GUWAHATI, Nov 12 – Speakers at a national seminar on ‘Endangered Cultures and Dialects with Special Reference to North East India’ voiced concern over the waning influence of indigenous languages and dialects on their peoples, pushing in the process many such languages and cultures into oblivion.
The speakers were unanimous in their view that the rapidly expanding cult of globalization with its thrust on an all-pervasive mono cultural identity was particularly damaging for the smaller languages and dialects. This, the speakers said, was negating the right of the diverse cultures to exist and thrive.
The two-day seminar which concluded on Sunday was organized by the North Eastern Institute of Culture and Religion.
On the occasion, noted anthropologist Dr GC Sharma Thakur was honoured with the Sanskriti Emeritus Fellow Lifetime Achievement Award-2013.
Prof AC Bhagabati, former Vice Chancellor of Arunachal Pradesh and present Director of Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, NE Regional Centre, Guwahati, formally presented the award to Dr Sharma Thakur. Prof Bhagabati also presided over the inaugural session.
In his acceptance speech, Dr Sharma Thakur stressed the need for preserving and promoting indigenous languages in the face of the unbridled onslaught of globalization, as languages held the key to the survival of the unique ethnic cultures and traditions.
Dr Sharma Thakur also expressed concern over the apathy exhibited by the educated class towards their mother tongue, saying that such a mindset could spell doom for not just smaller languages and dialects but also for languages such as Assamese.
Prof Samita Manna, Vice Chancellor of SKB University, Purulia, West Bengal, was the chief guest of the occasion.
Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, in his presentation, observed that the fast-expanding materialistic-consumerist civilization was placing all cultures under strain. “Even mighty nations and ancient civilizations are seeking to redefine themselves under pressure from fast changing trends in the economic, political, social and cultural fields. In this context, the cultures of smaller ethnic groups are under far greater threat,” he said, adding that if the preservation of songs, stories, dances and festivities of the tribal people are important, the survival of genuine tribal values is even more important.
Dr RP Athparia of the North eastern Social Research centre dwelt on the cultural affinity of different linguistic groups of the North-east.
“The cultural elements of Assam include the Austro-Asiatic with their linguistic legacy and the Alpine-Aryan and Tibeto-Burman elements, contributing to the development of a heterogeneous socio-cultural and socio-religious complex,” he said.
Dr Ala Uddin from Bangladesh presented an account of the endangered languages of the indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in southeastern Bangladesh. The CHT hosts 11 heterogeneous indigenous groups collectively known as Pahari – each with its own history, culture, language and custom but the traditional lifestyles of the Paharis have significantly been affected by successive intruders, i.e., British, Pakistanis and Bengalis, he said.
Prof Vijoy S Sahay, HoD, Anthropology, University of Allahabad, said how some cultures and dialects witnessed by him during his personal experiences and research had either become extinct, or are on the verge of extinction.