Birendra Nayak

Gopa Babu Resigned from the Government Job

Society of His Dream

Why did Gopa Babu quit the job?

Independence Achieved: Gopa Babu went on a Fast

Entire Family Joins the Freedom Movement Disappointment
Constructive and Political Work: Gopa Babu's Slyle Boycotting the Election
‘Swimming with Gandhi’ Rebellious Gopa Babu
No Greed for Power: To Strengthen the Congress was only Goal Opposed to Funded Voluntarism
National Interest Vs. Provincial Interest Gopa Babu-in a Nutshell
Bari: His Second Place of Work Had Gopa Babu been Alive

[Orissa, which is recently re-christened, as Odisha is a coastal province situated in the eastern part of India. It has been in official accounts, be it in the British India or independent India, held as one of the poorest amongst Indian provinces. Even seventy years after independence this province appears in the category of ‘least developed states’ a euphemism for the poorest. But that in such poorest state there were individuals who were remarkable social activists, and original thinkers had hardly been known to the outside world. It could be that in many similarly situated regions in the world such individuals must have had their salutary role in serving the people of the region, yet have remained unknown outside. The identities of such personalities should cross the borders of their respective regions and be put in the public domain for the benefit of scholars. Gopabandhu Chowdhuri was one such individual in Odisha about whom almost nothing is known to the outside world. Google search hardly yields any result. This article, which is reproduced, after minor editing, from another publication, was written almost two decades ago. ‘Chaudhury’ in original article is replaced by ‘Chowdhuri’ as this form was used by Gopabandhu himself. This is evident from the cover page of the notebook (photo- copy provided here) he was using as a political prisoner in Hazaribagh Jail. -Editor]

It is not difficult to realise that most of those who were the forerunners in the freedom movement had the background which had/ would have assured them a very comfortable living and status in the-then social milieu under the British rule. Yet, the fact that they decided to jump into the freedom movement, opposed the British rule, preferred jail, suffered torture, made each one of them the center of public attraction. This signaled a message: if people from rich families, people in high government positions, people with privileged backgrounds could jump into the freedom movement, then a common man whose life was as such full of miseries should not hesitate to join the movement. Our historians and biographers mostly choose such personalities to write about, as their sacrifices are more visible than that of a common man.

Gopabandhu Chowdhuri (popularly known as Gopa Babu) was a man of such privileged background. Born (on 8th May 1895) in a family of Zamindars (Zamindars of village Kheras near Jagatsinghpur, in Cuttack district), son of a well known lawyer (Gokulananda Chowdhuri, a leader of Utkal Sammilani & Vice-Chairman of Cuttack District Board), son-in-law of a highly placed British Government official (Gopal Ballav Das, Deputy Magistrate, younger brother of Utkal Gaurav Madhusudan Das), he himself was a highly educated person (passed M.A. in Mathematics from Presidency College, Calcutta University in the year 1914, and Preliminary law from the same University in the year1917) and was a deputy magistrate (Joined the service in the year 1917 at Cuttack ) in the British Government.



Gopa Babu Resigned from the Government Job

In early 1921 when he had hardly completed four years of the Government Service, he tendered his resignation from the Government job and decided to engage the rest of life in the service of the country. Such unprecedented decision of Gopa Babu, not only, took the people of odisha by surprise but also became national news. In the words of Gopinath Mohany , Jnanpitha Award Winner and a celebrated Oriya novelist and a biographer of Gopa Babu(Mohanty, 1985,p.47):

“There was a tremor in Orissa. Almost all the newspapers reported the incident. People came running to him. Friends and relatives were shocked. They came to find the reasons for such unusual step. The people in freedom movement however, came to congratulate him. Everywhere they were talking, 'Gopa Babu had resigned’. "

Needless to say, the incident of resignation, which was undoubtedly an extraordinary step and manifestly a bold decision, brought Gopa Babu immediately to the centre stage of the freedom movement. Though in the eyes of the people, it was a great sacrifice yet he never considered mere resignation from the job could be a great sacrifice. He had a different vision of sacrifice. 'Sacrifice ', according to him, ‘is an ultimate state, extremely blissful, which is reached after a long process of self purification and perseverance’ . Temperamentally Gopa Babu was averse to all kinds of honorifics, more so, to be addressed as Tyagavir: a man who had made supreme sacrifice. He was afraid that such honorifics might hinder the process of his amalgamation with common man. In 1956, he turned down the Utkal University's offer to award him honorary Ph.D. with the remark, “No more degrees. The education has separated me from my colleagues. " (ibid,p.487).

