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

The Odia Movement began following the 1866 Famine, with the tacit or explicit support of some British officials. Education, the language crisis, the vernacular press, associations, and, not least, prominent personalities such as Madhusudan Das, Gauri Shankar Ray, Fakir Mohan Senapati, and Radhanath Ray all contributed significantly to the awakening of the Odia-speaking people’s political consciousness. Raja Shyamanand De of Balasore and Madhusadan Das of Cuttack presented memoranda to the Government in 1875 and 1885, respectively, requesting the reunification of the scattered Odia-speaking territories.

Additionally, the latter drew the Lt. Governor of Bengal’s attention to the myriad problems confronting the people living under various governments. In 1902, Raja Baikuntha Nath De of Balasore also presented Viceroy Lord Curzon with a memorial pleading for the reunion. The memorial received widespread coverage in the vernacular press. In 1900, Madhusudan Das met with the Viceroy in Simla to discuss the matter. Meanwhile, the people of Ganjam sent a memorial to the Viceroy that was largely signed. All of this impressed Curzon, and he developed an affinity for the Odia-speaking people.

Sambalpur’s incorporation into the Odisha division

Sambalpur and the adjacent Feudatory States, which were administratively merged into Central Provinces in 1862, were shown in Grierson’s survey as a part of ‘Natural Odsha’ and in Government Records as ‘Odia country’. The C.P. Government encountered administrative difficulties because Hindi-speaking officers refused to be transferred to Sambalpur and Odia-speaking officers similarly refused to be transferred to Hindi-speaking areas. Language became a dividing line between officials speaking one language and the people speaking another. Thus, on 15 January 1895, the Chief Commissioner of Nagpur issued Notification No. 227, replacing Odia with Hindi as the official language of offices, courts, and schools. It took effect on 1 January 1896. The Odias reacted angrily to the Notification, claiming that it would deprive them of government employment, compel their children to learn Hindi, and, most significantly, endanger the Odia language and culture. The press became a part of the populace. The ‘Sambalpur Hitaisini,’ Calcutta’s ‘Statesman,’ vehemently protested the order as unjust. Viceroy Elgin was memorialised by Dharanidhar Mishra in opposition to it. Madhusadan Das persuaded the Viceroy to reinstate Odia. In 1897, he also met with members of the British Parliament in this capacity. Numerous illustrious sons of Sambalpur, including Braja Mohan Patnaik, Balabhadra Sukar, Mahant Bihari Das, and Madan Mohan Mishra, rose up against the Government order as well. In 1900, Viceroy Curzon was presented with a memorial. When the memoirialists of Sambalpur pressed for the inclusion of the Sambalpur tract in the Odsha Division of Bengal, it suited the Viceroy’s interests. He was considering reorganising provinces territorially along the lines of the Partition of Bengal. Curzon directed that an inquiry be conducted by the then-current Chief Commissioner of Nagpur, Andrew Fraser. Fraser recommended that Sambalpur be incorporated into Odsha and that Odia be restored as the official language following the inquiry. Curzon took advantage of Fraser’s report and proceeded to realign provincial boundaries. He communicated his plan to H.H. Risley, the Government’s Home Secretary of India. In 1905, a circular, dubbed the Risley circular, restored Odia as the official language in Sambalpur and the adjacent Feudatory States and transferred them to the Odsha Division.

Bihar-Odisha Province Establishment

The revocation of Bengal’s Partition and the incorporation of the Sambalpur tract into Bengal province increased its size. The Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, proposed the separation of the Hindi and Odia areas from Bengal. In 1912, Bihar absorbed the Odsha Division and formed Bihar-Odsha Province, while Ganjam and Vizianagaram Agency remained under Madras. The Odias resented ‘the birth of the twins,’ Bihar and Odsha, which would be dominated by the Biharis. Curzon objected to the decision in the House of Lords, but the Indian government was deaf to all protests.

