Major Indian Languages (MIL) – A Sketch On Hmar

Name Gospelthang Songate
Department History
Introduction: The ‘Hmars’ which means ‘northerners’ are one of the tribes of North East India. They came to be called by this name as a nomenclature after they left Mizoram towards north.  The Hmars are scattered in different parts of Northeast of India and even abroad like Myanmar and Bangladesh. Today in India, we find this sturdy and courageous tribe in the hills of Cachar, North Cachar Hills of Assam and its bordering states of Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura. Besides the above places as their domicile, a number of youths who are pursuing in different institutions and  employed families in different walks of life are living in all major cities of the country.

The term ‘Hmar’ was not known to the rest of India in the time when Rochunga Pudaite (late) met India’s first Prime Minister Mr. Jawahar Lal Nehru in October 1953. Nehru told Pudaite in amazement, “I have not heard anything about this tribe!” (Preface – The Education of the Hmar People) It was only in 1956  with due far-sightedness of Pudaite that a number of savage community including the Hmars were enlisted as Scheduled Tribe (ST) to the Indian Government. But for the Hmars living in Cachar, they had been deprived of the recognition given to their brethrens in other parts of the country.
Linguistic development of Hmars in Assam: The Hmar tribe comprises of numerous clans, sub-clans and sub-sub-clans. In his book ‘In search of  identity: Hmars of North-East India (2008)’ , Professor Lal Dena named 22 major clans with their sub-clans. In the past, these clans had their own dialects. With the passage of time, most of the clans used Hmar language. In Assam there are 83,404 Hmar speakers (Census of India, 2001). Roughly speaking, there are nearly 1 lakh Hmar language-speaking people in Assam alone. To preserve and develop Hmar language, the Government of Assam has already granted Hmar medium in lower primary and upper primary schools since 1979. It may be noted that Hmar is also a recognised language in the school curriculum of Manipur, it has also been included as one of the Major Indian Languages (MIL) for degree courses under Manipur University since 2002.
Understanding the need to protect from extinction, the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA) included Hmar as an MIL from class eight to matriculation syllabus since 2005. Similarly in 2009, Assam Higher Secondary Education Council (AHSEC) introduced it in its HSLC syllabus. Finally in 2010, authorities of Assam University (AU) consented the introduction of Hmar (MIL) in degree level for the academic session 2010-2011, the first Central University that came next to Manipur University. The move taken by prestigious Assam University, Silchar was a remarkable event in the linguistic history of Hmars in Assam.  Till today, not only the Hmars, but also students from different tribal communities opted Hmar as it is convenient for them, being related to their mother tongue.
The needs in stabilization/necessary steps: Hmar Literature Society (HLS) has been taking the initiative to foster students in all standard by providing teacher to various institutions. Dozens of teachers have been hired by HLS in their own hands.  Although the society tried its best to solve the need brought about by the increasing demand of teacher, it is not an easy task to fill required posts without  Government support.  In this connection, the concerned authorities should look into the matter to abate and assuage the burden of the Hmar Literature Society.
For illustration, Gurucharan College, Silchar, one of the top colleges affiliated to Assam University has at least 50 Hmar (MIL) students every year enrolled in Higher Secondary and TDC. Here, one teacher, who is also the tutor of students from all nearby areas have been posted by the HLS. In spite of the fact that HLS is keen on popularization and safeguarding Hmar language, because of irregular source of income, it finds it difficult to manage many a times. In such a condition, Government should come to the rescue of the students in particular and the Hmars in general.
With diligent and strong determination, Hmar Literature Society have been doing this work for more than a decade.  Likewise, teachers rendered services with uneven pay, ignoring their personal benefits for long. Though both the parties enthusiastically devoted themselves in the service of the nation, let the authorities see the need and act accordingly, so that minorities dwell in this land with pride and satisfaction.
It is the hope of the writer that readers of Assam University Annual Magazine ‘PRACHI PRANGAN’  would voice their support in this regard.

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