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Tug of war for recognition of Kosali

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Views of Dr Arjun Purohit (Non-Resident-Kosali):  

What could have been a joyous celebration throughout Odisha on the occasion of recognition of Odia as a classical language and recommendation of Odisha CM to the Central government to include Koshali/Sambalpuri in the eighth schedule has been turned into a disaster. We in Odisha do not know what is good for us. When an occasion of great opportunity for unity/healing stares you in the face, you do not recognise it. We do not know that welfare depends on wholesome enrichment, be it educational, cultural, linguistic, economic and what not, of whole Odisha rather than just a small zone. We specialise in leg pulling; if ever you want an example of it, this is it. No wonder we are at the bottom of the heap in spite of the great bounty of nature. We quarrel when there is no need to quarrel, and we tend to push the real problems under the carpet. I am still puzzled and dismayed why Debi Babu is so hostile to the idea of inclusion of Koshali/Sambalpuri in the eighth schedule when languages in similar situation are already recognised. He demands that his stripe of being a linguist must envisage the sole criterion of deciding language issues in the country. Was it Bertrand Russell (?), who said that war is too serious a business to be left to generals?  Language commission in 2003/4 was given the task to delineate the criteria of inclusion of languages into eighth schedule, and recommend some to be recognised right away. Four (Bodo, Dongri, Santhali and Maithili ) were included and 38(including Koshali/Sambalpuri) were declared competent to be eligible. The commission made their recommendation taking into consideration of views from scholars from many fields, including linguistics. Debi Babu cannot accept it. He boldly claims: “As per my knowledge goes, the Union cabinet has no intention to consider new demands for new languages in the Eighth Schedule and perhaps the decision of the cabinet was not in the mind of the bureaucrats of the Odisha government and the home ministry.” Really! Just click this to see what Mr. Maken the Central Minister says in the parliament:

“A number of representations or requests from different organisations and State governments have been received in this (Home) Ministry for inclusion of more languages in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution, including Tulu. At present demand for 38 languages are pending inclusion in the Eight Schedule to the Constitution,” the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Ajay Maken, told Lok Sabha in reply to a written question.

The languages pending approval are Angika, Banjara, Bazika, Bhojpuri, Bhoti, Bhotia, Bundelkhandi, Chhattisgarhi, Dhatki, English, Garhwali (Pahari), Gondi, Gujjar or Gujjari, Ho, Kaachachhi, Kamtapuri, Karbi, Khasi, Kodava (Coorg), Kok Barak, Kumaoni (Pahari) and Kurak.

The other languages are, Lepcha, Limbu, Mizo (Lushai), Magahi, Mundari, Nagpuri, Nicobarese, Pahari (Himachali), Pali, Rajasthani, Sambalpuri or Kosali, Shaurseni (Prakrit), Siraiki, Tenyidi and Tulu, the Minister said.

“A decision on pending demands for inclusion of more languages in the Eighth Schedule, including Tulu, will be taken in the light of the recommendations of the Sitakant Mohapatra Committee and the decision of the government thereon…..”.

Debi Babu wants to unmake an omlette and is trying to put the toothpaste into the tube. On the other side of the equation, a) Koshalis are unanimous in this demand, ;b)according to our poll, ALL sitting MLAs and MPs irrespective of party affiliation are behind it, c.) Sambalpur University just passed a resolution demanding it, and, note it, d) Utkala Sammilani, which is not known to be sympathetic  to Koshali issues just endorsed it. Just click it to see Utkal Sammilani’s statement:

We are just inches away from inclusion in the 8th schedule. It is going to be transformative in many ways, particularly in the sphere of education in the rural and Adivashi areas. Koshalis can also demand provision of essential services in Koshali, and equal opportunities in employment. In short, if for whatever reason, Debi Babu and his cohorts become successful after reaching the present stage, the consequences may be unpleasant.

Since Debi Babu was involved with Bodo group during their struggle for inclusion of their language in the 8th schedule, probably he knows what the deciding factor behind the inclusion was. When Sitakanta Mohapatra commission was struck to examine the issue of languages, they were asked to exclude Bodo language from their scrutiny because the central government had already given the assurance to Bodo militant students’ group about inclusion of their language in the 8 th schedule in lieu of peace. Does Debi Babu really want the Koshalis go the route of Bodos to press their demand for similar status? As of now, though there is a great deal of bitterness between Koshalis and coastalees at the institutional level, the relationship between the groups at the individual and social level is good. Whatever may be the outcome of the language issue, it will be a sad day if the friendly relations between the groups are put at risk.

