Arguments for including Bhoti Language

in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution

The right of language is a basic cultural right of the people and linked with their economy, culture, social system and political right. UNESCO recognizes the concept of language equality among all languages, irrespective of whether they have a script or not. Irrespective of their power and specific ranking in the world systems of states (Laponce 1987; De Swaan 1993,2001), the language best able to survive the competition are likely to be those that have the support of a government. Unfortunately the Bhoti language has no official support as it is not included in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. 

A nation marked by acute socio-cultural and linguistic diversity must lay down structures and processes that safeguard its unity and integrity. Do we have adequate processes and structures? Keeping people out, denying them the basic human rights because of their region and language is unjustifiable and inhumane. Insisting that they adopt the dominant language and culture is an equally unjust way of denying it. Non inclusion of Bhoti language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution and the Australian Aborigines whose children where forcibly taken away by the state, brought up in missionary orphanages and never returned to their families so that they lost all identity are two extreme examples of enforced uniformity and compulsory assimilation. 

The Constitution of India is not rigid and it has no fixed number of languages to be included in the 8th Schedule. Many languages have been included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution after India's independence . Many languages were found neither numerically stronger nor more grammatically richer than Bhoti. Assamese, Sindhi, Nepali, Konkani, Manipuri, Kashmiri, Sanskrit (1991 census) have lesser population than Bhoti speaking population but Bhoti has unfortunately not been included in the 8th Schedule. Again, BUT WHY'? Bhoti is a language of the masses, language of the people who have struggled for centuries, language of the Himalayans that blessed and bestowed the world with wisdom and prosperity, language of the saints and poets, language of the hills and valleys which treasured the beauties of the nature, language which unites people by heart and mind, language of peace and compassion. Today this language is struggling for its identity in a country which is being considered to be the world's largest democracy and proclaims the "Unity in Diversity" its backbone. 

After India's independence the destiny of the people living in the Himalaya was decided by the people who were mostly alien and ignorant about the realities and condition of the Himalaya. Time and again plains friendly developmental policies and programs were imported and imposed in the Himalaya, such policies and programs have broken down the indigenous system of economy, culture, ecology, employment and languages. The inappropriate and irrelevant intervention have not only made them confused and frustrated but also developed an inferiority complex to their own culture, identity and language. They have been displaced from their own lands and villages. Family values and cooperative social system has broken down. Narrow outlook and prejudiced attitude of the outsider policy makers coupled with difficult accessibility have resulted in consistent marginalization of the region by the Governments, Media and Donor agencies. Not including Bhoti language in the 8th schedule of the constitution is a clear evidence of Government's discrimination against 3 million people of the Himalaya, who live day and night with this language. For them it is not a mere language but a way of life that propel progresses in harmony with the nature. Non inclusion of the Bhoti language in the 8th Schedule is a fountain-head of alienation, violence, social discord, intellectual dependency and cultural degradation. Today the Indian Constitution has recognized 22 languages in the 8th Schedule; the recognition of the language in the 8th schedule seems to be completely arbitrary and political. 

Today, unfortunately, Bhoti language has been ignored and marginalized by the mainstream politics. The framers of the Indian constitution have not included this language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian constitution. Bhoti is speaking in the Himalayan region of India from Ladakh to Tawang spreading through Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, West Bengal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The glory and grace of this language is not only confining to the Himalayan region of India but also in Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, China, Mongolia and Pakistan. This language is a symbol of "Unity in Diversity". People from different religions, regions, cultures and countries are using this language. The Bhoti script was developed by Thomi Sambhota in the 7th century by modifying the four vowels and thirty consonants of the Devnagri script and grammar which was derived from the Sanskrit. It has a rich literature in different fields; such as Medicine, Architecture, Astrology, Music, Arts, Dance, Drama, Yoga, Philosophy, Tantric and Grammar. The collection of Buddha's teachings "Tripitaka" that comprises of 108 volumes and Tantras is also available in the Bhoti language. How many languages in the eighth schedule have such a rich literary work? In fact very few of them have such enriching literature. 

