Bhasha Andolan, Orissa: A Short History

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

To her misfortune, Orissa has a Chief Minister, who does not know the Oriya language and runs an administration entirely in English when hardly 5% of the population of Orissa knows and understands this foreign language.

Sri Patnaik is in power for more than 16 years, but has not considered it necessary to learn Oriya and converse with the people in Oriya. As a result of this, the first linguistic State of India, which was the first province in India to frame and promulgate Orissa Official Language Act (hereinafter called the Act) in 1954 stipulating therein that for “all and any official purpose, Oriya shall be the language”, is being governed in English, which is not even a constitutional language, not being placed in the 8th schedule of the Constitution of India. Thus, the State is being governed unconstitutionally, when around 95% of the population of Orissa suffer administratively and perish in the labyrinth of demoralization.

A former Chief Minister J.B.Patnaik had tried his best to implement the Act and to ensure governance in Oriya. But, the steps he took could not succeed, as one of his predecessors Biju Patnaik had sabotaged Oriya language to the core by amending the Act to the effect of imposing English as Official Language in addition to Oriya “for the transaction of business in the Legislature of the State of Orissa”. Taking advantage of this amendment, as administration is answerable to the Legislature, the ministers who were eager to project themselves as rulers and hence elite, and the mandarins of anglicized mentality, transformed the entire administration into business in English to the imperilment of Oriya as people’s language of utility.

Long after J. B. Patnaik, a Member of Parliament Baishnab Charan Parida (hereinafter called BCP), who was rewarded with a seat in the Rajya Sabha from BJD for his disloyalty to the Communist Party of India, in order to save his face as a pro-people person, created an outfit styled as Oriya Bhasha Suraksha Samiti (hereinafter called Suraksha Samiti) and started demanding that the Act be implemented. He, is suspected to have picked up this issue to eclipse the activities of an advocate and poet Sri Gajanan Mishra of Titilagarh, Bolangir who has been campaigning for use of Oriya as the Court Language. His argument is tremendous and based on legal position. He had, to certain extent, succeeded in legitimatization of proceedings in Oriya in lower courts of the locality. But unless a general practice in Oriya prevails in Orissa’s courts, his individual endeavor was not fetching desired result. So, he wanted to shift the seat of his endeavor to capital of the State for involvement of greater spectrum of people in his campaign. A retired Banker and Columnist Tusarkanta Satpathy was the first man of Bhubaneswar to stand with him. Mishra sat on a symbolic hunger strike for a day on April 1, 2015. Poet Umakanta Raut (Aroop) was a magnetic spirit behind Mishra who roped in poet Sankar Parida (hereinafter called SP), with a hope that he having a ruling party connection as its former chairman of Puri district board, can persuade the govt. to accept the demand.

Advised by many to end the impromptu hunger strike, Mishra declared that, if the State Government fails to implement the Act by end of June, he would sit in fast-on-to-death in support of his demand from July 1, 2015 and it was decided to extend him all support.

Accordingly, supporters of the cause were organized into a new forum, which provided a common platform to all the organizations campaigning for implementation of the Language Act. It was christened ‘Oriya Bhasa Sangram Samiti’(hereinafter called Sangram Samiti).

The agitation reached so high by July 8, with Sri Mishra in fast-on-to-death and several others on relay hunger strike every day, and this writer leading a road-blockade, that, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had to announce that he was ready to constitute a Ministerial Committee with five Ministers and seven representatives of the Sangram Samiti which would look into implementation of the Act by removing all obstacles from its path. On this premises, Gajanan Mishra ended his fast.

The CM posted five Ministers Viz. Debi Prasad Mishra, Arun Kumar Sahu, Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Pranab Prakash Das and Bikram Arukh to this Committee with Sri Mishra as its chairman. The Sangram Samiti also sent its representatives namely SP, Gajanan Mishra, Subhas Chandra Pattanayak (hereinafter SCP), Dr. Natabar Satpathy, Dr. Bhagavan Prakash, and Subrat Kumar Prusty (hereinafter SKP). Government added BCP, as a member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and Dr. Devi Prasanna Pattanayak (hereinafter DPP) as a linguist.

Later the government tactfully changed this status. When the Ministerial Committee (hereinafter MC) was constituted under Code number 18715/GA dated 31. 07. 2015 , the status of the private members was arbitrarily changed from ‘Sangram Samiti representatives’ to “nominated Members.” Except this writer and Gajanan Mishra, no other member objected to this mischief.

When the first meeting of this Committee was held on August 01, 2015, DPP advanced an argument that unless a Language Policy is formed, governance of Orissa in Oriya cannot be carried out. Even as BP had tried to derail the proceedings, the MC chairman Minister Debi Prasad Mishra asked him to draft the policy. This was a shrewd design to foil the purpose for which the MC was constituted. The single and unambiguous purpose (we may call it ‘Term of Reference’) was “working of the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954” on which the only desired action was to be limited to analysis of the said Act and suggestion of amendment, if any, was to be made to make it effective and inviolable. DPP tried to confuse the Committee, with the Chairman of the Committee Minister D.P.Mishra readily accommodating that.

