Oriya in Crisis: A Linguist against the basic need of the Language

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Linguistic Survey of India, conducted by Sir George Abraham Grierson, had a great contribution to creation of Orissa as India’s first linguistic State, eleven years ahead of independence. Neither Hindi, nor Bengali nor Telugu could vie with the vast vocabulary of Oriya language, it had shown.

But this splendid language is now in severe atrophy, as the incumbent Chief Minister has ruined its utility by running his administration in English.

To reset Oriya as the medium of administration, Bhasha Andolan, Orissa, has been conducting a very unique movement since 13 April 2016 that offers a silent ‘black flag march’ on the most sensitive part of the State Capital spanning from the Assembly to the Governor’s House everyday at 5 pm by a group of four Oriyas of eminence, the like of which is not witnessed anywhere in the world.

Bowing to this movement, the Chief Minister has amended the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954 (hereinafter – the Act), by way even of an Ordinance on 21 May 2016 for creating provisions to stop its contravention.

But, born to a non-Oriya mother and a treacherous father who had not taught his son even the alphabets of Oriya, personally abhorrent for Oriya language, hand-in-glove with non-Oriya officers of Indian Civil Service who control the administration and know all his weaknesses, he has drifted away from framing the Rules to impart punishment to whosoever doesn’t work in Oriya in offices of Orissa.

Sadly, former director of Central Institute of Indian Languages Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak, a non-resident Oriya till his retirement, who was never expected to run after avarice and play a villain, has supported this drift with unfounded and concocted assertions that 84% of Oriya population appreciates the CM’s stand (Samaja, 22 August 2016).

The debacle and re-evolution

People of Orissa had fought for and succeeded in creating this province in order only to make Oriya the medium of administration. Having faced the first armed movement (1803-04) that metamorphosed into the first non-cooperation movement (1817), which, according to G. Toynbee, was furious enough to expel them; and according to W. Forrester, was too patriotic to be suppressed by military or police, the British, on overcoming that insurmountable situation through diplomacy and treachery, had divided the Oriya speaking areas into four parts and had clubbed them in their bordering provinces to reduce the Oriyas belonging to those parts to linguistic minorities in their new administrative provinces to break their mana.

In those provinces, Oriya was denied the status of official language, as a result of which, over and above material debacles caused to the people, their beloved mother tongue – Oriya – was losing her splendor. Therefore, they had raised the movement for amalgamation of all Oriya speaking areas, and succeeded in creation of Orissa as the first linguistic State of India.

Again, the debacle

But the present Chief Minister, has systematically destroyed the mana of Oriya race in his 17 years long misrule by subjecting the State to a rule in English. When Bhasha Andolan is fighting against this assault on Oriya, linguist Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak, who had done nothing for Oriya Language despite having headed the CIIL, and yet was affectionately accepted into their fold by the people of Orissa after his superannuation, is supporting the anti-Oriya CM!

The secret agenda

When the people are in Bhasha Andolan to make the language functional and famous Oriyas are joining the ‘Black Flag March’ of this campaign for restoration of the primacy of Oriya language in Orissa, Dr. Pattanayak is busy in carrying out his business agenda.

According to his own confession (The Samaja, 25 June 2016), in remorse over having done nothing for Orissa despite having done so much for all other States while heading the CIIL, on his return to Orissa after retirement, he wanted to establish a new University for learning and research in Oriya Language, styled “Odia Bishwabidyalaya”.

In fact, it was his secret agenda to obtain huge stretch of land and funds from the government to run a private business in the name of Oriya Language.

He was trying in vain “for fourteen years” to get it materialized. The opportunity came when Naveen Patnaik got nervous due to the language movement; he has admitted (Ibid).

When all institutes of higher education and research from the secondary to university level as well as special Institutes created for excellence in Oriya Language such as the Orissa Sahitya Academy and the Oriya Bhasha Pratisthan are de facto defunct under severe paucity of funds and personnel, with Dr. Pattanayak as ‘Language Policy” maker, the Chief Minister is trying to dazzle the people with new institutes tailored to divert public attention from the need of legislation for punishment against contravention of the Act. In fact, Dr. Pattanayak has emerged as the strongest ally of the CM in this notoriety. When his tricks to support the CM by declaring that 84% people are very happy with non-legislation of punishment against contravention of the Act, as noted supra, did not click, he has stated that there is no necessity to blame either the non-Oriya officers or the Chief Minister for the ill that has inflicted Oriya Language (Nitidin, 12 December 2016). Evolution of this decadence needs stern study.

