Story of Creation of a Separate Province or Modern State of Odisha

The Odia Movement started after the Famine of 1866 with the tacit or open support of some British officials. The spread of education, the language crisis, the vernacular press, the associations and last but not the least, leading personages like Madhusudan Das, Gauri Shankar Ray, Fakir Mohan Senapati and Radhanath Ray etc. substantially contributed to the awakening of political consciousness of the Odia-speaking people. In 1875, Raja Shyamanand De of Balasore and in 1885, Madhusadan Das at Cuttack presented memoranda to Government for reunion of the scattered Odia-speaking territories.

The latter further drew the attention of the Lt. Governor of Bengal to the many fold problems of the people remaining under different Governments. In 1902, Raja Baikuntha Nath De of Balasore also submitted a memorial to Viceroy Lord Curzon demanding the reunion. The memorial was given a wide publicity in the vernacular press. Madhusudan Das called on theViceroy at Simla in 1900 to discuss the issue. In the meantime, the people of Ganjam sent a largely signed memorial to the Viceroy. All those impressed Curzon and he became sympathetic to the cause of the Odia speaking people.

Amalgamation of Sambalpur with Odisha division

Sambalpur and the adjacent Feudatory States, included in Central Provinces in 1862 for administrative convenience, were shown as a part of ‘Natural Odsha’ in Grierson’s survey and as ‘Odia country’ in Government Records. The C.P. Government found it difficult to administer as the Hindi-speaking officers were reluctant to be transferred to Sambalpur and the Odia-speaking officers similarly refused to go on transfer to Hindi-speaking area. Language became the barrier between the officials of one language and the people of another. So the Chief Commissioner of Nagpur issued Notification No. 227 on 15, January, 1895 replacing Odia by Hindi as the Language of the offices, courts and schools. It was made effective from 1 January 1896. There was sharp reaction from the Odias against the Notification as it would deprive them of Government employment, force their children to learn Hindi and, more importantly, threaten the Odia language and culture. The press joined the people. The ‘Sambalpur Hitaisini’, the ‘Statesman’ of Calcutta vehemently protested against the order as unjust. Dharanidhar Mishra memorialized Viceroy Elgin against it. Madhusadan Das reasoned with the Viceroy to restore Odia language. He also met the members of the British Parliament in that regard in 1897. Many illustrious sons of Sambalpur, namely, Braja Mohan Patnaik, Balabhadra supkar, Mahant Bihari Das, Madan Mohan Mishra etc. also rose against the Government order. A memorial was presented to Viceroy Curzon in 1900. It suited the Viceroy’s interests when the memoirialists of Sambalpur wanted inclusion of Sambalpur tract with Odsha Division of Bengal. He was planning for a territorial reorganistion of provinces like the Partition of Bengal. Curzon directed the contemporary Chief Commissioner of Nagpur Andrew Fraser to conduct an enquiry. Fraser recommended for inclusion of Sambalpur with Odsha and restoration of Odia as the official language after the enquiry. Curzon took opportunity of Fraser’s report and proceeded to fix up boundaries of provinces. He sent his scheme to H.H. Risley, the Home Secretary of Govt. of India. A circular, famous as Risley circular, was issued restoring Odia as official language in Sambalpur and the adjacent Feudatory States and transferring them to Odsha Division in 1905.

Formation of Bihar-Odsha Province

The revocation of the Partition of Bengal and the union of Sambalpur tract into Bengal province made it too big in size. Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy suggested the separation of the Hindi and the Odia areas from Bengal. The Odsha Division was added to Bihar and Bihar-Odsha Province was created in 1912, while Ganjam and Vizianagaram Agency remained under Madras. The Odias resented ‘the birth of the twins’, Bihar and Odsha, in which the Biharis would dominate. Curzon criticized the decision in the House of Lords but Government of India turned a deaf year to all protests.

