Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
British trespassers could put their avaricious hands on the splendid soil of Orissa in 1803 only after the rest of India had gone into their ugly grip.
They ruined the beautiful land so brutally that despite being very vast in natural resources and manpower, the State has not yet been able to resurrect its lost glory.
Only two stray notes of modern history are sufficient to help us get glimpses of what was Orissa before British occupation.
One: In ‘The History of Bengal, Muslim Period’ (1973, pp. 48-52) Dr. K.R.Quanungo has described the vanquishment of the Muslims, the predecessors of the British in occupying India, in Oriya hands when they had tried to invade their soil. He has noted, “Tughral Tughan Khan was no doubt out-generalled by the King of Orissa who had drawn the enemy far away from their frontier and must have concealed more than one surprising party along the whole route of the enemy’s advance. A greater disaster had not till then befallen the Muslims in any part of Hindustan”. He has even quoted the Muslim historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, who had joined the war as to him that was a ‘holy war’, saying, “The Muslims sustained the overflow and a great number of those holy warriors attained martyrdom”.
And two: When the British established its administration in Orissa, its officials who had the opportunity of comparing its indigenous entrepreneurship with that of India were marveled by the incomparable advancement Oriyas had made in commerce and industry. The 4th Judge, Calcutta Court of Circuit, E.Watson had to mention to W.B.Bayley, Secretary to Government in the Judicial Department, on 3 May 1817, that Orissa was so superior in entrepreneurial infrastructure that her “boats were by far the best that I ever saw in any part of India”.
It is clear from these two notes that in the eyes of her enemies and invaders, Orissa was matchless in valor and in entrepreneurship in the whole of India before the devilish British desecrated it in 1803.
But hardly a year had passed; the brave Oriyas raised their swords in 1804 to expel them from their soil. British historian G. Toynbee has, in “ A Sketch of the History of Orissa (1803-1828)” admitted, “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”.(O.H.R.J. Vol No.1 & 2).
British had menacingly used its brutal force to overcome the debacle. But to its total disadvantage and dismay, peoples of Orissa changed their violent battle to non-cooperation, a technique that was later adopted by Gandhiji in advancing the freedom movement in India. British invaders were capable of facing the Orissa swords; but were too bewildered to suppress the non-cooperation movement that they faced for the first time. They 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). Forrester’s communication had prompted the British to make truce with the leader of the peoples, Buxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar, which, of course, as expected by them, conversely bestowed upon the said invaders peoples’ recognition as a government.
Taking advantage of this circumstantial recognition, the British, shrewd as it was, divided geographical Orissa into three parts under contrived pleas of better management of administrative affairs and clubbed the separate parts with adjoining provinces that were already under its subjugation with inhabitants thereof serving as docile native servants.
This mischief reduced the Oriyas to linguistic minority status in the traditionally rival terrains and their economy was soon ruined due to exploitation leading to repeated famines, the most devastative being the famine of 1866. Their rich estates were grabbed by non-Oriyas through conspiratorial clandestine auctions and once the proudest race of India, in Gandhiji’s words, the “Fine race”(Young India, 18 February 1920), the Oriyas were tortured into inanity. The most unbearable was the non-Oriya attack on their majestic language to the nasty extent of a group of Bengali chauvinists trying to convince the British authorities to replace Oriya with Bengali as official language under the plea that Oriya was not an independent language but a part of their own while trying to claim Orissa’s Sri Jaya Dev and Chaurashi Siddhacharyas for Bengal.
This notoriety concussed the Oriyas to rise up to save their majestic mother tongue from the wicked conspiracy of the neighbors and soon India had to witness the most unique movement for reconsolidation of Oriya speaking tracks into a distinct province, which, in fact, culminated in creation of modern Orissa, the first State created in India on the basis of the language of its inhabitants.
But the march of the Oriyas from separation to consolidation to formation of their motherland was not very easy. The Bengali, Hindi and Telugu tongues were using nastiest techniques of subterfuge to obstruct the emergence of Orissa by harping on minority status of Oriya in their respective regions.
It is Oriya mass media that had done everything to thwart the evil designs of the non-Oriyas and in the process, the incomparable richness of Oriya vocabulary had come to limelight. When the illustrious Gouri Shankar Roy, a Bengali Kayasth by birth, but an inhabitant of Cuttack, well versed in Oriya literature, in the pages of Utkal Dipika that he was editing, silenced the Bengali chauvinists by showing how Bengali was wretchedly poor in the matter of original works of letters in comparison with Orissa, Sir George Grierson, in Linguistic Survey of India unambiguously declared that Oriya as a language was much superior to Bengali, Hindi and Telugu. He noted, “The Oriya language can boast of a rich vocabulary in which respect neither Bengali nor Hindi nor Telugu can vie with it. The richness of the vocabulary is the index by which the vastness of a vernacular can be gauged”.
The rival tongues in Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Madras had to concede defeat on the base of this reality and the British had to correct the wrong it had committed. The motherland of the Oriya race emerged as the modern State of Orissa even though various patches of Oriya speaking tracks were left out under circumstances then beyond control.
In this context, my essay in Oriya on the role of mass media in creation of modern Orissa digs out forgotten and mostly unseen episodes in the annals of formation of modern Orissa. Rarest of the rare documents are dealt with here in a hope against hope that those of the present generation of Oriyas who are not ashamed of having a Chief Minister for ten years though he is known for having not known Oriya language and though during his tenure the Oriya language has been forced to languish under official negligence and Orissa’s immense mineral wealth and landed properties have gone into hands of non-Oriyas and foreigners exactly as was happening in the British days, may know how painstakingly the State was created and may rise to the occasion to save it from exploiters’ grip.
Meant for the Oriyas, here is the essay.