Why did Gopa Babu quit the job?

In his unfinished autobiography, Gopa Babu had written, "The desire to experience a Satwika life had overtaken me. I decided to try my luck, by jumping into an independent work environment." (ibid,p.46)

In fact in his letter of resignation, he wrote, "Man has no scope to develop in this job. ” (ibid,p.47)

No sooner did he quit this job than he jumped into the freedom movement. He threw away western dress, donned home spun clothes—the Khaddar, made spinning wheel, the Charkha, his constant companion, removed every article of comfort from his living, became a vegetarian and began living like an ordinary man. As if this was not enough, he sometimes had earned his living by working as a labourer in the agriculture fields of farmers.

The picture of Gopa Babu, that emerges here, reminds one Rabindranath Tagore's description of Gandhi, done as early as 1920, which depicts Gandhi's 'passionate self identification with the needy and destitute'. In Poet's words, Gandhi had come to these needy destitutes, ‘clad as one of themselves, talking to them in their own language. Here was the truth at last. The name of Mahatma was his true name. Who else has felt so many men of India to be his own flesh and blood? Truth awakened truth‘(Patel and Sykes, 1996, p.16)

Gopa Babu, indeed, had internalized Gandhi and saw the source of his contemplated, blissful life to be lying in the self identification with common man while serving the cause of the freedom movement.

Entire Family Joins the Freedom Movement

He, nevertheless, wanted his family members to experience the blissful life he was contemplating. He believed that unless he succeeded to involve his entire family in the work for the country, his lone participation would be inadequate, if not meaningless. He had expressed it before Utkalmani Pandit Gopabandhu Das, the harbinger of the freedom movement in Orissa, when the latter asked the former to join him in his struggle for freedom. In his dairy, dated 22/23 November 1930, Gopa Babu had written, "Since the day I quit my job and became a follower 0f Mahatma Gandhi, it has been my strong desire to see myself and the members of my family to jump wholly onto the altar of sacrifice for the welfare of my country."(Mohanty, 1985,p.120)

In fact he had entered these lines in his diary with a great satisfaction, as by then his wife, Ramadevi, had already been imprisoned and son, Manmohan, was beaten by the British police while staging a demonstration.

Many efforts of Gopa Babu had been unsuccessful, many of his dreams had remained unfulfilled but his effort to involve his entire family in the freedom struggle was a total success. In the first memorial issue of Gramsevak, dated 15th May I9S8, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, while paying tribute to Gopa Babu, had written:

"He was a Mahatma. But his method of changing one's heart was somewhat different. He could change the hearts of all his family members. A man can be a Mahatma for the whole world. But whether he is counted as a Mahatma by his family or not remains to be the most important consideration. ….I do not know any family in India as this family.” (ibid, pp.511-512)

Thus not only for himself but for the entire family Gopa Babu succeeded in creating an opportunity to experience the spiritual happiness flowing from serving one's own country. The ecstasy of liberation that Gopa Babu had felt after resigning from his Government job, has been very vividly captured by his biographer Gopinath Mohanty when he writes: _

"He left the job. Inside him was surging the ecstasy of liberation love for humanity. From everywhere, the hands of co-operation were stretched out to him. This pressure of work was mounting. Not a single moment should be wasted. He was wondering at the vastness of the field of his work.” (ibid, p.49)

Constructive and Political Work: Gopa Babu's Slyle

He selected Jagatsinghpur, then in Cuttack district as his first place of work ; Alakashrama was founded in the month of January 1922. Before that a national school, the one, which would run without any grant from the Goverment, had already begun functioning since 8th May 1921. Along with imparting education, began cleaning and sanitation work and the programmes to fight the diseases like cholera and malaria. Besides Gopa Babu was also politically active. He believed that the first task is to respond to the call of Gandhi to liberate the country from the yoke of the British rule. So, when in 1921, for the first time, it was decided that Orissa should be represented in AICC, he was naturally one of the members selected to represent Orissa. His responsibility in Orissa was to give publicity to the Congress, to expand its organisational base, to remain in charge of the Congress office and to manage the Congress establishment. He discharged his duties with admirable efficiency.

