Common Language for the Zomis - Amateur Response

With immense pleasure, I would like to admit that I was fortunate and privileged to be part of the recently concluded 65th Zomi Namni celebration, in the capital city. It is for the first time, that the main celebration of the Namni was held in the capital city, which boasts of a great Zomi diaspora. Leaders from our native towns honored the occasion with their presence, while the delhite Zomis plays the perfect host. Both 19th and 20th Feb, 2013 witnessed historical events in the history of zomis, with various intellectual and cultural programs being held with great success and fanfare.

Being a Zomi, I always wanted to know more about our origin, what we stand for, where are we heading, what are the challenges and opportunities, that are there in this present socio-cultural, economic and political scenario. To my surprise, the celebration came to my rescue and I was able to find answers to all my queries through the symposium which was held on the 19 th of Feb. With the topic on the challenges and opportunities facing the Zomis, the seminar was of great value to me personally, as I come to know much more about me and us, as a Zomi and where do we stand . The respected speakers and the leaders touched upon all the relevant topics which were divided into socio-cultural, economic and politics.

All the topics were very good, well presented and well conceived, however i personally think that, there is a need of due consideration and debate by the larger Zomi population in a big way, in time to come. Here, I would like to highlight more on the topic which was taken up by one of the speaker. It deals with the linguistic aspect and for the possible constitution of common language for the Zomis. However, with paucity of time, he could only talk about the challenges and could not touch upon the opportunities. But in those few minutes, the topic was such, that it attracts every one’s attention and imagination, including me. Thus, being an aspiring and enthusiastic Zomi, I would like to put forward few thoughts which crossed my mind as, I listened to the presentation, the responses and the questions which were raised during that particular session.

From the presentation, it was clear that there is a growing consensus within the Zomi leadership of the fact that, there is a need of having a way for better and effective communication among the Zomis. Which would garner more unity amongst the various tribes, within the Zomi and would help presenting a much more united front. Therefore, the speaker was highlighting the need and the possibility of constituting a common language for the zomis. Hearing of which, I immediately liked the idea. Because, language and communication are one of the most significant contributors in the growth of human civilization. They are the basic ingredients, for a great relationship building and in nation building as well. Language is the medium that connects one from the other, and results into much stronger bonds between individuals. The acceptance and bonding is even stronger, when the two individuals share the same language. Hence, in order to have much greater bonding and brother hood amongst the different tribes under Zomi. The common language seems to be a viable solution at this juncture.

However, there is another school of thought which negates the need of having a common language. The argument put forth is that all the different tribes under the Zomis are able to understand each other’s languages. The simte is able to understand the paite, the paite is able to understand the vaiphei and so on and so forth. Therefore, for them, this very ability to understand each other is equivalent to having a common language. There is no need of creating a common language as such. This very point was also raised by one of the respected speaker as well. The argument seems valid, but on deep consideration it lacks volume. Because, if it so, then why aren’t we together as brother in spirit and action till date. Even after celebrating 65 years of Namni we are not able to share and exhibit the true spirit of being as Zomi. In spite of living together in the same neighborhood, schools, sharing market places and offices all these years and understanding each other’s language, we had achieved nothing that can be said to be a sign of unity and brotherhood in the real sense. Sharing of podium in public functions and elections campaigns are all different ball-game. The ground reality is that, at the people to people level, there is a hostility prevailing which can not be ignored. The only major cause for our inability to unite as brothers and sisters, is non-other than the existence of different dialects within the Zomi. It is for this, different dialects that, despite of being descendants of same fore-fathers we have disintegrated into different tribes. It is time, we should realize and accept that it is, the only reason which knowingly or unknowingly creates a constant barrier, wide enough to prevent the true amalgamation of the Zomis. Therefore, talking about maintaining status quo, and continuing as before seems a rather regressive step, considering the challenges ahead.

The call for a common language also gains weight when, one considers the future ahead for the Zomis. Presently, the zomi diaspora has its presence not only in different states of the country, but internationally as well. And in coming years, it is expected to increase further as we grow in numbers, as well as for pursuing different goals to different places. In such a scenario, we are already deprived of the home town environments, where a Zomis shares the same neighborhoods, schools, offices, and markets. Therefore, the younger generations are no more exposed to dialects of the different tribes under Zomis and they will further not be, as compared to 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s. Knowledge of each other’s language is fading and level of interactions is already very limited. Thus, there is a need of having a way to build a bonding, in those faraway places, in unfamiliar terrains. That is where, having a common language finds its significance and relevance for the generations to come.

