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The Old Languages ‘”A New Challenge For The State Government To Bringing A New Social Order In Manipur

Manipur is a beautiful multilingual plural society with a unity of 37 different ethno-cultural entities. And the people of the State speak 36 different languages spread over the hills and the valley of the State and Meitei and Meitei Pangal speak Meiteilon called Manipuri. Manipuri’”the Meiteilon is the lingua franca and State official language.

There are 34 tribal language groups in Manipur. They predominantly live in the hill districts of Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul with their sizable population in all valley districts of Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishnupur and Thoubal.

The tribal languages are the storehouses of the indigenous customs, practices and culture of the tribal people of Manipur. They are not only language, but are the identities of the tribal people and the cradles of diverse culture of the State and the Nation as well. When these languages die, it is not only a loss of words and grammar, but they take along all the vast repository of knowledge, oral traditions, literature and history of the tribal people to the oblivion. Also, the loss of these languages would not only weaken the National cultural diversity, but also our emotional integrity as a human race. But, now these languages are not only lagging far behind and deteriorating day by day, but have been marginalized and are in a pathetic condition today in the cold hand of the successive State Governments for decades.

Status of Tribal languages of Manipur

(i) Approved Languages – 10 Nos.

Out of 34 tribal languages, only 10 languages – (1) Hmar, (2) Kom, (3) Mao, (4) Mizo (Lushai), (5) Paite, (6) Ruangmei (Kabui), (7) Tangkhul, (8) Thadou-Kuki, (9) Vaiphei and (10) Zou have been approved as Major Tribal Dialects of Manipur and introduced in the schools and, some of them, even in the colleges.

(ii) Unapproved Languages – 24 Nos.

And there are 24 unapproved languages of the tribal communities. They are :-

(1) Aimol, (2) Anal, (3) Angami, (4) Chim, (5) Chothe, (6) Gangte, (7) Inpui (Kabui), (8) Koirao (Thangal), (9) Koireng, (10) Kharam, (11) Lamkang, (12) Uangmai (Kacha Naga), (13) Maram, (14) Maring, (15) Monsang, (16) Moyon, (17) Paumai, (18) Purum, (19) Ralte, (20) Sahte, (21) Serna, (22) Simte, (23) Tarao and (24) Zeme.

Now the children of 24 tribal language groups are deprived of the opportunity of learning in their mother tongues in Manipur.

Approval of a tribal language in Manipur is a hard earned. It is to be initiated by the literature society concerned’”not by the State Government. One has to run from table to table from the Directorate of Education to the State Secretariat to obtain it.

Crisis confronting the tribal languages in Manipur

Tribal languages are sidelined by the State Government:

The State Government does not recognize the silent crisis confronting the tribal literature societies in the State. There is no State initiative for promotion of these languages, even after a long 35 years of the Statehood attained in 1972. The cold and careless attitude of the State Government about the tribal languages is clearly revealed with the following facts.

(a) The State Government is spending crores of rupees every year to implement various educational programs in Manipur through Education Department, SCER, BSEM, CHSEM and other centrally sponsored programs. But, there is no single rupee for tribal languages in the State budget of Education Department, SCERT, BSEM and CHSEM.

(b) There is no specific plan and policy of the State for tribal languages.

(c) There is no one who is responsible for tribal languages’”for production of text books, for introduction of these languages in the schools/colleges. Obviously, there is NONE and NOTHING for tribal languages as of now in Manipur. This is an unfortunate fact.

(d) These languages are left alone in the hands of the respective literature societies of the tribes. They are not given any sort of maintenance grant by the State Government. The literature societies alone are running from pillars to the walls to support themselves and to bring out school text books with all responsibilities and financial burdens. It should be noted that literature society of a community or tribe cannot be always run from the pockets of the president and secretary of the society alone.

(e) The State Government is providing a nominal financial grant of Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 6 lakhs a year under the scheme of financial grant for school text book production for 10 language groups under State-Centre funding at 50:50 through the Tribal Research Institute, Manipur. This amount is too small even to meet the need of one language group. Printing cost of a school text book exceeds rupees one lakh in Manipur today. Rs 30,000 to 60,000/- a year for a language group is just like a mockery or a funny thing. It is this cold attitude of the State Government that has marginalized the tribal languages in Manipur. This kind of financial assistance is a magic for slow killing of the tribal languages.

3.0 National safeguard schemes are not implemented in Manipur

There are certain nationally agreed schemes of safeguard for promotion and safeguarding of the languages of the minorities and tribal people.

3.1 Instruction through mother tongue

(a) The nationally agreed scheme of safeguards envisages that mother tongue should be the medium of instruction at the primary stage of education for the linguistic minorities; and,

(b) Article 350-A of the Constitution enjoins upon every State Government, and every local authority within the State, to provide adequate facilities for instruction to children belonging to minority groups in their mother tongue at the primary stage of education.

