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Battle of the Bodo language
Despite being among the 22 scheduled languages provided special constitutional status in India the Bodo language is hemmed in by lack of development. Apathy of the authorities has stunted the growth of the colourful language laced in tribal legacy.
GIVEN THE glory of Assam’s history, there is need to pay heed to the Bodos the oldest inhabitants of the region. Generations of Bodos survive massive odds with their resilience and their innate knowledge of horticulture.

The tribal community, one of largest minorities in Assam has a unique culture and is full of self esteem. But here we are not discussing the rituals or their generic behavior, rather we are dealing with the most neglected part of this community, their voice, their manner of expression and their language, the Bodo or the Boro language.

The Bodo language, pronounced as Bo-Ro, a major language of the Bodo group, comes under the Assam-Burmese group of languages. It is said to have branched off from the Tibeto-Burman family of languages and is spoken by the denizens of the north-eastern state of Assam. In fact, the Bodo language happens to be amongst the official languages here and is one of the 22 scheduled languages provided a special constitutional status in India.
A highpoint in the history of the Bodo language is the socio-political movement that was launched by local Boro organizations, from 1913 onwards. Due to their relentless effort, this language was finally introduced as the medium of instruction in the primary schools in Bodo dominated areas in 1963. In present times, the language also serves as a medium of instruction up to the secondary level in educational institutions. Recently, it was included as a part of the post graduate course in the University of Guwahati.

The Bodo language boats of a rich literature, comprising of numerous famous books on poetry, drama, short story, novel, biography, travelogue, children’s literature among others. The last couple of decades have been especially beneficial for the evolution of Bodo literature as its development received due attention from all corners. The Devanagri script is officially used to write the Bodo language, although it also has a long history of using the Roman script. Many Bodo intellectuals suggest that this language originally used the Deodhai script, which is now lost.

A pioneering effort in preserving and popularizing Bodo literature is being played by Asam Sahitya Sabha, the biggest literary body in Eastern India. In fact, this organization has been playing a crucial role in coordinating efforts of Bodo poets, scholars and authors, by introducing the local people to their works. They hold a congregation every year, attended by numerous iconic literary people from far and near in collaboration with Bodo Sahitya Sabha.
Though the locals have already accepted this language as a part and parcel of their socio-economic communication but the Total Literacy ‘Movement’ constituted by the Indian Government has not helped the language to grow to its possible heights. Though the policy makers have always talked big regarding issues relating to the linguistic minorities but the actual scenario of the Bodo language is dismal.

“We are always deprived and taken for granted in everything and need to fight for our rights but now we plan to accelerate in our own way in a democratic manner,” says a frustrated Lakkhi Basumatary, an educationist in the medium. He added that the government has done precious little for the upliftment of their language besides promoting a few writers.

Anyone can find a few schools using the Bodo language as a teaching medium in the BTAD areas but is that all to a language for it to enrich the literary world? asked Upen Basumatary, a Bodo language writer who also points out the lack of publishers and their lack of interest in publishing books in the language. Many of our students have not got their books. And can anybody answer a community which is deprived of its language to read for itself and to others, or can be defined a community with no educational status, says Basumatary who is also a member of Bodo Sahitya Sabha.

To describe the importance, to make the common man aware of their linguistic backwardness, to make it reach out to all and see to its proper establishment, the All Bodo Student Association held a bicycle rally with 400 supporters last month. This rally flagged off by former Indian Ambassador Upen Boro is to spread the message of quality education among the masses in interior areas. The rally will cover all the districts of Asom with a view to pressing for quality education to face the rising challenges under the rapidly advancing global trend.

ABSU says it is necessary to press for quality education among the masses which would usher a new revolution among the student community. The aim is for quality education for all round development of society. The president of the ABSU Rwugwr Narzary said education was the only means to usher in development. He said the ABSU’s mission is quality education programmes, accepting it as a challenge and overcoming hurdles.

“It is a good and positive way of looking at things and we need it now. We can hope for good things for our community and its medium, particularly the language,”says Kailash Swarguari, a student who has not got his books given its lack of availability. Basumatary, member Bodo Sahitya Sabha says for a long time the constitutional policies are lining the pockets of many rather than need.  

This Devanagiri script has been scheduled as a tribal language by a Presidential Order published in the Gazette of India, Part II, Section 1, dated August 13, 1960. And it has been many decades that efforts are on by Bodo linguists for the language to be read and to be expressed in original works of literature. But the socio political system is again playing tricks with the tribal people who have gone through a lot of political conflict to gain their present structure and recognition.
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