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The Breaking of Silence

IFP Editorial: Now, is the time for pushing the demand for making Manipuri a classical language of India. Despite being the lingua franca of the state, it is spoken in Manipuri populated areas in Bangladesh, Myanmar and other Northeastern states like Assam and Tripura.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated 11 Apr 2022, 7:05 pm

(Representational Image: Unsplash)
(Representational Image: Unsplash)

Yesterday, we had questioned the silence of frontline CSOs and the state government regarding Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s push for making Hindi compulsory up to Class X in all the states of the Northeast region. Now, student organisations and MEELAL, a frontline body working for transition into MeeteiMayek, has spoken up. Surprisingly, the Manipuri SahityaParishad and other forbearers of the then language movement are silent. State Chief Minister N Biren Singh also is silent on the volatile issue. It is not only him, but all BJP chief ministers of the Northeast region are silent on the issue as they are yet to get over with the euphoria of lifting of the Disturb Area Act and AFSPA from several police stations as announced by the Union Home Minister himself.

We all know, the BJP chief ministers would be silent till they get a nod from Amit Shah before making any kind of utterance regarding the ‘imposition’ of Hindi as they are calling it now.

As elsewhere, language is a very emotive issue and it took years of sustained movement for Manipuri language to be included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. It was on August 20, 1992 that the Manipuri language was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and every year, the day had been observed as Manipuri Language Day.

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After the inclusion in the eighth Schedule, a state Language Cell was opened in the state Education Directorate which was ultimately upgraded as the Directorate of Language Planning and Implementation in 2013 and the basic idea was not only promotion of the state language but also of the various tribal languages and dialects.

As per international standards, even Manipuri Language which is included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution has been listed as one of the dying languages of the world.

We must understand that the number of speakers of a language is very important in consideration of the status of a language. The basic question is how many people speak Manipuri or Meiteilon, which is heralded as the lingua-franca of the state.

Now, is the time for pushing the demand for making Manipuri a classical language of India. Despite being the lingua franca of the state, it is spoken in Manipuri populated areas in Bangladesh, Myanmar and other Northeastern states like Assam and Tripura.

Also, there is no dearth of books in the form of manuscripts or Puyas written in old and archaic Manipuri by ancient scholars with subjects ranging from sources of historiography to indigenous knowledge systems, rituals and cultural practices, statecraft, geography and drainage system, genealogy, political allegory, principles of war and humanitarian traditions, and even studies in astrology and astronomy.

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Many of these Puyas seems to have been compiled in later centuries, yet the content is ancient and there is every possibility of the knowledge being passed down orally through the scholars.Local linguists say, Manipuri language fulfils all the four criteria set by the Union Government for eligibility as a classical language. There are five classical languages namely, Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Telegu, Malayalam and Oriya.

The set criteria is that, the language in question should have high antiquity in its early texts and recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years; existence of a body of ancient literature texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers; that the literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community, and that the classical language and literature being, distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.

Whatever be the opinion of our local linguists, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and literary persons, their opinion needs to be complemented by non-local experts and authorities in their respective fields. So, there is a need for our experts to put their minds together so as to be able to present a scientific treatise to push the agenda for classification as a classical language.

Editorial

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First published:11 Apr 2022, 7:05 pm

Tags:

meeteimeiteiclassical languagemanipurilanguagehindiIFP Editorial

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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