Orissa History after the Na’anka Famine : Rise of Intellengtsia
Na’anka famine was a blot in the history of Orissa.However like everything that comes with both advantage and disadvantage; it proved to be a boon in disguise for the state. The British were nodoubt forced to pay attention towards the development of the area. But, the real significance of the post-Na’anka era in 19 th century was the birth of a new consciousness in the thiking minds of the rising generation who now realized the urgency of regeneration of the state from within.
Education had been completely neglected by The East India Company. At the close of its rule, Orissa possessed only three Zilla Schools in the district headquarters of Baleshwar, Cuttack and Puri having total pupil strength of of 282. A few schools were also run by the Christian missionaries and some of the vernacular schools were doing their little bit to meet the needs.No doubt, education had touched its nadir. It was just after the Famine, that the Government raised the status of the Cuttack Zilla School to that of an English High school, affiliated to Calcutta University. In 1876 its status was increased to that of a college.The introduction of English was much responsible for shaping in the thoughts of the pioneers of Oriya renaiscance. A notable product of the new education was Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das, the first graduate of Orissa who took B.A. degree from Calcutta University in 1870, M.A. degree in 1873, and a degree in Law in subsequent years. His ideas about the regeneration of his country made him one of the foremost leaders of modern Orissa.
The role of press in building national consciousness has been spectacular in the freedom struggle of any country.The same applied to Orissa. Christian missionaries had established the famous “Orissa Mission Press” at Cuttack in 1838.Publishing agencies came forward to publish journals and periodicals in the course of time. Utkal Dipika (1866), one of such publications, edited by Gouri Sankar Ray championed the cause of rweforms and came to influence the public opinion during the later decade of 19th century. Bodha-Dayinee and SamvadVatika were subsequently published from Baleshwar .Similarly the Sambalpur Hitaishini was being published from from Bamanda to educate the conscious people in various socio-political issues. Utkal Hitaishini (18690), another journal of considerable importance.Other notable literacy journals like Utkal Darpana (1873) and Utkal Madhupa (1878) also helped to create a spirit of literacy revival.
Another great feature of this period was the emergence of some superb writers on the horizon of Orissa literarture after years of lull to give expression to the new resurgent consiousness.Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843-1918), Radhanath ray (1848-1908), Madhusudan Das, Biswanath Kar, Ramasankar Roy, Gangadhar Meher and Nanda Kishore Bala gave a tremendous impetus to Oriya literature through their numerous works. These literacy luminaries covered a wide range of subjects to give Oriya literature its new modern shape in the perspective of the wider literacy developments all over the world.
The rise in intelligentsia was responsible for coming up of many socio-cultural organizations that worked for the development of the community,culture and language.Notable among these organizations are - The Mutual Improvement Society of Cuttack (1859), The Utkal Bhasoddipani Samaj of Cuttack (1867), The Utkal Bhasa Unnati Vidhayini Sabha of Baleshwar (1866), the Utkal Brahma Samaj (1869), the Ganjam Utkal Hitavadini Sabha of Berhampur (1872), the Utkal Sabha (1877), the National Society of Baleshwar (1878), the Utkal Hitaishini Sabha of Paralakhemundi, the Utkal Sahitya Sammilani (1886), and the Graduate and Undergraduate Association of Cuttack (1890), played noteworthy role. In the cities and towns, the educated people, usually coming from middle class families got imbibed with literacy, social, religious and political ideas.And by the time the Indian National Congress was born in 1885,Orissa was ready to promote its ideologies with full zeal.
The Oriya leaders met at Cuttack on 3 rd March 1886, weeks after the first session of Congress to chalk out their future plans in support of the Congress resolutions. In December of the same year, the Utkal Sabha and the National Society sent 7 delegates to attend the second session of the National Congress The representatives from Cuttack attended the Congress Sessions to uphold actively the cause of the National Movement every year from then on.Leaders like Madhusudan Das and Gouri Sankar Ray popularized the Congress principles among the patriotic people of Orissa during the last decade of the 19 th century, Orissa, thus, joined the main stream of the national life at the right in time.
Movement for separate Orissa
These leaders of the resurgent Orissa also led from the front in giving shape to the most arduous task of unifying the dismembered Orissa.The Oriya-speaking people had no solidarity as a people to rise to the expected height in the country’s national existence. Living in different provinces theay had completely lost their identity. These people suffered in mute resentment aginst the apathy meted out to them by the localites who spoke the language of the land.A movement in this direction thus became imperative for the makers of modern Orissa.
