Vital Statistics

Samar Abbas abbas at IOPB.RES.IN
Wed Jan 5 00:38:14 EST 2000


On Tue, 4 Jan 2000, Artur Karp wrote:
> At http://www.censusindia.net/language.html Hindi speakers form 40.22% of
> India's population; ... Am I right, however, in supposing that a
> villager from Mithila would be still unable to communicate with a
> villager from around Bikaner without resorting to some third (link)
> language - in this case, most probably, Bazari Hindustani?

 A very correct observation. Not only that, a Mithili expert would not be
able to read a true Rajsathani work because Mithili and Rajasthani use
different scripts (Mithili uses one akin to Bengali, Rajasthani uses
Mahajani and Bhojpuri uses Kaithi).

  In India, what constitutes language and dialect are settled by
differences of script - thus few claim that Bengali is a dialect of
Hindi. Consistent logic demands that since Bhojpuri, Rajasthani, Maithili
and Khari Boli use different scripts, these be recognised as different
languages. This has been somewhat consistently done by the editors of
Ethnologue.

  Indeed, there are powerful movements underway attempting to
reclaim the ancient heritage of the speakers of these languages. There
are, in addition, rational reasons for Bhojpuris to restore the old
Kaithi script; it is much faster to write in than Devanagari, for
instance. Unfortunately, vested interests are attempting to destroy these
languages. Hence the stubborn refusal in certain quarters to concede
demands for the restoration of these ancient languages.

  Whether Chhatisgarhi and Braj Bhasa, both using Devanagari, are
different languages or are mere dialects of Hindi can be debated ad
infinitum, but there is a native Chhatisgarhi movement underway trying to
declare Chhatisgarhi a separate language. That this has been extremely
successful can be seen from the recent creation of a separate Chhatisgarh
state. Sooner or later, Chhatisgarhi is going to surface in censuses all
across the world as an independant language.

  The concept of `monolithic Hindi' is a relic of a past era and arose
merely because there was a lack of awareness and conciousness of cultural
heritage amongst ethnic Bhojpuris, Mithilis and Rajasthanis in the early
1900s. As literacy spreads, these peoples are rediscovering their roots.
The power bloc which suppressed these languages for the past 50 years is
now in irreversible decline; a sharp revival and attendant changes in the
number of world language speakers is hence to be expected in the next few
years.

Samar



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