India’s independence and its history have always been written from the point of view of Delhi. With leaders of great national importance always sidelined to the corner. In this Delhi-based history maximum focus was given to the Nehru-Gandhi hegemony who are credited with most of the development in the country with great leaders often getting sidelined from national history & politics and just remain a meagre regional figure. One such great person was ‘Bhoomi Putra’ ‘Sher e Utkal ‘ ‘India’s Bucaneer’ Biju Patnaik. Whose history and contribution has been completely wiped out from the national politics.
Born as Bijayananda Patnaik, was also fondly called as Biju Babu. He completed his pilot training from Delhi Flying Club and was one of the few daredevil pilots in pre-independent India.
Biju Patnaik became close to Nehru in his early days due to his association with the Quit India movement where he was jailed for a brief period of two years in 1943. He was one of the few pilots in colonised India who has helped the Russians during 2nd world war against Hitler’s army and thus being awarded the title of ‘Order of Lenin’ by the Russian government.
Becoming the Bhumi Putra for Indonesia:
Nehru was sympathetic to the Indonesian freedom struggle and considered it as a potential ally. In July 1947 when the Dutch launched a mass scale attack to suppress the Indonesian freedom movement, president Sukarno instructed Sultan Sjahrir to leave the country immediately to attend the 1st Inter-Asia conference and create International public opinion against the foreign oppression. Sjahrir couldn’t move out of the country as all Air & Sea routes were controlled by the Dutch government. Nehru sought help from Biju Patnaik since he was one of the few expert pilot’s who could undertake such a daring act. He flew to Jakarta(Java) in extremely dangerous conditions where his aircraft could have been shot down any moment. He brought back Sultan Sjahrir safely in his Dakota reaching India via Singapore on 24 July 1947. Indonesia gave him an honorary citizenship and awarded him with the highest civilian award ‘Bhoomi Putra’ which is rarely given to a foreigner.
He was also awarded ‘Bintang Jasu Utama’ on Indonesia’s 50th Independence day.
The pilot who saved Kashmir:
Biju Patnaik was instrumental in saving Jammu & Kashmir from the raiding invaders.
Although an Instrument of Accession was signed by the Last King of Kashmir- Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Pakistani invaders attacked Kashmir, killing and looting people on the way. Nehru asked Biju Patnaik for help and he landed at the dawn of 27 October 1947 bringing 17 soldiers of Sikh regiment along with him. He flew at a very low level to look around whether the enemy had already taken over the airport or not, since Nehru had given very clear instructions to not land his DC-3 if he had detected Pakistani presence there. This is a very vital fact in India’s Kashmir history not told by many people, because if we had lost Srinagar in 1947 Kashmir War we would have lost the entire territory of Jammu & Kashmir and with most of the roads blocked by the invading forces, securing the Srinagar airport and sending troops through it was the deciding factor in India’s takeover of Kashmir
Role in Indo-China war 1962 & Indo-Pak war 1965:
Biju Patnaik was considered the unofficial advisor to Nehru during the 1962 Sino-Indian war and his familiarities with respect to strategic warfare baffled Nehru, he fondly called him as ‘India’s Bucaneer’. During the 1965 Indo-Pak war, he was sent as an envoy to meet Dr. Sukarno, the Indonesian president so that they don’t supply their warships to Pakistan for an attack on Bangladesh in the disguise of Muslim Brotherhood. Sukarno happily obliged to his request on the basis of his contribution to the Indonesian freedom struggle against the Dutch.
It is a sad fact that a person of this stature has just been relegated to a position of a regional hero, with people hardly knowing his name outside his home state. It’s time the current populace and Government of Orissa take steps in restoring the name of this Hero of mother India on a national platform which can inspire crores of people across the country to follow him.
He once said “Be loyal not to me but to the destiny of the State. Odisha is a rich state where poor people live. Be a pride to your State and not a shame”.