“Bhashatak kolapithi korir nagibe.”
– Professor Dr. Dipak Kumar Roy
Literary fests are always enlightening, the second Rajbangshi Sahitya Utshab, was no exception. The speakers did not comprise of any distinguished literary historian to present a full-fledged historical development of the Rajbangshi literature which was a bit disappointing but comprised few of those men who have walked through the revolutionary road, presenting the nuances of this language and literature through the prism of their personal experience. The impediments crossed and the criticisms to overcome, to speak, write and practice a language which was, not more than two to three decades ago repressed and strongly invigilated was the dominating emotion of the speakers.
Retired professor G.N Roy of North Bengal University, Professor Nikhilesh Ray of North Bengal University, Professor Dipak Kumar Roy of Raiganj University, Chairman of Rajbangshi Bhasha Academy Mr. Bijay Chandra Barman, shared their pangs of past which were still fresh. North Bengal and the University campus were at the turn of the 21st century a ground haunted by political policing and cultural stigma. Propagating Rajbangshi language held connotations deeply paralyzing and devastating. Speaking or hanging any related posters was a crime; publishing in this language was, as one of them recalled, a sign of “regionalism, communalism, terrorism”; and the defiance was consequently rewarded with arrest warrants, political threatening, and expulsion from their vocations. Hence one could feel the intensity of joy and cascading nostalgia that gripped the stage when these speakers relived those tumultuous pasts, remembering and creating history at the same time. Passing on the message that a big hall reverberating with Rajbangshi words, banners around the North Bengal University and posters in social media, poets, and writers fearlessly reading aloud in their mother tongue, is nothing but a revolutionary change.
The second issue discussed was the criticism pertaining to whether Rajbangshi is a language or a dialect. Professor Dipak Roy retorted “janai jane, ojanai haane” (the believers cherish, the disbelievers cause pain) and asked the cynics to base their critical commentary after understanding what constitutes a language and after a thorough reading of Rajbangshi literature which is no doubt jaw breaking for the first-time readers. He added that our language has words for everything which we are unaware of and therefore hunting for those words is our prime work. He emphasized on writing in whatever dialect of Rajbangshi language we speak, whether it is of Dinajpur, Nepal, Assam or Bengal. Hence this change will also exemplify the diversity or the plurality of our language, comprising a bunch of synonyms for a particular word like “shari” which becomes “khari” “jangya” “ttheki” as we move from one part of Bengal to the other. And that “Resolving the differences based on districts can be sorted later as standardization awaits material evidence.” And all of them unanimously voiced that the act of writing will expand the literary history and pave the way for its’ official recognition.
Professor G.N Roy on the second day of the program analyzed why the Communist government of Bengal was against linguistic rights in the last three decades of 20th century. He considers that any difference in society including class stratification was against communist ideology. Hence the demand for a separate state or language was perceived as a palpable threat to the ideal egalitarian state. Nevertheless, he fell short in defense to argue what, in the first place constitutes the ideal language, culture, and the cost of establishing that standard value. He also spoke about the discourse of difference, to distinguish culture, not on the qualitative basis, as to how good or bad Rajbangshi language is but to acknowledge this language as a different domain and a separate branch of knowledge altogether. This comprises, he says “probhed , bicched nohai” (difference not separation). He drew a conclusion saying that now we have to toil hard to create the literary history and to see literature live and walk on its own (“shahityo apone aap cholibe”).
The two-day festival has further instilled faith among the independent writers, editors by providing them a platform to express what they believe and speak- a revolutionary moment achieved after decades of black nights.
-NABANITA ROY (NOYA)