of Odisha as a separate State on 1st April 1936 based on language was a historic step in fulfillment of the demand of leadership of Odisha and Indian National Congress for the reorganisation of States based on language. While Odisha was carved out as a separate State on the basis of language eleven years before independence of our country, other States were created on the basis of language during post independence period following the implementation of State Reorganisation Commission. The fact that Odisha provided the pioneering initiative in that direction amply proved the genius of Odia leadership in starting a great and historic movement in the beginning of twentieth century to unify Odia speaking areas and set up a separate State on the basis of language . The country and Odisha is mighty proud of Utkalgaurab Madhusudan Das who started Utkal Sammilani in 1903 to unify Odisha and forge a new State rooted in its linguistic identity.
Odia along with Kosali and Ho languages of the State Accorded Equal Treatment
It is instructive to note that Odia as the language of Odisha did not mean uniformity and, therefore, other languages such as Koshali in western Odisha and and Ho tribal language were given equal importance. Such diversities of languages spoken in different parts of Odisha constituted the bedrock of the State. Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik rightly accorded priority to all these languages and demanded inclusion of Koshali and Ho in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.
Secular Dimensions of Utkal Divas
Utkal Sammilani which became the nucleus of the movement for creation of Odisha emerged as a secular platform and Madhusudan Das categorically and consistently stated that there was no place of any treligion in it as Odias professed diverse faiths. He cautioned that discussion of religion and religious issues in Utkal Sammilani would generate endless conflicts and confrontations in the name of creed. He thus underlined secularism as the bedrock of the Odia movement in the beginning of twentieth century.
Constitutional Method Adopted for Creating Odisha
On 26th September 1959 the famous academic from Oxford University professor F G Bailey wrote an article "The Oriya Movement" in EConomic Weekly which is now known as Economic and Political Weekly (EPW). In that article professor Bailey applauded Madhusudan Das for having employed constitutional method for carrying forward the movement for creation of Odisha state on the basis of language. Much later it was Dr B R Ambedkar who in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly stressed on adoption of constitutional method to pursue the objectives of nation building. He in fact cautioned that the abandonment of constitutional method would cause grammar of anarchy. It is instructive that the movement for creation of Odisha was entirely anchored on constitutional method. It assumes significance for Twenty First Century India which is witnessing widespread adoption of methods, even by ruling leadership, completely contrary to the Constitution.
Gandhi and Odia Movement
In 1920 a book "Odia Movement" written by Niranjan Patnaik of Ganjam district was very favourably commented by Mahatma Gandhi in a nice article which he wrote during his first visit to Odisha in that year. He expressed fond hope that Odias belonging to an ancient race would succeed in getting their separate State.
Vision to Make Odisha a Developed State
On the occasion of Utkal Dibas we need to recall those historic initiatives of our great leaders among which Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das was very prominent. It was Gopabandhu who had outlined the vision of making Odisha and India a developed State in 1912. He while addressing the Puri District Educational Conference in 1912 made a historic demand for introduction of a Code of Education in the pattern of Japan Code of Education of 1872 to spread education free of cost among all sections of society. His reference to Japan Code of Education of 1872 in 1912 and his demand for such a code for India and Odisha made him one of the earliest protagonists of a developed India which is now gaining currency. In fact it is professor Amartya Sen who devoted a few pages to Japan Code of Education of 1872 in his book Identity and Violence in 2005. Even much before Amartya Sen stressed on free press and democracy as best guarantees against famine it was the intellectual leadership of Gopabandhu which showed such linkages in 1919 when he established the Samaja, the Odia newspaper which is one of the largest circulated daily now. Among others the objective of the Samaja was to expose the famine related problems and save human lives.
Odisha Pioneered Integration of Princely States in India
Apart from being the first State to have been created on the basis of language, Odisha, in the words of legendary Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, became the first State in India which started the integration of princely States to the Indian Union. Patel acknowledged the pioneering and historic contribution of Odisha to unify the whole of India in a foreword to the book "Beginning of the End" authored by Hare Krushna Mahatab.
Utkal Sammilani and Sustainable Development
Utkal Sammilani apart from providing a platform for taking forward the movement for creating Odisha on the basis of language also provided a blueprint for building a modern Odisha. The Sammilani in its numerous sessions from 1903 to 1936 adopted resolutions on issues which are now considered central to sustainable development. For instance in 1908 the President of Utkal Sammilani, the princely ruler of Surangi, while speaking in its session held in Puri had talked about the necessity of afforestation. He said so in the context of clearance of forest land for getting more land for agricultural activities. While conceding that clearance of forests would make people available the much needed land for agricultural purposes he argued that simultaneous efforts would have to be made to create forests. He persuasively pleaded that it would be easy to clear forest land and more difficult to create forests. Therefore, he advocated for coordinated efforts to clear forests and at the same time create forests for agricultural activities. Such an idea articulated in 1908 is now getting reflected in the public policies for afforestation which is considered as critical to the worldwide efforts to confront the challenges of global warming and climate change. The idea embodied in the discussions in Utkal Sammilani conferences, thus, are deeply relevant for our time.
Utkal Sammilani and Women’s Education
The other key aspect of the movement for creation of separate State of Odisha on the basis of language was the priority accorded to spread of education among women. In every resolution adopted in the sessions of Utkal Sammilani there used to be a fairly big portion on women’s education. It underlined the point that education of women would be critical for development of family, society and nation. So when we celebrate Utkal Divas we need to be mindful of these dimensions to appreciate the bold and robust vision of the leadership of Odisha to make our State a developed State informed by values of sustainable development and gender equality.
Odisha a reservoir of soft power
Odisha with its reservoir of soft power and quality human resources can be a role model for rest of the country. Swami Vivekananda wrote that certain sculptures of Odisha were far superior to sculptures of Greece. This greatness of Odisha and Odias was best expressed by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921 when he wrote by referring to Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das that if he could get selfless people like Gopabandhu he would make India free from British rule within one year, i.e. by 1921. It is important to celebrate such a glorious legacy. Bande Utkal Janani.
#The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.