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Language is our Lifeline

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There must be over 200 small languages in India.While some like Santhali,Khasi ,Bodo etc.have been successful in getting themselves in the 8th schedule of Indian Constitution,some like Bhoti/Ladakhi ,Arunachali,Koshali and Mizo are still struggling for recognition.

India has got many languages.Some have a larger population of speakers much more than some countries of Europe and Africa and some have less.Our great linguist Dr Bijoy Prasad Mahapatra used to tell me about the struggle of some languages for survival.

There must be over 200 small languages in India.While some like Santhali,Khasi ,Bodo etc.have been successful in getting themselves in the 8th schedule of Indian Constitution,some like Bhoti/Ladakhi ,Arunachali,Koshali and Mizo are still struggling for recognition.

Odia has now been recognised as a Classical Language.Several groups are fighting among themselves to grab the opportunities, money and fames that comes or will come,be it political,economic or social.It is beyond the imagination of my friends in Odisha to think the struggle of our friends in Ladakh or Mizoram to save their language and approach all the possible quarters for recognition.Our friends use these places as places for visit or adventure and nobody wants to help them for recognition of their languages which has oral literature of not less than 500 years.

A few years back during my days at NBT as an Editor,I took initiative for regular publication in Sanskrit,Bhoti and Mizo.While Sanskrit succeeded,the other two went on struggling.Many so called scholars have termed these languages as Dialects only.In that way,each language starts as a dialect.The present day Hindi is based on a dialect called 'Khari' or 'Khadi'.I continue to believe that there is nothing called dialect in this scientific age,all are languages.

Unfortunately in India,we don't keep news or information about the language and literature scenes in languages of the North East except Assamese and Bengali.

A few years back I was Chief Guest in a programme organised at St Anthony's College ,Shillong on the occasion of Birth Centenary of Biakliana,the first Mizo Novelist.He died young at Shillong and nobody kept information about his contribution to Indian Literature .

My friend Dr Khiangte has been trying his best to put Biakliana in the greater map of Modern Indian Literature.Sahitya Akademi or NBT,the two premier organisations at national level,are yet to publish the works of this great author in the two widely accepted Indian languages,Hindi and English.

Incidentally ,the first novel of Biakliana was published in 1936,the year Odisha became the first state in the world to become a state on the basis of language.Later,Bangladesh became a country on the basis of language in 1971.Mizoram became a state in 1975.

Language is our lifeline.In 2001 I was holding the first ever Seminar on Children's Literature of the North East at Agartala.Scholars from various languages of North east were invited to that seminar.A middle aged woman came to me and asked,'Why have you not invited scholars from my language ?'

'What is your language ?' I asked with curiosity to know.

'Bishnupriaya Manipuri',she replied.

‘Do you have a script ?'I asked.

'Yes', we have ,she replied and said,'Is it required that a language should have a script ?'

I could not answer to her question as I am not an expert of that field.But I requested her to give a presentation on children's literature in Bishnupriya Manipuri.

What a marvellous presentation it was indeed ! She spoke,sang children's songs, devotional songs and recited poems in her language.All the scholars were spell bound.

We should preserve ,promote and recognise our languages and literature,else we are nowhere....

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