Heroic Life of Oriya Language

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa is a land of PuraPalli. The word ‘Pura’ stands for the place(s) where the elites using Sanskrit as official language were residing and ‘Palli’ stands for the villages of Orissa where Pali was the language of the common people. Mother tongue of Orissa was Pali and therefore, Buddha, born near Bhubaneswar in the Dhauli region, had preached his philosophy in Pali. Whosoever Indian and non-Indian outside Orissa had accepted Buddhism as his/her creed, had learned Pali in order to understand Buddha. In Orissa’s words of daily use, even now, we find Pali in adjusted form. Be it Sambalpuri or Koshali, be it Deshia or Uttari, Pali is the silent base that has been in use incognito and thus Oriya has withstood all attempts of Sanskrit and other languages of the ruling class to overshadow it.

With Buddha’s demise, when the pyramid of Buddhist philosophical framework de facto collapsed and Vedic Brahminism eclipsed his birthplace Orissa, and the land succumbed to aggression by non-Oriya Vedic imperialists, and Buddhism, in its place of origin, had to suffer almost extinction with brutal annihilation of Buddhist Monks, the Siddhas, particularly of Chourashi Monastery on River Prachi, had developed a non-Sanskrit linguistic style of their own in a pattern improved from Pali to continue preaching of the essence of their creed.

But, when those mystic poems composed to popularize matriarch magnificence of Buddhism in proto Oriya interlaced with philosophic intricacies in that peculiar pattern known as ‘Sandhya Bhasa’, became too intricate for the general public to understand easily, Sri Jaya Dev (wrongfully branded as Baishnav by the caste-supremacists) decided to present their philosophy in easily understandable lyrics and wrote his most popular love songs (Astapadis) in Oriyanized Sanskrit to equip Sahajayana with a strong supportive literature, which the entire population of Orissa was able to easily understand (Subhas Chandra Pattanayak, Sri Jaya Devanka Baisi Pahacha, Bharata Bharati, Cuttack). Its impact challenged the caste-supremacists, and made Orissa agog with social unity.

Many chauvinists of Vedic system rushed to Orissa, particularly to Puri and forced Sankrit again upon the Orissa administration.

Sanskrit became the official language and people of Orissa were exploited by the caste-supremacists by interpretations of canons written in Sanskrit as they liked. People of Orissa revolted against that evil design under the leadership of a son of the soil, Kapilendra Rautray.

That revolution freed Orissa from the caste supremacist rulers and Oriya language being overshadowed by Sanskrit.

Oriya became Official Language in 15th Century

After occupying the throne, Kapilendra Rautray had become Kapilendra Dev and had banned the use of Sanskrit in his Court, promulgating Oriya as the only language to be used in administration. This had encouraged Sarala Das to write his famous Mahabharata in Oriya and its impact helped production of Oriya Bhagavat in the simplest possible Oriya verses by Atibadi Jagannatha Das and so many other scriptural / devotional composers.

Reaction and Riti

The caste supremacists reacted sharply. They tried to project Sri Jaya Dev as a Hindu Baishnav, not a Bouddha; and interpolated his writings with filthy, clumsy Sanskrit stanzas too strong and complicated for the people to understand.

On the other hand, the royal and hence patriarch poets like Upendra Bhanja wrote and excelled in writing sophisticated odes in Sanskritized Oriya.

Emergence of Bhima Bhoi

Even though those odes were most popular in Orissa because of their rhythmic metres, they were too ornamental and gorgeous for comprehension of the common man. Oriya literature was thus going away from the common man to sophisticated royal enclosures, when Bhima Bhoi dragged it again to the midst of the people by his heart touching simple verses and with him, a trend of keeping the literature popular commenced, which gave birth even to prose writing in common man language.

Fall and the rise

The severest fall of this mana, ever experienced, was in the British regime. East India Company suffered serious set back in its attempt to capture Khurda. The Kind of Khurda, known as Thakur Raja, was honored by all the Princes of Orissa as their emperor because of his connection with Lord Jagannath. Subjugating Khurda was to them the same as bringing all the Princely States into their subjugation. But, that was not that easy. In writing their experience, their eye-witness historian G. Toyenbee has written, “It was not long, however, before we had to encounter a storm which burst with so sudden fury as to threaten our expulsion, if not from the whole of Orissa, at least from the territory of Khurda” (A sketch of the history of Orissa). This had given then such a sharp fear for the “disposition” of Oriyas (W. Forrestor’s report to Commissioner Robert Ker, Dt. 9.9.1818), that, when finally in control of the land, they divided the Oriya speaking tracks and clubbed the divided landmasses with rival language states to reduce the Oriya populations into linguistic minorities , which eventually posed the severest threat to existence of Oriya as a language.

