MANAS R BANNERJEE
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Siliguri, 6 January
Eminent Bengali writer, Samaresh Majumdar, hailing from Jalpaiguri, today said the state government should promptly recognise the Kamtapuri language to fulfill the long-standing demand of the indigenous Rajbanshi community of north Bengal.
Asked to comment on the recent insurgency by Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), demanding a separate Kamtapur state as well as on Kamtapur People&’s Party (KPP) pitching up demand for the recognition of Kamtapuri language, the litterateur said the demand for the recognition of the language is legitimate. “The state should recognise it on the humanitarian ground. This is in step with what is happening all over the world. Myriad groups keep demanding such recognition across the world. There is nothing amiss in KPP and KLO demanding the recognition,” he said over phone from Kolkata. “I would not comment on how the state would manage the present KPP/KLO movement. It is the prerogative of the chief minister, administration and police,” he said.
“There is no reason why the state cannot honour the linguistic aspiration of an indigenous community, particularly when Nepali and Lepcha languages have been given their dues. The state cannot shove the matter under the carpet by taking recourse to the insipid argument that Kamtapuri is a mere dialect of standard Bengali and not a language to stand on its own right. Such an argument cannot stand as the Lepcha language has been given recognition despite it being a dialect,” the writer said.
Speaking of the matter, the north Bengal researcher and historian, Ananda Gopal Ghosh said the protagonists themselves seem to be confused, changing tacks from time to time at the drop of their hats.   “People had started demanding Uttarkhand state in 1969; yet on the ground, they demanded recognition of the language. Changing tacks in 1977, they started demanding the separate state with some sort of vigour while choosing to consign the demand for the language to the background. Later, when the KPP wrested the initiative from them to revive the statehood demand through unleashing terror, they changed gear again, keeping themselves focused on demanding recognition of the language.”
Lending support to the lingual demand of the Rajbnshi community, he said this is in tune with the multi-lingual character of the country. “The Sikkim government has recognised Lepcha and Limbu languages for primary education. As far my knowledge goes, the state is yet to recognise the Lepcha language officially,” he said.
In the same breath, he said the ‘ground reality’ would have to be explored. “It is to be considered whether the Rajbanshi/ Kamtapuri language would fulfill their socio-economic and cultural aspirations in place of Bengali, the lingua franca of the state,” Mr Ghosh said, adding that the state government&’s decision to set up Rajbanshi Bhasha Academy is a step in the right direction.