Prof. Jayadhir Tirumalrao, visiting professor at the Centre for Dalit and Adivasi Studies and Translation (CDAST), University of Hyderabad, is one of researchers who developed the ‘Gunjala Koyatur’ script for tribal language ‘Gondi’. He says, the tribals are quickly adapting the new script which is being taught in tribal villages of Adilabad district.
India has hundreds of languages without their own script. What made you chose only ‘Gondi’ for developing new script?
‘Gondi’ language is the only tribal language in India to have its own literature. The ancient Gonds have written many manuscripts hundred years ago. We found the same old manuscripts in Gunjala village of Adilabad district when we were working under the National Mission for Manuscripts. Since it already had manuscripts and literature, it was easy for us to develop it into a full-fledged script.
According to UNESCO, Gondi is one of the endangered languages in world. Why do you think it needs a new script, when language itself is fighting for survival?
Yes, Gondi is one of the endangered languages. That is the primary reason why its script should be developed. With the own script, the tribals can start studying in their language. It will not only help to protect their language, but also to develop old literature. Many schools in the tribal villages of Adilabad district already started teaching the Gunjala Koyatur script.
How did the tribals react when they learnt about their own script?
They felt very happy when they learnt the discovery of their script. In fact they held grand celebrations after we have developed the script. When we found the manuscripts, there were only four people alive who could understand them. Now, many people including the children and old people mastered it.
Regional languages like Telugu and Hindi still dominate the tribal areas in India. Do you think the new script will shift their education from local regional languages to their mother tongue?
I can’t say that the new script will lead to total replacement of Telugu or Hindi for the education of tribals. They should in fact study more in the mainstream languages to compete with the rest of the world. However, I recommend them to study in Gondi at least in primary level so that the language will survive.
Some media reports claimed that Gondi script is similar to Modhi script. What is your comment on it?
I have always been saying that Gunjala Gondi script is unique and it has no similarities with any other script. The SIL International experts on non-Roman scripts at a recent workshop in Payap University of Thailand also confirmed that the Gunjala Gondi script was quite different from any other script.