Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’
Language is defined as a system of conventional spoken, manual, signed or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture express themselves.
The United Nations says, “Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongue will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.”
Now it’s a fact that each language takes centuries to evolve but when the language is not given due regards by inhabitants of the regions where this language is born, then it becomes a matter of grave concern. In a recent survey, about 1500 mother tongues will extinct by the end of this century which is really an alarming situation. In order to save languages from extinction several measures are being taken by different countries. One of the commendable steps taken by United Nations is to celebrate ‘International Mother Language Day’.
‘International Mother Language Day’ or ‘MATRABHASHA DIVAS’ is celebrated across the world on February 21st every year. Amazingly the idea to celebrate it came from Bangladesh which is regarded as a backward country. It is a harsh fact that we have a mindset that all good things come from Western Countries but whenever we come across such pleasant surprises we experience a different feel.
It is pertinent to mention here that in 1947 after getting liberated from British, our great nation India was divided into two parts i.e India and Pakistan. Geographically, Pakistan had two different parts East Pakistan currently known as Bangladesh and West Pakistan currently known as Pakistan. In 1948, Government of Pakistan declared Urdu language as the sole official language despite the fact that ‘Bangla’ language was spoken in East Pakistan and majority of West Pakistan areas also. ‘Bangla’ speaking people pleaded that ‘Bangla’ should be recognized as additional official language of Pakistan.
Dhirendranath Datta who hailed from East Pakistan raised the issue in Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on February 23rd ‘1948, but Government of Pakistan did not approve it. When the movement was led by students of University of Dhakka, it gained pace and disturbed administration. Pakistan Government outlawed public meetings and rallies supporting this movement. On 21st February 1952 police opened fire on protesters resulting in death of five persons and injuring many in Dhaka. It was a rare incident in which people sacrificed their lives for their mother tongue and they were felicitated as martyrs.
In order to commemorate the killings, on January 09th’1999 Rafiqul Islam and Abdus Salam, two Bengalis living in Vancouver, Canada wrote a letter to Kofi Annan, the then Secretary General of United Nations suggesting him to take initiative to save languages by declaring International Language day. It was approved in 1999 at UNESCO and was recognized by United Nations General Assembly with the adoption of UN Resolution in 2002 with the sole purpose of preserving and promoting mother languages. Since February 21st’ 2000 this day is observed throughout the world and more than 200 countries celebrate it.
What I wish to state through aforementioned narrative is that this particular day should remind us of our responsibilities towards our mother language. We belong to Duggar Pradesh and being inhabitants of this land we all are Dogras.
Our language is Dogri, the sweet language.
But do we behave with our mother language sweetly?
It’s a haunting question. We can’t deny the fact that Dogri is our mother tongue and we have to do a lot for our language that means in fact for self. How may one disassociate from one’s mother tongue?
Dogri was originally written in ‘Dogra Akhar Script’, a modified version of Takri. However more commonly it is written in Devnagari now and has rich literature, cultural traditions and heritage. But, let us admit that Dogri is undergoing a threat owing to many reasons. However the prime concern remains to preserve it at any cost. The think tank is of the opinion that the way the inhabitants of this region are not promoting their regional language, it’s a matter of grave concern. As such, celebrating ‘Mother Language Day’ is even more relevant today.
On this auspicious day, we should remember Pt. Dinu Bhai Pant who came up with immensely popular long poem ‘SHEHAR PEHLO PEHL GAE’, a trend setter. This poem became immensely popular at that time and the craze for the same is still evident even after so many years now. I may recall that whenever my father used to take us for a dinner at any restaurant those days, while taking meal he looked at us with a smile and recite,
“Thaal Ayee Ge Do, Tejan Aakhe Hath Dho
Kanne Khache Te Muskrache. Dhan Dhan Raje Gi Sarahche
Chatni Bakh Nayode Tral, Assen Sutti Changi Tah
Jille Rajji- Pujji Uthe, Koul Hatti Aale Dhukke
Aakhn Bande Char Rupe, Tejan Pushe Oh Kaneh,,,”
At that time we did not know who was the poet but fully enjoyed the verses. Even my father had attended classes for ‘SHIROMANI’ to learn Dogri owing to the impact of such the scintillating poetry.
Perhaps, the great poet knew that somewhat innovative would create miracle and it created. Such poems attracted masses towards literary gatherings that inspired many to pen down their feelings in own language and emerge as talented writers. So many poets copied this style later on and established themselves as prolific poets. Dogras started enjoying conversation in their own language for which otherwise they were quite scared of with an inferiority complex for mother tongue.
A question that haunts me quite often is that, are the organizations necessary to safeguard mother tongues?
Yes, of course.
The organizations play significant role but it’s the individuals who take the movement to a fruitful conclusion. After all even the organizations are formed by the individuals.
Its irony that we have quite a few literary organizations working for this noble cause but we lack individual efforts packed with all dedication and devotion. It’s another point that whosoever is contributing at individual level doesn’t get appreciated even within and by the organizations. Those who just pose to be concerned are not concerned for the cause at all.
The language undergoing the identity crisis needs volunteers who should have basic instinct to work for a cause and their selfish gains should not intervene. The efforts made for the welfare of mother language should be appreciated so that it should inspire others also to come ahead and be a part of a pious mission.
The epic poets of the like of Pt. Dinu Bhai Pant and many others have shown the path. We may feel content to certain extent that we have reached a place that has opened new vistas for our mother tongue. But the auspicious days like ‘International Mother Language Day’ should be an eye opener.
It’s astonishing that none of Dogri Writers was given Annual UT award this year. Doordarshan Kendra Jammu, Akashwani Jammu and J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages supposed to provide platforms to aspiring regional talent have become almost inactive for lack of budget or other reasons best known to them thus affecting the morale of local writers and artists. Some concrete steps have to be taken up by the different literary organizations for reorganization of Dogri not only by Government Organizations but masses also. If it has been declared as one of the five official languages of UT of J & K, then it should get its proper share also. There should be no compromise on it and the most important is that at least Dogras should talk to Dogras in Dogri to save Dogri.
The sacrifices made by Bengalis for their mother language and ‘International Mother Language Day’ must instigate us from within to put in our best efforts and make others aware of the importance of mother language for our own identity. However, only symbolic celebrations will not yield any result, it has to be from within with a feel for the roots.
Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’