Introduction

Introduction

In 1996, when Bhasha began study and documentation of languages and culture, the awareness about the existence of distinct language and literary traditions among the Adivasi and Nomadic communities, was sparse. This has occurred largely because Indian states are created on linguistic lines, thus officially lending recognition only to the Scheduled Languages.

The Indian Constitution recognizes only 22 languages. Of these only two adivasi languages, Santhali and Bodo are included in the Schedule of Languages. As per the 1991 Census there are 96 other languages having at least 10,000 speakers and 263 languages having even fewer speakers. The Non Scheduled languages being largely oral in nature have remained unknown outside their respective speech communities.

Bhasha/Purva Prakash have brought out publications in 19 non-scheduled languages namely Rathwi, Garasia, Chaudhari, Dungri Bhili, Panchmahali Bhili, Kukna, Gamit, Wanjhari, Madari, Naiki, Bhantu, Ahirani, Dehwali, Gor Banjara, Pavri, Chattisgarhi, Garhwali, Khasi, Kinnari, Mizo, Saora and Warli.

Of these, several languages had no tradition of writing earlier.

The languages spoken by adivasi and nomadic communities do not find place in the education system or the literary world; nor do they receive state patronage. Many of these languages are on the verge of extinction. With the loss of these languages the traditional knowledge, oral history, myths and legends, stories and songs of the speech communities would face severe threat.

Bhasha has very actively endeavored to bring this neglected but invaluable intangible heritage to the public domain. For this, Bhasha has held international, national and regional conferences, workshops and literary meets, collaborated with leading cultural organizations, instituted cultural festivals and created networks of writers and artists. In 1996, Bhasha set up a publishing unit for providing platform to indigenous writers.

In the span of a decade, Bhasha has introduced scripts to several oral languages and documented and published in print and digital medium, oral literature, theatre, music, traditional knowledge systems, developmental literature and arts belonging to the Adivasi and Nomadic communities.Bhasha has brought out books in 32 Non Scheduled languages, many of which did not have a script.

By providing scripts to adivasi languages of Gujarat and bringing them in print in the Dhol magazine, Bhasha has contributed to a phenomenal increase in the number of speakers of the Bhili language. During the 1991-2001 decade, the Census shows a 71.9 percent increase in Bhili speakers.

At the policy level, Prof. G. N. Devy was invited as Chair for the Committee for the Development of Non-Scheduled Languages set up by the Planning Commission which was instrumental in outlaying of significant funds for development and promotion of languages not listed in the Indian Constitution in the Eleventh Five Year Plan.

For Bhasha, language is a repository of people’s memory, knowledge, traditional wisdom, history and literature. Each language has its own unique world view. Through its publications, Bhasha has endeavored to create space and recognition for oral traditions, to break the hierarchy between the oral and the written, literature and the arts, the written and the digital, between academia and the community, the adivasi and the non-adivasi. All voices have a right to express, in a medium of their choice.

Bhasha’s publications are published under the imprint of Purva Prakash.