In 1924, Gopa Babu was elected as the Chairman of Cuttack District Board defeating his own uncle-in-law who was an ex-district collector. He was then only thirty years old. But he demonstrated through his own conduct and living, how a people's representative should be. He believed that a leader should be the symbol of the poorest in the society. His responsibility demanded that he should travel into the interior of the districts. He was doing it either on cycle or on foot. His dress was extremely simple: a hand woven dhoti barely crossing his knees, a sheet of cloth covering his bare upper half of the body, he was moving bare footed, from village to village, carrying his own luggage. His food was coarse rice, boiled vegetables, parched rice with molasses—a typical Oriya breakfast. He never accepted any presentation from anybody. He never accepted any rich man's hospitality. He stayed either in Dak bungalow or in some poor man's hut. He was a ceaseless wanderer. But he had serious reservation towards accepting Traveling Allowance (TA). It was after much persuasion that he agreed to accept traveling allowance but only that much what he spent on travel. Instances are there when he had accepted only Rs. 8.00 when he was entitled for Rs. 100.00. Others never followed his example but he never wavered.

‘Swimming with Gandhi’

In political life, he was a complete Congressman with unflinching faith in Gandhi. His devotion to Gandhi was total so much so that when Gopa Babu was down with typhoid, as early as 1925, Gandhi came in his dreams and in his own words, “I was swimming with Gandhi in the sea. ” (ibid, p.122)

No Greed for Power: To Strengthen the Congress was only Goal

He never intended to capture power for himself. His goal was to strengthen the Congress. Because, he believed that a strong Congress alone could lead to achieving independence. He had written to Acharya Harihar one of his illustrious compatriots, " I decided not to contest for Provincial Legislative Assembly. A group of Congress workers is to be formed. They would not sit on any committee, would not be members of any Board. They would remain as humble Congress workers and sacrifice everything to strengthen the Congress.”(ibid, p.226) But he was conscious that others might make him stepping stone to attain for themselves name, fame, material success and status. He was skeptic though about people joining such group, nevertheless felt its necessity, even if he had to remain its lone member. He never cared if anybody joined him or not. He remained resolved to strengthen the Congress as a humble Congress worker. Yet whenever the Congress faced crisis; he never shirked to assume leadership. In 1938 it was at a very critical moment for Orissa Congress, when the difference between two top leaders viz., Dr. H.K. Mahatab and Pandit Nilakantha Das had become acute, he assumed the presidentship of Utkal Provincial Congress committees consequent upon Dr. Mahatab's resignation as the president. His wholehearted involvement in Khadi movement was also aimed at strengthening the Congress. He believed that Khadi work was the only unfailing means to strengthen the Congress from below. He also believed that the Gandhian ideal was the soul of the Congress. The Congress bereft of Gandhian ideal was unacceptable to him. As early as I940, he wrote, "If Gandhian ideal vanishes from the Congress, then what would happen to the Congress?”(ibid, pp.235-36)

National Interest Vs. Provincial Interest

For Gopa Babu, the freedom movement under the leadership of the Congress and the Congress under the leadership of Gandhi remained as the most important considerations. So, he could not participate in the movement for a separate province under the aegis of the Utkal Sammilani. He was misunderstood for this. It is not that he was not eager for a separate province of Orissa. In a public meeting, as early as 1924, he had said, “ The Utkal province is lying fragmented in different provinces. Therefore, there are so many problems." (ibid, p.79) He had identified the fragmented state of Utkal to be the root cause of the absence of Oriya nationality. But he was convinced that the soft manner in which the Utkal Sammilani was demanding for a unitary province of Orissa, it would hardly create any impact on the British government. In his words, “The British Government would not concede to the demand, for the fear that if integrated, the community may rise.”(ibid.p.79)He believed that the Government would concede to the demand only when it is voiced, through agitations. So, in explaining his reasons for severing connections with the Utkal Sammilani, Gopa Babu had written:

