On September 3, 2015, ORISSA MATTERS chief Subhas Chandra Pattanayak, as a member of the Ministerial Committee in the matter of implementation of Orissa Official Language Act, 1954, had submitted two draft legislation: one for amendment of the Act and the other, Rules for driving the Act ahead with provisions for punishment to whosoever contravenes the Act. The same was published in the specific website odia.odisha.gov.in. The Chief Minister also had told the Assembly on 14.12.2015 that the government was working upon the amendment.
But sadly, thereafter, he drifted away, as non-Oriya mandarins convinced him that if the suggested Rules are adopted, as a non-Oriya practitioner in administration, he himself may attract punishment.
Then attempts were made to divert attention from the necessary amendment of the Act to various other items from where vested interest members of the Committee may derive benefit.
This necessitated a new movement to force the government to amend the Act. A group of language activists met in the office of Subartta and created a new organization styled BHASA ANDOLAN, ORISSA with Sri Pattanayak, the founder, as Adhyaksha (Chairman), Subartta editor Pradyumna Satpathy as Sabhapati (President) and Pabitra Maharatha as Abahak (Convener) to espouse Sri Pattanayak’s proposed amendment of the Act and acceptance of his Rules to implement the Act.
The Government was notified with an ultimatum that in support of the suggestion for amendment of the Act as submitted by Sri Pattanayak, BHASA ANDOLAN would stage silent black-flag demonstration by four eminent Oriyas every afternoon covering the heart of administration from the Assembly to Raj Bhavan. Significantly, at the main gate of the Assembly stands the sacred statue of Nabakrushna Chowdhury, who had created the Act and in front of the Raj Bhawan stands the sacred statue Kulagourav Madhusudan Das, because of whom the geographical Orissa has been created.
Every day a new group of four eminent Oriyas took the black-flags.
The government tried to demoralize the agitators by obstructing their principled and peaceful march by engaging the police to obstruct them on the way.
But the impact of this unique movement was so tremendous that even the ruling party leaders pressurized the Chief Minister to accept the proposal for amendment of the Act to frame Rules to drive the Act ahead. Therefore, on May 21, the CM had to tell the people by way of informing his council of ministers that:
“Odisha Official Language Rules are in advance stage of formulation for better implementation of Odia language in transaction of official business. The Odisha Official Language Act, 1954 is being suitably amended for the purpose. I am hopeful that by 15th of August this shall be implemented”.
BHASA ANDOLAN immediately declared that it was a trick devised by the CM to hoodwink the people. The organization smelled the rat inasmuch as, to its perception, had the CM been honest, the Assembly should not have been adjourned for two days to avoid debates on the issue. On the other hand, the government could have brought in the amendment by way of an ordinance. Therefore, it was declared by the Andolan leadership that the black-flag march shall continue. And, more vigorously it continued.
Oriya people living outside Bhubaneswar, even outside the State have been supporting the Andolan and holding demonstrations in increasing numbers every day.
Attempts have been made to intimidate the Andolan Leadership through hired miscreants and unsocial elements in social media. An editor of a newspaper belonging to a minister who desperately wants to go back to good books of the CM was used to embarrass the Chairman of BHASA ANDOLAN, Subhas Chandra Pattanayak and when that did not click, the said minister also came down upon the Andolan in a public meeting, apparently to please the CM.
When it was clear that BHASA ANDOLAN will continue its historic agitation, the government has promulgated an ordinance bearing Notification number 4752-1-Legis-16/2016 under the caption: THE ODISHA OFFICIAL LANGUAGE (AMENDMENT) ORDINANCE, 2016 – AN ORDINANCE FURTHER TO AMEND THE ODISHA OFFICIAL LANGUAGE ACT, 1954.
It looks like a backdated ordinance juxtaposed with the above-quoted version of the CM; because, both the documents are of the same date. No manipulation is impossible if a government so desires.
However, when the Act is amended to give the government the authority to frame the Rules, and framing of the Rules is possible through subordinate legislation, the same should be immediately done to ensure that whosoever contravenes the Official Language Act, must be punished.
For the time being, it is good that the government’s good senses have prevailed.