There are many points I would have loved to debate with Debi Babu, but I am reluctant because Debi Babu chose to use ad hominem style of debate. The language is abusive, condescending and paternalistic. Many of the “facts” presented in his piece are glaringly inaccurate and/or exaggerations.. For instance, he asserts that Utkal Hitaishini was published in Bamra; actually it is Sambalpur Hitaishini under the editorship of one Nilamoni Vidyaratna imported by Bamra king Sudhal Dev. And it was no Hitaisini or well wisher of Sambalpur either. Mr. Vidyaratna was a Koshali hater. According to his own statement Koshali was a “kadarya Odia”   needed to be cleaned up. (see Sambalpur Hitaishini,1891,3rd Part,Sankhya 15, page 277). He published a single Sambalpuri poem by one Madhusudan just to illustrate how bad the language was! Is it not reminiscent of Kantilal’s “Odia swatantra bhAshA noy”?  He blocked writings of Sambalpuri articles, which drove many literary aspirants writing in Odia to get published.  Debi Babu praises the misplaced enthusiasm of Nilamoni Vidyaratna ! Well those days are gone. New generation of Koshalis would not tolerate such malevolent attitude just as coastalees would not tolerate Kantilal type insolent attitude in their midst either. Read the almost weekly column on Odia identity by Hara Prasad Das in Samaj. For the past fifty years or so Koshalis have been writing profusely in all kind of subjects. Major classics, such as Ramayana,Mahabharat, Gita etc. are being published. Books on Sambalpuri/Koshali grammar and dictionary are already available. Movies are produced; recently a Koshali movie “SalA BudhA” got an international award in Indonesia Film Festival. I  am especially fond of emerging Koshali poets who are writing relatively untouched by outside influences.(I notice that Debi Babu received Kalinga Sahitya Samman . Congratulations. On our side we honoured dramatist Atal Bihari Panda (Life time achievement ) ( from Kalahandi through Koshal Sahitya Academy  for his contribution to Koshali literature. Congratulations) Koshali plays are getting India wide acclaim because of their originality. So Koshali is no more just a spoken language. People of ten districts of Odisha conduct their day to day business in Koshali. They work with it, sing and dance with it, fight with it, love with it. It is a robust living language. So far it has been deliberately excluded as a medium of teaching even in the primary grades. This also is changing. We have started a Koshali language primary school and are  launching projects to improve children’s literature………..So what does it take to be a language like Santhali, Bodo, Dongri or Maithili ? Don’t we have it in profusion?

Debi Babu wants to revive Kalinga Empire. Empires are like amoeba, changing their boundaries,shrinking,expanding,and even disappearing once in a while. When one studies history of India, one finds many empires similar to Kalinga. So which Kalinga empire Debi Babu refers to, what is relevant today? For most of known history, coastal Odisha (Kalinga, Udra, Kongoda, Utkal) have been ruled by successive chain of invaders, which include, Nandas and Maurjas of Magadha, Chetis from Dakshin Koshala, Bhaumas from Assam, Sailodbhabas from Bastar, Somabanshis from Dakshin Koshala, Gangas from Gangawadi, not to speak of invasion of Sasanka of Vanga/Gauda, Harshabardhan of Kanauj. Through much of history, Koshala has identifiably different from “Kalinga”, though “Kalinga” and Koshala have been having skirmishes between them, often occupying each other occasionally. There were also occasional conjugal relationships. Being contiguous, these two entities shared lot of common features as any two contiguous neighbours. There are also significant differences between the two regions: Koshala avoided two of the most traumatic spans of occupation/administrations of Nanda/Maurya(Ashok) invasion of Kalinga, and Afgan/Mogul occupation. Perhaps many friends in coastal area do not know that the infamous KalApAhar who brought down the last independent king of coastal Odisha was defeated and killed in Sambalpur.  But is it really relevant to dwell on such stuff now? I have a friend, Dr.Singh from Bihar( an internationally known for his work in psychopharmacology) who insists that the entire Indian    civilisation has footprints of Maurya empire even now, particularly Odisha !

