Dear Mr Katju,
I feel out of place writing this to you. Your credentials are unmatched, so it is better I don’t even dare speak about it. At the outset, I know I am no one to write this to you. But, your comment about Odisha prompted me to go ahead. I know many Odias, whom you in your Facebook page had referred as ‘poor chaps,’ could have written this better.
Their in-depth knowledge of the State could have helped you understand us better. Trust me, I almost gave up on writing this letter, but the extent to which you exercise your freedom of speech, inspired me to express my views as well.
Let me repeat – I am no pundit, just an ordinary citizen, proud of my State. Seriously, that’s it. I was born here and have spent my childhood in Bhubaneswar, which, for your information, is the Capital of Odisha.
Yes, my State is poverty-stricken sir. In fact, even as I am writing this to you, a district called Malkangiri, approximately over 600 kms from Bhubaneswar, is battling with Japanese Encephalitis disease. As per media reports, 50 infants have already died in 35 days. I am sure, you would have come across the image of a tribal named Dana Majhi, who walked around 10kms carrying the dead body of his wife on his shoulders. That was also in Odisha. And there are many more. The people, us, are battling with a host of issues. But, to make fun of it, is no solution.
Mr Katju, I am trying hard not to deviate from the topic, but I realize there is so much to write that I can’t channelize my thoughts. So, let’s begin with what you stated- the one about Emperor Ashoka. You mentioned the battle of Kalinga, didn’t you? Honestly, it is strange for you to have written what you have, because, all these years, children have been taught that it was this battle that had brought about the change in Ashoka, prompted him to take Ahimsa. Yes, there was bloodshed and loss to Kalinga, but Sir, it was Kalinga war that changed the course of history. History books say, the warriors of Kalinga had vowed to die, but never surrender before enemies.
You mentioned Mahapatras, Patnaiks and Patras. Please spare me from writing anything on these, because I have never supported caste system. For me, the three are mere titles and nothing else. Just to add, I am lucky to have many friends from each of the titles.
And then comes Lord Jagannath. So, we pray him every day for revenge on Biharis? Sir, Lord Jagannath is ‘Lord of the Universe.’ We have much more issues to seek his help than to bother him with revenge filled prayers for our fellow Indians. Sir, please don’t belittle our Lord with such petty things.
I wanted to write all positive things about my State. But then, please excuse me, for ending this in haste. By the time I have written all these, I don’t think I need to add more. I would rather request you to visit Odisha (which you might have earlier) and travel this incredible State to know more about it yourself.
I know you have already apologized for your remarks and suddenly Odisha is ‘great’ again for you. But your post highlights the common ignorance the people of India hold so dearly and this ‘open letter’ is an attempt to change that!
Ours is a small State, stricken with poverty, but rich in culture and traditions.
A Proud Odia
P.S. – Once again, I am nobody. I love my State as much as I love my India. And I shall never think of filing any case against you.
[Author: Tazeen Qureshy. You can read more of her work here]