The second edition of Samvaad 2015, a pan-India tribal conclave inaugurated by Tata Steel Jamshedpur recently, witnessed an exchange of ideas and thoughts through panel discussions and cultural activities. Tribal Language was the central theme for this edition. The four-day conclave witnessed a conglomeration of more than 1,500 tribal artists, thought leaders, eminent personalities and activists from around 40 different tribes, from 25 states across the country, including Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Tripura. The event featured panel discussions on topics like The Threatened Tribal Languages, The Resurgence of Tribal Literature, Changing Cultural Landscapes and Diminishing Tribal Heritage, and Has India failed its Tribal Communities?

Talking on the state of tribal languages across the country, Dr Ivy Hansdak of Jamia Milia University, New Delhi, said, "In tribal communities there is a class of people that poses a threat to the tribal languages. This class primarily comprises educated tribes that dissociate themselves from their indigenous languages after reaching prominent positions." Taking the discussion further, Dr Lisa Lomdak, of Rajiv Gandhi University, Arunachal Pradesh, said, "Words from mainstream languages have streamed in to tribal languages. This has complicated the work of linguistics, as they fail to record tribal languages in their purest forms."

The second session was moderated by Bhagwandas Patel, honorary director of Adivasi Academy, Tejgarh, Gujarat. In his address Dr Patel said, "Tribal literature that is centred around nature has its own distinct identity. Those involved in the translation of tribal folktales and narratives first need to understand the sentiments of tribes in order to project their lifestyle in a better way."  Participating in the panel discussions, editor of Dhol Magazine,  Vikram Choudhary, said, "What universities can’t teach, can be learnt in the company of tribes.  Tribes have a lot to offer in literature too." Addressing the delegates, Vira Rathore, member of Language Advisory Committee, Maharashtra, said, "As many as 47 tribes in Maharashtra are contributing to the tribal literature in one form or the other."

While speaking to The Statesman, Biren Bhuta, chief of CSR at Tata Steel, said since Tata Steel is present in Jharkhand and Orissa, their association with tribal people is very close, which prompted the idea of Samvaad. "This year we particularly focussed on languages because we believe that if tribal community has to survive and prosper, it has to retain its pehchaan (identity), then its language must not only be preserved but also promoted and this was our core aim during Samvaad. Tribal community will lose their identity if their language is lost. This is the paradox of primary education in India, especially among tribal children, that these children do not drop out of school but they are pushed out of the schooling system because they cannot adapt to a completely alien language."

"Even in Jharkhand or in Orissa or in North East, many state governments have adopted mother tongue-based education system but that continues to remain an adoption in principle only. The reality on the ground is that it has not been implemented. There are no text books in tribal languages and if there are also, they are too few. It reflects clearly how we have completely ignored the interest of our tribal community. During the three days of discussions and sessions, several such subjects came to the forefront and we will continue to work in the direction on our part," he added.