In Manipur the above schemes at (a) and (b) are not properly implemented.

There is no Government’s own effort to teach tribal languages in the school;

The State Government is not keen to making effort to produce school text book in tribal language;

The literature societies of the approved tribal language groups are running from pillar to post for production, approval and introduction of their school text books in the schools;

Only 10 tribal languages out of 34 have been approved and introduced in the school. Still there are 24 tribal languages which are yet to be approved for introduction in the school. 24 tribal language groups are still deprived of the nationally agreed scheme of learning in their mother tongue

3.2 Appointment of Language Teachers

(a) The nationally agreed scheme of safeguards envisages that provision should be made for imparting instruction through mother tongue at the primary stage of education by appointing at least one teacher, provided there are at least 40 pupils speaking the language in a school or 10 such pupils in a class; and,

(b) The nationally agreed scheme of safeguards for linguistic minorities requires the State Government to ensure that there is no shortage of teachers in minority languages at the primary and secondary stages of education.The above schemes are yet to be implemented in Manipur.

3.3 Text Book production in tribal languages

As envisaged in the nationally agreed scheme,

(a) all the costs of text book production including text book developments and pre-printing expenses of tribal languages are supposed to be borne by the State Government and such funds shall be made available to the literature societies concerned in due time.

However, the State Government is yet to implement the above nationally agreed scheme.

3.4 Additional Official languages at the districts of Manipur

The nationally agreed scheme of safeguards for linguistic minorities provides for recognition of minority languages as Additional Official Languages in the districts where those languages are spoken by not less than 60% of the population.

This scheme is yet to be implemented in Manipur.

The Nationally Agreed Schemes of Safeguard for linguistic minorities are to safeguard and promote the languages of linguistic minority groups including the tribals in the country. But the State Government does not give heed to the nationally agreed schemes.

Language and literature is not a matter of monetary scheme or of bread. It is not glittering or attractive to many. So the successive state Governments were not keen to take up the cause. In the State Assembly, no one was serious enough to speak up for the needs, problems and issues facing the tribal language groups in Manipur.

As a result, (i) funds are not earmarked in the State budget of Manipur for tribal languages and (ii) the nationally agreed schemes of safeguard for linguistic minorities are not implemented in the State by the successive State Governments for decades. Consequently, the tribal languages in Manipur have been marginalized. Knowingly or unknowingly, these languages are sidelined by the State Government in the department of education, SCERT, BSEM, CHSEM, etc and in all educational institutions. This is the silent crisis confronting the tribal language groups in Manipur.

5. Unity of languages’” a new social order for Manipur

Northeastern States are the home of multilingual societies where languages should be given priority among other developmental and educational activities. Particularly, Manipur is a land known for insurgencies, unlawful activities and misguided elements involving both State actors and non-State actors. As we all know, a new social order in the State is the need of today. By new social order, we mean a social harmony and peaceful co-existence, mutual trust and understanding, and common belongingness and common allegiance to the State.

Manipur is a small India. It is a unity in diversity so far languages are concerned. The beauty and richness of Manipur lie in its diversity in language and culture. This is the strength of Manipur, not a weakness. This is a beautiful challenge, not a burden.

In Manipur, for many decades the successive State Governments had been taking care of only English, Hindi and Manipuri (Meitelon) forgetting the tribal languages. Today also, tribal languages and culture are always sidelined and they are not given due attention. This tendency of one sided State administration for decades had slowly damaged the emotional integrity and common belongingness, and alienated the hill people and widened the gap among the people and increased frustrations in the society. These were caused by imbalanced State administration. This type of inequality, discrimination and injustice will never bring emotional integrity anywhere’”not only in Manipur. Emotional integrity does not lie in territory. Emotional integrity lies in social justice, mutual trust and understanding. Emotional integrity lies in the unity of languages and culture of the people in a multilingual society or a State like ours. This is a new challenge today for the people who have a vision for a new social order in Manipur.

Therefore, to build a firm emotional integrity with a view to bringing a new social order in Manipur, we are desperately urging the State Government to introduce a State Policy of Tribal Languages for all round development of these languages and so that the State Government can give proper attention to the crisis confronting the tribal language groups in Manipur from time to time. This will slowly but surely, we believe, bring a firm emotional integrity among the people and a new social order in the State in particular and pave an exemplary way for the Northeast region in general.

The indigenous tribal languages are as old as Manipur itself. These old languages have been marginalized and are in a pathetic condition today. The task ahead of us today is to bring up these languages to the front and to make them catch up with other advanced languages in the North-East India. This is a new challenge for all of us and, particularly, for the State Government of Manipur.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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