In 1870, at Bhanjanagar in the district of Ganjam, a mass meeting of the Oriya people from numerous areas in the south had been convened in order to express their resentment against the introduction of Telugu language in those areas and non-employment of the Oriyas in administration.Oriya speaking people of this region issued appeals to their brethren in Cuttack to take up the cause and also pleaded with the Governor-General for the Union of Oriya-speaking areas. Consequently an association named as the Ganjam Utkal Hitabadini Sabha was formed to promote the cause of amalgamation.
In 1874, in a large congregation of the native chiefs, landlords and the leading persons, the problem of Oriya-speaking people was discussed.It was here that the idea of union of all Oriya speaking people gained ground. Practical steps towards this direction began with the formation of the Utkal Sabha in 1877 by such leading minds as Madhusudan Das, Fakirmohan Senapati and Radhanath Ray. The inception of Orissa Association in 1882 by Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das was another step in this direction.These associations played the important role of creating the Oriya consiousness among the Oriya speaking people in different provinces.
A memorandum to unite the Oriya speaking regions under the Madras, the Central Provinces and Bengal presidency under one administration was to the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, Steuart Colvin Barley, when he visited Orissa in November 1888. The request was, however, rejected forthwith.
Later in the year 1895, the Government of the Central Provinces took a decision to abolish the Oriya language from official use in Sambalpur. On deputation to Sambalpur in 1901, Lord Elgin reported to the Chief Commissioner of the Central Provinces, Andrew Fraser, that “if it was thought impossible to have Oriya as the language of one Central Province’s district they would prefer it to be transferred to Orissa’. The Oriya leaders of Sambalpur met the Governor-General at Simla in this connection and ultimately secured the restoration of Oriya as the official language of the Sambalpur district.
Consequent to these developments ,in 1902, the leading citizens of Ganjam, describing their area as ‘a limb separated from the body’ appealed to the Governor-General Lord Curzon “to bring together the scattered divisions inhabited by Oriya-speaking peoples, i.e., Ganjam in Madras, Sambalpur in the C.P. and Orissa in Bengal, under the Government of Bengal or under any one Government”. The same year, Raja Baikhunta Nath De of Baleshwar appealed to Lord Curzon to constitute a separate administrative unit for all Oriya-speaking territories.
These sporadic streaks of events in different regions were able to create a common bond between the Oriya speaking people residing in different regions and finally resulted in giving rise to a political movement to unite all Oriya speaking area under a single administration. On the backdrop of these developments in the later parts of December 1903, representatives of Oriya speaking people who lay outside the immediate jurisdiction of the then Orissa ,met in the the capital of Orissa, Cuttack, and alongwith the leaders of Orissa proper formed an organization that became famous as the Utkal Sammilani on the Utkal Union Conference. The native chiefs, prominent landlords, lawyers, government servants and students took a prominent part in forming this organization to campaign the cause of a united Orissa under the able leadership of Madhusudan Das. A memorandum was submitted to the Government to transfer all the Oriya-speaking tracts as situated in other provinces to the Orissa Division. Results begun to show soon as Sambalpur district was transferred to Orissa in September 1905, followed by the transfer of the ex-states of Gangpur and Bonai (Banei) from Chota Nagpur Division and the ex-states of Patn,a Kalahandi, Sonepur (Sonapur), Bamra (Bamanda) and Rairakhole (Radhakhol) from the Central Provinces.
In 1911, the Governor-General Lord Hardinge, in order to solve the problem of the partition of Bengal, brought out his scheme of creating a new province consisting of Bihar and Orissa including Chota Nagpur. Opposing the idea of keeping Orissa with Bihar, Lord Curzon said in British Parliament “This is a blunder that cannot remain permanent. Were the Orissans an agitating people, which they are not, they would soon make their protest heard. As it is, they have been sacrificed without compunction.”
