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Sambalpuri: The language of communication in Western Orissa
Sambalpuri, a language spoken in a vast geographical area of Orissa is struggling hard, not only to keep its identity intact but is in a transforming phase to become a full fledge one. It is the main communicative language in Western Orissa.
IN THIS present globalisation era distances between places and cultures have started shrinking and so are their languages. Many languages from different parts of the world have started losing their existence. When India became independent there were as many as 1652 languages (as per the 1961 census). In post independent scenario when the administrative setup changed and many states were created based on languages, some languages got administrative patronage and prospered whereas many lost their existence and many are still struggling for their existence.

In this context, Sambalpuri, a language spoken in a vast geographical area of the state of Orissa is struggling hard, not only to keep its identity intact but is in a transforming phase to become a full fledge one. It is the main communicative language in the 10 and half districts of Western Orissa and in bordering districts of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand states. Though the written history is not more than 50 years but through its folk tradition the poetic composition is alive since the human evolution in this part of the world.

After the establishment of All India Radio in Sambalpur, the need of new songs put a foundation for the literary works in this spoken language. Now with a strong music album industry several poets are bringing their thoughts into paper and creating time immortal songs in this language.
With the translation of great Indian epics like Ramayan, Mahabharat, Bhagbat Geeta and many marvelous original works by several writers, poets of the region put this language in the category of other developed language. This language has a separate grammar than Oriya. It has a much larger vocabulary than Oriya.

Officially there are 5, 18, 803 speakers of Sambalpuri as per 2001 census, although the actual number will exceed more than one crore. The Sambalpuri patriotism has just started in the areas of Balangir- Sonepur- Patnagarh - Bargarh- Sambalpur belt and spreading slowly to the whole Western Orissa tract. Regional political outfit such as Kosal Kranti Dal (KKD), and socio-political organisations like All Koshal Student Union (AKSU), Koshli Eakta Manch, etc are demanding for inclusion of Sambalpuri language in the eighth schedule of the constitution as Sambalpuri-Kosli. There is a serious movement going on in the region by all of the above organisations to spread awareness among the native people to register their mother tongue as Kosli- Sambalpuri in the on going census starting from April 1, 2010.

Time to time, elected members of the parliaments from the region have put their demands for inclusion of Sambalpuri- Kosli in the constitution. Former Devgarh MP Sriballabh Panigrahi from Indian National Congress Party was the first elected member from the region to put the genuine cause in the parliament followed by former BJD MP of Sambalpur constituency and present Health Minister of Orissa state Prashanna Acharya.

This is to be noted that state language Oriya has little significant for people living in Western Orissa. Researchers argue that Kosli or Sambalpuri is a distinct language having a different origin than Oriya. Inhabitants of western Orissa inherit this Kosli language from their parents and surroundings and unlike Oriya which they acquire in the class room.

Genealogical analysis also shows two different sources of the two languages, Oriya and Kosli (Sambalpuri). The Oriya language is a member of Eastern Magadhi group of Indo-Aryan family where as Kosli language has its origin from Ardha Magadhi Prakrit as describes Dr Ashok Dash, who holds a PHD in Sambalpuri language studies. So, there is remarkable difference between the two in the sphere of phonology, morphology, semantics, and syntax. Due to these differences quite often Sambalpuri language is quite unintelligible to Oriya speakers from coastal Orissa, he describes.

Considering its importance and separate identity, state owned Sambalpur University has started offering a diploma course on Sambalpuri studies. Two of the Oriya satellite channels named OTV and Nakshtra Television have started airing daily news service in Sambalpuri- Kosli language which has gathered huge acceptance from the western region of the state.

Experts say, now as a linguistic minority in the state of Orissa, the speakers of Sambalpuri language can have special rights and privileges. The Minority Rights provided in the Constitution which fall in the category of ‘Separate Domain’ are as under:
  • Right of ‘any section of the citizens’ to ‘conserve’ its ‘distinct language, script or culture’; Article 29(1).
  • Restriction on denial of admission to any citizen, to any educational institution maintained or aided by the state, ‘on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them’; Article 29(2).
  • Right of all religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice; Article 30(1).
  • Freedom of minority-managed educational institutions from discrimination in the matter of receiving aid from the state; Article30(2).
  • Special provision relating to the language spoken by a section of the population of any state; Article 347.
  • Provision for facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage; Article 350A.
  • Provision for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities and his duties; Article 350B.
  • Sikh community’s right of ‘wearing and carrying of kirpans.

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