Devy has worked incessantly to establish the linguistic diversity and numeric strength of subaltern cultures in India. In a politically resonant statement during a public lecture last year in Bengaluru, he said the most beloved stories of mainstream Hinduism start in the mouths of Dalits. It is a suta, both charioteer and bard, who speaks first in the Mahabharat, the Kathasaritsagar claims an older and longer text written in Paishachi, the language of either ghouls or tribal people, as its source. Sanskrit plays are presented to their audiences by actors, an occupation that was always placed low in the scale of social hierarchies. Even the sage Valmiki, composer of the first Ramayan in Sanskrit, is claimed as a member of a Dalit caste by later traditions. Centuries later, when bhakti emerged as the theological fulcrum of Hinduism, it was men and women from Dalit castes who transformed their local languages into literary ones through their poems and songs. […]
Source: Book review by Arshia Sattar, Livemint.com (7 April 2018): Indian Cultures As Heritage— Contemporary Pasts by Romila Thapar, Aleph Book Company | Read the full review >>
[…] His love for teaching was something he discovered early, while in college, where he was a volunteer teacher for leprosy patients. Aside from the university, he has also taught in schools, at a technical university, with tribal students, and with a community that had once been labelled criminal [*]. This diversity, he says, stretched him. “It also taught me the beauty of not segregating life from knowledge. This mix of life and knowledge, city and village, the underprivileged and privileged, the technologically challenged and the technologically gifted: this, I thought, was the purpose of education. I found that not teaching was the best way to teach. I just tried to share what I thought I knew, what I thought they needed to know, or what I thought they knew and I needed to know.”
The story of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, a massive survey of languages he launched eight years ago, had its genesis when he was in his 20s, as a research student reading the 1971 census. He found that while the 1961 census listed some 1,652 mother tongues, the 1971 census listed only 108. “And there was one more item, the 109th, which said ‘All Others’. Those two words influenced my life. Everywhere, in everything I have done, I have tried to look at ‘All Others’.”
He thought he would first figure out the ‘where’. “There was no clear map available. From hearsay, gossip, general knowledge, I did a very crude map of the languages that had not been disclosed. I noticed they were in Central India. If you were to draw an imaginary line from Gujarat to Bengal — the Surat to Howrah railway line — [this region was] a hundred kilometres north of it and a hundred kilometres south of it, the entire tribal belt, eastern Gujarat, what is now Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Southern Bihar. This was a very exciting thing, because I realised an enormous number of very small communities and languages exist between the Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian groups of languages.”
This prompted questions from the tribal perspective: “Is there something in these languages that kept them strong, and kept their communities undestroyed and non-colonised? Wherever English went — Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand — it destroyed native languages, but in India, tribal communities continued to speak their languages, as did ‘mainland’ Indians. Had tribal languages given strength to the neighbouring Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, Assamese?” […]
I ask, is it not natural that languages evolve, die, as they have done for thousands of years? That is true, he says. “But when a language dies, something irreplaceable dies. A complete perspective of the world goes. […]
Devy returns to that moment he chanced upon the words ‘All Others’ in the census document. “That has been a mortal wound in my mind, those two words in a dead page of a census.” […]
The ‘All Others’, at 109th place in the 1971 Census list, opened to me as a door. The rest is madness.”
One of the tragedies of modern culture is that while all societies mourn the dead, few have mourning rituals for the death of a species, or the disappearance of a language. Modernity needs a mourning wall to bemoan the death of a language or the missingness of a seed. In fact, the collective death of cultures as genocide, extermination and extinction have few rituals of memory, few moments of commemoration. […]
One group that is steadfastly fighting to keep languages alive is the People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PSLI). The chairman of the PSLI, Ganesh N. Devy, a literary critic who spent years saving tribal languages, remarked that clerical definitions can be genocidal and facilitate extinction. Mr. Devy said that when the Government of India decided to define a language as a form of life marked by a script, it triggered the erasure of oral languages. India in many ways is an oral society that understands the culture of orality. Today one needs to create a new social contract between orality, textuality and digitality to keep pluralism alive.
