Minister Rai, language and communal harmony
It was not an amazing but surely a set back to read in a recent interview with a Nepalese daily newspaper that Information and Communication Minister Nandalal Rai see the possibility of communal violence in the country if the government initiated to revive the Nepali language version of the state-controlled Kuensel daily.
I noted it quite interestingly on what ground that he linked Kuensel’s expansion with communal violence.
The first language of public communication for various ethnic groups in the country is English. Nepali follows it in second with the national language Dzongkha at third.
Kuensel’s Nepali version was closed years ago. The government shut Nepali language curriculum in south since 1990, which created a whole generation of Nepali speaking population not knowing how to read his/her language. I think Rai can speak or read Nepali well but no wonder he sure does not know speaking his own Kirati language and additionally his children might not know both of them. In fact he is coercing his children for Dzongkha and avoids other two languages of the community that he and his new generation belongs to.
Language and culture are not the sources of conflict, they are resolutions. They bring harmony and peace not chaos and turmoil. Brought up under the strict discipline of the army barracks with Dzongkha as the only language of communication inside it, Rai must have well developed psyche that Drukpas wished to inculcate on him.
It is time that he changed his old thoughts at par with the change he has gained in his role to serve the country. He was serving the Dzongkha rulers as army personnel which has now changed to the service of the people.
As a representative of the Nepali speaking population, his statement, if reached to southern districts, will surely create angst against him. Rai’s statement is not the sentiments of south. He is not only obstructing the persons’ right to education in his/her own mother tongue as enshrined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Bhutan is a signatory, but also made them illiterate of a language once used in official documents.
When I translated the country’s constitution from English to Nepali and mailed to as many Nepali speaking friends in the country, I was shocked to learn that a full generation know nothing about Nepali script while they speak it with difficulty. It was rather the Drukpas who managed to read some of the stuffs and responded me. Mr Rai must feel shame that his community does not know its language while people from other community tacitly read it.
As representative of the Nepali speaking population, Mr Rai not only holds responsibility to widen the scope of Nepali language but also to educate a generation who did not see school in their life either for not getting No Objection Certificate or due to closure of the schools in the south. He must know that political leaders and the MPs rather know Nepali better than Dzongkha taking note of the ineffective debates that take place in parliament.
Dzongkha does not have enough vocabulary to meet the current demands. This was reflected when drafters had to imports Tibetan words to write constitution. Nepal has all words that can explain the legal and technological circumstances. Under this situation, it is better that government encourage newspaper publishers for Nepali version that to coerce them for compulsory Dzongkha edition.
Ban in Nepali does not maintain harmony. Rather, it prepares people to burst against such policy when opportunity arrives. Letting them of the right to promote their language will help people keep harmony and understanding in society. Mr Rai must realize it sooner for better.