Memorandum submitted to Shri K. R. Narayanan, Hon'ble President of India on inclusion of Santali Language in the VIII th Schedule of the Constitution of India during September, 1997

 

Subject: Consideration of Santali language for its inclusion in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India

 

Hon'ble President,

With due respect, the All India Adibasi Socio-Educational and Cultural Association, New Delhi humbly introduces the Santal community and submits herwith their unique grievance relating to their language "Santali" for the sagacious, logical and objective analysis of your Honour for taking a just and judicious action in the matter.

THE PEOPLE

Santals are peace loving, sons of the soil of India. They belong to the Pre-Aryan community and are the descendants of the great Heroes of India like Baba Tilka Majhi, Sido, Kanhu, Chand, Bhairab and others who gallantly fought against the mighty British ruler to get themselves rid of the shakles of exploitation, tyranny, deprivation and oppression. Santal people indentify and introduce themselves as Hor (Human Beings) which amply testifies their broad world view. They are the largest linguistic tribal community of India.

According to various available sources, their total population is about 60 lakhs. The districts having significant Santal population are Dhanbad, Dumka, Giridih, Godda, Hazaribagh, Katihar, Kodarma, Paschim Singhbhum, Purbi Singhbhum, Purnia and Sahibganj in Bihar; Balasore, Bhadrak, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Keonjhar, Khurda, Mayurbhanj and Sundargarh in Orissa; and Bankura, Bardhaman, Birbhum, West Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Malda, Medinipur and Purulia in West Bengal. Besides, Santals are also found in the States of Assam, Tripura and across the border in Bangladesh and Nepal. Their population is about 02 lacs in Assam; about 22 lacs in Bihar; about 08 lacs in Orissa; 2,500 in Tripura; and about 28 lacs in West Bengal. Literacy among Santals is very low and varies from State to State. The district-wise population distribution is given at Annexure I.

Santals wherever they are either in India or abroad speak a uniform language called "Santali". They have their own script known as "OL CHIKI". The Santali language belongs to the Austric family of the category of Indian languages.

From time immemorial Santals preserved and transmitted their language from one generation to the other. On the way they must have come in contact with other contemporary language families but their love for the language for its beauty, completeness and richness forged their adherence to it. They kept it intact, thoroughly endeavoured for its better manifestation and their zest for excellence paved the way for the evolution of their own script known as "OL CHIKI". This historic pathbreaking invention not only gave them confidence but also facilitated proper expression of their words while writing as it was not at all possible with any of the available scripts of the world. This statement here will remain incomplete without having a mention of the legendary genius Pandit Raghunath Murmu, the inventor of the script popularly known among the Adivasis as "Guru Gomke". And, Ol Chiki emerged as a beckon of light to inspire and instil a sense of confidence, pride, rejuvenation and solidarity among the Santals.

The vicissitudes in their economic status are not because of their failure to adopt new technology or adapt themselves in a new environment but by a systematic process of alienation as history tells us. They are the victim plagued either by design or default. For the credulousness alos, their economic pursuit for self sufficiency has been limited and their general economic standard has gradually deteriorated to subsistence level.

SANTALI LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

Santali is the lingua franca in the region of Santal concentration. Since the formative stage fo "Ol Chiki" Santali literature has come a long way and has flourished significantly despite all adversaries and lack of official patronage. Sensing indifferent attitudes and lackadaisical approach of th concerned state governments towards the development of the script or the language, the literati took upon themselves the responsibilities of establishing the language at par with other Indian languages. The setting up of Press, publication of books, journals followed consequently. Subsequently, Govt. of Shri Jyoti Basu in West Bengal rose to the occasion and publicly honoured Shri Raghunath Murmu and accepted the Santali language as a modern Indian language. At present all the Govts. of the States of Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal have initiated the action plans so as to impart education in mother tongue to Santals in general commensurating with the provisions of the Constitution. However, Union Govt. is yet to decide about the future of the language.

UNION GOVERNMENT'S DILEMMA

Union Govt. has accepted the following 18 languages of India and included them in the 8th Schedule of the constitution:

1. Assamese 2. Bengali 3. Gujarati 4.Hindi 5. Kannada 6. Kashmiri **7. Konkani 8. Malayalam **9. Manipuri 10. Marathi **11. Nepali 12. Oriya 13. Punjabi 14. Sanskrit *15. Sindhi 16. Tamil 17. Telugu 18. Urdu

* Added by the Constitution (21st Amendment) Act, 1967

** Inserted by the Constitution (71st Amendment) Act, 1992

It may be mentioned that while the following languages spoken by population far less than the population speaking Santali language namely Kashmiri (32 lakhs), Konkani (15 lakhs), Manipuri (9 lakhs), Nepali (14 lakhs) and Sidhi (20 lakhs) have been included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, the Santali language spoken by 44 lakhs population has been deprived of the privilege (figure based on 1981 Census Report). Notwithstanding repeated prayer, petition in the past the authority has remained silent on the issue of granting recognition to Santali language while the demands of later origin have been acceded to. The above list whish is self-explanatory to indicate and reveal the fact that the role of the Govt. in this regard has so far not been natural, impartial or unequivocal. What is compelling the Union Govt. to hold on the consideration for inclusion of the Santali in the 8th Schedule of the constitution is difficult to comprehend. Scholars in India and abroad have high opinion about this language. P. O. Boding's Santali dictionary in five volumes, Santali - English dictionary by Campbell and Hindi - Santali and Santali - Hindi dictionary published by Tribal Welfare and Research Institute, Bihar are testimony to this claim. Despite these facts, it has not been given due consideration. Thus the legitimate burgeoning aspiration and expectations of millions of people have been ignored.

