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New shelf life for indigenous literature

- Over 100 titles of tribal and regional languages published from capital alone in past two years

No, the so-called power language hasn’t been able to steamroll tribal literary aspirations. English may be the upwardly mobile language and Hindi the common link for most Jharkhandis, but tribal and regional languages of the state are enjoying a literary revival since the past couple of years.

You may miss recommendations on goodreads, but over 100 titles of books in tribal and regional languages have been published in 2012-13 from Ranchi alone.

“During the last two years, we have published 80 books in tribal dialects and regional languages. We have over 50 manuscripts from aspiring writers. It’s heartening,” said Balu Kharwar, said promoter and one of the owners of Jharkhand Jharokha, a publication house for tribal and regional books.

In 2011, the state gave five tribal and four regional languages the status of second official language. Tribal languages listed were Mundari, Kurukh, Santhali, Ho and Kheria, while their regional counterparts were Nagpuri, Panchpargania, Khortha and Kurumali.

This move sparked the initial enthusiasm. But when the state government did not follow it up with any concrete step to popularise indigenous language and literature, writers and scholars decided to take up the onus.

Recent books published by Jharkhand Jharokha include Awa Naguri Sikha by Giridhari Ram Gonjhu, Nagpuri-Sadani Vyakaran by Shakuntala Mishra and Umesh Nand Tiwari, Sato Nadi Par by Shakuntala Mishra, and Chotanagpur Ker Dhleki Kheria and Chotanagpur Ker Pahadi Sabar Kheria by Joakim Dundung.

“Before 2012, we published a mere dozen books or so in tribal and regional languages in one year. We can surely feel good about the last two years’ figures, which indicate many young writers are creatively thinking in their mother tongues,” Kharwar said.

Jharkhandi Bhasha Sahitya Sanskriti Akhra, another publisher, has come out with some 30 books in the last two years in tribal and regional languages. They have 30-odd manuscripts waiting to be published.

“A growing consciousness among people, particularly youths, put new life in tribal literature,” said Vandana Tete, secretary of Jharkhandi Bhasha Sahitya Sanskriti Akhra, who is also a writer.

Tribal writers were afraid readership would dwindle with growing popularity of English and Hindi. But even this fear got a welcome setback. Writers and publishers are vouching for the fact that there are young takers for their offerings.

“Many readers of tribal and regional language books are young boys and girls. It’s a good feeling to be read by youngsters, to get their response. We are reaching out to the new generation,” said writer Shakuntala Mishra.


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