A new controversy over languages arose in the north-eastern part of India as the NGO All India Women’s Conference failed to recognize Nepali as an official Indian language and barred a participant from performing a Nepali song in a program celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ to mark 75th anniversary of India’s independence. AIWC refused to allow performance of Nepali song saying that the language is not from India. The matter surfaced as an audio clip of a conversation between an AIWC member from Kalimpong and the AIWC officials in Delhi surfaced. Getting furious over this insulting negligence, the Gorkha community and local elected representatives from Darjeeling are demanding an unconditional apology from the NGO and removal of officials who made the claim.
While shortlisting the performances for the program to be held on the 75th Independence Day, All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) member Chandra Prabha Pande rejected a performance in the Nepali language citing that ‘Nepali is a non-Indian language’. When Aruna Pradhan from Kalimpong tried to reason with AIWC Executive member Chandra Prabha Pande, instead of listening to her, Chandra Prabha Pande further insisted saying, “they [artists from Darjeeling Kalimpong region] cannot send performances in the Nepali language for India’s 75th Independence Day celebrations, as it is not a language from India”.
Nepali is a widely used language in the northeastern part of the country. It is included in the eighth schedule of the constitution of India. A body like AIWC was expected to know this. But the negligence in the current incident caused a great disappointment to the Gorkha community numbering around 1.5 crores which is one of the most prominent Nepali-speaking communities.
Gorkha rights activist Dr. Ashish Pradhan said while speaking to News18 about this issue, “We came across this telephonic conversation between the president of AIWC’s Kalingpom unit and her counterpart in Delhi. What the lady at the Delhi end had to say, we were deeply anguished. Because see, the entire language movement that happened in Darjeeling and Kalingpom and then after a long struggle the constitution of India was amended. The 71st amendment took place in 1992 and Nepali was included as one of the languages of India. Needless to say that the entire land has been the part of British India since 1860 and then part of the Indian Union and the contribution to the relation-building of the Gorkhas, the Nepali-speaking Gorkhas have been immense. In spite of this, we have ignorance amongst a large part of the intelligentsia. We seem not to register ourselves in the national imagination. This is deeply languishing.”
#BREAKING | Language war in North-East : Furore over AIWC remark, #Gorkha activists seek apology @KamalikaSengupt shares more details— News18 (@CNNnews18) June 15, 2022
Dr Ashish Pradhan, Gorkha Rights Activist, says there is much ignorance about Nepali speaking Gorkhas
Watch #TheNationAt5 with @maryashakil pic.twitter.com/PnnGV8MrPs
Raju Bista, Member of Parliament from Darjeeling Lok Sabha Constituency wrote a letter to the AIWC president in this regard and shared the same on his Facebook post. Calling AIWC racist, he demanded an apology form the NGO, and also demanded that the the racist persons who said Nepali is not Indian language should be removed from the NGO. He wrote, “What I find absolutely infuriating is that an esteemed organization like AIWC would have members, who are absolutely ignorant about the fact that the Nepali language is spoken by the 1.5 crores strong Indian Gorkha community, and it is duly recognized as one of the national languages such under the VIIIth Schedule of our Constitution. By claiming that Nepali is not an Indian language, and not allowing performance in the Nepali language, that too on the pious occasion of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations, AIWC has shown deliberate racism against the Gorkha community of our nation.”
BJP MP further Raju Bista further wrote, “Perhaps AIWC members are unaware that our Gorkha ancestors have played a vital role in ensuring India’s Independence, and I would suggest AIWC read about the contributions of Gorkha braves like Saheed Durga Malla of INA, Saheed Ms. Helen Lecha, Sh. Dal Bahadur Giri, Capt Ram Singh Thakuri of INA, Jangbir Sapkota, Subedar Niranjan Chettri, and thousands of other Gorkha brave hearts who have laid down their lives for our nation’s independence and keeping her safe from the enemies of our nation post-independence.
“I demand that AIWC issue an apology to the Indian Gorkha community forthwith, and ensure those racist individuals are all removed from their posts and positions in the organization,” the MP demanded in his letter to the organisattion.
It is notable that Nepali is listed the 14 languages in the 8th schedule of the constitution of India, and it is the native language for a large number of people in the country. Nepali speaking Gorkhas are concentrated in North Bengal, while large numbers of Nepali speaking people live in Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal and other northeastern states.