Language are under threat all over the world […] indigenous languages are more threatened than other languages. They contain great wisdom about nature and if we want to live on this earth with the earth alive then we need these languages. […]
Linguapax is an organization which is taking great care of language diversity, multilingualism. […] It is trying to teach people linguistic tolerance and appreciation of each others’ languages. It’s a great organization. […]
2011: Ganesh Devy and Centro Indígena de Investigaciones Interculturales de Tierradentro (Colombia)
Ganesh Devy (1950), is a renowned activist campaigning for the preservation and revitalisation of threatened languages and human rights activism for indigenous peoples (known as adivasis) and nomadic communities in India. Prof. Devy is Founder of the Adivasi Academy at Tejgadh , Gujarat, and of the Himlok Institute of Himalayan Studies in Himachal Pradesh devoted to the cause of indigenous peoples and their languages. The focus of his work has been tribal education and the promotion and documentation of tribal languages, cultures and arts in central India and Himachal Pradesh. These activities have led to setting up of two tribal museums, one at Tejgadh Gujarat and another at Keylong Himachal Pradesh, and also creating a Consortium of 12 tribal museums spread all over the country, to digitize information on all artifacts available in these museums.
Through the BHASHA Research & Publication Centre Baroda, Prof. Devy has been actively engaged in publishing over ninety books in English, major Indian languages (Gujarati, Marathi) and twenty three non-Scheduled languages (not given Constitutional protection). He has edited periodicals on tribal literature; the Journal entitled DHOL “The Drum” has been instrumental in committing at least ten tribal languages of the Bhili group into writing. The BHASHA Centre has been accredited by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, as a “Centre of Excellence”. Recently the BHASHA Centre has embarked upon a megaproject of Peoples Language Survey of India, under the stewardship of Prof. Devy, to revise and update the Grierson Linguistic Survey of India (1903-31) . A twenty-volume Thesaurus of cultural cartography will be a useful tool for language revitalization as perceived by different sections of society.
A literary critic with deep insights into Indian and Western civilizations, Prof. Devy has authored about 15 books in English, Gujarati and Marathi: Critical Thought (1987), After Amnesia (1992), Of Many Heroes (1997), India Between Tradition and Modernity (1997), Indian Literary Criticism: Theory & Interpretation (2002), Painted Words: An Anthology of Tribal Literature (2002), A Nomad Called Thief (2006), Vaanprastha, Adivasi Jane Che, The G.N. Devy Reader’ ( 2009).
Adivaani, a publishing house is archiving, chronicling and publishing stories of tribals, primarily Santhals | Read the full story by Manasi Shah (16 June 2019) in The Telegraph >>
“Since its inception in 2012, Adivaani has produced 19 books” […]
Hembrom’s family had shifted from Benagaria village in Jharkhand to Shillong and then to Calcutta in the mid-1970s. “There was some conflict with the church leaders because of which my father and his students had to move out,” she says. In Calcutta, he taught at the theological college, Bishop’s College. Says Hembrom, “We come from a culture that has an oral tradition. Engaging with textbooks was really difficult.” […]
At the Hembrom residence, Santhals living in Calcutta would gather every now and then to discuss culture and politics. Many of her father’s friends too would contribute to the Santhal newsletter, Jug Sirjol. Hembrom’s mother, Elveena, assisted the treasurer, and her father, Timotheas, was its editor for 30 years. Jug sirjol meant a new era. She says, “None of them were professional writers, but they wrote. It was not just a cultural expression, there was also political commentary.” When Hembrom started Adivaani, the first book off the press was a Santhali translation of a part of her father’s doctoral dissertation titled Santal: Sirjon Binti Ar Bhed-Bhangao, which is about the Santhal people, their way of life and so on. […]
“I have grown up bereft of many stories and people in villages too are no longer growing up in that tradition. Not because they are displaced by their regions but because of changing lifestyles and taking over of our lands by mining companies. You go to Jharkhand, you will see grandparents and grandchildren working in stone quarries. Where is the time to sing or tell these stories?”
I believe not everyone is meant to do just one thing in life, I certainly am not. My 8 years of work experience in the Legal field, the Service Industry, the Social Development Sector and the Learning, Research, Development and Instructional Designing field bears testimony to this fact.
My education, training, skills and career define only part of who I am; my identity as a tribal, a Santal, is fundamental to my being and that completes who I am.
2nd of April, 2012 found me trading four months of my life to learning a new skill. I attended a course on publishing to explore the possibilities of what I could do with my love for Language and the written word and stories. The course would just be an extension of what I was already doing. […]
I try playing around with letters around the word tribal and Adivasi and Voilá! the name as if by magic appears: adivaani, the Adivasi voice.
That’s how an idea became adivaani and adivaani became the fuel that keeps the dreamer and storyteller in me alive.
