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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 14, April 1, 2023

Odisha Day Celebrations on 1st April are of Contemporary Significance | S N Sahu

Saturday 1 April 2023, by S N Sahu


Creation of Odisha as a separate State on 1st April 1936 based on language was a historic step in fulfilment of the demand of leadership of Odisha and Indian National Congress for the reorganisation of States based on language. The fact that Odisha provided the pioneering initiative in that direction amply proved the genius of Odia leadership in starting such a great movement. 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 based on Odia language.

Secular Foundation of the movement for creation of Odisha based on constitutional method

Utkal Sammilani which became the nucleus of the movement for creation of Odisha became a secular platform and Madhusudan Das categorically and consistently stated that there was no place of only one religion in Utkal Sammilani as Odias professed diverse faiths. He cautioned that if the issue religion would be brought to the Utkal Sammilani then there would be endless conflicts and confrontations in the name of creed and its main focus of creating a separate State of Odisha would be lost. He thus underlined the secularism as the bedrock of the Odia movement in the beginning of twentieth century. 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 professorBailey 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 Constituion.

Book and Oriya Movement

On 18th February 1920 Mahatma Gandhi wrote a piece in Young India under the caption "Oriya Movement". In fact “Oriya Movement” is a small book authored by Niranjan Patnaik and Chakrapani Pradhan of Ganjam district and they referred to it the genesis of the movement of Odia people for a separate State of their own on the basis of language. Gandhi in the aforementioned piece in Young India very favourably commented upon that book. In that he described Odias as a fine race and expressed fond hope that one day they would succeed in getting their separate State. Eventually his hope was fructified on 1st April 1936.

Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das’s Modern Vision

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 the largest circulated daily now. One of the objectives of the Samaja was to expose the famine and save human lives.

Odisha Pioneered in Integrating Princely State of Odisha

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 that pioneering and historic contribution of Odisha to unify whole of India in a foreword to the book "Beginning of the End" authored by Hare Krushna Mahatab.

Soft Power of Odisha

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.
Mahatma Gandhi visited Odisha for the first time in 1921. During that visit he came in close contact with Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das, a great freedom fighter and an outstanding litterateur. When Gandhi saw Gopabandhu and his associates surviving by eating only rice and dal he asked if such poor diet devoid of vegetables would not adversely impact his health. Gopabandhu gave a reply by stating that for the sake of Swaraj they were ready to suffer. Gandhi then asserted by saying that with a few such selfless people if he free India from British rule within one year, that is by 1921. It is important to celebrate such a glorious legacy of Odisha. Bande Utkal Janani, obeisance to mother Utkal.

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