Common future of Manipur - a view from tribal languages perspective
- Part 1 -

Ragongning Gangmei *

How did we come to think of a Common Future of Manipur?
What has led to the idea of a common future?
What could be the factors that would make it?
How it is being defeated today?
What do you understand by common future of Manipur?

Is it not the living together of all linguistic communities with dignity, pride and honour in the State?
Is it not the surviving together and safeguarding together of all linguistic communities in the State?
Is it not the sense of common belongingness of all linguistic communities to the State?

These are some of the questions that suggest a new thinking about the State of Manipur and its people and their co-existence. These thoughts are always driving us to rediscover the State of Manipur and its people and to have a look at them afresh.

It is the vision, aspiration and endeavour of the Council of Tribal Languages and Literature Societies, Manipur (CTLLSM) to achieve a Common future for all communities living in Manipur because Manipur is the land of multi-ethnic and multi-lingual communities. Also, the CTLLSM foresees the beauty of unity of the indigenous linguistic communities of Manipur that may take shape in the attempt to building a Common Future in the State. Also we see the rays of 'a new social order' to usher in Manipur when a 'common future' of the people is achieved.

Let us re-discover the State of Manipur afresh today

As we all know it, Manipur is belonged to many linguistic communities. It is a unity in diversity. This fact should be kept in mind by all policy makers, planners, politicians, administrators, buraucrates, social workers and common people all alike who love to see a better Manipur. It is a vital important to foster a healthy, well knitted and equal Common Future for all communities living in Manipur. Manipur is the land of the multi-ethnic and multi-language communities and let us have a look at them afresh and rediscover our Manipur anew today.

Manipur state today is the total sum of a combination of (1) Aimol, (2) Anal, (3) Angami, (4) Chiru, (5) Chothe, 6) Gangte, (7) Hmar, (8) Inpui, (9) Koireng, (10) Kom, (11) Kharam, (12) Lamkang, (13) Liangmai, (14) Mao, (15) Maram, (16) Maring, (17) Mate, (18) Meitei and Meitei Pangal, (19) Mizo, (20) Monsang, (21) Moyon, (22) Nepali, (23) Paite, (24) Paumai, (25) Purum, (26) Ralte, (27) Ruangmei(Kabui), (28) Sahte, (29) Sema, (30) Simte, (31) Tangkhul, (32) Tarao, (33) Thadou-Kuki, (34) Thangal, (35) Vaiphei, (36) Zeme and (37) Zou.

These are the linguistic communities of Manipur and these are the people of Manipur. They are the mosaic of the State's unity and integrity. Common Future of Manipur means the common future of these communities. It is the aspiration of each and every communiity to have an equal place of dignity, pride and honour in the state.

"Manipur is one, we are one" is rather remaining only a concept till today. It is only on the lips. It is practically very far from reality at grassroot levels. It should be made a reality and more meaningful. Today, Common Future is a beautiful challenge for all of us. And it should be made a challenge not only to us but also to the State Government. And it should be materialised sincerely and honestly by all stakeholders - the communities and the State Government.

When we rediscover our State of Manipur afresh, we shall see the need of unity of the indigenous language communities living in Manipur. And unity of indigenous linguistic communities can be achieved only when we all work for a common future. What exactly is the Common Future of Manipur? It is the common future of the linguistic communities of Manipur.

In fact this concept had been expressedly stated by the CTLLSM at several occasions and already published in book, local newspapers repeatedly and several memoranda had been submitted to the State Government of Manipur since 2009 and now almost one decade has gone without being heeded to by the State Government.

How the dream of common future of manipur is being defeated today?

Do all the commumities of Manipur truly have a common future in the State today? It is the pertinent question. To the tribal linguistic communities, it is a big NO. To find a true answer to this question, we have to go through the facts furnished below.

It is NOT the question of "Eigi eigi or maagi maagi". It should be please noted that it is for the common future of all communties living in Manipur and it is for the betterment of the whole people of Manipur. Without State's patronage no community can survive with progress and prosperity in the long run. In absence of State patronage, tribal language groups in Manipur are facing untold grievances. No fund was allocated in the State Budget of Education Department, Manipur, Board of Secondary Education, Manipur (BOSEM), Council of Higher Secondary Education, Manipur (COHSEM), State Council of Educational Research and Training(SCERT). In fact, it is creating a serious drawback to the aspiration of a common future for all communities living in Manipur.

