Cry for Kosal
S.T .BEURIA in Bhubaneswar
The demand for a separate Kosal state consisting of eleven western Orissa districts has been revived again with the formation of a Kosal state action committee to steer the movement for the creation of the new state.
The action committee at its meeting at Sambalpur, a major commercial and cultural hub of western Orissa, passed a resolution to intensify its “struggle” for a separate Kosal state in a democratic and peaceful manner. The eleven western districts included in the proposed new state are Sambalpur, Bolangir, Bargarh, Boudh, Kalahandi, Nuapara, Jharsuguda, Sundergarh, Deogarh, Sonepur and Angul. A majority of these districts are drought-prone areas of the state. More than 500 delegates from all the districts attended the meeting of the action committee.
Significantly, Balgopal Mishra, a senior BJP legislator from western Orissa, is spearheading the movement to revive the demand for the new state. Mr Mishra heads the Kosal state action committee. He recently launched a Rath Yatra in the region which covered all the eleven districts.
“The tour was aimed at sensitising the people of western Orissa on the need for a separate state”, said Mr Mishra said after concluding his yatra which touched 55 urban and rural centres. The journey which began from Samaleswari temple in Sambalpur town ended at Bolangir. Supporters of a separate state said there was a need for creation of a new state comprising western Orissa districts as the region is different from the rest of Orissa in all areas.
“The Kosal region is historically, culturally and linguistically different from coastal Orissa and has all the qualifications to become a separate state”, said Pramod Mishra, secretary general of the Kosali Ekata Manch, another western Orissa organisation associated with the movement.
Those who demand a new state also claim that in ancient times there was a kingdom called Kosal and that the modern-day western Orissa districts are part of that state.
They also allege that successive governments in Bhubaneswar, influenced and dominated by coastal Orissa leaders, always neglected the western Orissa districts and therefore the region remained backward.
In fact, during his Rath Yatra, Balgopal Mishra repeatedly harped on the issue at all the public meetings. “We have been in chains for several decades. The Orissa government generates most of its revenue from here and spends it on the development of coastal areas. It is time we free ourselves by carving out a separate Kosal state”, the senior legislators said at his meetings.
The attempt has had its fallout in state and political circles. The Biju Janata Dal, the regional outfit and the BJP, the Congress, the principal opposition party, have strongly condemned Mr Mishra and his associates. “The BJD had always opposed such activities,” said Dr Damodar Rout, the state Panchayati Raj minister and spokesman of the regional outfit. He said, like western Orissa several other areas of the state were equally backward and steps had been initiated in the form of Western Orissa Development Council (WODC) and the KBK(Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) project to eradicate poverty and backwardness in the western districts. The BJD chief and chief minister, Naveen Patnaik has opposed the move. “The attempt to divide the state is unfortunate”, he said in a recent interview.
The state unit of the BJP has made it clear that it has nothing to do with Mr Mishra’s activities. But the BJP state unit decision not to take disciplinary action against the senior legislator nor to ask for an explanation has given rise to the feeling in political circles that a section of BJP, particularly from western Orissa, has been offering tacit support to Mr Mishra in his programmes and activities.
Apart from political parties, a number of socio-cultural organisations like the Utkal Sammilani have opposed the fresh attempt to revive the Kosal movement. “The problems of a region including its backwardness can be sorted out through other ways.
For this purpose, there is no need for creation of a separate state”, said Sammilani president, Basant Panigrahi. Utkal Sammilani played a key role in the creation of a new Orissa state nearly 67 years ago.