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Koshali vis-à-vis 8th Schedule (Part: I)

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Dr Arjun Purohit, Canada

This series was written by Dr Arjun Purohit in response to an article published in the ‘Sambad’ on 22nd July 2011 entitled ‘Matrubhasha O Maanak Bhasha’ by Debi Prasanna Patnaik

Yesterday my young friend Saket Sahu, editor of BENI, the Koshali magazine posted this piece in Sambad. It seems the very possibility of inclusion of Koshali in the 8th Schedule is causing quite a bit of anxiety in the Oriya speaking population. My short posting in Ornet and Orissa Today network has inspired a full scale article in Sambad by an eminent linguist. I am flattered, embarrassed and disappointed in one breath. I do not have access to Dr. Patnaik’s e-mail nor do I remember of having any personal contact with him in good old days, though I remember that my classmate late Dr. Chaudhury Hemakant Mishra talking about him when he was thinking of taking over India Institute of Languages after Dr. Patnaik’s term. I would have loved to discuss the issue with Dr. Patnaik in a veranda with a cup of tea rather than long e-mail exchanges. Since I cannot do that, here is my response through the net. Apparently Dr. Patnaik knew about my posting through Ornet/OTN; so hopefully he will know my response.

Frankly, I would have liked Dr. Patnaik to take the high road to discuss the linguistic aspects of Koshali and I would have learned a lot from him. Instead, the whole piece was sentimentally based, and is a rather a little accusatory as to why we want and hope Koshali to be included in the eighth schedule. Clearly Dr. Patnaik is an ardent lover of Oriya, and one cannot find any fault with such sentiment. Let me make it very clear. Most Koshalis, which certainly includes me, love Oriya and its great literature, but we love Koshali more, not simply as a very vibrant living language but also because we can express and communicate our deepest feelings and sentiments though it like in no other language.

It seems when Dr. Patnaik was at the helm of the Language Institute he was not in favour of any 8th Schedule. However, debating on the soundness of such reasoning is just academic now because, be that as it may, 8th Schedule is still open and recently four new languages, Maithili, Santhali, Dogri and Bodo have been added after Mahapatra Commission was concluded and the final decision was made by the High-Power Committee with thirty eight languages left in the limbo. We do not know the reason why Maithili which has the same population base and the other three with much far smaller base than Koshali were included but Koshali did not get the nod.  Inclusion of Koshali in the 8th schedule is crucial for Koshalis and I will try to give some of the reasons.

  1. For generations, Koshali students through the formative school years had to learn even the non-language courses through Oriya and were punished by the teachers from coastal area (I can vouch from my experience) if students use Koshali in the classroom. Needless to say, it has caused lot of drop outs. Moreover, we had to write answer papers in Oriya. Those with good linguistic aptitude managed it well but for vast majority, it was a handicap. Our overall marks were lower. I know of many bright students failed again and again in both matriculation and I.A./I.Sc because of their poor Oriya. I realise that schooling system in all over India has changed quite a bit since my time but the problem remains essentially the same. Thus we never had or have a level playing field. Hopefully, such situation can be averted through 8th Schedule.
  2. The same situation occurs when recruiting civil servants. Competency in Oriya is a must. This is one of the reasons you will see huge number of minor civil servants in every nook and corner in Koshal area but you will not find as many from Koshal area in non-Koshal area. This of course has caused social disharmony.
  3. One of the advantages of 8th Schedule is availability of funds to enrich the language. Perhaps our brethren in non-Koshali area are not aware that Koshalis are passionately involved to enrich the language. Major classics like Ramayan, Gita, Mahabharat are already in print or are being written up. Currently Nil Madhab Panigrahi, 90 plus years, bed ridden and partially paralysed has already published 6 volumes of Mahabharata. Two more volumes are in the process of publication. He is determined to finish the rest before he passes away. Dictionaries, Grammar, plays, novels, anthology of poems, Granthavalis of major poets like Satya Narayan Bohidar, Koshali Panjikas, several books on history of Koshala, biographies on Koshali heroes, etc. already in print without any funding from the government. BENI is a magnificent monthly literary magazine, full of literary pieces of high quality as well as great art work. Though we have a long way to go, several newspapers in Koshali are coming up. Most Orissans know of artistic genius of Krutartha Acharya for his Sambalpuri Sarees. But few know of another textile design genius Late Jadunath  Supakar, who had to leave Orissa for Varanasi was awarded Padmashree. At least three Koshali language movies have been produced, and one of them has received international acclaim. Old Koshali palm leaf and copper plate documents are to be digitized. Revival of Koshali dances and theatricals are performed in major cities and towns. Recently Sapan Mishra put forth a formidable list of major literary works in Koshali. This is but very inadequate and brief snap shot of cultural activities in Koshal area.  There is a sort of renaissance in all aspects of Koshali culture and heritage. Lot of things remain to be done. In short, all these and much more are accomplished without much help from the Orissa government because Koshali is not included in 8th Schedule. Interestingly, if my memory serves correct, as soon as Santhali came under 8th Schedule, Orissa government announced financial help to promote the language. For Koshali ? None.
  4. Inclusion in 8th Schedule will also facilitate governance in Koshal area. Notices are given now in the villages in Oriya; not very literates do understand the full implications of these notices. Civil servants from non-koshali area who do not even have rudimentary knowledge of Koshali cannot communicate with citizens, thus resulting in miscommunication. In fact Orissa is among the minority of states which claims to have only one language. Out of 28 provinces, 15 have more than one official language. Out of 7 union territories, 6 have more than one recognised language. In a democracy freedom of expression is a fundamental right of the citizen. Good governance requires efficient communication between the citizens and the government. Is it not ironic that Orissa CM does not speak Oriya? He truly symbolises the basic oxymoronic stance of the Orissa government on language issue.
  5. Dr. Patnaik correctly says that language has no barrier. When Koshali speaking tracts were brought in to the fold of Orissa, 6 districts of Koshali speaking population remained with modern Chhattisgarh. Koshalis are going through the same problem in Orissa as they are in Chhattisgarh. Inclusion of Koshali in the 8th Schedule will go a long way to improve governance in both provinces.

6. Because Koshali is not in the 8th Schedule, it is not listed in the list preference for languages in the Census counting. As the 2011 census official statistics shows the whole Orissa speaks nothing but Oriya, which of course is erroneous. We do not even know what is the real figure for both Oriya and Koshali !

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