UTKAL DIVAS 2009: AN OBITUARY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa has a distinction that can never be surpassed by any in India. She is the founder of the modern epoch of State formation on language basis.

When her children were trying to form the new State on the basis of their mother tongue Oriya, packs of regional chauvinists from Bengal led by R.L.Mitra had tried hard to convince their British masters that Oriya was not a separate language, but rather was a part of Bengali. Their falseness was razed down by scholars with factual records so detailed that Bengal’s famous linguist Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee had to admit in course of time, as noted in Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXIII, 1947 at p.337,

It may be said without travesty of linguistic truth that Oriya is the eldest of the three sisters (Oriya, Bengali and Assamese), when we consider the archaic character of the language”.

Before Chatterjee had said this, taking cue from chauvinists like Mitra and his associates, inhabitants of Hindi and Telgu speaking tracks had also started claiming linguistic superiority over Oriya in order only to retain the opportunity to exploit the Oriya peoples and their soil made available to them by the British that had annexed Orissa to their States by fragmenting her body under a state of fear psychosis, which shall be discussed later.

But their false claim was dismantled when Sir G.A. Grierson declared in Linguistic Survey of India that Oriya was highly superior to these three languages. To quote him,

“The Oriya language can boast of a rich vocabulary in which respect neither Bengali nor Hindi nor Telgu can vie with it. The richness of the vocabulary is the index by which the vastness of a vernacular can be gauged”.

Why the peoples of the Bengali, Hindi and Telgu speaking provinces were in conspiracy against Oriya language?

This was simply because, if Oriya language was to be restored to its original majestic position and Oriya lands were to go back from their provinces, they were sure to loose financially; and massively.

The peoples of those provinces were in traditional rivalry with Orissa and traditionally envious of Orissa’s matchless cultural, sculptural, commercial and natural splendor.

None of those provinces was able to aspire to be compared with Orissa. Observations of impartial historians and administrators, available on records, confirm this.

As for example, Rev.J.Long, in Notes and Queries Suggested by a Visit to Orissa in January 1859 has written,

“Antiquarian enquiries in Nepal, Ceylon and China show that the Buddhism so noted in its regard for enlightening the masses and opposing caste, was for ages predominant all through Orissa both among rulers and the people, though Orissa be now the garden of the Hinduism and Jagannath its Jerusalem” (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1859, No.III, Vol.XXVIII, pp.185-187).

The peoples of those days knew that Buddha was born in Orissa. Hence Buddhism, as “antiquarian enquiries in Nepal, Ceylon and China” had made Rev.J.Long note, “was for ages predominant all through Orissa both among rulers and the people”.

Afraid of Buddhism and unable to defeat its impact, the Vedists had accepted Buddha as their own Lord and had equated their Lord Vishnu to Orissa’s Lord Buddha Jagannatha and thereby had succeeded to transform Buddhism to Hinduism in Orissa with Jagannath as the epitome of casteless culture. This had made Orissa such a land that as reported by Rev. Long above, Orissa had become “the garden of Hinduism and Jagannath its Jerusalem”. No land of India, specifically in the neighborhood of Orissa, had to her credit such splendid historical distinction.

When other provinces of India, specifically those in Orissa’s neighborhood were surrendering to or being subjugated by Muslims, Orissa was the land that was attacking and occupying Muslim dominions around her territory.

Describing how the King of Orissa had out-generalled the Bengal ruler Tughral Tughan Khan, the Muslim historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, who had also joined that war, which, to him, was a ‘holy war’, had to admit that a greater disaster had not till then befallen the Muslims in any part of Hindustan. (Dr. K. R. Quanungo, The History of Bengal, Muslim period, (pp.48-52). No land in India, specifically those in Orissa’s neighborhood had ever been credited, in enemy’s pen, with such valor. This was the cause of envy of the peoples of those provinces towards the Oriyas.

When India was perishing under occupation of Muslims, Orissa was so sure of her invincibility and so victorious over enemies, specifically the Muslim Rulers in the neighborhood, that in support of Buddhist Sahajayana and in exhibition of her power and opulence and in celebration of her victory, she had addressed herself to build up the wonderful Konark temple.

