AAP's push for Bhojpuri can corner Manoj Tiwari over unfulfilled promise of bringing language into 8th Schedule

  • It is estimated that Bhojpuri is the language of 16 crore people and the most widely-spoken language among migrant labourers.

  • The language of the masses, the military, the labour class, has lacked a consolidated movement for its survival.

  • A literary movement for Bhojpuri hasn’t seen the light of day despite the language being at the epicentre of political history.

The national capital's Purvanchali migrants, who carry nostalgia about their once-home in the Indian heartland, make up the chief vote bank for the political parties eyeing Assembly seats.

They comprise nearly half of the capital’s voters. In common parlance, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar comprise the ‘Hindi speaking belt’; the absorption of minority languages like Maithili and Bhojpuri into Hindi is a reality. While Maithili’s rich literary past gets recognised, Bhojpuri, for the lack of a script, doesn’t get included in the 8th Schedule.

Bhojpuri was historically written in Kaithi scripts, but since 1894, Devanagari has served as the primary script. Whether to appeal to a sizeable vote bank or for a greater cause, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced a number of decisions to promote these two prominent languages. From a political standpoint, this can put pressure on BJP’s state president Manoj Tiwari whose pre-poll promises to the Purvanchali migrants in Delhi has featured the inclusion of Bhojpuri into the 8th Schedule, which will establish it as one of the official languages of the Republic of India.

Sisodia explicitly shared that Bhojpuri isn’t an official language, it can’t be introduced in school curriculums. He added that even Members of Parliament who speak Bhojpuri cannot take their swearing-in oaths in the language. BJP’s Ravi Kishan and Rajiv Pratap Rudy had expressed the desire to take oaths in Bhojpuri. “In 2014, the central government had said that it will include Bhojpuri in the 8th Schedule, but has failed to do so till date,” he stated.

 AAPs push for Bhojpuri can corner Manoj Tiwari over unfulfilled promise of bringing language into 8th Schedule

File photo of Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari. PTI

Maithili will be taught as an optional language in classes upwards of standard 8th. Students of Delhi government schools will now be able to learn Maithili as an optional subject just like Urdu and Punjabi, which are kept alive by the curriculum. The state government has decided to arrange free coaching to civil service aspirants who have opted for Maithili as an optional subject.

Firstpost interacted with the executive committee member of the Maithili & Bhojpuri Academy, which played a key role in bringing up this issue to the attention of the Delhi government. Professor Munna Pandey is a professor of Hindi at the University of Delhi. He shared that Tiwari, who is also BJP’s MP from North East Delhi and was made party’s Delhi head to appeal to the diaspora, hasn’t thrown his weight behind this cause.“This academy was in desperate need of a revival. Earlier, all we could do was invite artists and writers to share experiences and give performances but this is a constructive steps towards conserving Maithili and putting pressure on the existing government to recognise the importance of Bhojpuri,” explained Professor Munna.

It is estimated that Bhojpuri is the language of 16 crore people and the most widely-spoken language among migrant labourers not only in cities in India but in countries like Nepal, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius and Suriname. Despite its overwhelming presence, no Bhojpuri writer has ever won a Sahitya Akademi Award. To point out the step-motherly attitude meted out to Bhojpuri, Professor Pandey pointed at instances where Rajasthani writers have won the award in the 70s, despite Rajasthan not being an official language.

The deputy chief minister, who serves as the chairman of the Academy, had also shared that there isn’t a single scheme to felicitate those who have contributed richly to Maithili and Bhojpuri. And now, through the academy in New Delhi, there will be awards for those who work for Maithili-Bhojpuri arts, culture, journalism and theatre.

Addressing the lack of recognition of literates who remain anonymous, the academy will hand out 10 categories of the awards, including two lifetime achievement awards, one 'Shikhar Samman Maithili’ and the other 'Shikhar Samman Bhojpuri’, both of which will also entail a cash reward of Rs 2.5 lakh. The government has also conceptualised a five-day Maithili-Bhojpuri festival in the first or second week of November.

AAP’s policies to reform public schools, to establish Mohalla clinics and its consistent focus on water and electricity in unauthorised colonies directly benefit Purvanchali migrants. With this move, the party has subtly played the regional language card that parties in other states are using to corner the BJP-run Centre. Merely days ago, in the Upper House of Parliament, the Opposition was protesting against the examination conducted on 14 July only in English and Hindi. When the Upper House met after adjournment, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced that the examination will now be conducted in all regional languages, including in Tamil. Ramgopal Yadav of Samajwadi Party raised the issue of inclusion of Bhojpuri language in the eighth Schedule.

In 2017, linguist Ganesh Devy, also founder director of the Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, Vadodara, released 11 volumes of the People's Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI), touted to be the world's largest linguistic survey. Among the survey’s findings that 4,000 of the world's 6,000 languages face potential threat of extinction, 10 percent of which are spoken in India, it stated that languages like Samtali (Odisha), Bheli (Rajasthan), Mizo (Mizoram) had shown a rise in popularity and it was Bhojpuri that topped the list.

It also stated that Bhojpuri is the most philosophical language in India and is emerging as one of the fastest growing languages in the world economy. However, one of the challenges is that Bhojpuri isn’t a patternised language like Maithili, so even the songs in Bhojpuri are still intangible heritage. Bhikari Thakur, playwright, folk singer and social activist, also known as the Shakespeare of Bhojpuri, didn’t receive any formal education. The language of the masses, the military, the labour class, has lacked a consolidated movement for its survival.

Maithili’s literary heritage is celebrated and its absorption into Hindi has been historically identified and resisted. In 1947, Umesh Mishra, a professor at the University of Allahabad, speaking on behalf of the Maithili, wrote in the Maithili periodical Mithila Mihir that the proposed history of Hindi literature shows the unwillingness of the Hindi-speaking Indians to acknowledge Maithili as a separate language.

Later, his son Jayakanta Misra produced a comprehensive history of the language. The latter had stated in a speech before the Sahitya Akademi back in 1963 that the difficulty in officially recognising Maithili as an independent modern Indian language stemmed from the imaginary theories of classifying Indian languages in the late 19th century that considered Maithili a dialect of either Bengali or Hindi. Such a literary movement for Bhojpuri hasn’t seen the light of day despite the language being at the epicentre of political history.

Baba Tilka Majhi, the first Adivasi leader who took up arms against the British in the 1784, spoke Bhojpuri. Nearly a hundred years later, another Bhojpuri speaking man refused to use greased cartridges and declared the first sepoy mutiny against the British. Birsa Munda, folk hero from the Munda tribe, spearheaded the Millenarian movement that arose in the Bihar and Jharkhand belt in the early 19th century under the British colonisation. He too spoke Bhojpuri. With all the facts and numbers to back it, the lost script and political promises around it have kept this widely spoken language away from its long-due official status. In the Vidhan Sabha elections, where AAP has to take the BJP head on, the issue of recognition to Bhojpuri is likely to resurface.

Kedarnath Singh, a widely read Bhojpuri poet, had penned a poem wherein a poet’s mother dies and he writes to the river to take care of her remains because ‘she only speaks Bhojpuri’. A sombre reminder that the death of a language is the death of a culture that contains infinite feelings of infinite people who keep a language alive inside them.

Updated Date: Jul 19, 2019 20:55:05 IST