Include Bhoti language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution?

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Sep 7 13:41:11 UTC 2006

>>From The Times of Tibet -

Why Bhoti language should be included in the 8th Schedule of the Indian

Stanzin Dawa

Why Bhoti language should be included in the 8th Schedule of the Indian

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

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

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 programmes were imported and imposed
in the Himalaya, such policies and programmes 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?


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