Orissa Became Odisha: What Else Could Have Happened When Stupids Rule the Roost?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The Government of Orissa celebrated the assent of the President of India to the erroneous Orissa (Alteration of Name) Bill, 2010 that tampers with classicism of Oriya language by enforcing change of the State’s English spelling from Orissa to Odisha with effect from November 01, 2011. The Chief Minister declared November 05 a holiday to mark the success in the mischief and announced that signboards all over the State and official files shall be made to replace Orissa and Oriya with Odisha and Odia respectively by end of March, 2012. The Hindi words – Urisha and Uriya – must also be changed in use accordingly.

The Bill was erroneous inasmuch as it is surprisingly silent about so called wrong naming of the State in Bengali and other Indian languages. It is erroneous, further because, its nomenclature was misconceived. It was not meant for altering the name of Orissa and in fact it does not. Orissa as pronounced in Oriya is kept in tact and is to continue like that. So, there is a blatant mismatch between the nomenclature of the Bill and the purpose thereof. Over and above this mismatch, the aim of the Bill was detrimental to the classic character of Oriya language. Hence the Parliament of India should not have passed the misleading Bill and when despite our protests, the Bill was passed, the President should not have given assent to it sans required cogitation. The Parliament was certainly conspicuous by its absence of mind in considering the Bill and has made a blunder in passing it without going into the history of transliteration of these two most material words. But the President acted a mere rubber stamp of political power holders and approved it without application of mind to the issue raised by us.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is a congenital non-Oriya born to Biju Patnaik through a non-Oriya mother. He has neither any education in Oriya nor any commitment for this matchless language, which not only is recognized in Linguistic Survey of India (Vol.IV) as a language “of a rich vocabulary in which respect neither Bengali nor Hindi nor Telugu can vie with it”, but also is marked as the most distinguished language on archaic aspect of languages of India, specifically amongst the neighboring tongues when linguistic authorities like Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee of Bengal points out that, “Of these three languages – Oriya, Bengali and Assamese – Oriya has preserved a great many archaic features in both grammar and pronunciation and it may be said without travesty of linguistic truth that Oriya is the eldest of the three sisters, when we consider the archaic character of the language” (Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol.XXIII, at p.337). Neither Naveen Patnaik and his followers and fellow politicians in Orissa nor the members of Indian Parliament who passed the Bill know of this archaic distinction of Oriya language. But, they have given a death blow to this distinguished feature by making this misconceived Bill a Law of the land giving it effect through an amendment in the Constitution of India. This happens, when stupids rule the roost with determination to stay in power by any means and contrive schemes to divert public attention from blatant failure of their administration to misled satisfaction on fulfillment of misconceived pride that the schemers deliberately coin.

The moment it had come to our attention that the lingua non-Oriya fellows in power in Orissa were conspiring to kill the classical feature of Oriya language through this misconceived instrument, we had tried to place our views on records and had urged upon the CM that the English and Hindi spelling of the name of the State and its language should not be changed, as the same was nothing but recognition of Oriya’s classic distinction by non-Oriya Indians and English speaking foreigners.

People of this State had not coined the words Orissa or Oriya or Urisha or Uriya to pronounce and spell the name of their land or language. The non-Oriyas – Indian and foreigners – had to develop these spellings by using ‘R’ for approximately correct pronunciation of the concerned Oriya words.

The peculiarity of Oriya language lies in different appearances of the same alphabet to serve the purpose of two patterns of pronunciation. This was posing a problem for the non-Oriyas, particularly the British occupants of the land. To remove this difficulty, a British officer – Mr. T. J. Maltby of the Madras Civil Service – had authored a ‘Handbook’ in 1874 “mainly for the non-Oriya officers serving in the Oriya speaking districts of the Madras Presidency”. Orissa Government adopted the book – A Practical Handbook of the Oriya Language – in 1945, by courtesy of Miss Lilian Cranworth Maltby, daughter of the author. In this book, Maltby has most ably and faithfully located the pronunciational differences of similar Oriya letters to the extent of even a single letter and has laid down rules for transliteration thereof to Roman equivalents. In the process, he has marked the two patterns of pronunciation of the single Oriya letter represented by Roman D. When the first pronunciation of D is “dental” or “soft” like ‘D’ as in ‘Did’, the second pronunciation of the same D is “cerebral” or “hard” as in the word “Dol”, he has noted. The second pattern of pronunciation of this particular letter was being stressed by the children of the soil by adding distinction to the same alphabet with a dot underneath. M altby, who mandated that “Oriya words in the Roman character are to be pronounced as in German or Italian rather than as in English, and care must be taken that every letter be distinctly sounded” ruled that the relevant alphabet represented by Roman D with a dot underneath justifying its “cerebral” or “hard” pronunciation must stand converted into ‘R’ in transliteration and therefore, in transliteration, Odissa with a dot underneath ‘d’ had become Orissa and Odiya had become Oriya. Attempts were made in 1930s in the all-time authoritative lexicon of Oriya language – Purnachandra Bhashakosha – to present a new transliteration form by prefixing ‘R’ to ‘D’ in representing the dot underneath in matter of cerebral or hard pronunciation thereof and thus Ordisa was posted as transliterated name of the State and Ordia of the language. But, as this was practically problematic, the Bhashakosha’s prefixing of ‘R’ to ‘D’ was discarded by the founding fathers of this State and Mr. Madhusudan Das et al had accepted the rule of transliteration framed by Mr. Miltby and thus Orissa and Oriya had become the transliterated forms of the names of its land and language. Therefore these two words are symbolic of the classical status of Oriya language. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who celebrated the stupidity of tampering with the classical components of Oriya language in this matter does not know of this.

Oriya language is not only matchlessly superb as pointed out in Linguistic Survey of India and Indian Historical Quarterly as mentioned supra, but also is the language that has given birth in India to the concept of linguistic states.

But, Naveen Patnaik, after taking over the Office in the name of Orissa’s regional interest, has shown constant disrespect to this splendid language and has continuously contravened the Orissa Official Language Act 1954, which stipulates that Oriya is “to be used for all or any of the official purposes of the State of Orissa”. In his regime, administration runs not in Oriya language, but in English. And, in his regime, massive majority of projects have gone to non-Oriyas, all major allocation of land have gone to non-Oriyas and priority of administration has been steered into serving the interest of non-Oriyas to the utter disadvantage of indigenous people of Orissa. This man now celebrates the death blow on the classical features of Oriya language and asserts to impose/enforce replacement of Orissa and Oriya by Odisha and Odia by March 2012 in the name of Oriya pride!

What a great farce! What else could have happened when stupids rule the roost?