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Odisha Chief Minister Plays The Language Card

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s recent inauguration of ‘Akshar Bhumi’ (Odia language park, a walk through museum which traces the history of Odia language) followed by World Odia Language Conference Feb 3-5 at Bhubanewar’s Janata Maidan, attracting 10,000 visitors from India and overseas is making headlines in Odisha dailies. This mega event had the presence of international and national scholars including winners of Jnanpith, Padma and Sahitya Akademi awardees and recipients of Kabir Samman. Political observers say Patnaik is now promoting Odiya language and culture as a political weapon. Towards this the Odisha government and JNU, New Delhi have signed a MoU for establishing Biju Patnaik Special Centre for Odia Studies at JNU for research in Odia language. Patnaik, who knows the pulse of his people, is instilling pride at home and overseas by promoting Odia race, culture, language and literature. In doing so he is silencing critics who criticized him for not knowing his own mother tongue well. Opposition leaders in Odisha are referring to this event as “political gaslighting”. With general elections just a couple of months away, Patnaik is sending a clear message to his critics that language does play a significant role in political propaganda.