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The Independence before Independence : The Journey to Utkal Divas

Our Country India, got its independence from the British rule on August 15, 1947 after lots of sacrifice were made in the two hundred year long fight to get the administration into own hands. And  we  celebrate it as our  independence day every year with  much  colour . But there has been another fight within this country, a fight by the people speaking a certain language, a fight that lasted around a century, a fight that is celebrated  today but less number of people actually know about the it, and a fight that gave boundaries to our present day mother land Odisha.

The  result of that fight, on 1st April 1936 Odisha (Orissa should be the correct spelling.. but that’s a debate we will do in another post!) was declared as a separate province based on language, the first of a kind in India under British rule.

Like every year this time too ‘Odisha Dday’ or ‘Odisha  formation day’ or as we fondly call  it ‘Utkal Divas’ to keep that string attached to our history, will be celebrated all over the state at Govt. offices and Schools, various events will be organized by many institutions to commemorate the sacrifices made by our ancestors to give us our identity. And as a citizen of this state, and a true Odia its our duty to be a part of it and celebrate the glory, the sacrifice and the fight that united us and gave us our lost identity.

But to be truly involved and truly celebrate this day we need to dive in the past relive the fight itself.

How things unfolded..The Flashback

After Following the death of Mukunda Deva the last hindu king of then Kalinga Kingdom fell into the hands of Mughals of North, Marathas of west and the naib-Najims of the south. When India came under British rule, three major political division came up viz. territories north of chilka lake, teritories south of chilka lake and the west hilly tract which eventually get under the Bengal province, the Madras province and the Central province without any consideration of race, language and culture of the people of the land.

And being a negligible minority in all the three provinces Odia people and their areas were hugely neglected and undermined. After the Kalinga war devastation and absence of any stable kingdom in Odisha or then Utkala Kingdom, Odia people fell behind  economically and also politically in India in comparison to the other states and provinces. Marred by the administrative negligence, mismanagement of tax collection and oppressive of the corrupt officers coupled with natural calamities like femine and floods Odisha eventually became dependent on the  neighbouring states . Odisha,  the land of great Kalinga warriors, and land of excellent opulence of artists and art (Utkala) eventually lost its glory and suddenly became of land of farmers and tribals only .

But as they say those who adhere to their culture can never be suppressed truly by others. The time had come for the resurgence. In the later part of the 19th century, Odia people from the middle and upper class strata, the Odia intelligentsia started the movement against the Bengali, Hindi and Telugu chauvinism or the bordering region. Gaurishankar Ray, Nilamani Vidya Ratna, and Shyamasundar Rajguru were the pioneer of this movement. They took  the  help of press and powerfull writing to ignite and unite the Odia people from every corner of the land. Local news papers like ‘Utkala Deepika’ of Cuttack, the  ‘ Sambalpur Hitaisini’  of Bamara and  ‘Prajabandhu’ of Rambha played the crucial role in passing the message to people. Eminent personalities like Madhusudan Das, Gopabandhu, Gangadhar Meher, Fakir Mohan Senapati, Krushna Chandra Gajapati and many more joined and  strengthen the movement with  their work  for the political, social and economical up liftment of the people of Odisha. Madhusudan Das, the first B.A, M.A and B.L degree holder from Odisha, founded Utkal Sammilani which brought a revolution in the social and industrial development of Odisha and became the spere head of the fight for separate state for Odia speaking people.

There were times when administrators with the help of writers and linguists from the Bengal, Telugu and Hindi speaking regions conspired against the Odia speaking people by trying to replace the Odia language with their languages in the schools and spread a general ideology that Odia language is not different from Bengali language and is a mere offshoot of the former language with slight variations.

in 1876 Raja Shyamananda De of Balasore, Babu Bichitrananda Das of Jajpur and Raja Baikunthanatha De of Balasore submitted a memorandum to Lord Curzon for the unition of all Odia speaking regions under the Madras Province, Bengal Province and Central province. The Utkala Sammilani demanded for fixation of the teritorial limits where Odia would be spoken under one administration. But the attempt was foiled siting Govt. Resolution no. 237 dated 15th January.

During 1895-1905 the Odia and Navasambada advocated the merger of Ganjam,Ghumar, Jypur and Other priencly states of south, sambalpur and other adjacent states of Bamara, Bilaspur, Sonpur,Raipur and other princely states in west, chaibasa and Singhbhum stretching from the Suvarnarekha river to Tamluk in the north with the Odisha division.

