Outrage after AIWC Bars Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav Performance in Nepali, Calling it ‘non-Indian Language’

A language controversy has erupted with the NGO All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) barring participants from performing a Nepali song in a programme celebrating ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ to mark 75 years of India’s independence. The AIWC apparently said it refused to allow the performance as it was in a foreign language. The issue came to the fore when an audio clip of a purported conversation between an AIWC member from Kalimpong and the NGO’s officials in Delhi emerged.

Nepali/Gorkhali is included in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution of India and is used extensively in the northeastern states. The NGO’s decision has sparked a wave of anger, particularly from the Gorkha community, and elected representatives from Darjeeling, who have sought an unconditional apology from the organisation and sacking of the officials responsible.

On June 9, AIWC member-in-charge of events Chandra Prabha Pandey sent out a note asking for contributions from regional chapters of the organisation for the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations. The contributions were supposed to be patriotic songs and dances performed in regional languages.

When artists from West Bengal’s Kalimpong district sent in their contribution, Pandey purportedly said, “We cannot showcase performances in non-Indian languages.”

The artists then reached out to AIWC Kalimpong secretary Aruna Pradhan, who tried to reason with Chandra Prabha Pandey. But the official ostensibly insisted, “They cannot send the national anthem sung in Nepali language, as it is not a language from India.” Despite Pradhan trying to tell Pandey that Nepali is an Indian language, the latter apparently brushed her off.

Speaking to News18, Gorkha rights activist Dr Ashish Pradhan said, “We came across this telephonic conversation between the president of AIWC’s Kalimpong unit and her counterpart in Delhi. What the lady at the Delhi end had to say, we were deeply anguished. Because see, the entire language movement that happened in Darjeeling and Kalimpong and then after a long struggle the constitution of India was amended. The 71st amendment took place in 1992, and Nepali was included as one of the languages of India. Needless to say that the entire land has been part of British India since 1816 and then part of the Indian Union and the contribution to the nation-building of the Gorkhas, the Nepali-speaking Gorkhas have been immense. Despite this, we have ignorance amongst a large part of the intelligentsia. We seem not to register ourselves in the national imagination. This is deeply anguishing.”

Darjeeling’s BJP MP Raju Bista too has sought an apology from the AIWC, saying the actions had hurt people’s sentiments.

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