Five states including Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh have recognized the Bhoti language. Different schools, colleges and universities throughout the world are imparting education in and education for this language. All India Radio Leh, Shimla, Gangtok, Karshang Darjeeling, Tawang and Delhi broadcast their news in the Bhoti language. More than ten newspapers and magazines are available in the Bhoti language and nearly 7000 monasteries of the Himalayan region follow this language in their practices and operations. Oh my dear Government of India and the representatives of the people, please may we know what more evidences are you looking for? Why are you treating us as an aliens and foreigners in our land and country? What are your interest for not giving due recognition to our language? Are we not Indians? Do we not have the right to protect our own language? Will you accommodate our language in the 8th Schedule of the constitution? Will you allow the winds of the Constitution to blow in the hills and valleys of Himalaya to imbibe the music and nectar of our language and culture based on cooperation and peace? In the eyes of civil and criminal law of the land (with the exception of personal laws) all citizens are equal. I don't think all are equal in the real sense; non inclusion of Bhoti language is another form of punishment without being committed any crime for the whole community. The Article 29 of the Indian Constitution deals with the "Protection of interests of minorities" It states that "Any section of the Citizens residing in the territory of India or any part there of having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same." I think not giving due recognition to the Bhoti language is a violation of the minority rights; there fore it has killed the spirit of the Article 29 of the Constitution. Being minority and different seems to be a crime and insecure because you get deprived from certain fundamental rights which is constitutionally mentioned. 

In the era of globalization and liberalization, the Himalayan region is more vulnerable and fragile to the economic, political, ecological and cultural forces of the outside harsh and aggressive world. Language is an important agent of connecting people and continuity of culture. With the advancement of modern harsh and hostile civilization and prejudiced policy of the Government, the language and culture of the Himalayan region is disappearing, declining and degenerating very fast. The language and culture of the Himalayas was developed over the centuries. It reflects traditional wisdom and technology to live in harmony with the nature. The modern civilization is preaching these peace loving people to conquer the nature, which is bringing irreparable destructions and calamities. It is a shame for a country like India which claims to be the world's largest democracy and the Preamble of the Constitution proclaims that India is a secular, socialist, sovereign, republic and democratic nation. What democracy are we talking about, when our language is not recognized by our own government in our own Constitution? What socialism are we talking about when the Government is not socialist enough to give due recognition to the Bhoti language? Do I need to question the secular fabric? The Article-15 of Indian Constitution states deals with "Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, sex or place of birth." It states that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. The majority of the people who are using this language practice Buddhism although it's a secular language. Is it not a strategic discrimination against any particular religion minority? Non inclusion of the Bhoti language kills the spirit of the Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, as it discriminates mainly a particular religion which practices this language in their religious affairs besides social, political and economic. I think we have miles to go to live with the spirit of the constitution. A dynamic, united, progressive, secular and democratic India is only possible when we practice what we preach. Many scholars are of the opinion that it is a strategic policy of the Government of India to create inferiority complex and dependency among the Himalayan people over other languages and culture. Is this what we are getting for our loyalty and sacrifice made for the country during all the crisis situations (wars)?

Unity in diversity can only be possible if you are giving equal respect and recognition to small, poor, weak and minorities. I think India and Indians have to work day and night to protect its identity of "Unity in Diversity". Are we not deceiving ourselves as we are preaching something and practicing something differently? How long and how far can we live and be governed by the duality? We cannot afford to lose our dear language and culture. Language is not only a medium of communication, but it also reflects the history, culture, people, relationship, system of governance, ecology, religion, politics etc. Bhoti is a systematic, scientific, culturally and intellectually rich language. In a country like India the richness of the language hardly matters, because the protection and preservation of the sanctity of the language is a more of an arbitrary or number game. 

The low representation of Himalayan region in the Indian parliament is a major constraint for strongly advocating for bringing reforms in policy. Even the handfuls of representatives from this region were mostly scattered and unorganized in different directions. The Himalayan people are not only geographically scattered but also politically unorganized. On 12th December 2005 the Trans Himalayan Parliamentary Forum has submitted a memorandum to the Home Minister of Government of India for the inclusion of the Bhoti language in the eighth schedule. The memorandum was signed by 8 parliamentarians from the Trans Himalayan Region. On 25th September 2003, Himalayan Buddhist Cultural Association has submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India for the inclusion of Bhoti language in the eighth schedule of the Constitution. On 21st February 1995, 81 parliamentarians from different political parties made a formal request to the Prime Minister to introduce a bill in the parliament to include Bhoti language in the eighth schedule of constitution. On 22nd May 1995 approximately 49 members of parliament belonging to different political parties have submitted a memorandum to Shri P V Narasimha Rao, then Prime Minister of India. Shri Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister Himachal Pradesh Government, Dr Karan Singh, T K Lochen Rinpoche, former Member of the Minority Commission, Lama Chosphel Zotpa, Member of the Minority Commission and many concerned individuals and institutions are consistently engaged in this movement for the inclusion of Bhoti language in the 8th Schedule. 

