Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

An Order of the Cuttack District Judge has put a stymie on the way of the Oriya Nation to get back its most unique and sought after treasure, the Purnachandra Ordia Bhashakosha, the incomparable encyclopedic lexicon of Oriya language comprising 1,85,000 words with multi-lingual synonyms and explanatory notes and word history compiled by the most memorable son of Mother Orissa, Gopal Chandra Praharaj and his team and published with the help of the people of Orissa and their public exchequer; the first Volume released in September 1931 and the last Volume in September 1940.

Published in seven massive volumes comprising a total of 9248 pages, this unique work is now extinct, save a set preserved in the National Library at Kolkata and a very few more sets at places with people never accessible to general public. Hence for the last so many years, attempts at various level were being made to republish it in public interest. Srujanika, Orissa’s famous combine of creative minds, has already brought out its e-edition. But the general public, unable to take advantage of the e-edition, but eager to get this treasure revived, a Bhubaneswar based publishing house, Lark Books, has brought out the reprint of the first volume last month with assurance to bring out the rest volumes in quick succession.

At this stage, moved by Ms. Girija nandini Praharaj, a lady who claims to be an heir of Gopal Chandra, under the Copyright Act, has issued on November 09 an injunction on Lark Books proceeding with the project. The competency of the District Judge in issuing such injunction is not questionable. But in larger interest of Orissa’s general public, I think, the High Court should intervene and end the avoidable hassle.

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I venture the following points:

ONE – Purnachandra Ordia Bhashakosha is a compilation of Oriya words, not created by Gopal Chandra, but created and developed by the people of Orissa generations after generations. Conscious of this he himself, though an eminent lawyer, had never reserved the copyright of this work for himself or any in his family or future successors. Perusal of the relevant pages of the Bhashakosha would make this clear.

TWO – Gopal Chandra was not the sole compiler of the Bhashakosha. As would be seen from the accompanying photo, there were four other co-compilers such as Smt. Pitambari Devi, Sri Chandra Sekhar Mishra, B.A., Pt. Kulamani Dash, Kavyatirtha and Pt. Ramachandra Rath. According to Gopal Chandra, Smt. Pitambari Devi, after a painstaking research that spanned over five years, had compiled several hundreds of the words in vogue amongst the people belonging to the castes of Gauda (Cowherd), Bhandari (Barber), Badhei (Carpenter), Chasa (Cultivator), Keuta (Fisherman as well as paddy-husker), Tanti (Weaver) etc. She also has collected hundreds of words in vogue amongst the rural women in form of badinage, banters, proverbs, nursery songs, etc. It is most pertinent to note that above mentioned castes are of the people who are illiterate but self-employed professionals. The words they were using were proto-technical words and mostly in vocal form. So also the words used by the rural women in their conversation in day to day life under varied circumstances. But all these words were of excellent applied potentiality. Gopal Chandra has noted that Pitambari Devi had contributed not less than 5000 such typical words which otherwise would not have been available to the compiled lexicon. In view of this he was against claiming exclusive right over the compilation. And this was one of the reasons of his not reserving any copyright for himself or any of his heirs.

THREE – According to his own version, he had no money of his own to publish the Bhashakosha. So, he had, through the newspapers, appealed to the general public for financial help. And, people of Orissa, particularly the rich in person, and the rest through their respective Kings and organizations made the donations. One is to peruse the pages of the BHashakosha to know how the people of Orissa saw it as a cause of their own and made the best of their efforts to bring out the publication. The people of the Garjats through their kings were contributing, the State of Kalahandi being the first respondent to the appeal in 1928. Its King Braja Mohan Dev was the first to send Rs.1000/- in a lump which paved the way for other Rulers making their contributions. Oriya nobles having their Kingdoms away from the present homeland, such as Munger, Chikiti, Kharasuan etc also sent financial support. Every eminent Oriya that was holding any influential post tried his best to cultivate financial support for the project. As for example, Rajah of Kanika who was Member-in-charge of Finance in the Bihar-Orissa Government had prevailed upon the Administration to book in advance for at least 1000 sets of the Bhashakosha and Deputy President of Bihar-Orissa Council Rai Bahadur Laxmidhar Mohanty had made intense lobby in the affluent circle within his jurisdiction for patronization to the project. “It would never have been as easy as it has become to day to print and publish the Bhashakosha had Laxmidhar not devoted his sincere most might to the cause”, Gopal Chandra has recorded in his acknowledgement in the pages of the lexicon. Similarly he has recorded how the collective bodies of the people of Orissa have helped him. The Oriya Sahitya Prachar Sangha of Cuttack is an instance. So, the entire work is the work of the Oriya people done collectively and in acknowledging this, the compiler has never reserved any copyright in his personal favor. When he had never reserved copyright for himself, where from one or any heir of him accrues this right?

