'Sense of patriotism and nationalism has been on the wane'

Ninety-four-year-old Bhabani Charan Patnaik is among the last of the generation of freedom fighters, who were witness not only to the momentous developments during the freedom movement, but also to those that took place when Odisha became an independent province - the first to be carved out on linguistic basis.

  • Published 1.04.16
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Bhabani Charan Patnaik

Ninety-four-year-old Bhabani Charan Patnaik is among the last of the generation of freedom fighters, who were witness not only to the momentous developments during the freedom movement, but also to those that took place when Odisha became an independent province - the first to be carved out on linguistic basis.

A three-time Rajya Sabha member, he is perhaps the most significant witness to what has happened in the state during the past eight decades. Patnaik shares his experiences with Subrat Das of The Telegraph

On April 1 1936, I was in school - Nimapara High School - when we heard drum beats. We rushed out of our classes out of curiosity and came to know that Odisha had become a separate province. We started dancing with joy.

Our headmaster and teachers came to call us to go back to school to attend a special programme on the occasion. Some government officials from Cuttack and Puri graced the programme. The people also celebrated the occasion with fireworks.

Since then, April 1 has been observed as Utkal Divas every year. On this occasion, the patriotic song Bande Utkal Janani is sung.

At that time, the freedom struggle activities were on in full swing in the state, and it reached its peak with the Quit India movement in 1942. On September 16, that year we tried to storm Nimapara jail and one person fell to bullets of British police. On September 20, I was arrested and put behind the bars for two-and-a-half years. I was supposed to appear for the matriculation examination that year, but could not complete my studies. From then on, I became a part of freedom movement.

After the country became Independent on August 15, 1947, we became a part of the nation-building process. Of course, there have been a lot of development activities in the post-Independence era - be it in communication, education, health, agriculture or industry. The post-Independent Odisha has witnessed a flurry of projects under stalwarts such as Harekrushna Mahatab and Biju Patnaik. The development process is still on.

But during the state reorganisation, Odisha lost some of its parts such as Sadheikala and Kharsuan, which were merged with Bihar. This was a tragic part of the nation-building process, which triggered agitation in the state that claimed the life of Benga Pania in police firing in Cuttack.

Though Odisha as a state has surged forward, the sense of patriotism and nationalism has been on the wane, much to the pain of a freedom fighter and nationalist like me.

Another thing I notice is the hypocrisy among the votaries of Odia language and culture, for which Utkal Gourav Madhusudan Das and others had fought. They only pay lip service as their children study in English-medium schools and colleges. Even at home, the children hardly speak Odia.

Of course, Odia as a mother tongue should be promoted and enriched as Madhu babu used to say: " Uccha heba pain kara jadi asha, uccha kara tebe nija matru bhasha (If you want to rise, you must respect and put your mother tongue on a pedestal)."

No doubt, the linguistic and cultural identity of Odisha should be upheld. But nowadays the world has become one - a global village. So there is no room for narrow parochialism.

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