Guided tour – Part 8

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According to the Unesco Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger 2009, India has around 196 endangered languages. Prof. Omkar Koul, former director of the Central Institute of Indian Languages, observes:

No one knew how many minor and tribal languages existed in India at present. The Indian Constitution protects the right of children to learn through their mother tongue. – The Telegraph, March 3 , 2011

Prof. Ganesh Devy (Chair, People’s Linguistic Survey of India) believes that the problems faced by speakers of indigenous languages should be solved by other means than legislation:

Adivasi languages in a state have always strayed into the larger language of that state. The contact with Persian, Arabic, which was active at one time too has weakened now. The market needs have brought the bhashas closer to English, and there’s too much of intimacy with English. So languages keep changing all the time. And so long as human beings are there, interacting with the phenomenal world, languages will be there. They need greater attention, but it cannot happen through legislation. Languages should not be legislated. When there was no legislation, languages were safer. With legislation, they start going down. That is the experience all over the world. In Russia, Spain and China it has been so, in India it has been so. – A View of Higher Education in India | More about Endangered languages >>

Award-winning publisher Ruby Hembrom, in her column for the New Indian Express, seeks to strike a balance between the needs of the modern world – like education and a fair command of English – and Adivasis’ affirmation of their cultural roots:

Being Adivasi doesn’t automatically qualify one to avail the quota. […] The disparity in standards of education in rural or urban areas is so large that we cannot make the cut, cannot crack entrance exams or interviews despite the reservation provisions. These gaps translate to opportunity gaps. How can someone qualify from vacuum?

Source: “Penalised for the State’s mistakes” in The New Indian Express, 11th August 2016.

Ruby Hembrom is the founder and director of adivaani, an archiving and publishing outfit of and by Adivasis