Role of Utkal Sammilani

Between 1903 and 1920, the Utkal Sammilani passed numerous resolutions, the most significant of which was the amalgamation of Odiaspeaking territories. However, it became extremely active following Madhusudan Das’s emergence. He was the Conference’s animating and dynamic spirit. Bihar-Odsha province’s establishment has been described as a ‘political earthquake’ for the Odias. Madhusudan Das brought the matter to the attention of the Government.

The 1917 Reforms

Provincial autonomy was recommended by the 1917 Reforms Committee. It sparked enthusiasm among Odia-speaking people in various parts of the country to demand province-level union. The Utkal Union Conference dispatched a delegation led by Madhusudan Das, Gopabandhu Das, Rajendra Narayan Bhanja Deb, and Harihar Panda, among others. They presented Montague with a memorial in the form of a book titled ‘Odia Movement’ in order to unite all Odia-speaking tracts into a province. Montague was displeased with the establishment of Bihar-Odsha province. The Committee referred to it as a ‘artificial unit’ and recommended the establishment of a sub-province for Odia speakers. The concept of a sub-province instilled great hope in the Odia-speaking community. However, the establishment of a ‘process of consent’ by all concerned Councils, namely those of Madras, C.P., Bengal, and Bihar-Odsha, made this difficult to achieve. The Odias were dissatisfied, their hope dashed. The Age of the Moderates, as represented by Madhusudan Das, had come to an end, and a group of young nationalists took over as Utkal Union Conference’s leadership. Since 1920, a new era has dawned in Odsha’s political life.

Sachchidanand Sinha’s 1920 Resolution

On February 20, 1920, Sachchidanand Sihna introduced a resolution in the Imperial Legislative Council recommending Govt. of India “to devise a plan for the consolidation of Odia-speaking tracts.” It was dubbed the Sinha Resolution. Provincial governments expressed their opposition to the proposal. C.P. only agreed to the transfer of Khariar zamindari. Bihar Odsha responded positively. The Madras government was unwilling to relinquish Ganjam. Members of the Odia community introduced a resolution in Madras Council to discuss the matter. The editor of the Asha, Sasibhusan Rath, organised public meetings in Berhampur to mobilise public opinion. Finally, in December 1924, the Government of India convinced the Government of Madras to appoint a committee known as the Philip-Duff committee to investigate the matter.

The 1924 Philip-Duff Committee

After visiting several locations and examining the grievances of Odia-speaking people, the Philip-Duff Committee was convinced of Odias under Madras Government’s genuine, long-standing, and deep-seated desire to unite with other Odia-speaking people. However, the report drew a sharp rebuke from the Madras Government, which described it as defective and discriminatory. Additionally, the Government threatened to seek reimbursement for public utility works completed in Ganjam. The Government proposed referring the issue of territory redistribution to the Royal Statutory Commission, which was scheduled to visit India in 1928. Govt. of India put the matter on hold for the time being due to the gravity of the situation. However, significant developments occurred between 1927 and 1929. The Bihar-Odsha Government supported the establishment of a separate Odia province and appointed V.M. Sen., Registrar of the Finance Department, to prepare the Ganjam area’s revenue-expenditure statement. According to him, it would result in an annual deficit of 11.5 lakh rupees. Despite the financial implications, the members of the Legislative Assembly of India-Pandit Nilakantha Das and Bhubananand Das-categorically demanded a separate province for Odias. Alexander Muddiman, the Home Member, sympathised with them. Thus, the Indian government’s attitude toward the Odias was extremely favourable.

Simon Commission’s Recommendation

In 1928, the Indian National Congress boycotted the Simon Commission. On the other hand, the Utkal Union Conference members, led by Raja of Kanika, greeted the Commission warmly at Patna railway station. It greatly impressed Simon, and he recommended that a subcommittee under C.R. be appointed. Atlee to conduct an investigation into the Odia people’s problems. The subcommittee established by C.R. Dr. A Suhrawardy, Raja of Kanika Rajendra Narayan Bhanja Dev, and Laksmidhar Mohanty comprised Atlee. The subcommittee was sympathetic to the Odia cause and accepted the rationale for establishing a separate province comprising Odsha Division, Angul, Khariar, Ganjam, and the Agency tracts. Singhbhum, Phuljhar Padampur, and Vizag Agency were excluded from the proposed province’s amalgamation. The Simon Commission recommended to the Government of India that a Boundary Commission be established to demarcate the Province’s territorial extent. The Raja of Kanika is a member of the Bihar-Odsha Government’s finance committee. negotiated a lower deficit position. Odia’s leaders agreed to bear the cost of the deficit.

