(By arrangement with an Official Source)
Outstanding demand of Orissa’s language activists was for a dedicated and research-centric University of Oriya Language for imparting all round knowledge in Oriya, relevant to necessities of Orissa in particular and the country and the globe in general, and for equipping Oriya language with necessary ability to match the modern challenges and to make it the language of engagement and income, success and prosperity, over and above, taking all necessary academic steps to retrieve, preserve and enhance the excellence of this splendid language.
Ms. Sipra Mallick, then a ruling party member, had moved a private member’s Bill for Oriya University, in the Orissa Legislative Assembly, which she had withdrawn as the Government declared to bring out the Bill officially to create the University.
After withdrawal of the Bill, no official step was taken to honor the assurance given to the House.
The term ended and the ruling party was to face the people.
So, as a tactics for vote fetching, the ruling party placed in its manifesto 2014 that given the mandate, it would establish the Oriya University.
As elapsing time went barren, the Oriya Bhasa Sangram Samiti hereinafter called: Sangram Samiti, under the banner of which, the people of Orissa have been agitating for governance of the State in Oriya, took up the issue as its demand and it was apparently accepted, when the Government came to an agreement with the Sangram Samiti to implement the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954.
But suddenly the CM drifted away from the agreement with the Sangram Samiti and behind back of its representatives in the ministerial committee, declared that an open university would be established. This site as well as the Sangram Samiti vehemently objected to the CM’s announcement.
Then again the ministerial committee comprising the five ministers and the seven representative of the Sangram Samiti met for the fourth time under presidentship of Minister Debi Prasad Mishra. It was decided that instead of Open University a regular University by the name Oriya University will be established subject to collective wisdom a workshop should bring in before end of December 2016 so that necessary legislation could be created in the coming session of the Assembly.
Accordingly, a whole day workshop was held under Presidentship of eminent Linguist Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak on 29th December in the N.C.D.S. auditorium, Bhubaneswar.
The program contained the hidden agenda. According to it, the workshop was not at all meant for the Oriya University, despite clear decision in the fourth Ministerial Committee on January 12 that the university shall be a regular and research centric University to be named as “Oriya Viswavidyalaya” (The Oriya University).
The workshop to commence at 11 AM, was to hear, as per the official agenda, N.C.D.S. workshop coordinator Dr. Rashmi Mishra on why the “Proposed Oriya Open University”.
At 11.20, Dr. Shashi Bhusan Padhi, Special Secretary, Higher Education Department, Govt. of Orissa, was scheduled to speak on the purpose of the “Proposed Oriya Open University”.
And, on this basis, the agenda was to proceed to discuss on “Oriya Open University” at 12.30 through two fringe items like (1) “Necessity of Oriya Language in the field of administration, education and employment” and (2) “Government’s approach to Oriya language education and training and usable Oriya language”.
In responding to the first item, Poet Gajanan Mishra, whose fast-on-to-death satyagraha for implementation of the Act of 1954 had strengthened the new phase of Oriya Movement on the united platform of the Sangram Samiti, expressed serious concern over the mischief of the mandarins in the matter of non-implementation of the Act. He presented the plight of the people in the grassroots as they are being governed in English language, which they do not know and understand. He declared that if the Sangram Samiti’s demands are not fulfilled and necessary provision for punishment against contravention of the Official Language Act is not legislated, the movement shall again be revived with effect from April 1, Utkal Divas.
Representative of the Sangram Samiti Subhas Chandra Pattanayak emphasized that, the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954, which is in force, has laid down that, for all and any official purpose, Oriya shall be the language in the State of Orissa. So the necessity of Oriya language in administration, education and employment cannot be questioned and subjected to any review in any workshop. The first item in the agenda, therefore, was sans any merit for deliberation, he said.
The other item was discarded as the Government did not come forward to apprise the workshop of its “Approach to Oriya language education and training and usable Oriya language”.
Naturally the agenda rushed into discussion on the issue of “Oriya Open University”.