The creation of Orissa, as a separate province was subsequently taken up by a series of administrative Committiees and Govt Resolutions. In 1919, the Montegue Chemsford reforms gave a proposal for granting of constitutional and provincial autonomy to the Oriya speaking tracts. The Sinha Resolution on 20th Feb.1920, proposed to the Governor- General in Councilthat a mixed committee of officials and nonofficials be appointed to formulate a scheme for the amalgamation of the Oriya- speaking tracts that were controlled by the Governments of Madras, Bengal and the Central Provinces with existing Orissa Division of the Province of Bihar and Orissa.To strengthen the Sinha Proposal, the Government of India appointed a Commission consisting of C.H Phillip and A.C. Duff in 1924. The Commission visited the places like Vizagpattam, Paralakhemundi, Mandasa, Icchapuram, Chikiti, Sorada, Khalikote, Barahampur, Rambha in order to ascertain the desire and opinion of the people on getting amalgamated to Orissa Proper. Based on the recommendations of this committee, the government concluded that there was a genuine and long standing deep-seated desire on the part of the educated Oriya classes of the Oriya speaking tracts to amalgamate with Orissa under one administration.
Then on behalf of the Oriya speaking people,Krishna Chandra Gajapati, the Maharaj of Paralakhemundi, went to London to attend the Round Table Conference and presented a Memorandum in favour of creating a separate state of Orissa. The Govt.of India announced in their Resolution No. F.12. VI-31 of 18th September 1931, the formation of a Boundary Commission under Samuel O’ Donnell to examine and report on administrative, financial and other consequences of setting up a separate administration and demarcate the boundaries of the proposed Orissa province. The Commission visited places and record 410 witnesses at Jamsedpur, Chaibasa, Sambalpur, Raipur, Midnapur, Gopalpur, Waltair, Kakinada, and Cuttack. In determing the boundaries they examined several factors like, language, race, geographical position and the economic interests. The Orissa province that thus came up was to include Orissa Division, Angul, Padmapur, Khariar, Vizagpattam agency tracts. This proposal was recommended by the Joint Select Committee under the leadership of Lord Linithgow. As per this Committee Berhmpur town, Jeypore estate Report, about 30% of Paralakhemendi state including Paralakhimendi town, Jalantara were included in the proposed Orissa province. Thus after a long period of struggle the Oriya people got re-united after centuries of political separation. On 1st April 1936, the new province of Orissa came into existence on linguistic basic during the British rule in india with Sir Jhon Austin Hubbak as the first Governor. A long cherished dream of Oriya people and their leaderswas fulfilled.
But the Garhjats, princely states numbering 25 remained free, thus making the administrative union incomplete. After the independence of India, these princely states were amalgamated with the exception of Seraikela and Kharsawan. It is to be noted here that on a subsequent period, the Post independent government of India, took Language as the yardstick to create administrative states.Thus Orissa was the first state to be formed on a linguistic basis. Further it goes to the credit of the leaders and the people of Orissa that they could successfully carry on with their dreams and demand for a separate state alongwith their struggle for the political independence of the country. In fact, in the Nagpur session of the Indian National Congress in December, 1920, the issue of linguistic identity was approved by the Congress which agreed that Orissa should form a separate Congress committee to be stayed as the Utkal Pradesh Congress Committee.
Post 1935 Orissa
Meanwhile, since the formation of the separate province of Orissa in 1936, the political events in India were heading towards the final phase of the freedom struggle. General elections were held in the British Indian Provinces in 1937 to form Provincial Legislatures in accordance with the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935. In Orissa, in the said election, the Congress won 36 seats out of 60, and in July 1937, the first Congress Minstry was formed under the leadership of Biswanath Das with two other ministers, Nityananda Kanungo and Bodhram Dube.This ministry began its work for the implementation of several pronounced policies of the Indian National Congress. Constructive programmes were taken up for the welfare of the common people.The outbreak of the Second World War created in India a political crisis of great magnitude. At the call of the Congress High Command, all the Congress ministers tendered resignation in November, 1939.And the ministry was terminated.
The political crisis deepened rapidly. The Congress renewed its demand in July 1940 for complete independence and launched individual Satyagraha campaign soon thereafter. In Orissa, the campaign was carried on with considerable enthusiasm. The Congress ex-Ministers, legislators and several top-ranking leaders were arrested. In the power vacuum after the resignation of the Congress ministry and arrest of the top leaders, a delicate situation rose.While some of the leaders in Orissa were trying to form a Government to serve and advance the interest of Orissa, others opposed it. Out of such conflicts, a Coalition ministry was formed in November, 1941 with the Maharaja Paralakhemundi as Premier and Pandit Godavaris Mishra and Maulvi Abdus Sobhan Khan as ministers. This ministry functioned for a little over two and a half years. It’s most noteworthy achievement was the establishment of a university in Orissa, famous as the Utkal University.