Here's how Sikkim reacted to 'racial ignorance' over Nepali language

Gangtok: Nepali-speaking communities from across the country are outraged over the curtailing of Nepali artists from performing during an ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ programme for Independence Day citing that Nepali is not an Indian language.

Sikkim, too, has reacted sharply over the All-India Women Conference (AIWC) curtailing the performance in Nepali and instead asking the performer to send an Assamese song.

Former Lok Sabha MP Dil Kumari Bhandari, who was instrumental in the recognition of Nepali as an Indian language recognised by the Indian Constitution in 1992, was the first to react on the issue.

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She wrote in here social media account on June 16, “To say I am infuriated is an understatement. The conversation between the AIWC president and Smt Pradhan is highly damaging on several accounts.”

“Firstly, we have highly ignorant people like Smt Kakde functioning as a President of an organization like the AIWC which seeks to bring about equality, all the while totally unaware of her own discriminatory views towards the 1.5 crore Nepalis of India. Secondly, I am disappointed in Smt Pradhan’s response to Kakde’s comment about Nepali not being an Indian language. Why are we apologizing for someone else’s ignorance? Smt Pradhan could have educated the oblivious president on Nepali’s status as granted by the Indian Constitution. If there ever was a time for all Nepalis to stand together, individuals and all Nepali groups/committees, this is the time. I would like to bring everyone to the table, as one body, and prepare a structured, robust response,” Bhandari’s post said.

She went on to add, “Our community struggled for over four decades to get our language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. After prolonged debate, and countless working hours in the Lok Sabha, my Private Members Bill received the nod of the House. Most people are probably not aware of the stiff opposition I faced during this time. Divisive forces whose interest was to keep our community divided, and ensure our demand was not met. They stated, “Nepali is a bideshi language” in the House. That hurtful statement made thirty years ago continues to be repeated to this day.”

The song in contention was ‘Yo Desh Mero Desh’ composed by Safal Thapa with Shenashri Thapa, whose performance was submitted for participation in All-India Women Conference (AIWC) programme.

Speaking with local media in Sikkim, singer Shenashri Thapa said, “We are very disappointed as citizens of India over the labeling of Nepali as a foreign language. Nepali language getting recognition is not recent news; this is heights of ignorance.”

“Chandra Prabha Pandey, executive member of AIWC, in conversation with my mother, asked her to send the video of the song in Assamese rather than in Nepali. And when my mother responded stating that we do not speak Assamese and that the particular Nepali song was composed by my father, Pandey retaliated that Nepali is a foreign language,” Thapa added.

Darjeeling Lok Sabha MP Raju Bista had said, “By claiming that Nepali is not an Indian language, and not allowing performances in Nepali language, that too for ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations, the AIWC has shown deliberate racism against the Gorkha community of our Nation. Perhaps, the AIWC members are unaware that our Gorkha ancestors have played a vital role in ensuring India’s independence.”

Former Chief Minister of Sikkim Pawan Kumar Chamling termed the remarks of Chandra Prabha Pandey “offensive, racist and un-Indian”.

“The shocking remark of Ms Chandra Prabha, Executive Member of AIWC is extremely offensive, racist and un-Indian and, therefore, highly condemnable. How can a person holding such responsible position in an organization that represents pan-India aspiration be so ignorant about her own country’s history and diversity? Apart from her ignorance, how can one so patronizingly blurt out such racially objectionable remarks against a community despite the fact that Ms Aruna Pradhan from Kalimpong was trying to remind her that Gorkhas are very much Indian citizens and their language, an Indian language. To say that including a Nepali patriotic song in Azadi Ka Amrit Mahatsav is not possible is among the most unfortunate statements ever meted out to one of the most patriotic Indian communities, namely Gorkha or Indian Nepali,” a statement from Chamling read.

Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay and Sikkim Lok Sabha MP Indra Hang Subba were late to react on the issue. Their individual statements came after an apology was issued by the AIWC executive member. However, Chief Minister Golay wrote in his social media this morning, “It is shocking and disheartening to know about the recent statement made by one of the representatives of All India Women Conference (AIWC) for rejecting performances of artistes in Nepali language, terming it “non-Indian”. Nepali language is spoken by 1.5 crores Indians and is recognized under the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution and such statements have deeply hurt the sentiment of the entire Nepali speaking community. I have corresponded to the organization in this matter and we, the people of Sikkim, condemn such hurtful statement and urge AIWC to immediately rectify the issue. We hope and anticipate a quick response in this regard.”

Lok Sabha MP Indra Hang Subba wrote, “After I got to hear the shocking audio containing insensitive and undermining statement by one of the executive members of AIWC Ms. Chandra Prabha Pande, I have written to the president of the organisation condemning the act and demanding her removal. Further, apology rendered by her is very casual in nature and undermines the gravity of the situation created by her act. Such ignorant people, because of whose act the social harmony of our beautiful society is shaken, do not deserve to be a part of any organisation. Shri Prem Singh Tamang-Golay, Hon’ble Chief Minister of state of Sikkim where Nepali language is a lingua franca, has condemned the statement. I am hopeful that the justice will be done.”

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