GUWAHATI: People of Nagaland are divided over the Central government’s purported move to promote Nagamese as Nagaland’s second official language after English. Pidgin Nagamese—a mix of broken Assamese, Hindi, Bengali, English, etc.—is spoken when two people from different tribes interact, and is used as a lingua franca by Nagas, who speak more than 20 mutually unintelligible dialects. Nagamese binds people in the plural Naga society.
Some Nagas believe that for a dialect to qualify as a language, it should have a script, which Nagas do not have. “My personal opinion is that Nagamese shouldn’t be made the second official language because it is not a language of any Naga tribe,” Congress leader Medokul Sophie told The Sunday Standard.
A Naga People’s Front leader said requesting anonymity, “What’s wrong if the Centre wants to promote it? We must not forget that Nagamese helps us communicate with Nagas and people from other communities in the state.”
Some influential Naga civil society organisations and intellectuals want to denounce Nagamese. Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) was the first to raise its voice against the Centre’s move. It urged the government to not take any hasty decision, which could dilute the culture and social fabrics of Naga society.
“Nagas need more time to develop and promote a language that can be called their own and not a market language. Any attempt to promote a language that has no origin will do more harm to the Nagas,” the student body warns.
Three apex groups of the Ao tribe say that Nagamese evolved out of a necessity to facilitate trade and commerce between people living in the hills and the valleys, and that it does not have a proper grammar or vocabulary.
“Promoting pidgin Nagamese will be against the intellectual interests of Nagas and against their rich cultural heritage. As school textbooks are in English and the Roman script is used for different dialects, English should be the official language of Nagaland,” insist Ao organisations Ao Senden, Watsu Mungdang and Ao Students’ Conference.
T L Angami, advisor to GBs’ (village chiefs) Association Nagaland, says Nagamese is easily understood and accepted by villagers in the state. He insists that it does not pose any threat to the Naga identity, arguing that the name Nagamese itself speaks volumes of the ingenuity of the Nagas.