Dr Arjun Purohit, Canada
This series was written by Dr Arjun Purohit in response to an article published in published in the ‘Sambad’ on 22nd July 2011 entitled ‘Matrubhasha O Maanak Bhasha’ by Debi Prasanna Patnaik.
The force of language Dr. Patnaik uses against inclusion of Koshali in 8th Schedule is neither warranted nor necessary because we both in education field know that educating kids through the medium of native language especially in formative years will facilitate learning. So why such denial? A possible explanation may be found the way our history books are written. For instance, Dr. Harekrushna Mahatab who has been lionised in Orissa for his political leadership as well as for his contribution to Orissa history, writes the very first sentence in the first volume of two volume book ODISHA ITIHASA (1948),” Today what is understood as the state Odisha consists of three ancient provinces called Udra, Odra or Oudra, Utkala and Kalinga”. (my translation) Really? No Koshala ? So what is the status of Koshala then? Is it a colony of Odisha? Just an appendage of no consequence? We do not see our face in this definition of Orissa. We are simply persona non grata, who do not deserve to be recognised as legitimate citizens of Orissa with equal rights and privileges. Our language and heritage simply do not matter. Is it just innocent omission? A few years later Siba Prasad Das wrote his classic SAMBALPUR ITIHAS (1962), reprinted in 1969 and I find in it an appreciative note by Dr. Mahatab written on September 16, 1967. However the quoted statement still appears in the third edition of Dr. Mahatab’s book published in 1977. For generations this book has been used as the text book on Orissa history in schools and colleges. It is lot more than just a Freudian slip because this attitude permeates into all the de facto policies and procedures practiced in Orissa which has resulted in the sorry mess in Koshal. The same attitude is reflected in Dr.Patnaik’s essay.
Why it is so difficult to accept us for what we are? Dr. Patnaik wonders whether asking for recognition may lead to aspiration for a separate state. Aspiration for recognition of Koshali in 8th Schedule is an issue which must be judged by its own merit whether or not in future Koshal may get status of separate state. Should we deprive Koshali kids’ access to education so that in future they may aspire for the same rights and privileges of kids in the coastal area or demand for a separate state? This is akin to the same thinking behind denying education to Sudras to prevent them to aspire the same status Brahmins and Kshatriyas. This is why Rama killed Sambhuka the Sudra when he was found to be studying Vedas. For the same reason Drona demanded that the thumb of right hand of Ekalabya be chopped off because someday he might be challenging Pandava and Kaurava princes. Until a couple of generations ago girls were discouraged to go to school because in future they may not be “ideal” wives. Women in Afganistan must be cooked inside their burqa all the time even in hot weather so that they may not get amorous attention from males. Slaves in U.S. were not allowed to study even private so that they could be as smart as their masters.
Dr. Patnaik acknowledges the abominable attitude and treatment by coastal folks towards Koshalis and folks in South Orissa which has resulted in severe economic deprivation. That is precisely why both Koshalis and folks from South Orissa (Kalinga Pradesh) are looking for separation.
Demand for recognition of Koshali is primarily to facilitate education of the kids, enrichment of our language and literature by accessing resources available assigned to languages in the 8th Schedule and some measure of self respect. Separation of Koshala will depend upon many other variables besides self evident economic disparity. Our neighbours to the west (Chhattisgarh) and to the north (Jharkhand) are already separated. Telengana is about to be separated. Creation of Gorkhaland is already announced though they are working out the actual framework. Language or numerical largeness is no longer the definitive issue in creation of a new state. In the case of Orissa, one notices a steady erosion of trust in provincial government, which is reflected in voting pattern in Koshal area. Governance has deteriorated with steady rising of Naxalism. And there is a host of other factors which are converging towards separation. By the same token, I also want the fellow Koshalis to realise that having Koshali recognised is not going to solve all the problems in Koshal. So depending on the language card alone is just a mirage. In this posting the focus is on language; so I will not digress into other issues here.
Dr. Patnaik pointedly asks whether the demand for such inclusion is aimed at garnering various awards. Great works of literature, music or painting are rarely done for external rewards. These are expressions of artists’ expressions of primordial artistic impulse and rewards are mostly intrinsic. But by denying the modes of expression, both the artists and the public are losers. Great literature can come from even the most primitive language or colloquial language. Julius Axelford and Issac Basevis Singer got Nobel Prize in Literature writing in Yiddish, a dialect spoken in Jewish ghettoes in Poland and Hungary. A Sniti Mishra from Balangir mesmerised whole India recently for her songs. A Mr. Patra from Khariar was one of only three Indians invited to the recent Royal wedding. The Royal family was impressed with his writings in English. A Debasis Rath from Sonepur developed much used Oriya fonts for writing in computer. A Nil Madhab Panda from Sonepur again produces more than fifty movies but not much known in Orissa. Watch his new award winning movie I AM KALAM scheduled to be released in India. The list is long. What genius might be lurking and dying in the vine in Adivashi population, who constitute nearly fourth of Orissa population, is any body’s guess. Anthropologists tell us that we have sixty different groups of tribals. Their unique experience may be a mine of unique artistic impulses which go undiscovered. Both Koshala and Orissa are losers when we cannot provide any modes of expression. So rewards will come, on its own. Our responsibility is to find stimulate the artistic and literary genius.
The real focus of Orissa as well as Koshal should be as to how to be ready for the 21st century instead of wasting our energy in minor peripheral and often inconsequential issues. When India is emerging as an economic super power, Orissa and Koshal occupy the unenviable position of bottom of the heap in almost every sociological index in spite of their vast natural endowment. Crucial to rise up to our potential is to upgrade our human resource. In Koshal, a thin layer of developed human resource is confined to major urban area, and as you proceed more and more towards less urban area, human resource competency declines steadily. We have a humongous Adivashi population who has not participated in any serious developmental enterprises. No matter how much industrial/mining activity take place in our area, without matching upgrading human resource, Koshal and Orissa will never rise. Ever neglected Adivashi population has been attracting attention for the past decade or so for the wrong reasons: Naxalism, displacement from their habitat or similar reasons. So what language has to do with all these? Plenty. To be able to launch any educational/training programmees, the teachers have to work with them through the medium of communication used by the target population. Simply throwing money in to these projects will not work. In Koshal area we have one advantage. In my experience even the reomotest tribal community has functional capacity to communication in Koshali. This is one of the major reasons I will champion the cause for Koshali to be included in the 8th schedule. Such inclusion will provide at least one stepping stone to bridge the gap between educational endeavour and the readiness of tribal kids. Hopefully, we will develop many more stepping stones.
If you know Bengali, please estimate the similarity and intelligibility between Oriya and Oriya. Then estimate on the same criteria the difference between Oriya and Koshali.
Finally, I thank Dr. Patnaik for bringing this issue even though I disagree with much of his assertions. I also thank the readers for their patience for going through this series.