REPERCUSSIONS

The following opinions and sentiments have been expressed by various voluntary organisations, individuals, cognoscenti and Santal community in particular in various forums like meetings, workshops, conferences:

Santali language qualifies to be included in the 8th Schedule of the constitution by applying any conceivable yardstick used so far for the purpose and, therefore, non-inclusion of Santali in the 8th Schedule is totally inconformity with the provisions of the Constitution;

One significant consequence of non-recognition of the language is that Santals are feeling gradually betrayed, suppressed and alienated;

The intention of the Govt. to support, help, promote the weaker sections of the population for their overall and all-round development cannot be realised unless people are educated in thier mother tongue. The well proclaimed policy as envisaged in the Article 350 A of the Constitution of India is not fulfilled by the Govt. of so far as the Santal community is concerned;

Prolonged neglect causes proliferation of a process of "Internal Cultural Colonialism" suffocating social, educational and cultural environment; and

Extraneous considerations other than cultural/literary have been the stumbling block in the deveopment of the Santali language.

SUGGESTIONS

Realising that mere presentation of the facts in black and white ipso facto does not redound any solution, some of the points considered germane in this context have been suggested as follows:

People can live in peace, harmony and dignity in a democratic country if equality and justice are administered properly;

Languages in the 8th Schedule of our constitution should be viewed as assets;

Official felicitation should be accorded to the creative, imaginative skill of the people; and

Govt. must encourage promotion of cultural/literary renaissance among the people by enforcing the principle of mutual adjustment and accommodation.

CONCLUSION

It is universally acknowledged that pace of education can be accelerated if education is imparted in the mother tongue. It is our strong feeling and desire to see the Santals achieve reasonable/respectable literacy rate at the dawn of 21st Century. This optimism can be realised if and only if government is sincere and supportive in granting due recognition to Santali language in Ol Chiki. Education has a bearing on culture as it transmits cultural values. It is recognised that culture howsoever small needs protection and development because it gives identity to its members and because embeded in their traditions and beliefs are social, environmental, political even spiritual solutions to some of the crisis facing the contemporary societies.

Sir, Santal people all over the country and abroad crave your blessings and good will in this hour of their socio-economic and cultural crisis. Gratitude and indebtedness cannot be expressed in words but certainly you will be remembered for years, generation after generation for being considerate, sympathetic and magnanimous in using your good office for according legitimate place and due honour fo the 'Santali Language' by incorporating it in the 8th Schedule of the constitution of India.


Annexure - I

District-wise Analysis of Santal Population

 

Sl. # Name of State / District Total Population Santal population Per cent
I ASSAM   2,00,000  
II BIHAR
  DEOGARH 9,33,113 NA  
  DHANBAD 26,74,651 2,40,718 9
  DUMKA 14,95,709 5,68,370 38
  GIRIDIH 22,25,480 3,56,077 16
  GODDA 8,61,182 1,20,565 14
  HAZARIBAGH 16,01,576 64,063 4
  KATIHAR 18,25,380 1,09,522 6
  KODARMA 6,29,264 37,755 6
  PASCHIM SINGHBHUM 17,87,955 1,78,795 10
  PURBI SINGHBHUM 16,13,088 NA  
  PURNIA 18,78,885 93,944 5
  SAHIBGANJ 7,36,835 3,09,471 42
         
III ORISSA
  BALASORE 16,96,583 1,69,658 10
  BHADRAK 11,05,834 33,175 3
  CUTTACK   NA  
  DHENKANAL   NA  
  KEONJHAR 13,37,026 NA  
  KHURDA   NA  
  MAYURBHANJ 18,84,580 5,67,282 28
  SUNDARGARH   NA  
         
IV TRIPURA* 2,200
V WEST BENGAL
  BANKURA 28,05,065 3,36,607 12
  BARDHAMAN 60,50,605 3,63,036 6
  BIRBHUM 25,55,664 1,53,340 6
  WEST (N&S) DINAJPUR 12,00,924 1,80,138 15
  JALPAIGURI 28,00,543 NA  
  MALDAH 26,37,032 1,84,592 7
  MEDINIPUR 83,31,919 13,33,107 16
  PURULIA 22,24,577 3,33,686 15
         

NA: Figure Not Available

* As per 1981 Census

Sources: 1. The Census Report, 1991, 2. The Encyclopaedic District Gazetteers of India, Gyan Publication, New Delhi.

Note: The Memorandum was also forwarded to all the Union Ministers, Hon'ble M.Ps., Governors and Chief Ministers of the States of Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and all other prominent Social Organisations, NCERT etc.