It is difficult to wake up a giant elephant which is intentionally pretending to be sleeping. All these efforts are of no use, when the Government of India is neither concerned nor interested in the promotion and development of language and culture of the Himalayas. The continued negligence and alienation of the Himalayan people in the mainstream may compel them to demand for greater political autonomy in the form of Statehoods and Union Territories. If the Government of India sincerely and honestly wants to unite and strengthen the whole country, including the peace loving and vulnerable communities of the Himalayan region, it should not hesitate to include the Bhoti language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian constitution, so that the people in the Himalayas can also be proud of their own language; our students can also appear in the Civil Service Examination with their mother tongue as an optional paper, our members of Parliament can also represent us in a more effective way by addressing our problems and aspirations in our own mother tongue; more research and development work can be feasible, with adequate government's support and the benefits are many more if it included in 8th Schedule. 

In the era of globalization and vastly more efficient communication networks, languages die more frequently than they are born. The stronger language eliminate the weaker ones, sometime violently but more often peacefully as a result of people shifting to a language with a greater purchasing power, whether the purchase is of economic, political or cultural goods (Bourdieu 1991; Krauss 1992; Grin 1994; Breton 1999; Nettle and Romaine 2000; Crystal 2000). The prediction that most of the existing 7,000 odd languages spoken today in the world will disappear and that relatively few will be born (7,000 are upper estimate given by Fergusen 1064 and Grimes 1998). India as a state is an assimilators and protectors of languages. It tend to weaken if not destroy the languages of the minority internally while protecting their own dominant languages on the national and international scene. Globalization may well weaken the state in the economic field, but if that weakening increases the sense of insecurity of a language community, globalization will then, very likely, strengthen the state in its role of protector of language and culture. 

Keeping this into consideration I must request to all individuals and institutions concerned for Humanity, Human Rights, Democracy, Peace and above all who believe in Unity in Diversity to write letters to the Honorable President, the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Chief Ministers, Members of the Parliament and media to include Bhoti language in the 8th schedule. I must request all non Bhoti speaking people and communities to help us to protect and preserve the sanctity of our language. As we know that Government of India is appealing to the world power to include India in the Security Council of the UN, similarly with folded hands we are appealing to the Government of India for the inclusion of Bhoti language in the 8th Schedule for the security and promotion of our language, culture, identity and dignity. Buddha says, "There is nothing permanent in this world except the change itself". As a trustee of change, I am showing my concern for a better change and I am very much optimistic' Are you?              


More by :  Stanzin Dawa

Top | Opinion

Views: 3536      Comments: 6

Comment Dear Dawa lay,
Thanks for your important article! i am sure it will inspire many of our people and will play a key role in raising this issues more effectively. keep it up!
T. Motup

Tsering Motup
17-Dec-2014 12:15 PM


03-May-2013 05:10 AM

Comment Appropriate article Mr. Dawa

09-Dec-2011 14:27 PM

Comment This language,from the period of it's birth to till now has travelled widely around the world due to the richness in it's text and the knowledge that it holds in abundance. The western people who travels into this country are frequently visible in himalayan region and we could see them poking their head into this language,trying to find something. This language is becoming more alian to the beholders (the himalayans) and being embraced by the foreigners, so we need to be more carefull in preserving our holy language. I hope ur article reaches on the parliament table and it's message, into the ears of every members of the parliament...

Sonam tenzin
06-Dec-2011 13:08 PM

Comment Dear Dawa la, you have raised an utmost important issue for the welfare of the whole Himalayan society. lets hope and pray that government of india will take serious consideration about this approach.

CUTS Sarnath Varanasi

Nyima Negi
06-Sep-2011 14:30 PM

Comment I have read your note on the Bhoti language. What about our addressing the language with its original name Pot-yig.

Regards, Nawang

Nawang Tsering Shakspo
14-Aug-2011 11:45 AM

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