The Telegraph
Saturday , February 22 , 2014
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Pathshala’ lessons in peaceful protest
- Tribals express grievances on language day, Bengalis remember martyrs

Both the usual and the different happened on International Mother Language Day in the state capital on Friday.

If Bengalis stuck to their custom of paying homage to the martyrs of then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) who fell to the bullets of the police while demanding official language status for Bengali on this day in 1952, several tribal outfits chose a unique form of protest to register their grievances against state apathy towards their mother tongues that received second language status about three years ago.

No, the 30-odd members of Jharkhandi Bhasha-Sahitya-Sanskriti Akhra, Jharkhand Sarna Masna Vikash Samiri and Jharkhand Indigenous People’s Forum did not shout slogans or burn effigies at Albert Ekka Chowk. They quietly held a symbolic pathshala, teaching brief lessons in tribal languages. “Some of us were taught lessons in Kharia,” said Kirtibala Soreng, one of the “students”.

“It has been three years since tribal tongues like Santhali, Ho, Mundari, Kurukh were recognised as second official languages of the state. Yet, till now, there is no provision of teaching these languages at the primary level. Tribal language classes are being held at a few places only,” rued Vandana Tete, secretary of Jharkhandi Bhasha-Sahitya-Sanskriti Akhra, while explaining the reason behind observing the mother tongue day the way they did.

Though Bengali was also given the second official language status at the same time and the community also has similar grievances, the members chose to dedicate the day to the martyrs. At a function at Union Club and Library in the evening, the gathering paid tribute to Abdus Salam, Rafiquddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat and Abdul Jabbar.

Though the then Pakistan government later recognised Bengali as the second official language of that country, the day started being observed as language movement day and much later, in 2000, Unesco declared it as International Mother Language Day.

“Like every year, we observe this day as Bhasaha Saheed Divas and pay respect to those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of our language,” said Union Club and Library’s vice-president Subir Lahiri.

Besides those from Union Club and Library, the members of Angar and local branch of Nikhil Bharat Banga Sahitya Sammelan recited poems and sang songs, including Amar bhaier rakte rangano ekushe February.

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