Language-domicile protest in Jharkhand

  • IASbaba
  • February 15, 2022
  • 0
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  • GS-2: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure  
  • GS-2: Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these. 

Language-domicile protest in Jharkhand

Context: Several parts of Jharkhand are seeing massive protests against the inclusion of Bhojpuri and Magahi as “regional languages” in district-level competitive examinations for government jobs.

  • Hundreds of protesters, including women, have been marching with placards, raising slogans against the government mainly in the east-central districts of Bokaro and Dhanbad, but also in Giridih and Ranchi.

Why are the protests taking place?

  • On December 24, the Jharkhand Personnel, Administrative Reforms, and Rajbhasha Department issued a notification to include Magahi, Bhojpuri, and Angika among others as regional languages in the district-level selection process through exams conducted by the Jharkhand Staff Selection Commission (JSSC).
  • The notification triggered resentment in a section of people especially in Bokaro and Dhanbad, who saw the inclusion of Bhojpuri and Magahi as an “infringement” on the rights of Adivasis and Moolvasis. 
  • The protesters argue that the “low population” of Magahi and Bhojpuri speakers in these two districts did not “warrant” the inclusion of these languages in the job selection process.
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests there is a relatively small number of Magahi- and Bhojpuri-speaking people in these districts; however, no precise data are available.

What kind of examinations are these?

  • There is no clarity so far. Eligibility requirements are relatively modest, and the exams will be held for appointments to lower-level jobs in the districts. But these jobs are yet to be advertised.
  • It is not applicable to the selection process at the level of the state. As of now, no vacancies have been advertised against the notification.
  • This would be the first time that the exams would have Bhojpuri, Angika, and Magahi as language papers, and the government was expected to announce details of the weightage and marks.

Who is protesting against the notification?

  • The Jharkhandi Bhasha Sangharsha Samiti, an organisation of Moolvasis and Adivasis which claims to be apolitical, has organised more than 50 protest gatherings over the in the month of Jan 2022. 
  • The protests were intended to pressure the government because the population that speaks Magahi and Bhojpuri in Bokaro and Dhanbad is minuscule that will only make jobs scarcer for Jharkhandis
  • The Samiti in not opposing the inclusion of these languages in Latehar, Garhwa or Palamu, because a substantial population speaks these languages in those areas.”

Is this the only issue for the protesters?

  • They are also demanding that 1932 be made the cut-off date while taking into account proof of land records for the state’s domicile policy
  • This has long been contentious. Following the creation of Jharkhand in 2000, the first Chief Minister, Babulal Marandi, thought it was necessary to define a ‘Jharkhandi’ in order to provide benefits including government jobs to local people.
  • In 2016, the government came out with a “relaxed domicile policy” that included criteria such as employment for the last 30 years, and essentially made 1985 the cut-off year. 
  • After coming to power in 2019, the new government set up a cabinet sub-committee to re-define domicile.

Is there any opposition to the protests?

  • A group called the Bhojpuri, Magahi, Maithili Angika Manch, has criticised the alleged polarising nature of the protests. It has claimed that more than 1 crore people in Jharkhand speak Bhojpuri, Magahi, and Angika, and recalled the “immense contribution” of Bhojpuri and Magahi speakers to the state. 

So, where is this protest headed?

The protest on the language issue is “full of contradictions”. 

  • Some MLAs have been “directly involved in crowd-gathering”, “so the claim that this movement is apolitical is not true”.
  • Placards and banners displayed at the protests say “Languages from outside Jharkhand cannot run here.” 
  • However, the protesters do not have a problem with Bengali or Odia being made regional languages, nor do they oppose other districts having Bhojpuri and Magahi as regional languages.

Connecting the dots:

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