That critical condition again woke up the entire Oriya speaking people to raise the first ever revolution for amalgamation of all the Oriya speaking tracks into a single province for making their mother tongue the language of administration.

History of India has not seen a better movement than this by the people for their mother tongue.

This movement had forced the British to have a Linguistic Survey of India, which had to conclude that, “neither Bengali nor Hindi nor Telugu can vie with” Oriya vocabulary in vastness and richness of the language. From the labyrinth of loss of linguistic identity, Oriyas rose to have their linguistic State under the matchless leadership of Kulagourav Madhusudan Das.

In the labyrinth again

Mr. Naveen Patnaik should have, as the Chief Minister, tried to understand this epoch making evolution of Orissa and along with it, the heroic history of Oriya a small indication of which is given above. But he never thought it prudent to pay attention to this.

In his regime, Orissa has been pushed into the lap of non-Oriyas. Watching how governance of Orissa in non-Oriya language is killing the utility value of the people’s mother tongue, I had to write in ORISSA MATTERS this article captioned: Superior Language Oriya Languishes due to Inferior Leadership

The worst sort of leadership Orissa is feeling cursed to be having, is the tenure of the incumbent Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who neither says Oriya, nor writes in Oriya nor rules in Oriya. In his regime, repeated attacks on Oriya language have been perpetrated. The language that caused the creation of Orissa is in the labyrinth of official apathy in Naveen’s regime.

Mischief of a Minister

In 2005, Higher Education Minister Samir De, a Bengali MLA from Cuttack belonging to BJP, Naveen’s junior partner in the coalition Government, had issued orders to drop Oriya as a subject in College education taking some colleges as laboratories of this evil design. We had exposed that and had forced the Minister to withdraw that notorious order. But our demand to dismiss Samir De, who had presided over that evil design, was ignored by Naveen and he continued in the cabinet to the embarrassment of the people, till finally, they avenged the insult by rejecting him in the election.

It seems, Naveen is following his father’s footprints in ruining the Oriya language.

Biju as CM had pierced the knife

Naveen’s father Biju Patnaik had pierced the knife of subterfuge on the back of Oriya Language by bringing in a provision that in the Assembly, English would be official language along with Oriya. The Official Language Act, 1954 had stipulated that Oriya was “to be used for all or any of the official purposes of the State of Orissa”. But Biju Patnaik destroyed this stipulation in 1963 by inserting Section 3A that made way for use of English “in addition to Oriya for transaction of business in Legislature of the State of Orissa”. This shrewd insertion subjected Orissa administration to predominance of English and ruined the utility of Oriya as a language. But Biju’s mentor Harekrushna Mahtab was the first to have foiled the desire of Oriya people to have their mother tongue as the language of administration in Orissa.

“Criminal indifference”

Mahtab was the Prime Minister of Orissa when India became independent. Pre-independence Orissa Assembly, created in 1946, was in session, when, on April 1, 1948, Pt. Laxmi Narayan Mishra of Sambalpur – representing East-Bargarh – had, by way of a “Resolution” urged upon the Assembly to direct the government to make Oriya the official language of Orissa sans any delay. In moving the Resolution, Pandit Mishra had made it clear that unless the government was bound by a law, it would never allow the people of the province to have their administration run in their “only mother tongue Oriya”.

Making mention of how “the Governmental spokesman have abhorred that the introduction of Oriya, the only mother tongue of Orissa, as the State language will ill-suit to the Secretariat and other branches of administration”, Pandit Mishra had defined the governmental stance experienced till then as “indifference, rather criminal indifference”.

He had hinted to his earlier question – whether Government have done anything to accelerate the adoption of Oriya instead of English as the State language of the Province – to which “the definite reply from the Governmental side was that Government had other important matters to attend to and they had not been able to make any headway in this matter”.

The great Laxminarayan and his appeal

Stating that, “We are only going to dupe our own men by making them bereft of their sacred and hallowed mother tongue in the Courts, in the schools and other spheres of activities concerning the body politics” the great freedom fighter from Sambalpur Pt. Laxminarayan Mishra, who had been imprisoned many times in many jails of Orissa and outside totaling a period of more than 14 years, making matchless sacrifices of three of his children including his elder son at the altar of freedom movement, as during his imprisonment there was no medical care available to them, had shown how “top-ranking officers who are coming from Bengal, who are coming from Madras and from other provinces of India, look down upon our language”.

