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SHILLONG: They say a language defines the identity of a person and the community one belongs to. Ironically, in Meghalaya, the mother tongue of one of the three main tribes—The Khasi is slowing diluting and the credit goes to the 'over-the-board' influence of the English Language.
"The fact that the Khasi language is yet to be included in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution is because people don't really care much about the importance and significance of the language," Principal of St Edmund's College Sylvanus Lamare observed.
Speaking to the TNT-The Northeast Today, Lamare explained why the Khasi language is yet to be recognised despite the fact that the movement to push the inclusion of the language, started during the same time when Sikkim and Goa were rallying for the same i.e., inclusion of the Nepali and Konkani language in the 8th Schedule in 1973.
"The Khasis, if given the opportunity, they would prefer to use the English language instead of the local language and I state this clearly without any hesitation," Lamare claimed while observing that unlike the Khasi scholars who are well aware of the richness of the language, other people thinks that by being able to converse in their local language or read the newspaper, is enough to keep the language alive.
"If you really love your language, you should also love to write in it, read in it and above all to dream in it," said Lamare who is also the member of a committee formed by the government to prepare a report on the list of criteria, the Khasi language possesses, to ensure a spot in the 8th schedule.
Stating that the local people of the state are afraid due to the fear that they may lose their schedule tribe status, Lamare said that people need to let go of this fear because this is not the truth while citing that the Bodo language is included in the 8th schedule yet even today, Bodos' still enjoys the schedule tribe status.
Meanwhile, citing the history of the movement to push for the inclusion of the Khasi language, Lamare stated that the movement started way back in 1973, along with Nepali and Konkani. "The latter were recognised, but we didn't get it," he said while recalling that the Executive board of the Sahitya Academi had in 1973 recommended that the Khasi language should be included provided it fulfils certain criteria.
"The criteria were listed and sent to the state government and the latter was asked to react. But from 1974, there was no reaction. The government and its people were silent. On the other hand, Sikkim and Goa reacted and gave their response and by 1994, both these languages (Nepali and Konkani) were included in the 8th schedule," Lamare informed.
He further stated that in 2003, the BJP government had assured at the floor of the house that if they are voted back to power, they would ensure that the Khasi language is included in the 8th Schedule but unfortunately, they were not voted to power. "The congress was ruling at that time, and it so happened that the congress was ruling at the centre and the state. The language could have easily received due recognition if the matter was vigorously carried forward," he lamented.
Commenting on the position of the Khasi language now, Lamare observed that unless it is a mass movement, it is never going to happen. "Intellectuals alone are not enough to get the Khasi language recognised because it has to be a mass movement where every man in the street would want his language to be included," he added.
Referring to the similar movement in Manipur in the 1990s, Lamare stated that during his visit to this state in 1991, 92 and 93, he witnessed the love of the Manipuri people for their language where every man on the streets was seen wearing a T-shirt demanding the recognition of Meitei in the 8th schedule.
Going back to the era when the 'Father of the Khasi script'– Thomas Jones visited Cherrapunjee, Lamare said that even that time, the Khasis had requested Jones to teach them English with a simple thought in mind that if they know English, their daily bread is assured.
"Basically, we tend to look down at our language and consider it as insignificant and we think that the language of the 'white man' is more significant and important," he observed adding that at present, the language that we know so much about is driving many of the youth, jobless.
"Today if you know Hindi, you will get the job quicker than anybody else especially in central government offices but if you know English, the going gets tough. We know so much of English that we have become jobless today," Lamare said.
Commenting on the fate of the committee formed to look into this matter, Lamare said "we are at the last stage of presenting the report to the government."
Driving home the point that people's participation is very important in this regard, Lamare said "If we want to get it, we have to unite and start a very strong movement," Lamare opined.