. He had undertaken comprehensive Gandhian programmes of Mahatma Gandhi from 1921 till his death without interruption. I would like to offer respectful tribute in his memory in his birthday anniversary on May 8 2020 particularly in the context of Mahatma Gandhi`s 150 years completion celebration.