By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, February 25, 2021: I came to know of General Basant Mohapatra way back in the sixties when I joined civil service. After the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, I was in J&K region to have my military attachment which was a part of training programme for members of the Indian Administrative Service. The teams of four were sent to different battalions in the forward areas. While I was at Uri- Punch sector, some went to Wular lake. Those who returned from Wular Lake were full of praise for one Major Mohapatra who was the Brigade Major there. All of them were effusive with admiration talking about his smartness, his alertness of mind and physical fitness.

Being someone from Orissa (now called Odisha), I felt immensely proud. Later when I returned to Bhubaneswar, I learnt that he is the second son of the renowned Justice Harihar Mohapatra. He was younger brother of PK Mohapatra under whose name stood an English bookstore on Manglabag, Cuttack, a well-known place in the fifties and sixties visited by the brilliant students and teachers alike who were also avid readers of the new publications.

While in the college I came to know of his younger brother, Ananta Mohapatra, now famous dramatist. Only in 1987-88, I met General Mohapatra in New Delhi when I was in the Government of India. I narrated to him about his posting as Brigade Major and how there were many admirers among my batch-mates. He was then acting as Lt. General, the first from Odisha to hold such a rank in the Indian Army. From my first meeting I was struck by his humility, smartness, and mental alertness. His suavity reminded of his famous father.

After many years I came to know him closely in the think-tank meetings hosted in Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. There was a practice introduced by late lamented

Sudhansu Bhusan Mishra, the first Chairman of this group that before start of each meeting a new book should be introduced. That task was discharged by me on many occasions. After every such presentation I remember General Mohapatra would discuss with me about salient features of the book. Soon we became remarkably close. My admiration for him jumped by leaps and bound as the time passed as I saw his management ability, dealing with diverse people and organization of events. His intellect was of exceedingly high order. As years passed, I also met him in close group for dinners and lunches discussing economic and social issues.

He was seriously occupied with management of old homes in Cuttack. He was equally busy in matters concerning schools. For last two years we inter-acted very often on Think-Tank matters. I saw him from close proximity his association with Bharatiya Vidya Bhawn. He used to invite me to join many seminars and lectures on management studies, economic issues etc. During the lockdown period we became awfully close as we organized many discussions in Think-Tank on variety of issues. He used to preside over sessions, moderate them and even some time lead discussions .In all roles he was an outstanding performer.

Many know about his distinguished military career. He participated in the Goa operation in 1961 for its liberation from Portugal, the Sino-Indian war of 1962, the Indo-Pak war of 1965, the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971 and anti-insurgency operations in the eastern region. A lot has already been written about his valour, his military leadership and knowledge on strategy etc. Many people know him about his contribution to education, activities on social domain like protection of elderly, physically challenged people and his intellectual pursuit. More than anything as a human-being he would be remembered for years to come by young and old.

He was a distinguished soldier, a brilliant intellectual, an institution builder, an academician, a practical social activist and finally a patriot. His versatility will remain indelible in the annals of history of Odisha.

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