A new publishing house gives Adivasis a chance to preserve their stories and speak up, writes Ajachi Chakrabarti, Tehelka.com, 2013-03-30 , Issue 13 Volume 10
THE ADIVAANI time machine needs your help,” goes the subject line of the email Ruby Hembrom sends out to the world. Time machine. That’s how Hembrom looks at her nascent attempt at creating a publishing house for India’s indigenous population: a time machine that documents Adivasi history and culture, fundamentally an oral tradition, before they are forgotten in the wake of modernity. Running the machine, of course, isn’t free, and Adivaani’s teething troubles are giving Hembrom — who describes herself as “just a regular working-class Adivasi girl, trying to make ends meet, with a treasure of an idea” — sleepless nights, and have prompted an attempt at crowdsourcing funds through the Internet in order to survive. […]
Dungdung feels that Adivasis have been treated more as objects than subjects for literature, and cites the role of books in the Dalit movement, saying that the thriving publishing industry for Dalits means that they can speak and write for themselves, while Adivasis still need others to take up their cause. […]
Hembrom says she wants to expand Adivaani’s scope to a pan-India one, that the focus on Santals is only a natural starting point, since both she and Tudu belong to the tribe. She intends the books to be aids for Adivasi children to learn English as well as read the stories of their own people. A lot of schools in Jharkhand have picked it up for their libraries, she says, while a number of colleges have asked for copies of her father’s book to include in their syllabus. […]
But setting up a distribution system has been the most disheartening experience, she says, as every distributor and bookstore she contacted turned her down, saying they were not interested in “such kinds of books”. Currently, only three bookstores — one in Kolkata, two in Ranchi — carry Adivaani’s books, which has made funding future projects very doubtful. But Hembrom refuses to give up. “We are in a hurry,” she says. “The urgency of recording every Adivasi narrative cannot be stressed enough. We cannot risk losing indigenous languages, folklore, literature, traditions and identities. We refuse to be a forgotten people.” email@example.com
The “tribal” peoples or adivasis of India, according to the 2001 census, constitute roughly 8.1 percent of the country’s population, some 83,6 million people, classified under 461 different communities. They occupy a belt stretching from the Bhil regions of western India through the Gond districts of central India, to Jharkhand and Bengal, where the Mundas, Oraons, and Santals predominate. There are also pockets of tribal communities in the south like the Chenchus, Todas, and Kurumbas, and very small endangered communities in the Andamans, like Jarawas, Onge, and Sentinelese. Northeast-India contains another major portion of the tribal population, including the different Naga subtribes, Khasis, Garos, Mizos, Kukis, Bodos, and others. The intellectual, political, and administrative rationale for treating all these communities together under a single “tribal” rubric remains unclear. […]
The “tribal question” in central India has traditionally been posed in two ways by academics and policy makers: the question of differentiating between tribes and castes on the one hand, and tribes and peasants on the other; and the question of how best to improve what is universally seen as a poverty-stricken condition among tribals. […] – p. 184
Given the desperate situation in which many of the central Indian adivasis live, survival issues have usually dominated over identity questions. Competitive proselytization by Christian and Hindu groups has also served to reduce the space for the expression of an autonomous adivasi culture, language, and religion. In recent years, while some adivasi communities have been mobilized by Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) political forces […], others have attempted to revive traditional adivasi religions like the sarna dharm(sacred grove religion). – p. 187
Source: Nandini Sundar in Encyclopedia of India by Stanley Wolpert, Editor in chief. Macmillan-Scribners-Gale. New York, 2006.[Vol. 4, pp. 184-188] isbn 0684313499
Nandini Sundar (born 1967) is a professor of sociology at the Delhi School of Economics and a social anthropologist with contributions toward understanding of environmental struggles (particularly in Central India), of the impact of central and state government policies on tribal politics, and the intersection of tribal movements with law and order, bureaucracy, and social structures in Central India.
Professor Sundar is a recipient of the Infosys Prize for Social Sciences in 2010 for her contributions as an analyst of social identities, including tribe and caste, and the politics of knowledge in modern India. She was also awarded the Ester Boserup Prize for Development Research in 2016 […]
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[…] Unlike many other tribal groups of the Indian Subcontinent, the Santals are known for preserving their native language despite waves of migrations and invasions from Dravidians, Indo-Aryans, Mughals, Europeans, and others.
Santali culture is depicted in the paintings and artworks in the walls of their houses. Local mythology includes the stories of the Santal ancestors Pilchu Haram and Pilchu Bhudi.[…]
The Santal traditionally accompany many of their dances with two drums: the Tamak’ and the Tumdak’. The flute was considered the most important Santal traditional instrument and still evokes feelings of nostalgia for many Santal. Santal dance and music traditionally revolved around Santal religious celebrations. […]
The Santal community is devoid of any caste system and there is no distinction made on the basis of birth.