By Harshmeet Singh
There aren’t many better examples of India’s diverse culture than its linguistic diversity. The country is home to 780 languages with over 120 of them holding the ‘official’ status. But the other side of the story is that India currently heads the list of UNESCO’s world’s languages in danger. The constitution, in its eighth schedule, lists 22 languages as the official regional languages in the country. This series of articles is an attempt to focus on these 22 languages, their pasts and present, and cherish our linguistic diversity. After discussing Assamese in the previous write-up, today, we shift our focus towards Bodo.
One of the most famous tribal languages in the country, Bodo has close to one and a half million speakers in India, with most of them residing in the North-East. Along with Assamese, it is the official language of Assam.
The number of Bodo speakers in the country is on a constant decline. The language originally belongs to the Bodo tribe, which is one of the oldest inhabitants in the North-East part of the country. Despite being a minority in Assam, the tribe continues to take forward its culture with utmost zeal.
Post-independence, a number of Bodo speakers felt that the language is at a risk of being overshadowed by languages such as Assamese and Bengali. Until 1950s, there were hardly any Bodo-medium schools, which hurt the prospects of the language. It was only in the early 1950s that the Bodo population realized that education in indigenous language is essential for the language’s development. To take forward the cause of the language, the Bodo Sahitya Sabha was formed in 1952. After a continuous struggle by the Sabha, Bodo was put in place as the medium of instruction at the primary level in 1963. The language reached the secondary level in 1968. Now, multiple universities, including the University of Guwahati offer post graduate courses in Bodo language.
The language got a further shot in the arm when the HRD ministry and the central government allowed the Bodo Sahitya Sabha to go ahead and prepare a list of over 40,000 scientific and technical terms in the language in order to evolve it further. With the passing of the 92nd amendment Act 2003, Bodo found a place in the eight schedule of the Indian constitution.
In the news
Last month, the All Bodo Students’ Union observed the 63rd foundation day of Bodo Sahitya Sabha in Delhi. Kejriwal, while attending the event, announced that he would request the JNU and the Delhi University to come up with a dedicated department on Bodo in order to promote the language. He also promised to grant land for setting up of Bodo cultural research centre in the national capital. While many such promises have been made in the past too, only a few have been fulfilled. But with the language activists not giving up the cause, the number of Bodo speakers will only go up in the times to come.
Read more here – Assamese – a bright spot in the Indian regional languages scene