CRUX OF THE MISCHIEF
At the beginning, Convener of the Sangram Samiti Sri Shankarshan Parida vehemently criticized the agenda that was set for discussion on “Oriya Open University”. The mandarins cannot be allowed to tamper with the decision taken in the fourth meeting of the Joint Action Committeee (Ministerial Committee) on January 12 to establish the Oriya University. It was entirely wrong on part of the mandarines to have tampered with that decision to limit the workshop to the “Proposed Oriya Open University”, he thundered.
Ruling Party MP Sri Baishnav Charan Parida pooh-poohed the necessity of a new university, whether regular or open, when existing Oriya departments in Universities and Autonomous Colleges are having no adequate teachers. Oriya Chairs in BHU or JNU will not help Oriya language exactly as rain in New Delhi does not eliminate draught in Orissa, he said. He supported the endeavor to amend the Act and creation of Rules to implement the Act by providing for accountability in case of contravention. Yet, his pooh-poohing the issue of the University irked the participants.
The Sangram Samiti threatened to walk out if the subject of discussion does not change from “Proposed Oriya Open University” to Oriya University.
On coming to know of the agenda in advance, Sangram Samiti convener Sri Sankarshan Parida had informed the authorities that he and his team would oppose, if the workshop was to work on Open University. So a banner was created depicting that, the workshop was on Oriya University. But the agenda was not corrected. Topic of the workshop remained “Proposed Oriya Open University”. This had annoyed the participants to such extent that Prof. Kishore Basa of Utkal University had to declare that if Open University was to the subject for the workshop, he would walk out.
THE CHANGED STANCE
Sensing the mood of the participants, Special Secretary, Higher Education, Dr. Padhi changed the stance and said that, the discussion should continue and if majority of the participants opt against the “Proposed Oriya Open University” and prefer the regular University, then that would be reported to the Government for further decision. This normalized the situation and discussion started.
Dr. Subrat Kumar Prusty of the Sangram Samiti gave a documented presentation of various language Universities of India where globally relevant and highly technical subjects are being taught in mother tongues of the people with remarkable success. He urged upon all the participants to support the demand for a regular research-centric multi-subjected University in Oriya which would enhance the excellence of the language. All the participants supported the demand, but not emotionally.
Prof. Gouranga Charan Dash of Ravenshaw University expressed anguish over the fact that when excellence of Oriya language, its linguistic distinction, its heritage and spread is being emphasized upon, no institute of higher studies in Oriya has any linguist in the faculty. A specific University in Oriya language can deal effectively with this lacuna, he said.
The preference for the regular Oriya University was based on scholarly realities and on correct analysis of the position. As for example, when former Principal of Ravenshaw College, as then it was, Prof. Amulya Kumar Panda declared that, the University in Oriya language is the dear dream of every Oriya, and for excellence in education and research in Oriya language,which would be the best of working language for Orissa, the regular University in Oriya language is unquestionably a must; Prof. Shrikant Mohapatra, working VC of Orissa Open University supported the Oriya University concept on the basis of the position that, for research in Oriya language or in any subject through Oriya language, the “Proposed Oriya Open University” cannot be the competent University, as the UGC has put a ban on Open Universities in registering and guiding research projects.
Prof. Kishore Basa of Utkal University was very emphatic on the necessity of a regular Oriya University, which, if established, would transform Oriya Language into an excellent working language. The proposal for “Oriya Open University” was not at all acceptable to him.
Vice Chancellor of Utkal University Prof. Ashok Das, Linguist Prof. Khageswar Mohapatra, Prof. Natabar Satpathy, Prof. Raj Kishore Mishra, Ex-MLA Dr. Sipra Mallick,Director of Orissa Bhasa Pratisthan Dr. Tamasa Das Mohapatra were among the other speakers who enriched the deliberations of the workshop where VCs and eminent professors of various Universities of the State shared their considered views.
The workshop was convened to formulate details of the University; but the confusion over its regular vis-a-vis open status consumed the day.
However, after the scholarly presidential address of Dr. Debi Prasanna pattanayak, the entire house was one in favor of Oriya University, and in rejection of the “Proposed Oriya Open University” mooted by the government.
Minister of Higher Education Dr. Pradip Panigrahi assured that his department would convey the Government of the recommendation of the workshop for the regular University in Oriya Language, which would be named Oriya University.