Jharkhand’s dialects of discord cast their shadow on state’s politics

Language row has flared up in Jharkhand, sparking protest and affecting the state politics. In Jharkhand, spread over 79,714 sq. km. and housing 3.5 crore population, language row is not over one or two but seven to eight dialects.

Amid dispute and protests over Hindi, English, Urdu, Maghi, Maithili, Angika and Bhojpuri for the past eight nine months, the Legislative Assembly also witnessed uproar over it. Issues related to the disputes have also reached court.

After Jharkhand was carved out from Bihar, issue of territorality has been very important and it is the main reason of the language dispute.

In September 2021, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren had said languages like Bhojpuri and Maghi are basically of Bihar. “We cannot acknowlegde them as regional languages of Jharkhand,” he had said.

The video clip of the chief minister’s interview had went viral.

In the interview, he had also said that “Bhojpuri speaking people are dominating. We cannot forget that during Jharkhand agitation, these people have abused the agitators and misbehaved with women. How can we give regional language status to these two dialects.”

The BJP termed Soren’s statement as animosity spreading while the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and tribal organisations justified his stand.

The Congress leaders were uncomfortable with the chief minister’s statement. Most of the Congress MLAs are Bhojpuri speaking. Some of the MLAs have won from the areas which have considerable number of Bhojpuri, Maghi, Angika, Maithili speaking people. The Congress, which is in alliance with the JMM in Jharkhand government, distanced itself from the Chief Minister’s statement.

Jamshedpur MLA and Health Minister in the Hemant Soren government Banna Gupta advocated for Bhojpuri and said the day “I will feel that the language is sidelined, will resign without giving it a second thought”.

On December 23, 2021, when the state government issued a notification for the rules of the Jharkhand Staff Selection Commission, the language row once again gathered steam.

According to the government’s policy, JSSC examinations will be held on two different levels — state level and district level.

For the third and fourth grade jobs at state-level, Maghi, Maithili, Bhojpuri and Angika were not included in the regional languages.

While for district level, third and fourth grade jobs, there is a different list of regional languages, in which in few districts Bhojpuri, Maghi and Angika are included.

To oppose inclusion of Bhojpuri, Angika and Maghi in regional languages, tribal organisation took to the streets. Due to the protests, the state government had to amend the regional languages list in Dhanbaad and Bokaro. After the amendment that excluded Bhojpuri and Maghi from the regional languages list, Bhojpuri and Maghi speaking people are angry.

There is dipute in Godda district over non inclusion of Kurmali in regional language list. Godda MLA Amit Mandal and Mahgama MLA Deepika Pandey have registered a strong protest in the Assembly in the last session. Protests were also held in the district over the issue.

There is also dispute over the amendment in government’s appointment manual in which Urdu is a regional language in all 24 districts of the state while in language paper in the examination, Hindi and English are not included.

The BJP has questioned the state government about the basis of according Urdu regional language status in all 24 districts.

BJP state spokesperson Pratul Shahdev claimed that Urdu has been made regional language while Hindi has been excluded due to politics of appeasement. Are Hindi speaking people not residing in the state. Why this injustice with them?

The matter of exclusion of Hindi and English from language papers in JSSC is in court.

On April 6, on the plea of petitioners Ramesh Hansda and Vikas Kumar Chaubey, the High Court asked the state government about the basis on which Hindi and English were excluded from the language paper.

The court said that it is an serious issue and it cannot be kept pending. Next hearing in the matter is scheduled in April 27.

On the issue of the language, the BJP and the Congress are also internally divided and that is the reason that these parties have not cleared their stand on the issue.

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