Pointing out that, when Government is established by law, “law and order has become misnomer because of the adoption of foreign language”, Pt. Mishra had said, “To be in a in a position to make the Oriya masses feel the significance of Swaraj, we cannot but make Oriya as State language at once. x x x x x x It will be sheer impudence if we say that because our Sivaraman does not know Oriya and he will not be in a position to do his job and Mr. Mukherji does not know Oriya, there will be difficulty in the administration. These excuses, my good Sir, are debasing and demoralizing and I can say that these are flimsy and nominal pretends, on the part of Government. x x x x x x There will be no excuse for the Government if they do not adopt the mother tongue of the Province as State language. By not adopting Oriya as State language they will be doing injustice to our ill-clad and ill-fed mother Utkal. Therefore, I appeal to the Government that without any further passing of time, they should adopt Oriya as the provincial State language” (Orissa Assembly Debate, 1st April 1948).

Murkey manners of Mahtab

Lest any member supports the move, a member belonging to the Bengali Community, Rajkrushna Bose stood to oppose the Resolution without bothering about the Speaker’s permission. He took the Speaker for granted and declared, “Since the hon’ble member in charge does not want to give a preliminary reply, I would like to speak at this stage”.

With Mahtab as Prime Minister silently supporting Bose, the Speaker had no courage to stop him from arbitrarily replying to Mishra. And, Bose not only opposed the Resolution, but also pugnaciously castigated Mishra for having moved the said Resolution.

Members like Karunakar Panigrahi, Sarangadhar Das were in favor of Mishra’s Resolution. But, Minister Nityananda Kanungo, glimpse of whose conspiracy against KabiChandra Kali Charan Pattanayak’s endeavor to obtain classical status for Odissi dance is available in Kumbhara Chaka, opposed the Resolution to the extent of compelling Pt. Mishra to withdraw the same.

Pandit Mishra was a great patriot and very uncompromising in his principles. He used his wisdom to withdraw the Resolution in that peculiar situation, as the House being dominated by the Mahtab gang, the same could have been rejected by the House. And, had it been so, principle of res judicata might have obstructed future attempts to make Oriya the Official Language of Orissa, he would have thought.

The noble endeavor of Pt. Mishra had to fail, because, as the Prime Minister, Mahtab did not want the Resolution passed.

Mishra had wanted the Assembly to issue a direction to the Government to make Oriya the official language of Orissa. With such a direction, the government should have proceeded to frame the law. But Mahtab had huge ambitions. And, he knew, without the help of the National Press those ambitions were not to be fulfilled. And, National Press was under the control of the non-Oriyas, specifically the anti-Oriyas. Mishra’s Resolution was quite irritant to the anti-Oriyas. So, he was so very averse to Oriya being the official language of Orissa that he had never taken any steps in his entire political life to help Oriya work as official language of Orissa.

His manners were murky in matters of Oriya language. He was publishing a literary journal in Oriya namely Jhankar, where space was given to all facets of Oriya literature. He was conveying a conclave of Orissa’s men of letters styled Bishuva Milana every year on the occasion of Oriya New Year’s Day (Pana Sankranti) and enjoying applauds as a patron of Oriya literature due to such activities.

But, he had sabotaged the brilliant proposal of Dr. Mayadhar Mansinha as adopted by Utkal University to build up a Sahitya Akademy to best serve the Oriya literature and had rather created an academy to be controlled by the government that was anathema to academia of letters. Oriya authors, instead of standing with Oriya masses and their literature, became more addressed to ingratiate themselves to people in power in their self-interest. No wonder, with such a person as Prime Minister, Mishra’s Resolution to make Oriya the official language had to be thrashed out of the Assembly agenda.

Law framed by Nabakrushna Chowdhury

Nabakrushna Chowdhury had silently watched the mischief that Mahtab had silently played on April 1, 1948 to force Mishra to withdraw his Resolution. Three weeks later, on April 23, 1948 he resigned from the Cabinet as well as his MLA post and went away into the midst of the people to pursue the Gandhian programs he was so deeply dedicated to. He said, the cause of his resignation was his growing “disillusionment” in power politics as the Government (Mahtab’s in the State and Nehru’s in the Centre) discernibly deviated from the dreams of the freedom fighters and probity.

The Constitution was adopted and provisions were enshrined there to make the mother tongue of the people the official language of their respective provinces.

