By Konatham Dileep (With inputs from Sangishetty Srinivas)
Here is a small test for you.
Name the first linguistic state of India?
I know that many of you know the ‘right’ answer. Those who don’t, may want to Google it and find out the ‘right’ answer.
When the same question was asked in the 2009 APPSC Group I services exam, many candidates got confused. While a few chose Andhra state, which was formed in 1953, a majority of candidates opted for Andhra Pradesh, which was formed in 1956.
Both those options were wrong. Like most people, even the guys at APPSC did not know the right answer!
For decades, citizens of this state and country have been fed on a glaring fallacy – that it was Telugus in Madras state who first demanded a linguistic state and Andhra (or Andhra Pradesh) was the first linguistic state of India.
This is nothing but blatant distortion of history.
The truth is – people speaking Oriya led the first struggle for a linguistic state – and the British government heeded to their demand and formed Orissa – India’s first linguistic state.
Here is a brief history of Orissa statehood movement written by Jhumpa Mukherjee:
The Demand for a Single Linguistic Province for the Oriyas
The demand for a single linguistic province for the Oriyas united all classes of people and numerous representations were submitted to the British Government. When John Beams was the Commissioner of Orissa, the Oriyas appealed to him for the merger of the Oriya-speaking areas into a distinct linguistic unit; the people of Baleshwar made a similar representation to Richard Temple, the Lieutenant-Governor, who did not pay any heed to that appeal.
However, in 1903, considering the scheme of Partition of Bengal, Lord Curzon made a proposal to unite the Oriya speaking tracts under one unit. Subsequently, the MontaguChelmsford Commission as well as the Central and Provincial legislatures recognized this need but nothing was done in practice.
In 1920 Sachchidananda Sinha moved a resolution in the Imperial Council for the appointment of a Committee for the amalgamation of the Oriya-speaking tracts into a single unit within the existing province of Bihar and Orissa.
Ultimately the Government recognized the necessity for the creation of a separate linguistic state and appointed the Simon Commission to report on the matter. The Commission in its report stated, “Bihar and Orissa is a glaring example of the artificial connections of areas which are not naturally related”.
In the First Round Table Conference, the Raja of Parlakimadi pressed for the establishment of a separate province for the Oriyas. His main argument was that since Orissa was an area with a single language and definite historical and cultural associations, it should be under one administration, instead of being parceled out among four different provinces – Bihar and Orissa, Bengal, Central Provinces and Madras.
As such, the Government appointed the Boundary Commission, and the Commission, after a detailed enquiry, came to the conclusion that the province of Orissa was linguistically and racially the most homogenous province in the whole of British India. In lieu of this fact the new province of Orissa as an administrative unit came into being on the 1st April, 1936 as per the Government of India (Constitution of Orissa ) Order,1936.
Read previous parts of the Andhra Leaks Series here:
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