Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren is back in controversy close on the heels of his government’s decision early this month to allot a “Namaz Hall” on the premises of the Jharkhand Assembly.
Now, Hemant Soren has claimed that during the agitation for creation of Jharkhand as a separate state from Bihar, Bhojpuri and Magahi speaking “dominant persons” sexually assaulted women in the state.
His remarks have been perceived by Bhojpuri and Magahi speakers and critics of Hemant Soren as dubbing the languages as those of the rapists. Bhojpuri and Magahi are among principal dialects spoken in Bihar.
Jharkhand too has several districts including capital Ranchi where Bhojpuri and Magahi are spoken by large number of residents. An estimated 6.5 per cent of 3.3 crore population of Jharkhand speak Magahi and Bhojpuri. Those close to CM Hemant Soren say he himself is fluent in Magahi, having completed his school education from Patna, Bihar.
In March 2018, the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government accorded second language status to Magahi, Bhopuri, Maithili and Angika. The Hemant Soren government reversed this policy drawing criticism from ally Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alike.
WHAT HEMANT SOREN EXACTLY SAID
Explaining his position on regional languages of Jharkhand in an interview, Hemant Soren said, “This [Bhojpuri] is not a regional language [of Jharkhand]. It is a borrowed language.”
“Those who speak Magahi, those who speak Bhojpuri are dominating persons. The locals of this place have been very weak. It is natural that the weak stays under the heel of the strong.”
“Gradually, these people promoted this [language]. Some who wanted to stay close to these [dominating persons] started speaking their language. Otherwise, this language is not spoken in villages. This is a language of Bihar, not Jharkhand. Why should Jharkhand be Biharified [Biharikaran]?”
Attempting to justify his government’s decision not to recognise Bhojpuri as a regional language in Jharkhand, Hemant Soren said, “When the movement was going on here [for creation of Jharkhand], Bhojpuri expletives were hurled [as dominant persons] trampled the breasts of people who were agitating and outraging the modesty of women.”
“Those agitators are still alive, both men and women. There is a sentiment.”
“This struggle [for creation of Jharkhand] did not take place because of Bhojpuri or Magahi language. It was fought drawing strength from the local tribal languages, regional languages.”
“We have decided to accord district-specific status. If we put tiger and goat together, the goat will be killed today or tomorrow.”
REACTIONS TO HEMANT SOREN’S REMARK
While Hemant Soren’s party, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) defended him arguing that promotion of regional languages was long overdue in Jharkhand, the BJP took potshot at the chief minister.
Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswala said, “The Jharkhand chief minister’s statement regarding Bhojpuri and Magahi languages is highly objectionable. It is also an attempt to divide the society.”
Jharkhand was carved out as a separate state from Bihar in November 2000 when the JMM was led by his father Shibu Soren and another BJP-led government was at the Centre. The JMM had played a key role in the Jharkhand movement seeking a state for the tribal people.
The Hemant Soren government said it would promote regional languages in Jharkhand. It was in this context that the Hemant Soren government reversed the language policy of the previous government.
BHOJPURI AS A LANGUAGE
Bhojpuri is spoken in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. Besides, owing to migration during colonial times, it is one of the prominent dialects in countries such as Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Suriname. Magahi is also spoken in Bihar and Jharkhand, as well as Nepal.
The previous BJP government’s decision had pushed the Jharkhand’s list of second languages to 16. The decision was taken after the cabinet gave approval to the Bihar Rajbhasa (Jarkhand Amendment) Ordinance 2018.
The 12 having second language status are — Urdu, Santhali, Mundari, Ho, Khadiya, Khurkhu, Kumali, Kortha, Nagpuri, Odiya, Panchapargania and Bangla.
THE NAMAZ NOTIFICATION
Before the Bhojpuri row, Hemant Soren was embroiled in a controversy for allocating “Namaz Hall” which was seen as a Muslim appeasement policy by the opposition BJP.
A Jharkhand Assembly notification confirmed “Allotment of room number TW 348 as Namaz Hall for offering Namaz in the new Assembly Building”. It was issued on September 2 and signed by Jharkhand Legislative Assembly Deputy Secretary Naveen Kumar by order of the Speaker.