The MC, however, resolved to create a website completely addressed to implementation of the 1954 Act. Members were called upon to submit their suggestions.

Accordingly, in the next meeting, DPP placed his draft language policy and SCP placed a set of draft for amendment of the Orissa Official Language Act to remove its lacunae because of which it was not being implemented and also the Rules he wanted to be adopted to drive the Act ahead.

Both the drafts were decided to be placed in the specific website that was eventually named ODIARE SHASANA at, under the links: and respectively read with .

The committee decided that the Principal Secretary of Law should work upon the draft sets of legislation submitted by SCP as above, before it was placed before the Assembly for adoption. ORISSA MATTERS published the information at .

With this information available to him, the Chief Minister also told the Assembly on December 14, 2015 that the government was actively working upon the formation of necessary Rules to implement the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954. We had welcomed the CM’s Assembly statement.

But to our surprise and shock, only two days after this statement, the CM dramatically drifted away from the proposed legislation. He took a meeting of the Ministerial Committee’s five ministers only in complete oblivion of the nominated members of the MC on December 17, 2015 and after that, caused issuance of a Press Statement declaring a 9 point agenda for governance of Orissa in Oriya, sans any mention of the necessary legislation. It was a completely confused Statement, inasmuch as from letter No. 213 of General Administration department dated December 18 to different Secretaries, it transpires that the said meeting had drawn up a 14 point agenda, not nine. Surprisingly, on December 20, the Information & Public Relations department projected 10 of these 14-point programs as already advanced for implementation by the CM! Rampant the shenanigans!

However, there was no trace of the proposed legislation either in the said statement or in the final projected 14 point agenda. SCP strongly protested against this mischief of the CM. Once the MC was constituted as per GAD-CODE-CORDES-0013-2015-18715 date 31.07.2015, it was absolutely arbitrary on part of the CM to force upon the said Committee his 14 point agenda in absence of the nominated members who were there as representatives of the Sangram Samiti, he alleged. He discussed the issue at and continued to discuss the issue in ORISSA MATTERS.

Agenda before the Ministerial CommitteeIt was strange that, instead of correcting the wrong, the government called the MC to session on 12.1.2016. The 14 point agenda as noted above was the only agenda before the Committee. It was clear that the government was trying to ratify by the nominated members the CM’s agenda arbitrarily adopted behind back of the nominated members representing the language activists; and beyond the Term of Reference. SCP and Gajanan Mishra vehemently opposed this mischief. But, surprisingly, other nominated members in the MC kept mum. It was quite perplexing inasmuch as the imposed agenda was breathing a hidden agenda to play havoc with the objectives of Odia Bhasa Pratisthan, which a private body comprising DPP and SKP had been trying to execute in PPP mode.

When removal of all obstacles from the path of implementation of the Act was the only task before the MC under the terms of Reference, and when the amendment of the Act and creation of the Rules as advanced by SCP were essential for achieving this aim, the MC was being shepherded into the game plan of a number of Bhasha Mafia working for self interest under its cover. The situation was really perplexing.

However, the number one item in the agenda – Odia Open University – was objected to by all in this meeting. This writer, in the draft Rules he had given, had suggested that the State should establish a language university to be known as ‘Oriya Visvavidyalaya’. He insisted on that. Therefore, a resolution was adopted to decide the issue in a “workshop” on this item during the said month. This “workshop” witnessed the CM’s agenda for Open University rejected by the majority participants. A regular ‘Oriya University’ was the majority preference.

The MC was not supplied with what happened in the workshop.

To SCP, it was clear that, if the CM was reluctant to amend the Act and adopt the Rules, because thereby he may also be punished for contravention of the Act, which was perhaps the reason of his drifting away from his Assembly announcement, the MC will just go on killing time to hoodwink the people of the State, but shall never want the proposed legislation get the status of Law.

In such a situation, he thought to create a new platform of movement. And, this platform is Bhasha Andolan, Orissa.

Besides SCP, four other media persons – Pradyumna Satpathy (Editor of Subartta), Pabitra Mohan Maharatha(Media Consultant and Freelance Journalist), Tusarkanta Satpathy (a former Bankerturned Columnist) and Sagar Satpathy (Editor of News Insight are leading the movement that uses a novel method of protest against a ruthless government, the like of which is not seen anywhere.

The most sensitive nerve of power in Orissa spreads from the Legislative Assembly to the Governor’s house in Bhubaneswar, the Capital City of Orissa. The whole area is under Sec.144 of IPC, prohibiting any congregation of more than four persons, which has become a permanent feature. On this chest of power, according to the plan of the movement, four persons of distinction and eminence marched silently with black flags every day at a particular time. Governance of Orissa in Oriya and punishment to whosoever contravenes the Official Language Act were the only demands displayed in placards were also in their hands. The whole State woke up slowly but steadily like never before. For the first time the the government felt that a silent protest can raise the strongest voice.

Thus this unique movement has forced the government to amend the Act whereupon formation of the Rules would be worked out. Punishment to whosoever hampers governance of Orissa in Oriya by contravening the Act through legislation is now the minimum demand of Bhasha Andolan. The Government is yet to accept this demand.

The movement shall continue till this demand is fulfilled.

2 comments » Write a comment

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.