"In my opinion, given the present state of Utkal Sammilani, the strategy necessary for integration cannot succeed through an independent movement by the Sammilani. To succeed, the moderate approach of petitioning the Government will not work. On the contrary, the extreme steps like civil disobedience, Satyagrah, refusal to pay taxes are necessary. And an independent organisation like the Utkal Sammilani is not required to prepare people for such steps. Rather they could be prepared for such steps through the agenda of action that the Congress has taken up."(ibid.p.77)

Bari: His Second Place of Work

In 1934, Mahatma Gandhi had undertaken padyatra in Orissa. One of the places he walked during his Joumey was Bari, a remote village in JaJpur subdivision of the then Cuttack district. This village was regularly hit by the all devouring flood. Jajpur was the place where Gopa Babu was an officer during his days in the Government service and therefore, was well acquainted with every nook and corner of the subdivision. While walking the villages, Gandhi told Gopa Babu," If the people work in the right way in the places I have walked through, they can grow gold at every step.”(ibid.p.149). Gandhi suggested Gopa Babu to choose one of such villages and to stay there to do constructive work. Gopa Babu selected Bari to stay and work. In the list of the contents of his incomplete autobiography one finds single line entered as: Sl. No. 26, came to the village Renounced politics. (ibid.p.152), Gopa Babu with his family and a few followers came to Bari on 13th August 1934. In fact, the idea to bid adieu to direct politics, yet remaining as a Congress worker,

Society of His Dream

It was during his Bari days that Gopa Babu outlined the society of his dream. In his words,

"We are a bunch of individuals moving ahead with the ultimate aim of undertaking constructive work ………The basic fact behind the creation of a non-violent society is that, in such society, there will be no exploitation. The non-violent society will not be a factory-based society. So, the rural civilization, particularly, the civilization based on the rural industries is the objective. Gandhi has said it. Gandhi has also said, if some one wants to be personally non-violent, then it is necessary that he should have pro-village perspective." (ibid.pp.152-53),

Besides, Gopa Babu believed that such person should have complete faith in Gandhi's work of social reconstruction. In village Bari, through various programmes of action, Gopa Babu made attempts not only to be non-violent himself but also to create a non-violent society. His programmes included village cleaning, teaching Dalits 3 RS., empowering them to fight exploitation by Zamindars, setting up village industries like tanning, leather products manufacturing units, unit to produce molasses from palm and date palm, unit to manufacture simple machines necessary for spinning khadi, units to manufacture soap and produce paper. He also initiated local people into vocation like bee keeping , diary, basket and mattress making. He trained them to grow vegetable i.e. tomato, cauliflower, etc., which were unknown to them. He also taught them planting various fruit bearing trees and creepers. The tradition of growing vegetable that began in those days still continues and the entire region, including Bari and its adjacent area, enjoy today the reputation of being one of the most successful vegetable producing areas. Besides his attempts to strengthen the village people economically and make them self-reliant, he also remained eager to see that the villagers lead a healthy social life and overcome the barriers of caste and religion. He could persuade the villagers, as early as 1936, to allow Dalit’s entry into the temple of Baldevjiu. He and his wife Ramadevi solemnized a marriage between a Brahmin boy and a Dalit girl. In his presence, the barrier between caste Hindus and Dalits was melting away. He was also keen to see that the unity and cordiality between Hindus and Muslims remain maintained. In his campaign, he used to claim that he was half Muslim because in his childhood, a Muslim woman had suckled him as his mother had insufficient milk.

