Bande Utkala or Bande Odisha: Row intensifies

Bhubaneswar: At a time when demands are pouring in to accord official state song status to ‘Bande Utkala Janani,’ the controversial remark by the state Labour minister Susant Singh to replace Utkal with Odisha in the song has brewed another controversy.

Labour minister Susant Singh had on Tuesday courted a controversy with his suggestion to replace ‘Utkala’ with ‘Odisha’ in ‘Bande Utkala Janani’ song, a remark which came just three days after the state government’s decision to consider granting the long-awaited official tag to the famous song.

“Government should consider the sentiments of western Odisha residents and change Bande Utkala Janani to Bande Odisha Janani. So far I am not aware of what the state government is planning to do,” the minister had said.

While Singh’s statements was vehemently criticised by several socio-cultural outfits, litterateurs, and linguists, his remark has now gathered support from different outfits from western Odisha.

Several outfits like Koshal State Coordination Committee (KSCC) have come forward to raise voice in favour of the minister protesting the government’s decision to consider granting official state song status to Bande Utkala Janani.

Members of the committee today resorted to dharna in front of the Bolangir district Collectorate and reiterated that the minister’s views to replace Utkala with Odisha are justified.

KSCC Central Convenor, Pramod Mishra said “it is unfortunate that a minister from our region is being opposed for raising his voice.”

Similarly, activists of Western Odisha Yuva Morcha today lent support to Singh and came down heavily on his detractors. Akash Panda, a member of the outfit said “Singh is a minister of the ruling party and at a time when he has preferred his state over his party, we fully support him.”

On the other hand, many experts and researchers have showed displeasure over the new controversy and the minister’s comments. While researchers opine that Odisha is just like a synonym of Utkala, there is no need to change the name used in the song. Similarly, linguists say that people should at least try to respect the literary significance of the word used by the original creator.

“Utkala word was so common that the poet had placed it in his creation through his feelings. There should not be any controversy in this matter,” linguist, Debi Prasad Patnaik said.

Litterateur Bibhuti Patnaik said neither any organisation nor any government has any right to change the original song.

Meanwhile, questions are being asked whether Susant Singh’s statements are being used to dodge the demands of granting state song status to the song.

Commenting on the issue, leaders of different political parties have expressed varied opinions. Congress leader Sarat Patnaik said “Government has not accorded official tag to the song so that’s the end of the issue. So, why do we need to discuss the matter?”

BJP Odisha unit Vice president, Samir Mohanty said the state government’s decision to emotionally manipulate such a sensitive issue like this one to entice the western Odisha people is going to backfire.

On the other hand, ruling-BJD spokesperson, Pratab Deb said that the minister’s comments on the matter should be treated as personal and any protest or support towards it is just a conspiracy orchestrated by some political outfits with vested interests.