India metamorphosed to Republic on the basis of this Constitution; and elections were held accordingly. Chowdhury was the choice of the elected members for the Chief Minister post.

Immediately on taking over the office, he initiated steps to fulfill the desire of his friend Pt. Laxminarayan Mishra for making Oriya the Official Language of Orissa.

But the same non-Oriya and anti-Oriya lobby that had foiled Mishra’s Resolution stymied his attempt too.

It took more than two years for him to enact the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954.

Surprisingly, with this law enacted, situations were so created that Chowdhury had to resign from Chief Minister post and Mahtab was to come back to power. The Act stayed abandoned till Biju Patnaik pierced his pernicious knife into its heart by way of an amendment in 1963.

Revival attempt in 1985

Mr. J.B.Patnaik tried to revive the Act in 1985. He issued necessary Notification for legal promulgation of Oriya Language as the language of administration in all the Offices of Orissa (Notification No. 7152/Gen. Dated the 29th March, 1985), in supersession of all earlier Notifications. In this course, use of “International form of Indian numerals” in the typewriters was felt a necessity. For this purpose, he brought in the Official Language (Amendment) Act, 1985. Biju’s anti-Oriya mentality thundered in the House, as he ridiculed the idea of making Oriya the official language. “If you go to Andhra, you will find DHUD DHUD, if you go to Karnatak, you will find FUD FUD ! Nothing you will understand there. So many languages there in our country. This is not a country at all”, he had roared.

Naveen Patnaik, it seems, has learnt to disregard Oriya language from his father, who had not taught his children the Oriya alphabet and by whose name he has been administering the State to its present peril.

Naveen’s officer tries to kill Oriya Language

As said supra, in Naveen raj, the first attempt to obliterate Oriya as a subject in higher education was perpetrated by Samir De, who belonged to the Bengali community. As we forced that attempt to fail, time was taken to revive the attack after a decade. A Deputy Secretary in the Department of Higher Education, who also belong to the Bengali Community, asked all the Principals of Government Colleges and all the Universities of Orissa to impart education in English language only, with text books printed only in English too. This was the same as quashing Oriya language in Courses of Study, as the order to teach Oriya in English language with texts of Oriya books printed in English strongly suggested.
ORISSA MATTERS exposed the design under the caption: Oriya would be taught in English language! What a mad government! Alas! Instead of taking action against the Deputy Secretary, the government tried to shift the responsibility to Orissa Assembly. Obviously Naveen Patnaik is following his father’s design against Oriya Language till even today.

The New Awakening

The State is now witnessing a very original and unique movement by Bhasha Andolan, Orissa, which is hitting the heart of the Capital City with four persons in silent march from the front of the Assembly to the front of the Governor’s House with black flags in their hands. Started on the last New Year’s Day of the Oriyas, (Pana Sankranti that had fallen on April 13, 2016), the movement has generated a new awakening amongst the people for saving their mother tongue from the supremacy of English language.

The 1954 Act was deficient with absence of punishment against contravention thereof. It was astonishing that the power to frame the Rules to drive the Act ahead was not even given to the Government in the Act. These inherent deficiencies were pointed out to the government for the first time on September 3, 2015 with necessary drafts of the required amendment of the Act and the Rules by this author in his capacity of being a member in the Ministerial Committee on working of the Act, which were placed in the official website created for the purpose.

Surprisingly, Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak, who was also in the Ministerial Committee along with two functionaries of a Trust created to do business on Oriya Language, danced to the tune of the government to which strict implementation of the Act was a blatant disadvantage. The Government had a natural ally in Baisnab Charan Parida a CPI renegade, who was rewarded with a membership of Rajyasabha for having accepted Naveen Patnaik as his “supremo”. He was being used by Naveen babu to hoodwink the people of Orissa in the matter of official language. Poet Gajanan Mishra, whose ‘fast unto death’ for enforcement of Oriya as Court-Language in Orissa, had given birth to the Ministerial Committee on working of the 1954 Act, has described him as an amphisbaena snake. He was hand-in-glove with D.P.Patnaik in the Ministerial Committee to derail the proposed amendment in the Act of 1954. Now when the Government has amended the Act as suggested by this author by inserting Section 4 to the Act, Parida has started saying that this was his demand since 2012! The sole purpose of Parida is to divert public attention from the Bhasha Andolan that has succeeded in getting the Act amended and has gained support from all over the State to get the Rule provide for punishment to whosoever does not work in Oriya in Orissa.

The life of Oriya Language is really heroic.

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