In our country, meetings and rallies are as common as are heat waves in summer. Yet, this morning news of a meeting in a sleepy town of Nagrakata (Near Jalpaiguri) caught my eye. In that meeting, groups of people were demanding inclusion of Kurukh language in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution.
|Kurukh, the language of the Oraon tribe, is one of the few indigenous languages with a script of its own|
Kurukh is the language of the Oraon tribe. Spread across Jharkhand and Terai region of northern West Bengal (Paschim Banga), there are around 25 Lakhs (2.5 million) Oraon people in India. The language also has its own script which is called Tolang Siki.
In 2009, the government of Jharkhand recognized the language. But in West Bengal (the so called most liberal state, the so called patron of art and craft and culture. Talk about myth!) Kurukh has remained unrecognized.
Now, what does recognition of a language mean to the Oraon? Officially, it would mean their children would get something which the elders didn't: the opportunity to read, write and receive lessons in Kurukh in schools. They can document their people's history and culture. It would also mean Doordarshan (the state owned TV) broadcasting program in their language and the members of the assembly/parliament can better express herself/himself by giving a speech in her/his own language.
But above everything else, recognition of Kurukh would mean cultural justice to a people that has always been looked down upon by cultural racists. And coming from the predominantly tribal North east, I can tell you that this racism is omnipresent, as ugly as it gets and as painful as you can imagine.
On a slightly different note, deprivation isn't always about money. And rebellions, even the armed ones, do not always result out of lack of jobs. To be a 2.5 million strong people and to be denied the right to study your own language, or, speak in the parliament does amount to deprivation. It also amounts to denial of your rights or to be proud of your cultural heritage.
Would it not be wise and logical (not to mention humane) to stop the cycle of denial and recognize officially the language Kurukh? By doing that, the government has nothing to lose, but so much to gain: a human face, support of the 25-lakh strong people, sprouting of many a literary talents and above all, peace.