Evolution of the treachery

A popular poet, Advocate Gajanan Mishra of Titilagarh had been agitating for several years to see that the Courts use Oriya as the court language. He was conducting his cases in Oriya and his persistent efforts had made the Orissa High Court instruct the district judge of Bolangir to deliver his judgment in Oriya language (W.P. (c) 5958/2007). Similarly, in W.P.13622/2008 , it was ordered by the High Court that Oriya version of the plaint shall have to be given to the O.P. Its impact was tremendous. The year 2009 witnessed a spectacular judicial support to Oriya Language, as the Junior Civil Judge (SDJM) of Titilagarh dismissed a suit, when the petitioner did not file the plaint in Oriya.

When such a pro-Oriya judicial development was taking place in context of only one district, i.e. Bolangir, the architect of this development, poet Mishra was raising his voice for Oriya to be the Court Language all over the State.

This had put the State Government in a state of jittery, as the impact thereof was feared to force the government to run the administration in Oriya, when the Chief Minister himself was averse to Oriya as official language.

It was essential for the government to divert attention of the people from the demands of Gajanan Mishra, specifically as his demands had gathered more legitimacy in view of the court verdicts.

An agent for this purpose was available in a Communist renegade Baishnab Charan Parida, who was rewarded by supremo (slave-owning master) of BJD – Naveen Patnaik – with a Rajyasabha membership despite having no natal link with the organization.

Described as an amphisbaena by Gajanan Mishra (Samaja, 10 August 2015), Parida started issuing confused statements and created an organization styled Bhasha Suraksha Samiti to eclipse what Sri Mishra had done for the Oriya Language. But Mishra did not allow his efforts to be eclipsed. He served notice on the State Government that, he would sit in hunger-strike on the 1st April, 2015, if his years-old demand for Court-works in Oriya all over Orissa was not heeded to.

The linguist swoops upon

Then, as the government was thinking of contriving ways to assure the people that it was not anti-Oriya, Dr. Pattanayak’s firm – Institute of Odia Study and Research (IOSR) – entered into an agreement with the ‘Centre of Modernising Government Initiative’ (CMGI) of the GA department on 20 March 2015, just 10 days before Sri Mishra’s hunger-strike, with the willingness “to provide necessary assistance and expertise in the field of usage of Odia Language in the State administration as well as in other activities / programmes extensively”, whereas for the same, the CMGI was “in search”. This was an agreement for business with the government in language sector, with financial gain of Dr. Pattanayak’s firm in mind.

Surprisingly, this Dr. Pattanayak was made a member in the Ministerial Committee formed on 8th July 2015 to work for fulfillment of Sri Mishra’s demand, so that he could end his Fast Hartal, restarted from the 1st of July 2015. Other members nominated to the Committee by the Chief Minister were: Gajanan Mishra himself, Dr. Natabar Satpathy, Baishnab Charan Parida, Dr. Bhagavan Prakash, Shankarsan Parida, Subhas Chandra Pattanayak and Dr. Subrat Kumar Prusty. Dr. Pattanayak was made the Language Policy Advisor of the Government by way of this Committee.

Dr. Pattanayak is decorated with the national civilian honor – Padmashree and is supposed to be a paragon of virtues befitting the civilian honor. But he kept the language-based business-agreement of his firm with the Government a secret, while accepting this assignment and also suppressed the fact that two other members of the Committee – Dr. Natabar Satpathy and Dr. Subrat Prusty – were also the Directors of the said firm created for business in Oriya language.
Poet Gajanan Mishra, whose ‘fast onto death’ had given birth to this Committee, had alleged in a hard hitting article that three of the persons recommended by him for the said Committee – Umakanta Raut, Kahnu Behera and Jantrana Parikshit – were clandestinely dropped (Oriya Bhasha Andolan O Sarakar, The Samaja, 10.8.2015).

