“Why Don’t You Speak In Bengali At Home?”: Mamata Banerjee’s Mother Tongue Push

Mamata Banerjee said mother tongue can be equated with a vital organ. (FILE)


Emphasising the state’s culture of promoting unity amidst diversity, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Tuesday that for the evolution and growth of a language it is necessary to include words used by the masses to enter its lexicon.

Addressing a programme at Deshapriya Park in south Kolkata on the occasion of International Mother Language Day, the Chief Minister called for opening up rather than slamming the doors for any language to promote its growth.

“We cannot keep our minds shut, we have to embrace other words and phrases which are used and understood by many Bengalis. ‘Ma’ is a universally understood word, but many people address their mother as ‘Amma’. Those who have migrated from Bangladesh use certain phrases which were not used by people in this state.

“Language is like a flowing river. It is my humble submission to linguists and experts what is the harm in incorporating words to enrich our lexicon without tinkering with the basic spirit of the language?” the chief minister asked.

Pointing out that language means communication, Ms Banerjee said those words stay on that reach out to more people.

Mentioning that there is no harm if there is a spurt in Bengali words which may not look out of place, Ms Banerjee said “more people will understand the term ‘jailrakshi’ than ‘kararakshi’ though ‘karagar’ is widely understood. And tell me, how many people understand the meaning of the word ‘arakshan’ (security)”.

While agreeing that there is a need for Bengali youth to study in English for employability and upskilling in the international market, she regretted the tendency among a section of youngsters to desert their mother tongue for other languages while speaking at home.

“Why don’t you speak in Bengali at home, during dinner, during a conversation with your near ones, and while performing daily chores? Bengali boys and girls must speak in their mother tongue,” she said.

Describing Bengal as a state which represents unity amid its rich diversity, Ms Banerjee said her government has given recognition to Hindi, Urdu, Kurmi, Santhali, and Rajbanshi languages.

“People of different religions, and languages live in Bengal, that is a matter of pride for us,” the CM said commenting that most non-Bengali residents of the state speak Bengali.

The Chief Minister said mother tongue can be equated with a vital organ of the human body.

“Different languages have merged to make the unique mosaic of India, a country where people speak in multiple languages,” she added.

During the programme, a portal – ‘Moner Bangla Apon Bangla’- was launched for reaching out to the Bengali diaspora living across the globe.

“This portal will serve the purpose of connecting hearts and minds,” the Chief Minister said.

Ms Banerjee also read out one of her poems at the programme to mark the sacrifice by the people of the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) who fought the imposition of Urdu and established Bangla as their official language nearly two decades before Bangladesh became an independent country.

February 21 is celebrated as International Mother Language Day as declared by the United Nations in 2000.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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