The language of Parishad

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Finally, the word is out. There has been no significant development in Manipuri language since its inclusion in the Eight Schedule of the Indian Constitution in August 1992. A comment from one the most respected literary figures of Manipur Nongthombam Kunjamohon, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award instituted by the Manipur Sahitya Parishad. The ‘Sahitya Parishad’, although foreign words, is the authority of Manipuri Language. It was in the forefront of the language movement in the 80s and 90s along with several other frontline groups, leading to the inclusion of the language in the Eight Schedule along with Nepali and Konkani. The noted writer lamented on the dismal state of the language and the failure to even develop a standard spelling of the language or a standard Manipuri dictionary. We have also asked in the past – What has the Manipuri Sahitya Parishad contributed towards development of Manipuri language? The question has been nagging the minds of concerned Manipuris since its inclusion in the constitutional schedule. The concern has also been voiced at the celebration of Language Day on August 20 every year. The Parishad has been consistently receiving yearly grants from the state government, underlining its support to various projects undertaken by the Parishad for development of the state language. What has it done to promote Manipuri language besides instituting literary awards every year? Is it turning into some kind of mutual admiration society instead of pursuing its avowed objectives? These questions are on the lips of every citizen in Manipur. It would be unrealistic to assume that, the powers that be in the Parishad had not heard such concerns. Doling out awards year after year is also good; it is a kind of encouragement to the literary crowd and the practitioners of arts and culture. Yet, it should not remain the main activity of the Parishad for there are more important issues confronting the Manipuri language. As the noted writer N Kunjamohon rightly pointed out, we are yet to standardize the Manipuri spelling and a standard Manipuri dictionary remains elusive which is of utmost importance for invigorating the language. And this is the prime responsibility of the Parishad, the government is there only to provide the support structure. If the Parishad bosses think that there is a need for enhancement in the yearly grant for promotion and development of Manipuri language it is for them to simply ask the government. We have an educated Education Minister in the person of Moirangthem Okendro and we are sure he will certainly agree to such a proposal and he wouldn’t dare to refuse the literary circle. Times have changed and the language needs to keep up with the changes. A closer look into Manipuri language will reveal the essence of a pluralistic society and of an accommodative language, able to absorb foreign words in its vocabulary. In its effort to integrate newer groups into the larger Meitei identity, necessary changes were also incorporated into the Manipuri language. This perhaps explains the vibrancy of Manipuri language. It has also absorbed words from English, Bengali and various other languages. Yet the domination of Manipuri is very much there. Like its speakers, the language also went through the rigorous process of ethnic amalgamation and cultural assimilation which continued till late 18th century. A living and dynamic language has to be necessarily accommodative. In recent times, we have seriously failed in developing Manipuri language in its truest sense. The official state language essentially remains the language of the Meiteis and we have failed to accommodate the other language spoken by other communities inhabiting the state. There is a need to accommodate words from other communities, as done in the past by our ancestors, to achieve the dream of a Manipuri language. And without that the Manipuri language can never be complete. This is also the responsibility of the Parishad.

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