Calcutta, Feb. 16: “Amago” is Bangal, “amar” is Ghoti; “dyash” is Bangal, “desh” Ghoti.
For Border Security Force jawans patrolling the eastern sector (the country’s border with Bangladesh), it is soon going to be a trek back to the classroom to learn elements of Bengali and how an accent can give a clue to the antecedents of a person held on or near the border.
Foxed by the continuing exchange of people through the difficult-to-man border — it cuts through homes and courtyards and ponds — the BSF has decided to introduce the intricacies of the language to help its jawans get together their act, though accents don’t always conform to man-made borders.
There is going to be a similar exercise in the western sector as well, where the BSF mans the country’s border with Pakistan. But the language to be taught in classrooms there will be Urdu.
Officials here are, for obvious reasons, more concerned with the Bengali-teaching exercise. “The BSF is a pan-Indian, secular force and we naturally have officers and jawans from every linguistic and religious group serving the country,” the principal staff officer of the BSF, R.P. Singh, explained.
“Though we have a significant number of Bengalis serving us on the Indo-Bangla border, it is very difficult to concentrate only Bengali-speaking jawans on the eastern sector,” he added.
The BSF, said officials, would have to engage a large chunk of local tutors. “The educators within the force may not be enough to take care of all the jawans,” Singh felt. “So we will have to look for local teachers, who will be hired for the duration of the course.”
Senior home department officials feel the decision to engage local tutors will help in two ways: one, they will be able to tell the jawans the intricacies of the local dialects better and how such dialects sometimes transcend man-made borders; two, engaging local tutors will increase the level of trust between the jawans and the border population.
A jawan is usually posted in a battalion for three years and on a particular front for six years. “Many jawans and officers somehow pick up the language of a region where they are serving,” Singh said.
“But the intricacies of languages and their dialects and written scripts are usually not picked up in the natural process,” he admitted.
Things were being managed “somehow”, other officials said, but the high-profile — and high-tension — war of words between India and Bangladesh over the recent round of pushback of Bangladeshi citizens changed the scenario. “Things have to be tightened and we feel that one of the first things that have to be tightened is the language aspect,” a senior home department official told The Telegraph.
So, as soon as the BSF think-tank manages, the jawans are going to be hustled inside classrooms, where they will take short time-bound modules (of six to eight weeks) to learn the language. “The jawans will have to learn both spoken Bengali, including the dialects used near the border, and the Bengali script,” a senior official explained.
“A thorough knowledge of the language will add to the jawans’ confidence in separating the genuine Indian citizen from the Bangladeshi infiltrator,” he reasoned, adding that it could also lead to a “definite lowering of what’s commonly perceived to be harassment”.