However, in-spite of supporting the idea of having common language, if we are seriously considering the idea. There are few points which needs further consideration. Firstly, as also mentioned by the speaker, there is a successful example in the context of Assam. Where they are able to formulate a common language which is called as Haflong Hindi, if i am not mistaken. It is spoken by 11 different tribes. It is the inter mixing of local tribal words with hindi words. It would be very good if we could emulate that model to our liking and give ourselves a new common language. But, again liking something which others have is good, and trying to make it materialize in our own back yard is a totally different thing. There is a need to consider various parameters and it will again depend on the degree of flexibility amongst the different tribes under Zomi. Thus, it greatly depends on in what context, in what degree and in what capacity we are thinking of using the common language. If it is for just for communication then we can have meitei, hindi and English and put a common front. Which is use by nagas(english) and the arunachalis(hindi). I believe that, it is not the case in our case. We aspire for much larger cuase and unity amongst the Zomis.

Which brings me on to my second point. Acknowledging all the possible constraints, what if, the common language is an outcome of evolution process. Whereby, the new language is born out of the interactions between the different tribes within the Zomi. Giving the people of Zomi, the power to create a language for themselves, which is readily accepted by each individual of the respective tribes. Mainly because, it is concerning their lives as they are the ones, who will exhibits and reflects the true spirit of Zominalism in their actions. The following lines by Nelson Mandela which says "if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” perfectly highlights the point which i am trying to convey here. Thus, in order to be able to achieve what we as Zomi are aspiring for, we need to have a language which is our language i.e Zomi. Having a common language for the sake of having it and not fully embracing it with our hearts would be meaningless. Therefore, it has to be by the people, of the people, and for the people. True Zominalism will be manifested through the Zomi population at the ground level, not by few intellectually selected people at the helm of leadership. And true Zominalism is achievable only when, each individual and each tribe, contributes to the cause and find acceptance. Thus, a ground level approach, rather than, a top-down approach might just be a better way. Having said so, it has to be said that, evolution process is a long process and there can not be any fixed time frame. It might take decades and there is also no guarantee, that there will be a positive outcome. Though, in my view it might seems the ideal option, seeing it materializing is again vague in the present circumstances. Therefore, i would like to add here that, even if a formulation is done, the consensus of the larger population should be taken into consideration first and kept as a priority. And then, taken up by the upper leadership.

Thirdly, whether we have a common language through formulation or through the evolutionary process, there is another point which needs consideration. That is, in order to have the expected and desired impact of common language on the Zomis. The leadership has to find ways of involving and having interaction amongst the larger population of the Zomis in as many ways as possible. There has to be more people to people contact between the different tribes at different levels and forums. It can be social, cultural, economic and political, which can contribute towards the cause of unity and brother hood among the Zomis. However, how to kick start in that direction at present schemes of things, is a big challenge ahead for all of us. More of cultural events might be one of the step towards it.

Finally, it might be due to my lack of alertness or awareness. Bare me, if i am mistaken. I find that, there is a lack of sensitization, public discussions and public debates on issues which are close to the heart of all Zomis. Thus, i think that there is a need on the part of the Zomi leadership to be more open towards the people, for whom they are losing their sleeps for their emancipation. Yes, it is not possible to make each and every thing known to the general public. But, the topics and visions which were highlighted and discussed upon, in the Zomi Conclave and in many such other platforms , needs to be made known, if possible to each and every Zomi as much as possible. A better forum and opportunities must be created for a healthy debate and consensus. And the Zomis ( i.e the general population) on our part, we should express our concerns and support towards the leadership by participating as much as possible and by being an informed Zomi. In that way, there would be consensus and general acceptance on any issues concerning the Zomis.

As a conclusion, i would again like to express that i consider myself very lucky to be able to share the same forum with the great leaders of Zomi. Not only seeing them, but hearing them passionately, speaking out for Zomi, united in spirit and action, promises a brighter and better future for Zomis.