Annapurna Moharana – India

Linked with Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

They says about her: “As there was a curfew in town, the oath-taking ceremony was held inside Annapurna’s house:

13-year-old Annapurna also took it-a vow to serve the country, which she keeps to this day”.

Annapurna Moharana - India one rogné redim 70p.jpg

Annapurna Moharana – India

She works for the Kasturba Gandhi Memorial National Trust KGMNT, for Sarvodaya,
and for the Utkal Naagari Lipi Parishad UNLP (no website).

Annapurna Moharana has been working since she was 13 to carry forward the Gandhian tradition of peaceful protest and refusing to compromise with corruption or oppression. In the past 75-odd years, Annapurna has worked on issues ranging from setting up a tribal residential school for girls, sensitizing dacoits (members of robber bands) to pacifism, and resisting the 1975 emergency, to setting up a nursing training center that recruits and trains young women in maternity services.

She was born on 13 November 1917 in Cuttack, Orissa, into a Hindu joint family, at a time when the entire family was

involved in the freedom movement. Her father had left his government job and had courted arrest. Annapurna?s house was a watering hole for freedom-fighters. She grew up listening to revolutionary songs and discussions on the freedom movement instead of lullabies.

When she was in Class V, the Quit India Movement started: all foreign products and facilities were boycotted. Annapurna was withdrawn from her government school, and her formal education was effectively over. After that, she was educated at home. When she was only 13 years old, in 1930, the Purna Swaraj Movement began. Cuttack’s leading freedom-fighters took a vow to fight for uncompromised independence. There was a curfew in town, and the oath-taking ceremony was held inside her house: 13-year-old Annapurna also took the oath, a vow to serve the country that she keeps to this day.

The same year, Annapurna’s paternal uncle and aunt started the Alaka Ashram at Bari, a small village near Puri, to implement Gandhi’s vision of eliminating untouchability, promoting education–especially that of girls–and hygiene, and training people in vocational skills like beekeeping or preparing jaggery.

The whole family relocated to Bari, with their own house at Cuttack being turned over for social service. Besides the freedom struggle, Annapurna became involved in the empowerment of society’s deprived sections, and in women’s rights.

She lived with the rural people to understand their problems. She spun cotton for her own use, fed the cattle, and trained girls in sanitation, hygiene, and healthcare. Annapurna also visited neighboring villages, sensitizing people gainst untouchability, illiteracy, and colonial domination. She had to combat many superstitions and blind beliefs.

Once, a member of her group was socially boycotted for sweeping the front yard of her own house, as was the norm in the group – sweeping the yard was considered the task of a ‘low caste’ person. It became Annapurna’s task to convince the people that their attitude was skewed.

Annapurna visited frequently Ramchandrapur, a small village about two miles from Bari. The government had closed down a basic education institute in the village. In protest, Sarat Chandra Moharana and some friends quit their government jobs to manage the institute themselves, and got drawn into social service and the freedom movement. Annapurna got to know Sarat through her work. As likeminded people, they decided to marry. Although child marriage was the norm then, Annapurna waited until she was 24 – according to Gandhi’s prescription – before tying the knot.

Annapurna was lucky in having in-laws who did not stand in the way of her work. Six months into their marriage, the couple got arrested during the 1942 Quit India Movement. Two years later, Annapurna was imprisoned during the Civil Disobedience Movement.

She had her first son in 1945, and her second in 1951. During the late prenatal and postnatal periods, she translated Gandhi’s works into common Oriya. In 1951, she joined Acharya Vinoba Bhave’s Bhudan (literally, ‘donate your land’) Andolan. When Annapurna went out on padayatras (marches), her ashram mates took care of her children.

Annapurna is quick to arrive with help, notwithstanding the magnitude of the need. During the famine of 1966, she worked for the people in various districts. In 1970/71, she worked in the hilly areas along the India-Bangladesh border, looking after the health, education, and rehabilitation needs of the refugees. She also continues the tradition of peaceful protest. Her Chambal Valley padayatra is legendary. In 1972/73, under Chambal’s burning summer sun, Annapurna walked into the labyrinthine ravines to try and sensitize the hardcore dacoits to surrender to the police.

Independent India is a far cry from the dream that those in the freedom movement had fought for. Annapurna has had a very difficult time dealing with bureaucrats. During the 1999 Orissa super-cyclone, she was distributing relief services in the Erasma block. The state government had sanctioned about Rs 50,000 to build a shelter, but the babu demanded a bribe to release the money. Annapurna stood her ground; a couple of months passed, the official refused to relent. Then, Annapurna went to the higher authorities and told them that she was willing to return the money to the government, but not pay a bribe. It was shame that got the money released.

Annapurna started a tribal residential complex for girls in Rayagoda, where 50 tribal girls are currently staying.

Besides formal education, the girls are trained to sustain their cultural heritage. This institute had been sanctioned funds from the Central government. However, for th
been demanding a bribe. Because she is unwilling to compromise, the Rayagoda institute is still being managed on the strength of Annapurna’s personal resources.

Annapurna is an active member of the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust KGNMT, which was started by Gandhi in memory of his wife. On behalf of the KGNMT, she took the initiative to open a high school in 1977 in Rayagod, Koraput, to educate tribal children. The school now has 133 students. It is Annapurna’s belief that reservation for Scheduled Castes and Tribes will be meaningless unless there are adequate educational opportunities to provide them with the competence to fill the reserved seats.

There are nine maternity centers all over the state operating under Annapurna’s direct supervision. Women from various parts of Orissa are given basic social service training for two or three months, and they are assessed on attitude, interest, and capability. Those selected for the maternity centers are sent to Indore, the headquarters of the KGNMT, for professional training. The other women are trained for other social service activities.

Annapurna is also an active member of Sarvodaya, a social service organization set up for the socioeconomic empowerment of the marginalized, particularly women.

She is also involved with the promotion of Devanagari as a universal ink script. Eklipi, a literary movement to find one script to link the whole world, was started in India in 1881. In 1976, the Utkal Naagari Lipi Parishad was set to further this aim. Annapurna continues to organize seminars and create a space for intellectuals to hold discourses.

Acharya Harihara Das, a leading figure in the national freedom movement, was a source of great inspiration for Annapurna. He was also involved in community service and greatly loved by the people. To keep his memory alive, Annapurna founded the Acharya Harihara Das Smruti Sansad, which conducts an annual fun fair for children, ‘Ananda Mela’, on the Puri beach.

Age has not slowed down Annapurna, nor diminished her optimism that she can make a difference to a world so different from that of her dreams. (Read all on 1000peacewomen 2005).

… Institutionally the workshop was inaugurated by the Chief Guest Smt. Annapurna Moharana an eminent freedom fighter by lightening the candle … (full text).

Read: Freedom fighters for Panimara.

the Kasturba Gandhi Memorial National Trust KGMNT is mentionned only on one website: the All India Sanctioned Projects (Year Wise), Dept. of Women And Child Development.



Learning to work.

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