While raising concern over the decline in the number of Assamese-speaking people in Assam to 48.38 pc in the Census report published recently, the apex literary body of the State, Asom Sahitya Sabha (ASS), on Monday set a two-month ultimatum to the State Government to initiate steps as per The Assam Official Language Act 1960 to promote Assamese language.
The apex literary body has demanded that the two State universities in Assam – Gauhati University (GU) and University (DU) – provide students an opportunity to pursue higher education in Assamese and not compulsorily in English, especially during graduation.
The report quoted ASS president Paramananda Rajbongshi as saying after a meeting with seven tribal literary organizations in the city, “The latest Census data is worrying for us. The Assam Government, as well as Gauhati University and Dibrugarh University, have to be blamed for this alarming decline in the number of Assamese speakers and speakers of some indigenous language. If urgent steps are not taken to popularize the language from the school level to university level, it won’t be a surprise if the percentage of Assamese-speaking people diminish to about 25% in the 2021 Census.”
It has also been reported that after the meeting, the ASS officials said the State Government must make teaching of Assamese as a language and subject compulsory across all schools located in the Brahmaputra Valley as well as the areas dominated by Bengali-speaking people.
Languages and mother tongue data of 2011 Census released recently by the Census authorities revealed that the percentages of Assamese, Bodo, Rabha and Mishing language speakers in Assam have declined while percentages of Bengali and Hindi speakers in the State have increased over the decade 2001-2011.
An NEZINE report revealed that the percentage of Assamese-speaking people in Assam has further declined to 48.38 in 2011 from 48.80 in 2001. The percentage of Bengali-speaking people has increased to 28.91 in 2011 from 27.54 in 2001 while the number of Bodo speakers declined to 4.53 per cent of the total population in 2011 from 4.86 per cent in 2001. Number of Hindi speakers increased to 6.73 per cent in 2011 as compared to 5.89 in 2001.
There has been a considerable decline in the percentage of Assamese-speaking people – in 1991, it was 57.81 per cent in Assam whereas in 2011 it stands at 48.38. The Bengali-speaking people’s percentage in 1991 stood at 21.67 per cent.
ASS president Rajbongshi, while coming down heavily on the GU and DU authorities for allegedly neglecting Assamese, said Assamese-speaking students are facing trouble as they cannot appear in some vital exams conducted by the universities in English.
The TOI report further quoted Rajbongshi as saying, “We demand that the two State universities implement truly. Books meant for the university students should also be made available in Assamese language. Besides, the private universities must come out with an explanation within these two months on how they have contributed towards promoting Assamese and other local languages.”