Ladakh: Arguments for including Bhoti Language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue May 27 15:47:41 UTC 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Arguments for including Bhoti Language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian
by Stanzin Dawa

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 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?

September 17, 2006
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