In 1919, the Montegue Chemsford reforms gave a proposal for granting of constitutional and provincial autonomy to Odia speaking regions. The Sinha Resolution on 20th Feb 1920, proposed the irresolution in the council recommending a mixed committee of official and non official be appointed to formulate a scheme for the amalgamation of the Odia speaking tracts at present controlled by the governemnts of Madras, Bengal and Central Provinces with existing Odisha Division of the provinces of Bihar and Orissa.”

To strengthen the Sinha proposal the government of India appointed a committee consisting of C.H. Phillip and A.C Dutt in 1924. The commission visited the places like Vizagapattam, PAralakhemendi, MAndasa, Icchapuram, Rambha, Barhampur inorder to assertain the desire and opinion of the general people and submitted a report to the govt. stating, “There is a genuine and long standing deep-seated desire on the part of the educated Odia classes of the Odia speaking tracts to amalgamate with Odisha under one administration.”

After this on behalf of th Odia speaking people Krishna Chandra Gajapati, the Maharaja of Paralakhemundi went to London to attend the round table conference and presented a memorandum in favour of creating the separate state of Odisha.

Finally the Govt. of India announced in their Resolution No. F.12. VI-31 of 18th September 1931, the formation of a Boundary Commissoin under Samuel O’ Donnel to examine and report on administrative, financial and other consequences of setting up aseparate administration and demarcate the boundaries of the proposed Odisha State.

The commission visited places and recorded 410 witnesses at Jamshedpur, chaibasa, sambalpur, Raipur, Midnapur, Goplapur, Waltair, Kakinada, and Cuttack.

For determining the teritorial boundaries they examined several factors like language, race, geographical location and economical interest. Finally it was decided that the Odisha province was to include Odisha Division, Angul, Padmapur, Khariar, and Viijagpattamagency tract.

This proposal was recommende by the joint select committee under the leadership of Lord Lingthgow. As per this committee Berhampur town, Jeypore estate, about 30% of Paralakhemundi state including Paralakhemundi town, Jalantara were included in the proposed Odisha province.

Thus after a long period of strugle the Odia people got re-united after centuries of political separation. On 1st April 1936, the new province of Odisha came into existenace on the basis of language spoken by the people during the British rule in India with Sir Jhon Astin Hubbak as the first Governor. The newly formed province of Odisha had only isx districts then viz. Cuttack, Puri, Baleswar, Koraput, Sambalpur, and Ganjam having its capital at Cuttack .

A long fight finally came to an end and dreams of Odia people and their leaders came true.

But the fight still continues

Sure the fight is long over and Odisha is state in the Independent India. But Odisha and we as Odia people are still lagging behind the rest of the states in most of the sector. Still we are getting tagged as a part of  westBengal  or the Andhra. Still many  people in the country don’t know the where about of our state. We dont find any portrayal of Odia culture or Odia Song or mention of an Odia food item in mainstream Bollywood movies. People of India just dont know anything about us. All they know is Puri and Jaggannath temple and may be Konark at best and off course our petty fight with the Bengalis about “Who owns the Roshogulla?”. We may blame it on the inept Governments of the past and the present, but that government is not any different from we people. But i am sorry to say this, like people like government and it is we who failed us and our motherland. We failed to take the Odia language and Odia culture to the outside world. We people feel proud in speaking in other languages in our own state with people from other states and among ourselves. Our TV anchors love to use Hindi English, and whatever language they know to appease the Odia audience in a Odia TV Show. It is a pity that Our song writers find it either uber cool to use Hindi words in their lyrics or simply they are short of Odia words.

Whatever the case may be, our ancestors who had fought so hard for the upliftment of Odia language, who had given life to this beautiful classical language would be in much pain to know the current standard of the language. If things go like this, that day is not far away when this language will fade away under the shadow of other languages and we will loose our true identity once again.

See in a country like India which has diverse cultures, our language is our identity. In the name of National Language (for your info Indian constitution does not cite any language as its national language) somewhere Hindi language is representing itself as the identity of India masking other languages. But we should know this that Hindi speaking people or for that matter any other language speaking people are not going to save our language and our culture. It is us who bear the responsibility of saving our identity in future, and carrying the legacy for generations. If you start devaluing and stop using Odia, and start speaking other language, the day is no longer when we will exist but nobody will call us or identy us as Odia. So lets celebrate this Utkala Divas by remembering the sacrifices made reunite our state and take vow to carry the legacy of Odia culture and Odia language with us.

ଉଠ କଙ୍କାଳ, ଛିଡ଼ୁ ଶୃଙ୍ଖଳ,ଜାଗ ଦୁର୍ବଳ ଆଜି,
ଉଠୁ ଗତ ଗୌରବ, ହୃତ ଗୌରବ, ମୃତ ଗୌରବ ରାଜି


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