Analyzing the sculpture of war animals in display at Konark, in Indian Sculpture and Painting, Havell equates the fire and passion expressed therein with the greatest European art – the pride of victory and the glory of triumphant warfare. (Noted in History of Orissa by Prof. K. C. Panigrahi, at pp.413-14)

No people of India were more marked than the Oriyas for establishment of colonies overseas by name akin to those of their own soil and society. Known for the best of ports along her vast coastline, Orissa was famous for her matchless ships. Even when the British occupied India and eventually thereafter Orissa, to their mind, Orissa’s vessels were the best in India. “…by far the best that I ever saw in any part of India”, wrote E.Watson, 4th Judge, Calcutta Court of Circuit, to W.B.Bayley, Secretary to Government in the Judicial Department on 3 May, 1817) No other province, specifically those in Orissa’s neighborhood was of such historic heritage. They were therefore envious of Orissa.

Orissa was such unique that when peoples of those provinces had accepted the British as their lord, her children had been fighting against British invasion.

History knows that Orissa was the last of all the Indian States to have been occupied by the British. And according to British historians, Oriyas were the first amongst all the peoples of India to have raised battles against the British to “expel” them from their soil.

“It was not long, however, before we had to encounter a storm which burst with so sudden fury as to threaten our expulsion, if not from the whole of Orissa, at least from the territory of Khurda”, G. Toynbee has admitted. (A sketch of the history of Orissa, O.H.R.J. Vol No.1 & 2).

British had ruthlessly fought back the battle. But it had to eventually admit that the

“nature of the country (Orissa) and disposition of the inhabitants will always present formidable obstacle to the suppression of these disturbances either by military or police”(Report of Joint Magistrate W. Forrester dated. 9th September 1818 to Commissioner Robert Ker).

It is thus clear from Mr. Forrester’s Report that the peoples of Orissa were too valiant to be suppressed by “military or Police” of the British power.

This being the reality, it had to devise means to weaken the Oriya peoples in order to stay safe.

And thus it had divided Orissa into parts and annexed those parts to neighboring States compelling the brave peoples of Orissa to suffer the ignominy of minority status under rival populations. They were deliberately tortured by being forced to accept the language of those rival populations as their official language. Taking advantage of their ignorance of the so-called official language, the crafty inhabitants of the rival States to which Oriya speaking tracks were arbitrarily annexed, were grabbing Oriya properties by tampering with Official records.

Sri Veer Bikram Singh, the then Raja of Khariar had raised a literary revolution against this exploitation. “Utkal Durdasha” (The miseries of Orissa), a drama authored and enacted by him though out western Orissa had heart touching stanzas depicting the exploitation to which Orissa had been subjected to after division.

Sir Andrew Henderson Leith Fraser, who was Chief Commissioner of Central Provinces when Orissa’s western part was annexed to that province, in his famous work Among Indian Rajahs and Ryots, having seen in his own eyes how the peoples of Orissa, reduced to linguistic minority status, were being harassed in CP, had mentioned details of the damages done to the Oriyas and had recommended that the Oriya speaking tracks be amalgamated for better administration. But the British Secretary of State for India had turned down Fraser’s proposal as to him, the Oriya peoples were of such disposition that once united again, they shall be the most formidable danger for the Britishraj in India.

When peoples of the western parts of Orissa were thus being exploited under the CP administration, condition of the Oriyas of the southern part of Orissa annexed equally arbitrarily to Madras was no less disadvantaged.

Dinabandhu Pattanayak of Dharakot made a public appeal to peoples of Cuttack to come forward to fight for amalgamation of the Oriya speaking tracks in entirety as otherwise Oriya culture, sculptures and natural wealth cannot be saved from non-Oriyas.

This call of Dinaandhu eventually gave birth to Utkal Sammilani, the great Oriya movement that paved the path for formation of language-based States in India.

Why the peoples of Cuttack responded to the call given by Dinabandhu Pattanayak?