While undertaking such constructive programmes, he demonstrated through action his resolve to be self-dependent. He earned his livelihood at the expense of his own eight hours daily labour. He was as if following Gandhi’s command: Whoever devolves eight hours daily to any socially useful work is entitled to get a living.(Gandhi, 1928) He believed that if every worker could demonstrate such resolve through action, then his/her credibility would soar amongst the common villagers and the movement for Swarajya (Self Rule) would succeed; a self reliant, non-violent society would become a reality. In his words, “The real publicity does not lie in words. To demonstrate through action is the real publicity.’’(Mohanty, 1985,268)

Independence Achieved: Gopa Babu went on a Fast

It was strange that when the entire country was celebrating the Independence of the country on 15th August 1947, Gopa Babu was on a fast denying himself even a drop of water. He was extremely pensive and was worried: could the country with its newfound independence manage itself‘? Gopa Babu’s biographer, Gopinath Mohanty, describes Gopa Babu's mental state in the following words:

"He was thinking about the condition of the country, its problems and its future. Only emotions would not serve the purpose. Work has to be done. Responsibility has to be shouldered and discharged. Independence is achieved. The responsibility has increased thousand fold. No more we can shirk our responsibility by blaming the British Rule. Now the entire responsibility has come upon us; it has to be carried out. The primary objective is, however, to strengthen the foundation of the country. Otherwise 'Ramarajya' of Gandhi can never be established. According to Gopa Babu, 'Ramarajya' of Gandhi envisages non-violent, self-reliant society without any exploitation where common men would be the architects of such society." (ibid.p.291)

Gopa Babu believed that, without strengthening the foundation of the country whatever is done in other fields, it is not going to stick, let alone be absorbed.

Gopa Babu had understood that such a society could be created only through constructive work. So the work and activities, he began in Bari before independence, he continued those after independence though, in the post-independent India the number of constructive workers had begun dwindling against the increase in the number of political workers. Yet, in Sevagram in the, year 1948, from 13th March to 15th March, those dwindling number of workers, interested in constructive work, assembled. Gopa Babu was one of them. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Jayprakash Narayan, Mrs. Aruna Asaf Ali were also present. The decision was taken to create “Sarvodaya Samaj”. The objectives set were in agreement with the objective that Gopabandhu had set for his dream society. So, he involved himself in the constructive work with more enthusiasm and vigour.


The power was in the hands of the Congress and the Congress was incessantly declaring its faith in the Gandhian ideology. Gopabandhu was himself a devout Gandhite and a staunch Congressman. So, he would have certainly expected not to face any difficulty in fulfilling his resolve to create a self-reliant society free from all kinds of inequalities and economic disparities. But it did not happen that way. He found to his utter dismay that the section of the Congress workers, which held the reign of power in the Government had already turned itself away from the Gandhian principles. By 1950, Gopa Babu had come to realise that the Congress party had changed and its character had fallen. And in him, was rising the thought to revolt. In his words, "AII around one finds violence. We have to face everybody, the people, the Government and the communalism. We cannot remain complacent by chanting the mantra of non-violence. " (ibid.p.306),

He could see the violation of the Gandhian idealism during the Congress rule and that too by the Congressmen whom he knew so intimately! Gopa Babu had written,

"The urgent need of the hour is to empower people so that they can at any time bring the Government that has failed its people, to order and need not have to wait for five years, till the next election. Those who can convince us that they will help or take the leadership to oppose injustice, they alone should be voted." (ibid.p.312),

Before independence, as an active Congress worker, the real work, of Gopa Babu was to arouse public opinion. In independent India, that essentially remained his work, to arouse public opinion against the failings and failures of the ruling class. During those days, he took a crucial decision: he would not vote in the election. And he made his decision public.

Boycotting the Election

Gopa Babu delineated four principal reasons for his decision to boycott the election. They were(ibid.p.313),:

  1. ‘The Congress has ruled for five years but it has not given any thought to the welfare of the people.‘

  2. ‘No political party is pro-farmer and pro-farm labourer.’

  3. ‘Through the present process of election the educated and moneyed people alone become more powerful; not the illiterate and poor people. If there is no way to reduce the power of the educated and moneyed people then no good can be done to the people by power captured through voting. The educated and moneyed people will only raise their power.’

  4. ‘If one wishes that the country should have a ruling machinery and economic system that would not only help poor but also will be run by the poor, then the present ruling system and economic system do not confirm to our expectation. So, a new system of Governance and economy has to be created. What is existing has to be demolished.’

Gopa Babu has observed that, during the Congress rule, the educated and moneyed people were becoming more and more influential and powerful whereas the illiterate and poor people were increasingly getting marginalised. He was almost convinced that the poor and illiterate had no place in the existing government and in the prevailing economic system. So, he was questioning the means of election to capture such power, and consequently decided not to vote.

