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  KAS Should Opt for Legal Course

                                                                 BY B M Lanong

We cannot but be flabbergasted over an ongoing load of jokes floating around in various circles, that when the Khasis and Garos have fought for and have a state of their own for almost 47 years, their vexed language issue is still dangling before the Sahitya Academy, awaiting recognition. The demand for recognition of the two languages was hitherto rejected while the cases of other less deserving communities however, have been resolved favourably.

Incredibly while the Gandhian movement by the Khasis and Garos led by the erstwhile APHLC for bifurcation from Assam took hardly 15 years to see a state granted and formally inaugurated on  January 21, 1972 by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, the language issue remains unresolved.  The prayer for recognition of a language, which began simultaneously around the same time Meghalaya was created, almost five decades ago is pending  with the Sahitya Academy sitting put over the case which is lying incarcerated under its custody.

 Metaphorically speaking, it is easier to tame an elephant in the wild than a bird in the poultry shed. Some in a light vein suggest that the matter be referred to the Guinness Book of Records, which amply fits for such cases. Yet many others are getting mentally aggressive, wanting to know what impedes the Sahitya Academy from working out a solution, when Khasi language was recognized by the Calcutta and Gauhati Universities about seven decades ago when Meghalaya was then under the State of Assam, then later by the NEHU and by several other universities and institutions. Khasi has also earned its place at the Ph.d level, all on merit.

                                                             Eye witness views

 May I remind the Sahitya Academy that the then British Major, PRT Gurdon, who was the Deputy Commissioner (DC), Eastern Bengal and Commissioner Assam and was based in Shillong during the beginning of the last century had written a book, ‘The Khasis.’ He was very impressed by the Khasi people and said, ‘their manners and customs, their laws and institutions, their folklores, their theories as to their origin and language, the attractiveness of their character and the charm which the homely beauty of their native hills, exercise over the minds of all who have had the good fortune to know them.’

In the Gazetteer of Bengal and NE India 1905, BC Allen ICS, wrote about the Khasis, that ‘they differ in many ways from all their neighbours.’ And Sir Keith Cantlie ICS who was D.C. UK&J Hills during 1930-34 an authority on Khasi Law relied upon by the Courts and legal experts, in his book ‘Notes on Khasi Law’, noted that, ‘Khasis are the most highly educated and prosperous persons in the hills. Khasis have gained by education, by improved sanitary methods and scientific treatment of diseases. University graduates are found even in villages.’

         Subhas Chandra Bose was fondly quoted that wherever he referred to the institution of democracy, he would cite the democratic durbar system of Khasi Hills. All these are the indelible records, during the stages when the Sahitya Academy was not even born then.

                                                          The Movement genesis          

        It was indeed impregnated in the minds of the literary experts, teachers and scholars to demand inclusion of Khasi language under the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India, based on the aforesaid merits and other necessary ingredients necessary for the recognition of the  language immediately after creation of Meghalaya.

       It may be noted that Khasi language is widely spoken and read by people in Khasi and Jaintia Hills, including the non-Khasis who are mainly traders of a flourishing market who attract customers more by interaction in the local language. Believe it or not but many local non-Khasi students also study Khasi subject and excel in it with a good number of them scoring distinction marks in the subject, the accolades which the Sahitya Academy should award them instead.

  Leaving aside the large population of Khasis who speak and learn Khasi, like those in Bangladesh, Assam and in other neighboring states, only those in the state of Meghalaya, numbering more or less 15 lakh people should be a conservative estimate of people who speak Khasi. It should also be noted by all and sundry that the Khasis are a peace-loving and humble community, sans the culture of touching anyone’s feet.

  The pioneers of the movement for recognition of the Khasi Language in the Eighth Schedule  of the Constitution deserve credit and compliments. Some of them like Prof RS Lyngdoh former Speaker, Dr HW Sten, Mr WD Jyrwa who have passed on and others like Dr BR Kharlukhi, former MP and Dr (Mrs) Helen Giri and others of the Khasi Authors Society, continue to vigorously pursue the objective of the movement.

With malice to none, but with due greetings and god speed to all, a case for a comparative study may however arise, that Bodo language of the Boros of Assam and Santhals the language of the tribals of Jharkhand have been considered for inclusion in the 8th Schedule. With no qualms to the decision made, the Sahitya Academy has to answer why Khasi language is not qualified for recognition and what are the other ingredients that the language has yet to fulfill.

 In many circles, the concerned intelligentsia and public do not feel the need for any further agitation by the KAS, but to seek redressal of injustice from the Judiciary. Equality before law, undue supersession and discrimination are some of the prime concern of the courts. The Sahitya Academy is an autonomous institution formally launched in 1954. It is equitably accountable and liable for violation of any constitutional law. The KAS might like to explore the legal route now.

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