A new language controversy erupted in northeast India when the NGO All India Women’s Conference did not recognize Nepali as an official Indian language and banned a participant from performing a Nepali song in a program celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ to mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. The AIWC refused to allow the performance of a Nepali song saying that the language is not native to India. The matter surfaced when an audio clip of a conversation between an AIWC member from Kalimpong and AIWC officials in Delhi surfaced. Furious at this insulting negligence, the Gorkha community and local elected officials in Darjeeling are demanding an unconditional apology from the NGO and the dismissal of those responsible for filing the complaint.
While shortlisting performances for the program to be held on the 75th Independence Day, All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) member Chandra Prabha Pande rejected a performance in the Nepali language, saying that “Nepali is a non-Indian language”. When Aruna Pradhan from Kalimpong tried to reason with AIWC executive member Chandra Prabha Pande instead of listening to him, Chandra Prabha Pande insisted, saying, “They [artists from Darjeeling Kalimpong region] cannot send Nepali language shows for India’s 75th Independence Day celebrations as it is not a language of India”.
Nepali is a widely used language in the northeast of the country. He is included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. We expected an organization like the AIWC to know that. But the negligence in the current incident has caused great disappointment to the Gorkha community which numbers about 1.5 crores, one of the largest Nepali speaking communities.
Gorkha rights activist Dr. Ashish Pradhan told News18 on the matter: “We came across this phone conversation between the AIWC unit chairperson Kalingpom and her counterpart in Delhi. What the lady at the Delhi end had to say, we were deeply distressed. Because see, the whole language movement that happened in Darjeeling and Kalingpom, and then after a long struggle, the constitution of India was changed. The 71st Amendment took place in 1992 and Nepali was included as one of the languages of India. Needless to say, the whole territory has been part of British India since 1860 and then part of the Indian Union and the contribution to establishing the relationship of the Gorkhas, the Nepali-speaking Gorkhas, has been immense. Despite this, we have the ignorance of a large part of the intelligentsia. We don’t seem to fit into the national imagination. It is deeply languid.
Gorkha rights activist Dr Ashish Pradhan says there is a lot of ignorance about Nepalese Gorkhas
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Raju Bista, MP for Darjeeling Lok Sabha Constituency, wrote a letter to AIWC Chairman in this regard and shared the same on his Facebook post. Calling the AIWC racist, he demanded an apology from the NGO and also demanded that racist people who said that Nepali is not the Indian language be removed from the NGO. He wrote: “What I find absolutely infuriating is that an esteemed organization like the AIWC would have members, who are completely unaware of the fact that the Nepali language is spoken by the 1.5 crore strong Indian Gorkha community , and it is duly recognized as one of the national languages as provided for in Schedule VIII of our Constitution. By claiming that Nepali is not an Indian language, and by banning performances in the Nepali language, that too on the pious occasion of “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” celebrations, the AIWC has shown deliberate racism against the Gorkha community of our nation.
BJP MP Raju Bista further wrote, “Perhaps AIWC members are unaware that our Gorkha ancestors played a vital role in securing India’s independence, and I would suggest to the AIWC to read contributions from brave Gorkhas like Saheed Durga Malla of INA, Saheed Mme. Helene Lecha, Sh. Dal Bahadur Giri, Capt Ram Singh Thakuri of INA, Jangbir Sapkota, Subedar Niranjan Chettri and thousands of others brave hearts of Gorkha who sacrificed their lives for the independence of our nation and to protect it from the enemies of our nation after independence.
“I demand that the AIWC immediately apologize to the Indian Gorkha community and ensure that these racist individuals are all removed from their positions within the organization,” the MP demanded in his letter to the organization. .
It should be noted that Nepali is among the 14 languages in the 8th list of the constitution of India and it is the mother tongue of a large number of people in the country. Nepalese Gorkhas are concentrated in North Bengal, while large numbers of Nepalese live in Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal and other northeastern states.