A RICH LANGUAGE, THOUGH UNKNOWN
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Published 17.10.01, 12:00 AM|
After Jharkhand, the neglect of Maithili and Mithilanchal once again seems have become a major political issue, not only in Bihar, but also in Jharkhand. Even in Jharkhand, the protagonist of the Mithilanchal movement held a series of meetings across the state to build up mass consciousness. Several Jharkhand ministers publicly announced that they would extend wholehearted support to the cause. In fact, during the coming days, this issue may become a major political plank. As the demand for more new states grows across the country, the Mithilanchal movement too will gradually gain momentum. Inclusion of the Maithili language in the eighth schedule of the Constitution has been in demand for a long time. Although most of the leaders have agreed that such expectations were not unjustified, the 'unidentified rich' language has often been a victim of conspiracies. The reasons are apparent. The Maithili movement was never been backed by violent protests. Perhaps violence does not run in the blood of Mithila. The Vishnupurana says that after the Mahabharata war, sages across the whole of Aryavarta were not able to find a suitable place to perform their spiritual and religious exercises, because no part of this land had remained unaffected by bloodshed. Brahma then advised the sages to go to Mithila as it was the only place which had retained its 'sanctity'. Maithili is a living language, currently spoken by over 300 million people, in north Bihar and Nepal, in particular. Maithili-speaking people are spread all over the world. It is not a dialect, as it is often thought to be. It has its own script, grammar and a rich literature. The Sahitya Akademi gives awards every year for outstanding contributions in the field of Maithili literature. A Maithili book exhibition was inaugurated by the then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in the national capital in 1963. At the closing ceremony of the book exhibition, Nehru had remarked, 'I was happy to inaugurate yesterday the Maithili Book Exhibition and was happy to see the large collection of books and manuscripts in Maithili. This demonstrated that Maithili has been for a long time and is today a living language among the people of that area. The language deserves encouragement and this can best be done by good books being written in it.' Maithili secured a place in the Sahitya Akademi in 1965 at the recommendation of an expert committee comprising veterans like Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, S.M. Kane, Hazari Prasad Dwiwedi and Subhadra Jha. The Maithili script, Mithilakshar, is atleast 1,300 years old. Today Maithili books appear in the Devnagari script. But, that is only because of lack of printing facilities in Mithilakshar. A well known international literary organization, PEN, recognizes Maithili as a literary language. It has been recognized as a subject of study and research by all the universities in Bihar. Several other universities, too, award degrees of highest level for outstanding works in the field. The University of Calcutta has been awarding such degrees since 1919 and the Benaras Hindu University since 1932. Maithili is also being taught in Tribhuvan University, Nepal. The first Maithili grammar book was written way back in 1881 by G.A. Grierson. Since then there has been a long tradition of writing books on Maithili grammar and compiling dictionaries. Grierson in his book, Maithili Grammar, wrote, 'Maithili is a language and not a dialect. It is the native language of millions of people who can speak either Hindi or Urdu without great difficulty'. Again, Ramavtar Yadav, a citizen of Nepal, wrote A Reference Grammar of Maithili. The grammar book was published in New York. The Kalyani Foundation published the Kalyani Dictionary. It was edited by Kameshwar Singh of Darbhangaj. Maithili's literary tradition is at least one thousand years old. This would be clear from a reference to Siddh Sahitya - Chhaya Pad and Doha Kosh. Jyotireshwar's prose piece, 'Varnaratnakar', written in the 13th century and Vidyapati's verses composed in the 14th century are now being taught in all the leading universities across the world. Maithili speaking people are uniformly spread all over the world, not to speak of India or Bihar alone. This fact was even admitted by the former Bihar chief minister, Karpoori Thakur, in his note to the Centre while recommending the inclusion of Maithili language in the eighth schedule. Maithili was the first non-scheduled language that was recognized by the Sahitya Akademi. Dignitaries like Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Humayun Kabir, R.R. Diwakar and D.K. Barua, too, had supported the cause of the Maithili language from time to time. All India Radio and Doordarshan regularly air programmes in this language. Till recently, it had a place in the syllabus of the competitive examinations conducted by the Bihar Public Service Commission. Maithili's miseries began after Laloo Prasad Yadav came to power in 1990. In 1993, he got Maithili struck off from the BPSC list, arguing that being a language of the upper castes it was responsible for brahminical dominance in the state bureaucracy. The matter is still pending before the Patna high court. Later on, Yadav passed a legislation in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha and enabled Maithili to become a medium for answering BPSC examination questions. A cultural organization, Surabhi, organized a literary seminar in September 1994, and unanimously passed a resolution, recommending the inclusion of Maithili in the eighth schedule along with Dogari and Rajasthani. During the 1996 Lok Sabha election campaigns, the then prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, had assured the inclusion of Mathili in the eighth schedule. His predecessors, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, too, had given similar assurances in the past. The issue is very much there on the agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Samata Party and other leading political parties. Still, when it comes to decision making, all are guided by their own whims and fancies.