O’ Donnel Boundary Commission for the establishment of a separate province

Krushna Chandra Gajapati, the Raja of Paralakhimedi, delivered an impassioned speech at the Round Table Conference (1930) and presented a memorandum to the British Government advocating for a separate Odsha province. As a result, the Boundary Commission was established, with Samuel O. Donnel as chairman, H.M. Mehta of the Council of States and T.R. Phukan of the Central Legislative Assembly as members, and Raja of Parlakhimedi, S.N. Sinha, and N. Raju of the Odias, Biharis, and Telugus, respectively, as associate members. B.C. Mukherjee served as the Commission’s Secretary and also represented the Bengalis. The Commission considered a number of factors. Like language, race, geography, administrative and financial implications, visited numerous locations throughout Bengal, Bihar, the Central Provinces, and Odisha Division, heard testimony from 400 witnesses, and combed through the 1931 census data and pertinent information. Finally, they advocated for the establishment of a separate province that would encompass Odsha Division, Angul, Padampur, Khariar Estate, the majority of Ganjam district, and Vizagapatam Agency. The new province would cover 33,000 square miles and would have a population of 8,277,000 people. The Commission did not recommend the establishment of a High Court or a University; nor did it recommend the establishment of a new training centre or any cadre of the All India Service, owing to the new State’s financial constraints. Additionally, the Commission urged the Government of India to close the deficit through new revenue or subvention.

Additional impediments

The road to establishing the State of Odsha was not easy. The Madras government refused to surrender Parlakhimedi and Jeypur. Khariar was not handed over by Central province. The delegation led by the Raja of Parlakhimedi and Khallikote met with India’s Secretary of State, Samuel Hoare, to discuss the boundary dispute. Parlakhimedi and Jaypore were outside the new province’s territory when the Home Department published the White Paper on 18 March 1933, following the Third Round Table Conference. The Joint Select Committee, chaired by Lord Linlinthgow, took up the matter. The Committee recommended the establishment of Odsha Province, which would encompass Odsha Division, Angul, Padampur, Khariar, Odia—the majority of Ganjam, including Berhampur and Jeypore—and thirty percent of the Parlakhimedi Estate, which includes Parlakhimedi town and Maliahs of Parlakhimedi and Jalantra. Concerning the financial deficit, the Committee stated that it should be addressed through federal subsidy. The path toward the establishment of the new State was outlined.

Sir John Austin Hubback’s Administrative Committee

The Government of India established an administrative committee chaired by Sir John Austin Hubback and comprised of eight members, including Madhusudan Das and V. Ramaswamy as Secretary, to consider and make recommendations on the location of the province’s headquarters, the cost of office and official space, and Odsha’s affiliation with the High Court and University, as well as the cadre of officials. The Committee’s Report was published on 20 December 1933. It recommended that Cuttack serve as the capital and Puri as the summer headquarters of the new province, that Odsha 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 the division of Angul into two parts administered by Ganjam and Cuttack collectors, respectively.

Odisha’s inception

Thus, in response to the Joint Select Committee’s report, the Government of India Act, 1935 included a provision for the establishment of the new state of Odsha. The province was inaugurated on 1 April 1936, according to His Majesty, the King Emperor’s Order-in-Council dated 3 March 1936. On the same day, Sir John Hubback was sworn in as Odsha’s first Governor. Though shortened, the new province signalled the end of an era of dismemberment and the start of a period of consolidation and accomplishments in the future.