The disappointment with the Indian National Congress as a forum to present the aims and aspirations of the Oriya-speaking people resulted in establishment of the Utkal Union Conference by Madhusudan Das in December 1903.
It was also popularly known as the Utkal Sammilani and became the leading socio-political organisation, which articulated Oriya identity. The Maharaja of Mayurbhanj, Maharaja Srirama Chandra Bhanja Deo was the first President of Utkal Sammilani. Like the Congress, this provincial association meets once a year during Christmas at an Urban Center and followed the Congress policy of “Prayer, Petition and protest”.
During 1903 to 1920 the resolution of the Utkal Union Conference covered mainly (1) union of the scattered Oriya-speaking people under one administration (2) spread of education (3) improvement of agriculture (4) development of industrial potentialities. Political unification of Oriya-speaking tracts was given first priority in the agenda of the conference.
In 1912 the creation of new province of Bihar and Orissa brought no good news for the Oriya people as it was like putting “the old wine in a new bottle.” To the Oriya-speaking people the creation of the new province was a “political earthquake and like the birth of twins.” Though the Government defended their action by saying that the long coast line of Orissa would be exploited for the economic welfare of the people, the ‘artificial unit’ evoked sharp criticism everywhere.
Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms in 1917 raised new hopes among the Oriya-speaking people. The moderate leaders of the Orissa like Madhusudan Das, Raja of Kanika, Brajasundar Das, Gopabandhu Das and Harihara Panda etc. presented a memorial to the Secretary of State for India on behalf of the Utkal Union Conference and claimed to place Oriya-speaking tracts under one separate administration.
The memorial was printed in a book form entitled “Oriya movement” which presented the case of Oriyas in its historical persepective. It paid dividend. In para 246 of the Montago-Chelmsford report, it was suggested that Orissa should be constituted as a separate sub-province with the consent of the legislatures of one provinces where Oriya-speaking people formed minority.
The Sinha Resolution:
Like the last flicker of a dying candle, the Utkal Union Conference at its Puri session in 1919 had passed a resolution requesting Sachidananda Sinha and the Raja of Kanika (two members from Bihar and Orissa province) to move the Imperial Legislative Council for taking steps to amalgamate the oriya-speaking tracts.
Supporting the cause of the Oriya-speaking people the Imperial Legislative Council passed the famous Sinha Resolution on 20 February 1920 recommeding the Government of India to formulate a scheme for the amalgamation of Oriya-speaking tracts. The Government of India also expressed its sympathy to the genuine cause of the Oriya-speaking people and issued circulars to the concerned provincial Governments asking for population statitics.
In reply to the Government of India’s queries, the Bengal and Central provinces Governments gave very discouraging information. But the Madras Government, in spite of the clear majority of Oriya-speaking people in Ganjam and Agency tracts, expressed unwillingness to transfer them.
The response of the Government of Bihar and Orissa was quite encouraging. The Legislative Council appreciated the desire of amalgamation of Oriya-speaking people and expressed whole hearted support. In 1923, Sasibhusan Rath of Berhampur mobilised a vigorous public opinion, but nothing tangible happened except the appointment of the Philip-Duff Inquiry committee in 1924.