Today, in India there are some ultra Communist Parties who argue almost in the same Line as Gopa Babu did four and a half decades ago and give call to boycott the election. One wonders at the similarity between the devout Gandhite Gopa Babu's thinking and the present thinking of these ultra Communists.

When one looks at the today's ruling establishment, the economic system and the election process, the apprehensions of Gopa Babu hardly appear to be exaggerated. Rather they have become realities. About democracy, he had once remarked, "The democracy in which people do not have power to resist or correct the misuse of power, that is not a living democracy. ” (ibid.p.568)

The disillusionment with the Congress rule and the rulers must have been a very sad experience for Gopa Babu. This was probably the reason for which Gopa Babu, in 1952, joined the Bhoodan movement led by Acharya Vinoba Bhave.

Rebellious Gopa Babu

Gopa Babu had many radical ideas which later day ultra Communists are heard to be expressing. Yet Gopa Babu Remained a died-hard Gandhite and believed that his dream-society, based on the Gandhian principle and ideal could be attained through the Bhoodan movement. He, therefore, Joined the movement. But never did the rebel in him hesitate to come out in his call to the people. In one of such calls, he once said,

"Come on, let us get together otherwise we are lost. The bad time is advancing to swallow the mankind. The humanity of the man is on decline. What is the gain in the growth of wealth or in the material comforts of mechanical civilisation? There is no peace, no affection, no independent view, no security. The society is burning with violence. Catastrophe has become inevitable. The poverty, wants and suffering are on the rise. In every field, there is centralisation. Extreme servitude, lack of self-respect, lack of personality, lack of happiness in life have become wide spread. Is man becoming a monster like a machine? In every sphere of the society, a few hold the key and make the majority dances to their tunes.” (ibid.p.450),

Opposed to Funded Voluntarism

Gopa Babu was involved in Bhodan movement. But soon his approach appeared different. In the villages, donated during the movement, it was decided to undertake constructive work. Sarva Seva Sangh was entrusted with the responsibility. Anna Saheb Sahasrabudhey, Secretary of Sarva Seva Sangh, argued in favour of getting such work done by the paid employees. The fund for the purpose, he argued, could be obtained from outside.

Gopa Babu could not agree with Sahasrabudheyji. How could he have? He had always wanted to create a self-reliant society. Describing Gopa Babu's thought on the funded voluntarism, his biographer Gopinath Mohanty writes:

"Gopa Babu was thinking ‘if the constructive work is done by obtaining funds from the outside of the local resources, then will people be inclined to become self-reliant? Rather they will learn to be dependent on others. Further money may become sole consideration. Greed may overwhelm the workers and may generate indiscipline and violence. The moral foundation may crumble..... when funds flow, can the workers remain steadfast on their views and maintain their sincerity? The primary objective is to create a healthy society on the foundation of the consciousness that collective responsibility generates. Non-violence will be hallmark of such society and exploitation will be absent there. If fund comes from the outside, will this objective any more attract the people?’” (ibid., 468)

Gopa Babu was convinced that the constructive work, in the realm of the Bhoodan movement, should not be done with the funds from the outside and by the outside workers; the local workers should be created and importance should be given to the voluntary workers, not to the workers getting salary for the purpose.

Gopa Babu was aware of the ill effects of the outside funding. He indicated that in a letter (dated 01 .09. 1 956) to one of this ardent followers, Sri Biswanath Patnaik , in the following words, "Now in Koraput, to undertake the constructive work with the funds from outside has become so widespread that no self-reliant effort is in sight. l have begun to believe that unless attempts are made to select workers who have faith in the philosophy of self-reliance, Bhoodan work will not be any different. Further you must be observing, how the allurement of the fund has destroyed our work at the state level.” (ibid.p.488),

This letter Gopa Babu had written as a reaction to the information that in Koraput district (of Orissa) many Bhoodan workers -were turning to become salaried constructive workers. The tradition of getting funds from the outside to undertake the constructive work that begun in those days could not be reversed despite Gopa Babu's sincere opposition. Today this has become a common place in the Indian society. Volunteers are now salaried persons with a new identity: Professional Social Workers.