Sri Mishra has described in this article a shenanigan that suggests that Shankarsan Parida was under the sway of Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak and with a BJD background, was not in a position to say “NO” to the ministers in the Committee. From a write-up of Dr. Pattanayak (Bhula Katha , Abhula Katha, The Samaja, 17.7.2016) it transpires that, the Chairman of the Ministerial Committee is quite close to him. Naturally, therefore, Sri Parida was in Dr. Pattanayak’s camp, even though he was not a Director of the language business firm mentioned above. Dr. Pattanayak, Baishnab Charan Parida, Dr. Bhagavan Prakash were taken into the committee in place of the three mentioned by Mishra supra. Dr. Prakash was never invited. Thus in the ministerial committee, the nominated members were de facto seven in number, out of which five members namely Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak, Dr. Natabar Satpathy, Dr. Subrat Kumar Prusty (all Directors of IOAR), Shankarsan Parida – close to Dr. Pattanayak as well as to BJD and Baishnab Charan Parida, MP (then) of BJD – were in one side, determined to foil the purpose of the Committee. Records reveal that Parida was an advisor to IOSR in its University project. No wonder, he was one with the private business seekers in the Ministerial Committee as against me – Sri Subhas Chandra Pattanayak- the single seeker of fulfillment of Gajanan Mishra’s demand for which the Committee was constituted on a specific and single term of reference.

Term of Reference

The Ministerial Committee gained its power from a codified Resolution of the Government bearing No. 18715/GA dated 31 July 2015 with a single term of reference to determine how to implement the Orissa Official Language Act 1954.

The Act had come into force “at once” on being published in Orissa Gazette Extraordinary on 14 October 1954 making Oriya “the language to be used for all or any of the official purposes of the State of Orissa” with a rider that, in which office and from which time it “shall be used in respect of such official purposes may be specified in the notification”. In notification No. 7152/Gen dated 29 March 1985, “in supersession of all earlier notifications”, the government directed that “with effect from the 1st day of April, 1985, Oriya shall be used in all offices of the State Government excepting the office of the Registrar, Orissa High Court and offices of the judges and offices subordinate thereto for all official purposes …..”. This GA department notification under Sub-Section (2) of Section 2 of the Act read with Notification No. 406/72 of the Law Department promulgated under Sub-Section (2) of Section 437 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and Section 558 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 makes it clear that except the office of the High Court Registrar and the offices of judges thereof and a few numbers of lower courts in Ganjam and Koraput districts, in all other courts and offices of Orissa, no other language than Oriya shall be the official language. Despite this position of law, why the offices were not working in Oriya? The answer to this question was to be arrived at by the Committee which then should have answered the reference by suggesting legal remedy to the continuous contravention of the language law.

Lacuna located

On deep research, I located the lacuna.

I found that, there was no provision in Orissa Official Language Act for punishment against its contravention. There was no provision for creation of Rules to drive the Act ahead. Taking advantage of this, the functionaries were not honoring the Act and not using Oriya in official work.

I suggested that the Act should be amended to bring in the penal provision. Therefore, I drafted and submitted the suggested amendments, which, the government posted in the specific website built up for the purpose of governance of Orissa in Oriya. Some eminent lawyers including retired State Counselor Sarat Kumar Panda also contributed their best to formulate the proposed amendment. Sans the penal provision the Act shall not work in Orissa in her present peculiar condition, they also opined. So the draft I had given was based on the need of penal provision in the Act.

This proposal for penal provision has unnerved the chief minister, who, born to a non-Oriya mother, is not only unable to work in Oriya, but also is abhorrent to Oriya language. He is trying to hoodwink the people with announcements for “Odisha Open University” and finally “University of Odia Language and Literature”. Dr. Pattanayak’s stress on the University contributes to diversion of public attention from the need of this legislation. Parida, whose activities were designed to eclipse Gajanan Mishra’s impact, has, taking the cue from this writer’s draft Rules, started demanding for a language commission, just for the same purpose of diverting public attention from the Bhasha Andolan demand for legislation of penal provisions against contravention of the Act.

Parida, who yet projects himself as a Marxist, has deserted the communist camp to join the BJD and thus is an unprincipled politician. So, there is nothing to be surprised over his shrewd support to Naveen while acting in support of Oriya Language. But shocking is the role Dr. Pattanayak is playing.

Misuse of Padma Award

In the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of the above noted agreement, the Government of Orissa in the GA department has agreed that, this organization can make Oriya a language effective for administration.

In the words of the MoU, “IOSR, working in the field of research and the quality use of Odia Language, has contributed a lot in establishing Odia as a classical language with a rich heritage and having the required expertise in the general use of Odia Language, can make Odia a language of effective administration”.

How could the GA department know that IOSR “has contributed a lot in establishing Odia as a classical language with a rich heritage and having the required expertise in the general use of Odia Language”?

