Manmohan Misra


Manmohan Misra lived between March 23, 1920 to November 19, 2000. He published his first poem at the age of 14 and joined the freedom struggle at the age of 18. He was imprisoned and wrote poems in prison. Through his oratory and poetic expressions, he became known as the poet of the people. He spent his life giving voice to the voiceless. Amidst the seeming disarray and chaos, his voice continued as the lighting spirit in Orissa for fifty years.

He was survived by his wife, three brothers, three sisters, five sons, two daughters and nine grandchildren at the time of his passing away. On his obituary he was called the Nazrul of Orissa.

In March 2000, a select anthology of poems written by him was published on the occasion of the State Book Festival at Bhubaneswar. The book is entitled "Quominara". Quominara would translate as the voice (narA) of the people (Qoumi - Citizens). The subtitle is "mahAjAtira jayagAna". The book is edited by the eminent poet and neighbor Sri Pathani Patnaik, President of Orissa Sahitya Academy.

About Manmohan Misra from Shri Anadi Naik

During the National Emergency of 1975 Manmohan Misra and I shared -along with four others -the same cell in the Cuttack jail. He knew the jailor, as well as the rules of jail life. He was an expert on the rights of the prisoners also. After six days, all six of us were taken into different prisons. While in Keonjhar jail I learned that Manmohan Misra petitioned to the Orissa High Court demanding his own physical presence before the court, arguing his own case and earning his own release. All of this without the benefit of a lawyer.

I was a Bhoodan worker with no affiliation to any political party and Manmohan Misra was a seasoned political activist whose soft corner at the time was toward the Naxalites .A few years earlier he had to endure solitary confinement in a Bihar jail. Because of Jayaprakash Narayan's involvement, Karpuri Thakur had managed to release him. Yet, his activities after the release had not slowed down. He was very much opposed to the National Emergency.

In 1960 Manmohan Misra was the Chairman of the Cuttack Municipality. The Padihari Pathagar - named after Pandit Pranakrushna Padihari, his mentor - was one of his achievements. When Biju Pattanayak became Chief Minister for the first time, it was his pen that created the field for the Congress landslide. Biju's money, Biren Mitra's organizing and Manmohan Misra's pen brought a new era into Orissa politics.

All his life Manmohan Misra carried defiance toward authority. He was a genuinely free man .As Editor of Kalinga he found it too stifling to work for the establishment. He chose to work among laborers and endure the wrath of the establishment.

While a student at the District High School in Puri he saw Rabindranath Tagore in a public meeting. " Amake Samman Diye Apnara Nijekei Sammanita Karechhen" - these words from Rabindranath made a great impression on him.

He was inspired by Kalindi Charan Panigrahi's MATIRA MANISA. As a college student in Cuttack he made it a point to meet with the author. Later on, along with Kalindibabu's younger brother Bhagabati Panigrahi, Manmohan Misra participated in the Congress Socialist Party, marched against the injustices of the princely states and incited movements within Dhenkanal and Athagarh. Very secretly, Bhagabatibabu built a cadre of communists from among the youthful activists of 1930s and 1940s. Manmohan Misra was one of them. The Communist movement seemed to have a hole in its heart after Milovan Djilas published his THE NEW CLASS.

By 1960 for a good many communist party members in India communism became useless. The Congress Party's Socialistic Pattern of Society had a better appeal. Along with friends like Bijoy Das, Baidyanath Rath, and Baikuntha Pattanayak; Manmohan Misra left the Communist Party and joined the Congress Party. For Manmohan Misra the allure was very short-lived.

In heart Manmohan Misra was a poet. He wrote poems for every occasion. He sang his own songs in public functions. His song " Nuhe Kandana Bela" is a masterpiece that he wrote during the Mahanadi flood of 1955.

Since his student days he has accepted imprisonment many times. Every chief minister from Mahatab to Nandini has put him in jail. A story comes to mind.

In 1948 all the Communist Party members were put in jail. Manmohan babu and his comrades were kept in Cuttack jail .The prisoners had certain complaints, which they wanted to bring to the attention of the government. Nabakrushna Choudhury had been elected the new chief minister. As the man who started the socialist movement in Orissa he came to see his old comrades in jail. He waited inside the jailer's office. Manmohan babu was chosen as the spokesman for the group. He met with the chief minister in the jailer's office. He asked Naba babu: why he did not go to meet with his old friends in the cell. "Gurucharan, Baishnaba, Prananathbabu are there. Felt kind of shy to see them in jail" - said Naba babu. Manmohan babu belonged to an era where selfless sacrifice was a requirement of a patriot. Regardless of cost, public service for public good was a goal. He has inspired countless individuals through his writings, speeches and personal involvement. He has remained a source of inspiration for many. In Manmohan babu's passing Orissa lost a great man. All of us who happened to know him lost a living source of inspiration.


Source :Dr. Bijoy Misra [bmisra@fas.harvard.edu] and Shri Anadi Naik [Acnaik@aol.com]
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