Champion of Dalits, Tribals’ rights in Odisha dies at 63

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By Purushottam Nayak

Berhampur, Odisha: Human rights activists have mourned the death of Bijaynanda Singh, a champion of Dalits and Tribals’ rights in Odisha.

He was 63 and is survived by his wife Nivedita and two adult sons.

“I am deeply saddened to know about the demise of Bijayananda. We have lost an inspiring and dedicated leader, who loved people and had a dream for our students,” said Father Vijay Kumar Nayak, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ office for Dalits and lower classes.

The vacancy cannot be fulfilled. May his soul rest in peace, said Vincentian priest.

Bijayanada was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and died due to Covid-19 on October 24.

According to Father Anselm Biswal, former vicar general of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese, Bijayananda was committed to the causes of the underprivileged.

“He [Bijayananda] will be missed for a long time to come but he will remain a source of inspiration and enlightenment for those who know and admire him,” said Biswal, former director of Catholic Charities, the social development wing of the archdiocese.

Bijayananda was a promoter of peace. He was inspirational for the youth belonging to Dalits, Tribals and Other Backward Classes (OBC), said Samonth Nayak, coordinator of Solidarity For Developing Communities (SFDC) and Karuna Shanti Science College, Berhampur.

He was recognized as a dedicated social activist at the national and international level, she added.

Bijayananda was born on February 28, 1959, at Allanjury village of Kandhamal district, Odisha.

He did his Masters in Arts in Political Science at Utkal University, Bhubaneswar in 1982. 

He obtained his Master’s in Social work at Utkal University in 1985 and finished a two-year course on Christian mysticism and contemplative spirituality at The Living School for Centre for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, the USA in 2020.

He founded SFDC, an NGO in 1993. It works for the promotion of peacebuilding and development organizations working with discriminated and excluded communities of Dalits and Adivasis in southern Odisha. 

Bijayananda also founded Karuna Shanti (compassion and peace) Science Residential College and Karuna Shanti Coaching Centre in Berhampur.

Every year more than 300 students belonging to Adivasi, Dalit and OBC communities of remote rural Odisha avail themselves of the quality of education.

More than 40 doctors, 30 engineers, 25 pharmacists, 30 nurses, over 150 teachers and other professionals have come out of the institutions in the last 12 years.

He was involved in Trocaire, the premier Irish International Catholic NGO  to build sustainable livelihood, governance and human rights response to humanitarian crises, promoting gender equality and demanding environmental justice.

He was a part of CIDSE (Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité ), a consortium of Catholic funding agencies based in Europe, Australia and North America; Indo-Global Social Service Society, a national NGO, and National Institute of Social Work and Social Sciences), a development, research and training NGO based in Bhubaneswar.

Earlier, he was associated with CORDAID (Catholic organization relief and development), Netherlands, CIDSE (Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité), Cambodia. He also worked in partnership with Misereor, Germany and ODISA, a local NGO located at Berhampur.

Several human rights activists and others paid tributes to Bijayananda.

“He was a good Samaritan for students of backward communities,” said Niharika Majhi, a former student of SFDC and a nurse at Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha.

Bijayananda, a pioneer professional social worker, was internationally involved in the social transformation of communities. He was much sought after nationally for NGO consultants. He was much rooted in the communities, heading even village development council, said Fr Ajay Kumar Singh, a relative and close associate of the deceased.

“He promoted around most marginalized aspirants to be doctors and huge numbers for medical and engineering services. His wife and children lived abroad, yet he chose to live with his people,” the priest said.

It is a huge loss for civil society organizations and communities. He remained a source of inspiration and guide to others, Singh added.

According to Narendra Mohanty, a human rights activist, “Bijayananda will be remembered forever for his noble work. He created a scope and space for students belonging to Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Castes as well as other underprivileged who were unable to see a dream to study at Science college and become a physician or engineer.”

Bijayananda was a pioneer and will be proud for all who became mastermind to make a reality the unforeseen dreams of unprivileged and make hundreds of students as doctors and engineers as well as Science graduates, Mohanty said.

Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur officiated the funeral Mass at  Bishop’s House followed by a burial service at ashram founded by Bijayanada at Golanthara, Berhampur. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Very informative sharing and came to know about a fighter of under privileged people.
    Thanks for the sharing of the unknown leaders.

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