By Shilpa Raina
Conventional wisdom has it that economic development can overcome the Maoist challenge. Now there’s another powerfull and emotive method – through the Gondi language spoken by the tribals in much of the Maoist corridor that runs across the country. What if all stakeholders involved in dealing with the rebels could speak and understand the Gondi language?
It is this proposition of “dialogue” and “communication” that motivated Shubhranshu Choudhary, a journalist and activist, to start workshops that aims at a standard Gondi language that is understood by Gondi speakers living in six Indian states that are also Moist hubs.
“The government first has to diagnose how the problem can be solved in these regions where tribal people live in complete isolation,” Choudhary, founder of CGNet Swara, a voice-based portal, told IANS.
“They have to bridge the gap that separates these tribal people from the mainstream, and this can be done only by knowing their language. They need someone to listen to their problems in their language and not from translators whom they think are biased,” he added.
It’s a long-term strategic plan that can build bridges. Choudhary hopes standardisation will open doors for many to learn and understand the language, especailly journalists and government officers, to build a trust relationship with the tribal community.
For Choudhary dialogue is the only way to bridge trust deficit among tribal people who speak this language.
He said Maoists exploit this power of knowing the language.
They influence the tribals by publishing pamphlets and newsletters in Gondi.
Choudhary, who is also the brainchild behind India’s first website in the Gondi language, pointed out these tribals support “rebels” not for their philosophy, but only because they can communicate.
He said the major obstacle before the government for starting a dialogue with the tribals is the absence of a standardised Gondi language.
This is because almost two million Gond speaking natives reside in states like Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and adjoining ares of neighbouring states.
But local influence is prominent in their dialect that has given birth to many variations like Telugu-Gondi, Marathi-Gondi and Hindi-Gondi.
To streamline these different variations, Choudhary asked 60 Gondi experts from six states to work towards standardisation of the language.
Together, they discussed a word and its various variants, and mutually agreed on words that can be taken as a “standard” words for communication.
“Maosits might not be providing these tribal people with any amenities, but they are communicating with them, whereas the government can offer them better life but they aren’t able to build a trust relationship with them,” Choudhary said.
He added that such workshops will be organised in other states to take the step forward.
What he hopes to do after this monumental exercise is to push for the inclusion of Gondi in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution that lists of 22 languages.
Choudhary says this exercise is an effort to offer a “big picture” solution to the problem of “how to tackle Maoists” but the larger role should come from government, which needs to understand that people join the extremists only when they are “helpless”.
“If we look at the larger picture, violence can never be a solution to any problem, or of something that we call India’s biggest security threat. What we are suggesting is a strategy that can be a long-term solution to the problem,” Choudhary said.
“A person without hope either takes gun in his hands or attempts suicide. These tribal people have been living in same conditions for many years. So those (Maoists) give them hope, it is time for the government to give them a better life,” he added.
*Shilpa Raina can be contacted at [email protected]