FOUR – The compiler has admitted that the Bhashakosha is the common property of the people of Orissa. Look at the language and the words he has used. He has said this at page XV of the introduction in Oriya in Volume-1 in the following words: PURNACHANDRA BHASHAKOSHA ODIA JATIRA KOTHA SAMPATTI. So Gopal Chandra has made it unambiguously and absolutely clear for all time to come and for all persons to know that the Bhashakosha is the collective property of the people of Orissa. The claim of copyright over the common property of the people of Orissa by a lady claiming to be an heir of Gopal Chandra is therefore not tenable and I am afraid the lady has misused the judicial process to stop the people of Orissa from having access to the common trove of their vocabulary.

In disposing the case of V.R.Gowd seeking judicial help to restitute conjugal rights, which, he had claimed, actress Sridevi was denying him, even though they had married in March 1992, the Supreme Court of India, has enforced, on November 10, a cash penalty of Rs. 1 lakh on Gowd, holding his case as a misuse of judicial process. Had the lower Court first tried to find out if Gowd had the locus standi to file the case, the matter would never have consumed so much valuable judicial time up to the Apex Court. The above four points lead me to fear that the hassles over the Bhashakosha is an instance of misuse of judicial process. The people of Orissa, whose common property (KOTHA SAMPATTI) is the Purnachandra Bhashakosa, as admitted and declared by Gopal Chandra Praharaj himself, must not be kept away from access to this splendid trove of their vocabulary by a District Court on hearing a person who claims to be a family heir of Praharaj though the same person has kept the Court in dark about his aforequoted declaration.

It would not be out of place to say that the family of Gopal Chandra has deserted him during his life time. In the opinion of Shashi Bhusan Roy, eminent author and his closest friend, he was a personification of compassion. He was as harmless as a five years old child. He was never after money, but was always satisfied with whatever he honestly earned, if that could help him to help others and to sustain his own simple hearth. It is a pity that such a nice and benevolent man was deserted by his family. His wife Muktamani was staying with their son in the village enjoying the ancestral properties and none of them stood with him when he was most threatened, so contemptuous were they to his intellectual activities, specifically to his use of time in the Bhashakosha. He had reasons to suspect that there is threat to his life. He was suspecting that he may be poisoned to death. Therefore he had pet a cat and was taking milk only after the said cat was fed with a portion thereof and watched for after effects, if any, till his satisfaction. The cat preceded him two days before he succumbed to poisoned milk on 17 May 1945. So helplessly and so wretchedly he had to die!

If his family had not abandoned him he would never have died such a pathetic death. According to Shashi Bhusan Roy, the most authentic eye witness to what had happened to him, Gopal Chandra Praharaj had to endure a helpless, isolated life under constant threat of annihilation with an antagonist family in the background.

Had the family not abandoned Gopal Chandra, the 30 thousand pages of the manuscript of the Bhashakosha would have been under their possession. In order to establish the primary locus standi to claim a stake, the claimant should be asked to deposit the handwritten manuscript of 30 thousand pages before the judiciary for scrutiny so that an attempt to misuse the judicial process gets the logical end.

Taking clue from the Supreme court verdict in Sridevi-V.R.Gowd case, I feel that it will be better if the High Court of Orissa intervenes in this sensitive issue and ends the hassles.

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