Is Bhojpuri a Threatened Language?

Dr Ravi Kant Dubey, Chairman, Bhojpuri Academy, Bihar, says: No

By Sarita Boodhoo

Dr Ravi Kant Dubey is in Mauritius on a 15-day visit at the invitation of the Mauritius Bhojpuri Institute. He gave a very interesting and successful lecture with interactive session on yesterday (Thursday 24 Nov) at the MGI, organised by the Mauritius Bhojpuri Institute in collaboration with the Bhojpuri and Oral Traditions Department of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute.

Dr Dubey is Chairman of the Bhojpuri Academy of Bihar, Patna, set up by the Government of Bihar. He is also heads the Department of Political Science at the Maharshi Viswamitra College in Buxar, his native place, and he has authored several research books on international relations, the Indian Constitution and political theories.

The visit of Dr Dubey in Mauritius has created a new ray of hope for Bhojpuriphones. His interaction with a wide range of people and personalities at the highest level of hierarchy down to the grassroots has given him a formidable penetrative insight into the living intangible cultural and linguistic heritage of Bhojpuri in Mauritius.

Dr Dubey’s visit has triggered renewed enthusiasm for the promotion of Bhojpuri in Mauritius. He has had interactive sessions with urban Bhojpuriphones as well as rural exchanges, and has seen de visu how lively and vibrant Bhojpuri is whether at Brindavan Sarvajanik Sabha, Palma, Quatre Bornes, or at Barlow village at a function organised by the Barlow Force Vive where he also paid homage to the first indentured immigrants from Bihar at Phooliyar; or at Petit Raffray where a katha – religious discourse was carried out in Bhojpuri and where women sang a few samples of Bhojpuri marriage songs. He felt he was at home — in some place in Bihar itself.

Prof Dubey belongs to a new generation of Bhojpuriphones. He is cyber savvy. He moves everywhere with his laptop and has a knack for rapid and effective communication through the Internet and website with India and the world over. So that all these daily interactions in Mauritius are already and immediately shared the world over as its heritage.

For Ravi Kant Dubey, Bhojpuri is definitely a world language now. Being spoken by 200 million people in India and countries like not only Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago. But also due to the new wave of migration by Bhojpuriphones from UP and Bihar and second or third wave of migration from former plantation colonies to UK, USA, Canada, Germany and France. These young Bhojpuriphones are professionals and technocrats and ITC savvy. They have created a fusion between their cultural and linguistic roots and their new technological environments. This is producing formidable breakthroughs for Bhojpuri.

“Now that Bhojpuri is being formally introduced at school level by the Government of Mauritius and a Bhojpuri Speaking Union Bill has been passed by an Act of Parliament, these measures definitely herald a new era for Bhojpuri not only in Mauritius but the world over as a formidable signal. They give Bhojpuri not only an aura of acceptability and respectability but raise its esteem in the public eye,” says Dr Dubey.

Is Bhojpuri a threatened language? For Ravi Kant Dubey, Bhojpuri is a great force. It has its own lexicon and grammar. It has a rich store of proverbs, idioms, riddles and metaphors and a rich thousand-year-old literature. It cannot die. “Here in Mauritius, I have seen how amazingly people have preserved the language, speak it and use it in various forms. There may be a few intrusions of words and expressions from Creole and other languages. But this is a natural process in languages all over the world.”

How to maintain the language among the new generation? Says Ravi Kant Dubey: “We need to adopt a three-pronged thrust – (a) at the grass roots level, (b) at academic level and (c) at the media level.”

He adds: “Like Hebrew, always threatened, Bhojpuri too has its own mechanism of resilience and survival. To promote and preserve it, we need to transmit it to the new generation and children and on their terms. The children and young people must feel its emotional importance and its ethos must be transmitted to them. This can be communicated through songs, games, sketches, theatre, elocution contests, attractive and colourful picture and story books and more importantly through story telling – kissa kahanis by the elderly – the dadis-nanis and dadas-nanas who will also transmit their love and affection and ancestral values, together with the language.”

Says Dr Dubey: When a person dies in the family, how painful and sad it is. How anguishing. Although, with time, we adjust, but we feel the pangs of loss. It is the same for a language. We cannot stand and watch. If a language dies, those who speak it lose their soul. Somewhere, there is a perpetual malaise of having lost something precious. There is a zone of discomfort. There is a constant sentiment of loss, deep within them, which gives them a sense of linguistic insecurity. They are forever then on the lookout of how to bring it back.”

“To stop this gangrene, we need to target a new audience – the young people. That is why I have started a movement of “Bhojpuri Jan Jagran Abhiyan” – to sensitize people on the glory of Bihar, and the dignity and beauty of Bhojpuri and Bhojpuri culture, heritage and people. We need to rope in the young people through modern means such as the videogames, internet, website, blogs and Facebook, as well as through television and films. We need to do things differently and do them smartly. We need to have this rethinking, this new vision and approach towards its promotion. We need to re-evaluate our attitude towards Bhojpuri and think of its promotion along new and challenging lines that appeal to the youngsters. We need a new articulation.”

“When Shri Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar came to Mauritius in 2007 he got a rousing welcome by the Government and people of Mauritius. He told your Prime Minister two things – (1) I want to make of Bihar a Mauritius; (2) and secondly “If you introduce Bhojpuri in the school system, I am prepared to give the necessary pedagogical and infrastructural support.” My visit here at the initiative of the Mauritius Bhojpuri Institute is to explore the possibilities of exchanges at academic level, in terms of resource persons, support materials, books and dictionaries, artists, poets and writers and correspondence courses in Bhojpuri through the Nalanda Open University in Patna (NOU) and through IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University) New Delhi. The latter is already operational in Mauritius in other disciplines. Bhojpuri films are getting very popular in India and all over the world. I have discussed with the authorities concerned here how to have these exchanges concretised. I am inviting people of Mauritius to visit Bihar in February 2012 during its 100 years anniversary celebrations, concludes, Dr Dubey on a note of great hope, and confidence.

* Published in print edition on 25 November 2011

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