Like any other year, 19e May is being observed all over Barak Valley today as the ‘Bhasha Shahid Diwas’. Various organizations and individuals are paying tribute to those brave martyrs who had laid down their lives for the cause of their mother tongue ‘Bangla’ on this day in the year 1961.Even 52 years after that fateful day, the martyrs have not been accorded any official recognition either by the government of Assam or the centre. The demand for their official recognition and the renaming of the Silchar railway station as Bhasha Shahid station have been long pending and the dispensations at both the state and the centre have not been very receptive to the legitimate sentiments of the people of this region.
However, much beyond these demands associated with the sentiments of the people, lies the issue of the current condition of the Bangla language in Barak Valley despite its status as the official language of the valley.
Section 5 of the Assam Official Language Act clearly states that, “Notwithstanding anything in Section 3 (that accords Assamese as the official language of the state of Assam), the Bengali language shall be used for administrative and other official purposes up to and including the district level in the district of Cachar until the Mohkuma Parishads and Municipal Boards of the district in a joint meeting by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting decide in favour of adoption of the official language for use in the district for the aforesaid purposes.”
Last year, following the declaration of the results of the TET examinations, some Assamese speaking teachers were sent to teach students in the Bangla medium schools of Cachar. Similarly, on some occasions, Assamese reading materials of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have been sent instead of Bangla. In many Assam government offices, the signboards are completely written in English while the official language of the region is given a miss.The banks operational in the valley are also equally guilty of flouting the norms. Plenty of ATM counters in the entire valley have signboards written in English, Hindi and Assamese. While the scripts of the both the languages are almost similar, there is a lot of difference in the way various words are spelt.
Faulty textbooks, misleading signboards of the banks etc are creating a new generation of Bengalis in Barak Valley who are unsure about the spellings of various Bangla words. Increasingly, parents are preferring to teach their children only English and Hindi. In addition to such a scenario, the flouting of the language act is further leading the Bangla language to doom in the region.This article has not been written to create any rift between the two linguistic communities. In fact, the only way Assam can move forward is through the fostering of friendly ties between the Barak and Brahmaputra valleys. However, at the same time, the government and its agencies have to accord due respect to the linguistic rights of the people of Barak Valley.
The people of the valley also have to raise their voice against these injustices. The language martyrs will get their due respect and glory only if we can elevate Bangla to its deserved position in Barak Valley.