The historic Nagpur session of the congress in December 1920 which passed the final decision on launching of non-cooperation movement was attended by thirty-five delegates from Orissa, the prominent among them being Gopabandhu Das, Niranjan Pattnaik, Bhagirathi Mahapatra, Jagabandhu Singh, Mukunda Prasad Das, Jadumani Mangaraj and Harekushna Mahatab.
The formation of Provincial Congress Committee on linguistic basis was well appreciated by the members from Orissa and it was agreed that Orissa should have a separate Congress Committee. Gopabandhu Das and Jagabandhu Singh returned from Nagpur Session before it was over to attend the Utkal Union Conference to be held at Chakradharpur on December 30, 1920.
The Chakradharpur session left an important mark in the history of Utkal Union Conference because for the first time it accepted the congress ideology as one of its objectives and brought the leaders of Orissa into the mainstream of national politics.
The Non-cooperation Movement in Orissa, as elese where in the country, began with great enthuasism in the first week of January 1921. The dawn of the year 1921 saw the beginning of the organised congress movement in Orissa under the pioneering leadership of Gopabandhu Das. Gobonda Chandra Mishra of Dasapalla,who was then a Gandhia follower of Satyagraha Ashram(Gujurat) came to orissa specifically to spread the message of non-Cooperation in Orissa in 1921.t utkal Pradesh Congress Committee was constituted in early 1921 with Gopabandhu Das as its first President. The other office-bearers who took charge of the organisation were Dr. Ekram Russol, Vice-president, Bhagirathi Mahapatra, Secretary, Brajabandhu Das, Joint-Secretary and five other executive members.
The Utkal Pradesh Congress Committee deputed tweleve persons, such as, Gopabandhu Das, Harekushna Mahatab, Bhagirathi Mahapatra, and Nilakantha Das to represent Orissa in the All India Congress Committee. The District Congress Committee was gradually formed and some members of were given specific charges of organising congress activities in different parts of the province.
The Congress leaders and their respective regions of work were – Rajkrushna Bose- Jajpur, Jadumani Mangaraj-Kendrapada, Bhagirathi Mahapatra- Cuttack Sadar with headquaters at Alakashrama, Jagatsinghpur, Jagabandhu Singh and Krupasindhu Mishra- Puri district, Pandit Nilakantha Das-Sambalpur, Niranjan Pattnaik-Ganjam district, Godavarish Mishra-Sighbhum District. In Orissa, non-cooperation movement began under the dynamic leadership of Gopabandhu Das who had already infused the congress cause in the young nationalists of Orissa.
With Gandhiji’s visit to Orissa on 23 March, 1921 and his first address in a public meeting in the Kathjodi river bed, the non-cooperation movement in Orissa became more intensisfied. He addressed mass meetings at Cuttack, Bhadrak, Satyabadi, Puri and Berhampur within six days.
There was unprecedented enthuasism and mass response to his call everywhere.Gandhiji was well aquainted with Orissa’ this problems, chronic flood, devastating famine and abysmal poverty of her people. For Gandhi “Orissa was the epitome of India’s poverty”.
In response to the boycott programme of non-cooperation movement, many young men of Orissa left their studies in schools and colleges to join the movement. Under the inspiring leadership of Pandit Laxmi Narayan Mishra, the students of Sambalpur Zilla School boycotted the instiution.
Coming under the spell of Gandhian movement, Harekrushna Mahatab, Naba-Krushna Chaudhury, Nityananda Kanungo, Jadumani Mangaraj, Karunakar Panigrahi, Rajakrishna Bose, Nilamaber Das, Subodh Chandra De, Muhammad Hussain Majid, Benumadhab Supakar discontinued their studies to join the camp of non-cooperators. Bhagirathi Mahapatra, Jagabandhu Singh and few others gave upon their legal practice. Gopabandhu Chaudhury, then serving as Deputy-collector, jobs and joined the congress movement.
Pandit Nilakantha Das gave upon his teaching assignment in Calcutta University and came to take charge of national school and the movement in Samabalpur. The Congress leaders decided to establish some national schools and colleges for educating the children. Gopabandhu Das, the founder of Satyabadi School converted it into a national school. Subsequently at Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Soro national schools were also establsihed. For supervising the national schools and conducting examinations, Utkala Swarajya Parishad was established with Gopabandhu Das and Nanda Kishore Das as its president and secretary respectively.
To organise the congress activities and train the workers and volunteers for the movement several centers were opened at Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Puri, Sakhigopal, Balasore, Bhadrak and Soro.
Swaraj Ashram at Cuttack, Alkashram at Jagatsinghpur and Swaraj Mandir at Balasore were such prominent centers where congress volunteers were taught how to spread the idea of non-cooperation movement among the viillagers.
In Orissa, the Khilafat Committee under the chairmanship of Ekram Rusool was also formed to exhibit Hindu-Muslim unity.
In Orissa, as in the rest part of the country, Government resorted to repressive measures and imprisoned many prominent leaders- Rajkrushna Bose, Gopabandhu Das, Harekushna Mahatab, Kamruddin Haq, Bancchanidhi Mohanty, Maulavi Hussain, Jadumani Mangraj and many others.
Hundreds and thousands of Khadar clad volunteers went smilingly to the prison as invincible soldiers of patriotism. The suspension of the first Gandhian mass movement after the tragic incident at Chauri Chaura virtually put an end to ampaign of non-cooperation in Orissa.