In the history of Oriya Language the period from April 8, 2016 to May 25, 2016 shall have an everlasting distinction for being the period of an unique struggle of the people against their own Government for emancipation of their mother tongue from the pernicious grip of English Language, to obtain which the grand old man of Orissa, Kulagourav Madhusudan Das and his compatriots had made immense sacrifices, under the impact of which, the present geographical Orissa was born as the first linguistic State of India.
The Orissa thus born had enacted the first ever official Language Act of India in 1954 declaring Oriya to be the language for “all and any official purpose” in the State of Orissa and with adoption thereof, English as official language in the post-independence grace period had lost its official utility. But, the present Chief Minister’s father had, during his regime as CM, sabotaged the Act of 1954 by reviving English as official language in addition to Oriya in context of the Legislative Assembly by way of an amendment in 1963. The present Chief Minister has totally shattered whatever little importance the language had in its home state before he took over. He does not know Oriya and has not learned Oriya despite being in power for last 16 years in Orissa, running a proxy government driven almost by his non-Oriya private secretary, viewed by the public in a recent opinion poll as the third most powerful person of the State.
The mother tongue being in such a quandary, bruised Oriyas had been crying in various ways for governance of Orissa in Oriya, lest thereby the utility value of the language could be enhanced to save it from total atrophy.
But none of them had found as to why the Official Language Act that had stipulated that “for all and any official work Oriya shall be the language”, was not being implemented.
Journalist Subhas Chandra Pattanayak of ORISSA MATTERS conducted a deep study and found that the Act was being contravened, as there was no provision for punishment against its contravention. This was in September 2015, when he was a member in the Ministerial Committee constituted to monitor the implementation of the Act. He further found that the Act had not given any power to the Government to frame Rules to implement the Act. He, therefore, submitted two draft legislation; one, for amendment of the Act to give the government the powers for framing the Rules and the other, the Rules that provided for punishment against contravention of the Act.
As official shenanigans suggested that the government was not going to heed to this proposal, he revolted against the role of the Ministerial Committee and constituted a new platform styled Bhasha Andolan, Orissa wherein four other media persons – Media Consultant Pabitra Maharatha, Subartta Editor Pradyumna Satpathy, Columnist Tusharkanta Satpathy, News Insight Editor Sagar Satpathy joined hands with him.
On behalf of this new organization, an Ultimatum was served on the government on April 8, 2016 notifying that in support of the proposal for provision of punishment against contravention of Orissa Official Language Act by amending the Act to frame such Rules, the Andolan shall offer silent Black-Flag demonstration on the principal road of the capital city spanning from the Assembly to the Governor’s House every afternoon from the New Year’s Day of Orissa that was to come on April 13, 2016.
From this splendid day, every day, four distinguished persons continued to hit the street with Black-Flags in full silence, in support of the demand. They were starting from the front of the statue of the great Gandhian yet progressive Nabakrushna Chowdhury, who had framed the Orissa Official Language Act in 1954 and were dispersing after offering their homage to Kulagourav Madhusudan whose leadership was the main factor behind creation of the Linguistic State of Orissa.
This was an unique experience of oneness with the mother tongue and an equally unique experimentation of how silence could be vociferous in transmission of revolutionary message. The whole of Orissa woke up to its call.
The Chief Minister also woke up in alarm on May 21. By way of addressing his Council of Ministers under the guise of celebration of the 2nd anniversary of his present phage in office, he declared that the Official Language Act shall be amended and the rules to dive it ahead shall be framed and Orissa’s governance in Oriya shall be complete by August 15.
The Andolan leadership immediately reacted with a demand that the the Act be amended by way of Ordinance if the CM was sincere in what he had announced. The Ordinance, as demanded, was notified in the night the same day. The published copy of the Gazette carrying the Notification was available on May 24. In responding to the good gesture, the Black Flag demonstration was kept in abeyance till August 15, 2016.
It was announced in the gathering of the participants in the Black-Flag-March and language activists formally in the evening of May 25.
With the Chairman of Bhasha Andolan Subhas Chandra Pattanayak in Chair. President of the Andolan Pradyumna Satpathy gave details of who had joined the historic march for the mother tongue.
Sambad Editor Mr. Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, who had supported the movement all along, was the Chief Guest. Punishment against non-adherence to Orissa Official Language Act is the key to governance of Orissa in Oriya, he agreed. Here below is what he had said-
While praising Sri Soumya Ranjan Patnaik for his support to the movement, the Andolan Activists who have been renewing their pledge with garlanding Madhu babu every evening, today reviewed the position since postponement of the Black-Flag demonstration and expressed alarm at the discernible negligence of the government in finalizing the draft of the Rules. They wished that the Government should do better by hearing what Sri Soumya Ranjan Patnaik has said.