Role of Utkal Sammilani

During 1903-20 the Utkal Sammilani passed many resolutions of which amalgamation of Odiaspeaking territories was the most important. However, it became very active with the emergence of Madhusudan Das. He was the moving and the dynamic spirit of the Conference. The creation of Bihar-Odsha province was described as a ‘political earthquake’ for the Odias. Madhusudan Das took up the matter with the Government.

The Reforms of 1917

The Reforms Committee of 1917 recommended provincial autonomy. It aroused enthusiasm among the Odia-speaking people in different parts to demand union in a province. The Utkal Union Conference sent a delegation consisting of Madhusudan Das, Gopabandhu Das, Rajendra Narayan Bhanja Deb and Harihar Panda etc. They presented a memorial in a book-form named ‘Odia Movement’ to Montague to unite all the Odia-speaking tracts into a province. Montague was not happy about the creation of Bihar-Odsha province. The Committee considered it as ‘an artificial unit’ and recommended for a sub-province for Odia-speaking people. The sub-province idea raised great hopes among the Odia-speaking people. However, the provision of a ‘process of consent’ by all concerned Councils i.e. of Madras, C.P., Bengal and Bihar-Odsha made it difficult to be achieved. The Odias were frustrated and their hope was shattered. The Age of the Moderates represented by Madhusudan Das was over and a group of young nationalists took over the leadership of Utkal Union Conference. A new age came in the political life of Odsha since 1920.

Sachchidanand Sinha Resolution of 1920

A resolution was moved by Sachchidanand Sihna in the Imperial Legislative Council on 20th Feb. 1920 recommending Govt. of India “to formulate a scheme for the amalgamation of Odia speaking tracts”. It became famous as Sinha Resolution. The Provincial Governments submitted their views against the proposal. C.P. conceded the transfer of Khariar zamindari only. Bihar Odsha gave a favourable reply. Madras Government was too rigid to hand over Ganjam. The Odia members moved a resolution in Madras Council to discuss the issue. Sasibhusan Rath, the editor of the Asha, organized public meetings at Berhampur to mobilise public opinion. Finally, Government of India persuaded Government of Madras to appoint a committee in Dec. 1924 known as Philip-Duff committee to examine the issue.

Philip-Duff Committee of 1924

The Philip-Duff Committee after visiting several places and examining grievances of Odia -speaking people was convinced of a genuine, long-standing and deep-seated desire of Odias under Madras Government to come under one administration with other Odia-speaking people. The report, however, brought sharp reaction from Madras Government as defective and discriminatory. Further the Government threatened the claim of reimbursement for public utility works at Ganjam. The Government proposed the issue of redistribution of territories to be referred to the Royal Statutory Commission scheduled to visit India in 1928. Govt. of India shelved the issue for the time being in view of the gravity of the situation. However, significant developments took place during 1927-29. The Bihar-Odsha Government was in favour of a separate province for Odias and deputed V.M. Sen., Registrar of Finance Department, to prepare revenue-expenditure Statement of Ganjam area. He reported that it would make an annual deficit of 11.5 lakhs rupees. The members of Legislative Assembly of India-Pandit Nilakantha Das and Bhubananand Das categorically demanded a separate province for Odias, despite the financial implications Alexander Muddiman, the Home Member, sympathized with them. Government of India’s attitude was thus very favourable to the cause of the Odias.

Recommendation of Simon Commission

The Indian National Congress had boycotted Simon Commission in 1928. On the other hand, the members of Utkal Union Conference led by Raja of Kanika, gave a warm welcome to the Commission at Patna railway station. It greatly impressed Simon and he recommended for the appointment of a sub-committee under C.R. Atlee to probe into the problems of the Odia people. The sub-committee under C.R. Atlee consisted of Dr. A Suhrawardy, Raja of Kanika Rajendra Narayan Bhanja Dev and Laksmidhar Mohanty. The sub-committee was sympathetic to the cause of the Odias and accepted the justification of a separate province consisting of OdshaDivision, Angul, Khariar, Ganjam and the Agency tracts. Singhbhum, Phuljhar Padampur and Vizag Agency were excluded from amalgamation into the proposed province. The Simon Commission suggested to Government India to set up a Boundary Commission to demarcate the territorial extent of the Province. The Raja of Kanika, the finance member of Bihar-Odsha Govt. worked out a reduced deficit position. The Odia leaders agreed to bear the deficit.