Manipur State Government has approved 18 tribal languages for introduction in education system. Approval of languages for introduction in the education system is supposed to entail allocation of fund for promotion of these languages, textbook development and publications and also for administrative grant to the respective literature societies concerned. Fund should be earmarked by the State Government in Plan, Non-Plan with recurring and non-recurring expenditures for continuity of these languages. But these were not done at all by the State Government.

We smiled with happiness when we came to know that Meitei Mayek, the mother tongue of the Meiteis (not Manipuri, the State language written in Bengali script), is funded by the State Government. And we wept with frustration when we came to know that there is no fund for tribal languages in the State's Budget of Education.

TRI Financial Assistance - only a Fund of Compassion and Grace

It is truly appreciated that the Tribal Research Institute, Manipur (TRI) is providing tribal languages some sort of financial assistances to partially cover the printing costs of approved educational textbooks to the tune of, as of now, Rs.16.00 lakhs for the 18 approved tribal language groups. It is funded at 50:50 by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India and Tribal Affairs Department , Government of Manipur. The fund is neither sufficient nor a regular funding. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs can stop the funding any time. It is only a fund temporarily provided out of compassion.

Because production of school textbooks is the responsibility of the Education Department and TRI is not part of the Education Department and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs will continue fundiung for an indefinite longer period of time. Nor it can be rightfully claimed for a regular funding for printing of educational textbooks. The tribal language groups need proper funds that can be rightfully claimed and utilised with pride and honour. They also need annual maintenance and administrative grants.

Tribal Languages are turned down at Govt. Hr. Sc. Schools in Imphal Valley

In many of the Government Higher Secondary Schools at Imphal Valley, tribal language subjects (MIL) are turned down on the ground of non-availability of tribal language teachers. 0n the other hand, the State Government of Manipur is refusing to appoint tribal language teachers on the ground of non-availability of fund. So, it seems to be the ploy of the State Government to discourage the mother tongue education of the tribal communities in the State. Therefore, students belonging to tribal linguistic minorities are deprived of the opportunity of learning their mother tongues in the Government Higher Secondary Schools in Imphal Valley.

The future of tribal people are threatened in Manipur

It is well known to the people that language is the repository of custom and culture of a community and it is their pride and honour and their identity and future. Language is the moving spirit of a community for onward march to the future. In Manipur tribal languages are sidelined and not attended to by the State Government. As of now, no future is foreseen for indigenous tribal languages in Manipur - no fund, no protection and no policy for continuity of these languages. In absence of State's patronage to tribal languages, the future of the tribal people in Manipur is being threatened.

If the present situation is continued in the State for a century, the indigenous tribal languages shall be vanished from the soil of Manipur. So the tribal languages, as of now, are being threatened and thereby threatening the future of the indigenous tribal people in the State.

For protection and promotion of the languages of the indigenous people of Manipur, a Draft Bill "Manipur State Policy of Tribal Languages" was drafted and the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of Manipur Legislative Assembly had forwarded the same to the Chief Minister's Secretariat in 2010. But it was neither attended to till today.

The National Policy of the linguistic minorities in India and how it is implemented at the neighbouring states.

The Constitution of India (Article 350-A) says -
"It shall be the endeavour of every State and every local authority within the State to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage (now secondary stage) of education to children belonging to linguistic minoriy groups."

Many states including the states of the north-east are implementing the National Policy under this Article in their respective states in the Country.

(a) Nagaland : The Nagaland State Government is providing one Language Officer, one Assistant Language Officer and all necessary staff to each language group of the State and gives annual administrative grant to the concerned literature societies and supply school textbooks to the students free of cost.

(b) Sikkim : The Sikkim State Government appoints one Language Translator, one Assistant Language Translator for each and every language group recognised by the State. The State Government gives annual administrative grant to the concerned literatrure societies and give school textbooks free of cost to the students.

All other States like Assam, Maghalaya and Arunachal Preadesh bear all the costs of production of school text books of tribal language groups and issues them free of cost to the students and also gives annual administrative grants to the concerned literature societies.

It seems Manipur State Government is neither aware of this Constitutional provision nor the Safeguards for Linguistic Minority groups issued by the Government of India from time to time. So,there is neither a plan nor provision for tribal language groups in the State.

(To be contd)

* Ragongning Gangmei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is the chairman of Council of Tribal Languages and Literature Societies, Manipur
This article was reposted on February 04, 2017.

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