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The BJP-led NDA government is all set to celebrate for a year Odisha's most significant pride point, the Paika Rebellion -- which many claim was the first war of independence against the British. Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, a member of the Centre's two-month old committee set up to celebrate the rebellion that ended in 1817, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to attend a function marking the start of the celebrations in Odisha. "We are celebrating the Paika Rebellion's 200th anniversary in Delhi in a big way on July 20," Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma told PTI. Pradhan said the celebrations would be held across the country for a year. A proposal has also been sent to the National Implementation Committee headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh to build a permanent monument as a memorial to Paika warriors in the historic Barunei hills near Bhubaneshwar. "The Paika Vidroh was not a local event. Through these celebrations, we are making efforts to bring such struggles to the national sphere," Petroleum Minister Pradhan told PTI. The plan for the gala celebrations comes when the BJP-led NDA has been seeking to strengthen its base in Odisha, being ruled by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's BJD for the last 17 years. The rebellion, by the landed militia of Khurda called the Paiks, has been the focal point of the BJP's discourse in the state, where assembly polls will be held along with general elections in 2019. BJP president Amit Shah, who was on a three day visit to the state earlier this month, hailed the warriors of the revolt as he launched the party's grassroots connect drive in Ganjam district, Patnaik's home turf. Prime Minister Modi, during his visit to Odisha in April, felicitated the descendants of 16 families associated with the uprising.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also mentioned it in his Budget speech this year. The rebellion, which forced British East India Company forces to retreat, predates the first war of independence in 1857 but did not get similar recognition, Pradhan stated. "Modiji is of the belief that there have been so many such struggles in India but deliberately our history or our national movement has been restricted to certain incidents, some families and contexts related to them post independence," Pradhan added. Prasanna Kumar Dash, a senior Central government official and author of three books on the culture of Odisha, said the Paika Rebellion should be recognised as one of the first organised struggles against British Rule in India. "The Paika Rebellion was restricted to Odisha unlike the Revolt of 1857, which spread across the country. However, the rebellion never got its due recognition. The 1817 agitation was against salt laws, taxes, devaluation of currency and land laws which were the focal points of later movements like the Dandi march and even the 1857 revolt," Dash said. By recognising this, the government will also recognise the fact that each state of India played its part in the independence struggle, he said. The petroleum minister indicated that the Paika Rebellion was the first of many such local events the government would now focus on. "Our government believes in focusing on all the veer gathas (stories of heroism) among all sections of society," he said.