O’ Donnel Boundary Commission for separate province

In the Round Table Conference (1930), Krushna Chandra Gajapati, the Raja of Paralakhimedi made an impressive speech and presented a memorandum to the British Government in favour of a separate Odsha province. Accordingly the Boundary Commission was constituted with Samuel O‟ Donnel as chairman, H.M. Mehta-Member of the Council of States and T.R. PhukanMember of the Central Legislative Assembly as members; and Raja of Parlakhimedi, S.N. Sinha and N. Raju as associate members representing the Odias, the Biharis and Telugus respectively. B.C. Mukherjee was the Secretary of the Commission and represented the Bengalis as well. The Commission examined several factors Like language, race, geography, administrative and financial implications, visited many places in Bengal, Bihar, Central Provinces and Odsha Division, heard evidence of 400 witnesses and went through the data and the relevant information of 1931 census. Finally they recommended for a separate province which would include Odsha Division, Angul, Padampur, Khariar Estate, the greater part of Ganjam district and Vizagapatam Agency. The new province would have an area of 33,000 square miles and a population of 8,277,000. The Commission did not recommend for a High Court or a University; no new training centre or any cadre of All India Service would be opened as the new State would confront financial constraints. Further, the Commission urged upon the Govt. of India to overcome the deficit by allocation of new revenue or subvention.

Further hindrances

The path towards making the State of Odsha was not smooth. Government of Madras refused to hand over Parlakhimedi and Jeypur. Central province refused to hand over Khariar. The delegation of Raja of Parlakhimedi and Khallikote and others met the Secretary of State of India, Samuel Hoare to reconsider the boundary issue. When the Home Department published the White Paper on 18 March 1933, after the Third Round Table Conference, Parlakhimedi and Jaypore were beyond the territory of the new province. The matter was taken up by the Joint Select Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Linlinthgow. The Committee recommendedfor the formation of Odsha Province consisting of Odsha Division, Angul, Padampur, Khariar, Odia- majority part of Ganjam including Berhampur, Jeypore, thirty percent of Parlakhimedi Estate including Parlakhimedi town and Maliahs of Parlakhimedi and Jalantra. As regards financial deficit, the Committee stated that it should be met by federal subvention. The path to the making of the new State was made clear.

Administrative Committee under Sir John Austin Hubback

The Government of India set up an administrative committee with Sir John Austin Hubback as the chairman and eight members including Madhusudan Das and V. Ramaswamy as Secretary to consider and make recommendations with regard to location of headquarters of the province, cost of accommodation of offices and officials and affiliation of Odsha in matters of High Court and University, cadre of officials and such like. The Report of the Committee was published on 20 December 1933. It recommended, that Cuttack should be the capital of the new province and Puri would be the summer headquarters, Odsha should have a High Court but no University, a joint official cadre with Bihar, a new district of Koraput, two new sub-divisions of Nawapara and Gunupur and, division of Angul into two parts-under collectors of Ganjam and Cuttack respectively.

The creation of Odisha

Thus, on the basis of Joint Select Committee’s report, provision was made in the Government of India Act, 1935 for the creation of the new state of Odsha. According to His Majesty, the King Emperor’s Order-in-Council, dated 3 March, 1936, the province was inaugurated on 1 April, 1936. The same day, Sir John Hubback took oath as the first Governor of Odsha. Though shortened the new province marked the end of the era of dismemberment, and beginning of the era of consolidation and achievements in future course of time.