Had it conducted any investigation to ascertain it? Had it invited any bid to come to this conclusion? I made a thorough search and found no such steps to have ever been taken by the government.

My research shows that, Dr. Pattanayak has misused the Padmashree decoration to dazzle the State Government, which has resulted in official choice of his business outfit IOSR sans any selection for the MoU.

The IOSR has stolen the Classical-Odia document from Odia Bhasha Pratisthan of the Government of Orissa to use the same for claiming credit for central recognition of Oriya’s status as classical. In the agreement aforesaid, it seems this horrific conduct has so thrasonically been used that to the conviction of General Administration Department, this institute “has contributed a lot in establishing Odia as a classical language”.

Govt. knows of the theft, yet silent

This theft of the document prepared by Odia Bhasha Pratisthan by Dr. Pattanayak’s private institute is well known to the authorities and there is a definite disapproval of his conduct in the culture bureaucracy.

Therefore, when the department of culture, through its wing Orissa Sahitya Academy, celebrated the recognition of classical status of Oriya Language as per desire of the Chief Minister, it was not deemed proper to invite him to the occasion. In an article captioned “Bhula Katha O Abhula Katha”, Dr. Pattanayak has cried over how he was neither mentioned nor was invited even to the dais, when the book documenting ‘Classical Odia’ was released in the function. “As many as five books were released in this function. Authors, editors of four of them were invited to the dais when those were released. But, even though in the Classical Odia book, it is printed that the same was prepared by me, I was not invited to the dais when it was released”, he has said (Samaja, 17 July 2016).

This would never have been possible, had the government not known that Dr. Pattanayak and his associates are guilty of theft of the documented memorandum of Odia Bhasha Pratisthan to bag credit for IOSR in the matter of Oriya’s classical status to use the same for posing as an institute of research, which was essential for Dr. Pattanayak and his associates to cultivate the above agreement with the government as well as to bag permission and official patronization for his/their dream project of a private university that they had styled ‘Odia Biswabidyalaya’.

From OB to OBoSB

Dr. Pattanayak had opposed when Chief Minister thought of establishing a new University as Odisha Open University (Samaja, 25 June 2016). In this piece he had clearly noted that for Odia Biswabidyalaya, he had been trying for the last 14 years, which in the pro-Oriya environment created by the language movement was going to bear fruit.

But, to his chagrin, the lower bureaucracy in Higher Education Department did not agree for the proposed University to be established in private mode. Thus a new name – Odia Bhasha O Sahitya Biswabidyalaya (OBoSB) –metamorphosed in the secretariat. Dr. Pattanayak described it as a “conspiracy” against his endeavor (Ibid).

His attempt to create public resentment against the bureaucratic step through campaign in media failed to click, as nobody supported his private University design.

When the lower bureaucracy argued to make it a public sector University styled as above, Dr. Pattanayak, along with the owner of the Trust to which he belongs and Dr. Omkar Mohanty met the Principal Secretary of Higher Education department by using the office of a minister and handed him over a draft of the Bill that they wanted to be the Bill to be placed for adoption in the Assembly.

The said Bill is having ingredients to pave the way for providing business to Pattanayak’s firm IOSR.

On 21 September 2016, the Assembly Secretariat was notified of this Bill, which, however, could not come to the House till end of the session.

The Assembly was again notified of this Bill in its winter session, but before it was circulated, the session was aborted all on a sudden. It may be pressed in the coming session, as the vested interest linguist is pressing hard for it and in the matter of official language the CM is just a fantoccini in the hands of vested interest elements.

Legislators’ responsibility

If a public sector University is newly created for Oriya Language and Literature with the shrewd provisions to provide bonanza to private operators, is it not better to stop the same taking shape through the legislature?

If the MLAs would pay deep attention to the ‘University of Odia Language and Literature Bill’, they would see that the “objects of the (proposed) University are the same as that of Odia Bhasha Pratisthan, read with that of the Sahitya Academy, Utkal University of Culture, Utkal University and other such Universities established by the State Government. They will also find that all these public sector Universities and Institutions are severely atrophied by overwhelming shortage of teachers and infrastructures. Instead of strengthening them with adequate teaching staff and referral libraries and other essential components, why the government is entertaining the secret agendas of language-mafias by proposing a new University of Odia Language and Literature?

One of the reasons is: Diminishing the impact of Bhasha Andolan by hoodwinking the people of Orissa in the name of Oriya Language.

The MLAs ought to understand this and foil the linguist’s foul design.

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