Knowing history is ok but dwelling on it completely neglecting present day reality is absurd. Today Odisha is one of the poorest, most illiterate, scoring highest score in corruption, having the distinction of a place called Sukinda (one of the ten most toxically polluted on earth), and Angul, ranking fifth among  most polluted in the country with Belpahar-Jharsuguda-Sambalpur corridor closely following Angul. Worst possible government in the sense that twenty out of thirty districts are under the sway of Naxalites. Political murders are almost weekly event. Fifty percent of posts of teachers (primary, secondary and tertiary) go unfilled. Horrendous inter-regional imbalance. Overconcentration of ALL resources, which make life bearable, concentrated in a narrow zone. We have nearly one fourth of population as Adivashis who largely marginalised/ignored unless we find minerals under their feet, in which case we kick them out without proper rehabilitation. We have distinction of going to the Supreme Court against Adivashis siding with folks who were going to kick them out of their habitat. Even after more than half a century, we have not settled the bill towards Hirakud oustees.  These issues should occupy us, not the language debate by which a lively language of nearly 15 million people has to be marginalised so that supremacy of another language is protected. Koshalis want their language to be under 8th schedule because it will help human resource development. When Cuttack-Puri-Balesore from Bengal Presidency, Sambalpur Tract from Central Presidency and Ganjam tract from Madras Presidency were put together, there was explicit and implicit understanding that each part will share alike in all matter of development. This is contrary to present de facto policy of  top=down development. Overconcentration of all resources just in capital region and surround is also contradictory to the vision of our founders. Odisha could have been the jewel in the crown of India had we pursued a spirit of equivalence among the regions. In spite of all the bounty we have been reduced to the status of beggar constantly complaining that Central government is not giving us enough money, while we squander a king’s ransom of our own. We do not even know how to spend the money given to us ! Addressing these issues successfully will unite the populace, not a uniform language. Having a uniform language did not prevent Telengana formation. So my earnest request to whoever is reading this, is to find ways and means to accommodate the diversity among us in all matters and learn to celebrate it rather than calling it as an impediment.We cannot afford to keep Adivashis marginalised for ever. No matter how stratospheric improvement we do in BBSR and surround, overall poverty of Odisha will not be reduced unless we tackle the hard work of KBK like areas. We must accept the traditionally marginalised groups as equal to us in all respects. That way we can draw from each other’s strength, and not destroy each other. Actually, we have no other way; na anya panthA vidyate ayanAya. And can’t we be civil to each other when we debate issues? If we cannot, I am afraid, this will be my last dialogue with Debi Babu. If he chooses to respond in the same manner as did to my last posting, he will have the last word. Bye.

Views of Dr Deviprasanna Patnaik (Odia Linguist)

A friend forwarded the “My rebuttal to Dr. Debi. P. Patnaik’s comment on Koshali language” by Arjun Purohit. I had regard for Sri Purohit as an academic, but after seeing the rebuttal steeped in political phraseology and anything but academic, I have begun to question my own judgement. I dwelt on it a long time as to whether it even deemed a response, but eventually decided to do so, lest more such poorly interpreted and worded essays were to follow.

His opening paragraph pleads for early mothertongue education for which I have been fighting for the last fifty years. This has been acknowledged in ToveSkutnabb-Kangas, Robert Phillipson, AjitMohanty and Minati Panda edited Social Justice through Multilingual Education (Multilingual Matters, London 2010).

His second paragraph has many flaws. First, there is no language as Koshali in the Indian Census 2001. Even speakers of Sambalpuri account for 5.5 lakhs and all India figures are 8.5 lakhs. One conclusion is that Sambalpuri people are not only creative and innovative, but are skilled enough to go out in search of new pastures. A Sambalpuri is the Chief Secretary of the State and many occupy pivotal positions in administration, Education and Communication Media. I am proud for it.

Dr. Purohit’s unacademic character is expressed in his abusive language, ‘irresponsible, abusive and incendiary’, ‘unvarnished colonial attitude’ and ‘really Dr. Patnaik has become a nineteenth century pan Bengali nationalist (such as Dr.Rajendra Lal Mitra and Kantilal Bhattacharya) this time in Odia garb’. I have, in my Telegraph presentation, given how Sambalpuri had taken a leadership in the anti-Odia agitation, whether it was pan-Bengali or pan-Hindi. Dr. Purohit has accepted my statement that foremost Sambalpuri writers from Gangadhar Meher to Bhima Bhoi have written in Odia. I have emphasised that “As a linguist I have nothing against any particular language group, but I am against the proposal to include any language into the Eighth Schedule”. This is a statement I have made many times even when I was looking after languages in the Govt of India. I had advised that the Eighth Schedule should be abolished and a list of Indian languages should be appended instead. If Dr.Purohit had rebutted my statement discussing the pros and cons of the Eighth Schedule, then he could have scored a point.