We get the answer from the Report of W. Trower, Collector, Cuttack on Revenue Administration in Orissa, dated the 23rd May 1817, in which he says,

“I believe I am the first and the only officer of the Government that has hitherto visited the interior of the District. I have traveled through the greatest part of it, conversed with all classes of people from the highest to the lowest and certainly the complaints against the Police, and the Moonsifs exceed anything I could have supposed. A regular system of oppression and peculation appears to exist throughout and instead of proving a protection to the country and a preventive against improper conduct, these people are considered the terror and the scourge of the district”. (Ms.Vol. 387, Orissa State Archives.)

The Peoples of Cuttack had responded to the call of Dinabandhu Pattanayak as in that they had found the reflection of their own feelings.

Who were these Police officials and Munsifs? They were the peoples from Bengal whom the British officials were calling as native servants.

Why Mr. Trower has mentioned that they were “considered the terror and the scourge of the District”? It is because, these fellows were looting Orissa taking advantage of their situations under the British.

Trower has described,

“Of the evil of permitting native servants of Government holding situations in the District to purchase lands at public sale I have had many proofs, and in a letter to the late Commissioner under date the 1st October, 1813, I stated my sentiments on the subjects. Not only does the influence of these people prevent the Oriyas from entering into competition with them in the purchase of lands, but if any of their own Estates are in arrears, the Oriyas are deterred from appearing as purchasers.”

He has given details of how Estates of Oriyas were being auctioned at Calcutta under stratagems contrived by Bengalis and how they were grabbing the same by way of cheating.

“It appears from accompanying statement…. that from December 1906 to December 1816, a period of 10 years, the number of Estates sold by public auction, have been 1011, which gives an average of 101 yearly”. Showing that 350 principal Estates out of the above-mentioned sales have gone into Bengali hands, Mr. Trower has told, “The Board will further remark that of those, 235 have been purchased by persons holding official situations under Government directly in their own names, or indirectly by their relations or dependents and by a reference to the price paid for those Mehals (more particularly during the four or five fist years) they cannot fail to discover strong marks of that undue influence, complained of by me. But as the number of Bengalees have increased in the district and advanced in opulence, greater competition has taken place between themselves and a somewhat fairer market established. The Jumma of the lots marked in the margin was 121695 rupees and the money paid for them at sale 46205 which can be considered as little better than downright rubbery.” (Ibid.)

The use of the words “downright rubbery” by Trower in this report speaks volumes of how peoples of Orissa were being looted by Bengalis as well as those of Hindi and Telgu speaking provinces when afraid of Oriya disposition, the British had fragmented their motherland and merged those parts with provinces of rival tongues.

The entire Oriya speaking community had woke up against this mischief under the ablest leadership of its ‘pride personified’ Kula Gaurav Madhusudan Das. The Congress party, under influence of the leaders hailing from those provinces opposed Madubababu, so much so, that Harekrshna Mahtab, then a crafty ambitious young man with a motive to ingratiate himself to Congress high echelon, went to the extent of pressing an organized assault on an audience at Cuttack gathered to hear Mr. Das.

Gandhiji stood firmly with Madhu babu and insisted that unless Oriya speaking tracks are amalgamated into a separate province, the “fine race” of Oriyas would continue to suffer and that cannot be accepted.

The culturally advanced elements in British administration ultimately accepted the Oriya demand and the new province of Orissa was created on 1st of April 1936.

Since then we have been celebrating Utkal Divas on the 1st day of April and all the Governments have fully participated in this celebration and treated it as National Day of Orissa.

But this year, a lady IAS officer of non-Oriya origin, in charge as she is of election 2009 has blocked the official celebration of this treasured day and Navin Patnaik, who has enjoyed power as Chief Minister sans any respect to official status of Oriya language and has, heading a headless pack of sycophants, served the non-Oriyas at the cost of Oriyas, repeating what the British was doing in allowing non-Oriyas to loot the land and properties of Oriyas, to loot their natural wealth and assets, as narrated supra, has readily cooperated with discarding of the official celebration of Utkal Divas.

Shocked over the degradation, as I slowly regain my composure, I write this obituary on Utkal Divas 2009.

If you like, you may join me remembering our National Day.

Dead is Utkal Divas 2009.

Live forever hereafter it may.

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