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PARBATI GIRI (1926-1995)

Parbati Giri was a freedom fighter and activist for tribal rights. She was the daughter of Dhananjay Giri at Samlaipadar village near Bijepur of present Bargarh district and undivided Sambalpur in the year 1926. Her uncle Ramchandra Giri was and associate of freedom fighters like Laxminarayan Mishra, Durga Prasad Guru, Bhagirathi Pattanayak and his wife Jambobati Pattanaik and Fakira Behera. Parbati witnessed their discussion as a young child and was quickly fired with the desire to serve the nation. She studied till class three, then dropped out and began traveling from village to village, campaigning for the Congress. In 1938, when she was 12, senior Congress leaders at a meeting in Samlaipadar requested her father to permit her to work for the Congress. He agreed, and Pabati was allowed to go to the Bari Ashram, in Jajpur, run by Rama Devi (q.v.). The little girl travelled there without any signs of nervousness. She was accompanied by Prabhabati Devi, a child widow of Bargarh. Prabhabati’s family tried to stop them but failed. On the way, the two girls halted at Arigaon, the home of Reba Roy, then arrived at Bari Ashram.

During her life in the Ashram, Parbati learned many things including handicrafts and self help. In 1940 Parbati began travelling for the Congress to Bargarh, Sambalpur,Padampur, Panimara, Ghens and other places. She trained villagers in spinning and weaving khadi. From 1942 she campaigned for the Quit India Movement and was arrested many times, but at first as she was a minor the police had to release her. She was finally arrested when she invaded the SDO’s office at Bargarh, sat in his chair and ordered her ‘men’ to bring the SDO to her, bound with a rope. She was sentenced to two years’ rigorous imprisonment at Sambalpur Jail. At Bargarh Court she staged an agitation to persuade the lawyers to boycott the court in defiance of the British. Those lawyers who refused to stop work were presented with bangles (an insult to their manhood). After Independence she completed her schooling at the Prayag Mahila Vidyapitha in Allababad in 1950. Four years later she joined Rama Devi (q.v.) in her relief work.

In 1955 she joined an American project to improve the health and hygiene of the people of Sambalpur district. She started an ashram for women and orphans called the Kasturba Gandhi Matruniketan at Nrusinghanath, and another home for the destitute called Dr. Santra Bal Niketan at Birasingh Gar under Jujomura block in Sambalpur District. She worked in jail improvement and leprosy eradication. The Department of Social Welfare of the government of India awarded her a prize in 1984.
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