I do not know why Dr.Purohit wants to portray me as ‘hostile’ to Koshali. As against Grierson’s Linguistic Survey, we conducted a Peoples Linguistic Survey of India. Our assumption was that nobody call their language as dialect and call whatever variety they speak as language. We made a distinction between Pundit’s language and Peoples language, although we admit that dialect is a convenient linguistic category. Hindi is the name given by Pundits; Bhojpuri, Maithili, Braj, Avadhi, etc are people’s languages. The same is true of Odia. Purohit is neither uptodate about linguistic literature nor literature in his own field, Psychology.

Regarding the classical status to Odia, Purohit has written that he has great respect for me ‘for the way he stickhandled the acceptance of Odia as a classical language’. He further writes that ‘recognition of Koshali is far more profound than recognition of Odia as a classical language’. Purohit neither knows anything about the difference between a language with classical status and a classical language. He does not have the faintest idea about the selection procedure nor about the benefit that may accrue. The Committee which recommended to the Chief Minister inclusion of Koshali/ Sambalpuri into the Eighth Schedule had a Sambalpuri IAS Officer as Chairman, who like Purohit was neither a linguist nor a language planner.

The duplicity and the threat in Purohit’s rebuttal is the reflection of the mental attitude of all those educated and rich Koshali intellectuals and bureaucrats who swear in the name of the people but are really after the privileges for themselves and their progeny. By using expressions like ‘fratricidal battle cry’, ‘suppressing the development of Koshali’, he wants to break the unity of the Odias and Koshalis who want to resist the temptation of mixing up development with caste, religion and regionalism and fight for good governance.

Sri Purohit knows nothing about the Bodo movement. I do not know which of my recent essay he refers. I was never an Advisor to the Bodos. I had nothing to do about the inclusion of their language in the Eighth Schedule. On the recommendation of the Governor of the seven states, the Prime Minister directed me to find a solution to some issues relating to their demand. I did it to the best of my ability. Both the Bodos and the Assam Govt were happy and I earned many friends among the Bodos.

Sri Purohit being an academic should not write about things he does not know. Reference to Bodo is one such thing. His reference to my getting a Padmashree for my efforts is another. I received Padmashree in 1987, twelve years after I worked for the Bodo project. The citation for my award says, “VyaktigatgunomkeliyeaapkasammannaarthPadmashreepradaankartaa hum”.

Purohit’s reference to the Odia Biswabidyalaya is another such thing. He does not know a thing about the six language based universities established so far. I do not know where from he got the information that I have been ‘demanding five hundred crores from the Government to create an Odia University’. From the beginning I have been pleading that such a university should be created in Public Private Participation mode. From statements like a language university ‘is a colourful dream of a linguist’ and ‘being very costly without much of tangible benefits’, it should be clear that Purohit has no idea of a university much less of education. Sri. Naveen Patnaik has since announced that Odia University has priority in his next term and most political parties have included it in their election manifesto.

Purohit has raised a very important question “Does he want to recreate a pan-Odia empire (it was called Kalingan empire in his submission for classical language status for Odia) from Ganga to Godavari erasing all the cultural and linguistic heritage of all people within his field of dream?”. History cannot be erased by denying the existence of Kalingan empire. History might repeat itself but it cannot be recreated. Similarly, history cannot be distorted by saying that it erased the linguistic heritage of all people of the empire. Even in the Kalingan empire people of different ethnicity, castes and communities speaking different language, professing different religions were living together. In a multi-ethnic, pluri-cultural, multilingual state each of the elements are complimentary. Whenever the complementarity is sought to be made hierarchical, conflict arises. When we formed states on linguistic basis, we did not recognise that each state was multilingual and multicultural. If we accepted that, then there would have been concentration on good governance, which would have ensured that there is no exploitation on the basis of language, religion and region, and focused fairplay in the development of the state. There would then be no need for an Eighth Schedule in the Indian Constitution. Even now states can recognise languages within their territories for purposes of official use and provide funds for publication of good literature. There is and will be no need for recommending languages to be included in the Eighth Schedule.

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