Preservation of linguistic heritage of Raji community through orthography development

Author: Kavita Rastogi (University of Lucknow)
Speaker: Kavita Rastogi
Topic: Language documentation
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Raji (Banrawat / Banraji / Banmanus / Rajbaar) is a little known tribal community which resides in ten small hamlets in the state of Uttarakhand. They were located in India for the first time in 1823.Presently their population is around 732. The word Raji is an ethnonym used both for the group as well as for the language they speak. Sir George Grierson, in his book ‘Linguistic Survey of India’ had named their language as ‘janggali and grouped it with Tibeto-Burman. Many researchers have been talking about the Munda sub stratum in the Tibeto- Burman languages of Uttarakhand. The linguistic components of Raji language were paleo-linguistic relics of some of the Munda dialects, which, in the ancient past were spoken in the Himalayan region. In my previous works I have tried to establish that though this indigenous language belongs to West-Central Himalayish branch of Tibeto-Burman family yet long contact with Indo- Aryan languages like Kumauni and Hindi has not only affected its vocabulary but also its grammar. Presently, the language is facing all the problems that any endangered language does : a very low socio-economic status, very few speakers, code-reduction, diminishing language attitude, etc. Now, economically dependent on the dominant Kumauni and ‘mainstream’ communities, the people are forced to come and look for dwellings, jobs, sustenance, education and other things away from their traditional habitat. It is sad that the attitude of the dominant group is not encouraging. They try to demean Rajis and their language and culture. The whole community lives below the poverty line and is dependent on the speakers of the dominant language to earn their bread and butter. The other challenge before this tribe is its population. It is clear that the number is getting lesser day by day due to poor hygienic and socio-economic conditions. The maximum life expectancy of the community too is very dismal as was proved by the absence of anyone over the age of 60 in all the ten hamlets. This miniscule number of speaker is also playing a negative role in their development. As they do not form a strong vote bank, no political party is taking interest in their socio-economic and educational development.

Keywords: India, Raji, Kumauni, Documentation, Preservation