The Tripura government on Sunday felicitated Rabi Mohan Karbong, a representative of an endangered ethno-linguistic tribal group in the state, on International Mother Language Day. It also announced steps to rename different places in indigenous tribal dialects as a sign of respect and recognition to the communities.
Speaking at an event at Rabindra Shatabarshiki Bhawan in state capital Agartala to mark International Mother Language Day, Chief Minister Biplab Deb said his government is committed to giving equal importance and recognition to all indigenous communities. He said while he can speak in different languages such as English, Hindi and Punjabi, there’s only one, his mother tongue Bengali, through which he can truly express his emotions.
“We speak different languages but can’t connect with all of them. Only our mother tongue can bind us to our roots. We should protect our mother tongue as it represents emotion, accent, clarity, non-verbal body language and most of all, who we are,” the CM said, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, through the Centre’s New Education Policy, has stressed on learning in one’s mother tongue till the fifth standard.
Delving into history, Deb said the country was under the occupation of foreign invaders for centuries and their languages subsumed in traditional Indian languages over time. “He said the traditional dialects that were steeped in native soil were often ignored as foreign languages took precedence,” the CM said, adding that it was an attempt to impose a foreign language on natives that led to the ‘Bhasha Andolan’ (movement to establish the primacy of Bengali language) in present-day Bangladesh, in 1952. That struggle paved the way for the International Mother Language Day, he further said.
“We believe in working on the ground as opposed to talking big. In the coming days, we shall rename different places of Tripura in tribal languages to respect and acknowledge our linguistic identities,” Deb said. His government has already renamed Baramura, one of Tripura’s hill ranges, as Hatai Kotor, which literally translates to a big mountain, in Kokborok dialect while celebrating ‘Kokborok Day’ last year.
The state is home to 19 tribal communities, including the ancient Tripuri clans and those of the Halam community, of which only a handful are left who speak their native tongues. According to an estimate by the UNESCO World Atlas of Languages, over 600 oral languages die or go obsolete every year.
Korbong, which was accorded due recognition on Sunday as an endangered linguistic community of Tripura, is one among a few other groups such as Chaimar and Bongcher where only a handful are around who speak in their native dialects.
As per a government estimate, 8,14,375 people from Tripura, Reang, Jamatia, Noatia, Kalai, Rupini, Murasing and Uchoi communities speak the Kokborok language in Tripura, and it is the lingua franca for the majority of the state’s indigenous groups or people.
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