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भाषा-संबंधी तनाव

There have been several sources of linguistic tensions in respect of Maithili. First, it was bundled along with Magahi and Bhojpuri  as dialects of Hindi for a long time, even when it was evident from the historical records that Maithili preceded the creation and popularization of ‘Khari-boli’, or the Standard Spoken Hindi. This seems  to be the first source of tension which get manifested badly particularly  during  the decennial Census enumeration  work  when  the enumerators tried recording the name of the “language” (=Hindi)  of which  these  were shown as “dialects”. It was not important to the Census officials that  it was demonstrated by several linguists that among the three languages of Bihar, Maithili was closer to the eastern NIA  languages-  Bengali, Assamese  and  Oriya rather than to Hindi.

Because of the official apathy and pressure of the socio-political forces, Maithili was for long in a kind of diglossic relationship with respect to Hindi as per Joshua Fishman’s description of such sociolinguistic situations, where Hindi occupied an H-Code position, leaving only L-Code space and domains for Maithili.

The second source of tension that is still prevalent is that Maithili does not have a geo-political space to claim as its own unlike Odia in Odisha, Asamiya in Assam and Bangla in West Bengal as well as in Bangladesh. Further, Grierson had long  back  branded  the three (Maithili, Magahi and Bhojpuri) together  as  “Bihari”, and that name continued  for  quite  some time.

The third and fourth sources of tension had to do with non-recognition of Maithili as a literary language as well as a language of substance. These were however rectified when the language got Sahitya Akademi recognition as well as a place in the 8th Scedule of the Constitution of India. It is also mentioned as a major regional language in the Nepalese Constitution.

The fifth source of tension comes from on-again and off-again policy of the Government of Bihar which at times allows and at times disallows Maithili as a subject in schools, and tries not to do anything to facilitate its use in public domains. Consequently, Maithili being disconnected from the official political and administrative use at the state level, it has also been losing out on economic grounds.

Finally, the successive State Administration quite often played the Urdu card to  curve the movement for Maithili on which there  are  detailed studies.  What  is significant for us to know is  that  in  1980, through  an  amendment to the Official Language  Act,  the  Bihar  government  decided to announce Urdu as second official  language of the state (the first being Hindi), and that in the first phase the  decision  was to be implimented to those  six  districts  of Bihar  (Sitamarhi,  Madhubani,  Darbhanga,  Katihar,  Purnea  and Bhagalpur;  cf.  The Statesman, Calcutta, June 12, pp.  10)  that have the maximum speakers of Maithili. It is a matter of shame that even after the 2003 Constitutional Amendment to grant Maithili the national recognition by including it in the 8th Scehdule, the Government of Bihar is yet to recognize it as an associate Official language of the State.