Gopa Babu-in a Nutshell

What emerge from the above discussions on Gopa Babu's ideal, dream and personality are, in a nutshell, as follows:

  1. Gopa Babu was out and out a frank and straightforward person. What he thought, he said and what he said, he did. He believed in action. The advice he gave to others, he observed them in his living and conduct. In him, thought, word and action were welded into one.

  2. He was a Gandhite to a fault. He was opposed to violence. Never could he bring himself to support the armed revolution though he was convinced that the prevalent economic and ruling order was favorable to the educated and the rich. He believed that a healthy society could only be created on 'Gandhian ideals‘.

  3. ‘Village’ was his fundamental concern. He envisaged a prosperous society on the foundation of a strong and self-reliant village economy.

  4. He never held money as an important factor. Rather he was vexed with it being given so much importance. He saw in it a counter to his contemplated life of service to the people and the nation.

  5. He was averse to any kind of external assistance, external funding. He believed that this was against the idea of self-reliant development.

  6. He believed that a leader should live like a common man. He hated tokenism. On Gopa Babu's identification with common man Fakir Mishra, one of his close associates, comments, "He could make himself fully declassed.” (ibid.p.515),

Had Gopa Babu been Alive

With such living conduct, principle and attitude, had Gopa Babu been alive today how he would have reacted to the present social, cultural, political and economic environment in the country?

He would have, with a heavy heart, been observing how his apprehensions have become frighteningly real; the condition of the farmers and labourers has progressively deteriorated and the villages, which he always considered as the foundation of a healthy society, have collapsed in their moral, spiritual and material contents.

He would have been shocked to find how money is getting primacy in every sphere and its most ugly manifestation, i.e. profiteering is tearing the society apart with unprecedented inequality.

He would have been sad to see the society being overwhelmed by consumerism and the Gandhian ideal of simple living becoming its first casualty. He would not have missed to see the educated people whom he had always held with suspicion, as the ardent supporters of consumerism.

He would have been amused to see that the manufacturers of intoxicating materials, like alcohol, cigarettes, etc. which are declared injurious to health, are the sponsors of the games and sports.

He would have been at his wits end to find that the flow of funds from the outside, which he was opposing, has become a torrent and social service has become an extremely alluring professional business.

He would have been upset to see how adept the present day politicians are in keeping their thought, word and action separated from each other.

In short, if Gopa Babu were alive, he would have painfully felt that the society today is moving opposite to his ideal rooted in Gandhian principles and ideology. And that too is moving fast. He probably would have sighed and said, "Oh God! Save them. They do not know where they are moving.”


Needless to say, the gap between today's society and the society of Gopa Babu's dream is fast increasing. But the state we are getting pushed to is an unsteady state where no society can remain for long. In this state every member is affected and bruised. So, when crisis will reach the climax, certainly some people would get together to brood over the situation and try to restore order .At this stage Gopa Babu’s ideal rooted in Gandhian principles, his exemplary living and conduct, may serve as guide to shape an orderly society. This necessitates a detailed and deeper study of Gopa Babu’ thought and action. Since Gopa Babu died on 29th April 1958, in these forty years, some attempts have been made to keep Gopa Babu’s thought and action known to more and more oriya speaking people; Gopinath Mohanty’s ‘Dhuli Matira Santha’being the most authentic and well documented biography odf Gopa Babu in Oriya. But hardly any worthwhile attempt has been made to make him known to the people of other parts of Gandhi's India. Thus, one of the finest incarnations of Gandhian thought and principle remains unknown to the rest of the people of India and with it remains unknown the depth to which Gandhi's influence can go.


  • Mohanty, Gopinath (1985), Dhuli Matira Santha (in Oriya), Vidyapuri, Cuttack, Odisha p. .47

  • Patel, Jehangir P. & Sykes, Marjorie (1996), Gandhi: His Gift of The Fight, The Other India Press, Goa

  • Gandhi, M.K. (1928), Young lndia, 5th November

[This article originally had appeared almost two decades ago in Gandhian Perspectives: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Social sciences Vol. No. X, No. 1-2, Spring-Fall 1997. This issue of the journal was published by Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi as a special issue on eminent Gandhians.]

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