NGO demands Garo Language in schools, instruction in English for Plain Belt

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In an unexpected move, a social welfare organization of the Plain Belt, under West Garo Hills district has demanded that the state government introduce Garo Language in all the government and private schools in the district in an attempt to be more inclusive as Greater Garo Hills. The reason is that the habitats who speak various other languages except Garo find it difficult to communicate for all official works, and the school students are alien to the state official language (Garo).

It may be mentioned that the people in Plain Belt speak the mixed language of Bengali and Golpariya but not in pure forms hence, they cannot be identified with a particular dialect, as they are under the Selsella Block, Dadengre Civil sub-division and under the jurisdiction of Tura District Magistrate. As such, it is only deemed fit that Garo Language is the common language, stated the Anti Corruption Human Development Organization (ACHDO), an organization based in the Plain Belt region of West Garo Hills.

According to ACHDO President, Ishraful Hoque, it is surprising that even after 47 years of Statehood, all the schools under the Plain Belt use Assamese as the medium of instruction. Hence the students are neither familiar with Garo nor English. Therefore, for all official works, they are tongue tied on being questioned. In order to remove such hindrances, the organization has demanded the inclusion of Garo language to remove such disability of the habitats in the districts of Garo Hills.

It may be reminded that Meghalaya Chief Minister, Conrad Kongkal Sangma while moving a resolution in the State Assembly had urged the Central government to include Khasi and Garo languages in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution on September 27, 2018, which was unanimously passed by voice vote which was termed as a historic decision. Every single citizen of Meghalaya has really wanted this particular resolution to go through so that Khasi and Garo languages are recognised as Official Languages.

It is also rare to witness that cutting across political lines, all the 60 elected members are in once voice and have resolved to go all out to demand from the Centre to ensure that the two languages are included in the Constitution, after 47 years of Statehood.

Meghalaya achieved statehood through the Hill State Movement which was accelerated due to the imposition of Assamese as the state language in the year 1960. The Assam Provincial Congress Committee (APCC) met on 22 April 1960, and directed the Chief Minister Bimala Prasad Chaliha to declare Assamese as the State language. Ultimately, the Mikir and the North Cachar Hills districts were given the option to join the Autonomous state and they decided to stay within the Assam state. On December 24, 1969, Parliament of India passed the ‘Assam Reorganization (Meghalaya) Bill’, to create an autonomous state – to be known as Meghalaya, within the state of Assam comprising the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills district and the Garo hills district as defined in the Sixth Schedule, until it became a full-fledged state on  January 21, 1972.

Present day Meghalaya once again seems to be standing on the same crossroads as the  Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) on November 6, 2014 threatened to take up intensive agitations if the then state government failed to scrap the notification of the Meghalaya Board of School Education (MBOSE) proposing to make Khasi subject as a ‘compulsory elective subject’ and not only as an optional subject as was done earlier as part of its proposal to change the existing structure and scheme of studies for the Higher Secondary School Leaving Certificate (HSSLC) examinations.

With the state just turning 47 years old, the statehood issues are fading away. Yet the voters and the political parties are still having the hangover of January 21, 1972. It is time to be self-dependent and focus on infrastructural development, improving the living standards, tapping of Human Resources, and most important to streamline the work culture of government machinery. Since we have got statehood, now we must make it sustainable and progressive.

The Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) had only made few attempts to codify the tribes, but did not do enough to promote and preserve the Garo Language within the district.

Giving a brief history on how the demand for recognition of the Khasi language began in the state, Member of the Sahitya Akademi, Sylvanus Lamare said the demand first started way back in 1970s.

A special committee was also constituted by the Sahitya Akademi on the matter but the demand stopped in 1986. Again in 1995, the demand was revived by Hispreaching Son Shylla in the state Assembly.

It was only in 2005 that the demand for recognizing Khasi as an official language got the approval of the Governor but in the same year, the Garos had also raised their demand for the inclusion of their language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.

In the year 1991, the former Lok Sabha MP Peter G Marbaniang, while extending support to the demand for inclusion of Nepali and Manipuri Languages, had also demanded inclusion of Khasi language in the 8th Schedule.

Former MP PR Kyndiah in 2003 also made a similar demand in the Parliament while supporting the demand for inclusion of Bodo language in the Eight Schedule.

It may also be reminded that earlier the Sahitya Akademi had pointed out that the publication works are not satisfactory, and there is no standardization of words, as there are many Institutions showing different character of the language, hence Khasi Author Society (KAS) did make efforts to increase the publication with the assistance of the Education department, but very small amount from Art and Culture department.

In an attempt to popularize the Khasi Language, in the past the banking institutions in the state were publishing all forms and documents in Khasi Language which have been discontinued for decades now. The KAS should demand that this is revived.

The Association which focuses mainly on the academic affairs should also convene a meeting with the Board of Studies committee of North Eastern Hill University to streamline the Khasi subject, which is one of the most difficult scoring subjects, which has discouraged many to take up the studies. More research scholars should be encouraged for the Khasi language.

KAS should encourage the formation of a board not only for writing and publishing academic books, but to recommend the topics from school level to Post Graduation, and review the topics and subject from time to time such that the language can flourish.

Any confined society or language cannot grow, hence KAS should encourage more borrowed words, expand the use of language to visual communications like the cinema and music industry like Assamese, Bodo and other communities adopted.

Coming back to the demand for the inclusion of Khasi Language to the Constitution of India, all it needs now is the political will, unlike in the past were Sahitya Akademi was the recommendation authority, now the respective state assembly can do so.

The citizens of Meghalaya need to be united for the demand, and once Khasi is recognized as an official language, the Pnars and Garos too can pick up the momentum for the inclusion in the 8th Schedule. All it requires now is political will as mentioned earlier and the unity of the masses in Meghalaya.

Now that an organization has raised the demand for the inclusion of the Garo Language in all the schools under the Plain Belt, the likeminded organizations and Garo writers should extend the support to popularize the Garo language, so that the recent move by the Chief Minister urging the Central government to include Khasi and Garo languages in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution could be achieved at the earliest.