Emphasising that Delhi is home to large Maithili- and Bhojpuri-speaking populations, the Delhi government announced a slew of initiatives Monday to promote the two languages in the capital, including introduction of Maithili in its schools.
Maithili and Bhojpuri are traditionally spoken in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Western Bihar — a portion referred to as Purvanchal — from where it is estimated 30% of Delhi’s population hails.
Among the most far-reaching of initiatives announced by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia is the introduction of Maithili language as an optional subject in Delhi government schools for classes VIII-XII.
“There are many Maithili-speaking people living in Delhi. Their family members will now be able to study the language as a subject in their schools, the way children are currently learning Punjabi and Urdu in schools,” he said.
According to Abhinandita Mathur, advisor to the Deputy Chief Minister on art, culture and tourism, the language will likely be introduced in schools from the next academic session. “There is already a CBSE syllabus and books in existence for the language. Recruitment and training of teachers should begin from September and we should be good to go by March,” she said.
Throughout the course of the speech, Sisodia repeatedly drew links between the two Purvanchali languages and Urdu and Punjabi, which are considered to be closely tied to Delhi’s culture and heritage.
Also announced was a new Maithili-Bhojpuri arts and culture festival, to be introduced this year. “In the months of September, October and November, we hold successful art and culture festivals at Connaught Place. At first, we introduced a five-day Urdu festival, which was a super hit. Last year, we held festivals for Sanskrit, Urdu and Punjabi, which were also successful. This year onwards, there will also be a five-day Maithili and Bhojpuri festival which will be held in the first or second week of November,” he said.
Another initiative announced was the setting up of coaching centres by the Maithili-Bhojpuri Academy for those who wish to opt for Maithili language as one of their subjects for the UPSC and other competitive examinations. According to Mathur, the plan is to introduce 20 such centres across the city.
“We want to focus on areas like Kirari, Burari and Dwarka which have a large population who are native speakers of the language. It is likely to begin as a pilot project at five centres in September,” she said.
Currently, one such coaching centre for competitive exams is run for the Sanskrit language at the Sanskrit Centre.
Also among initiatives announced were reaching out to C-DAC, based in Pune, to develop a font for Maithili — which does not exist yet — and introducing awards to recognise journalistic, artistic and cultural contributions of practitioners in Maithili and Bhojpuri.
Sisodia also spoke of the government’s interest that Bhojpuri be accorded the same status as Maithili. “Bhojpuri is not recognised in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution because of which children cannot study it in school as a subject and people cannot opt for it in IAS exams. I, as chairman of the Maithili-Bhojpuri Academy, am writing to the central government to ask them to work to include it in the Eighth Schedule, which is something they have been saying they will do since 2014,” he said.
These initiatives are the biggest push so far by the AAP government to reach out to the city’s Purvanchali population, which is increasingly being viewed by parties as a decisive voter base.
Getting the community on its corner is a priority for AAP in the run-up to next year’s Assembly elections, especially given Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari’s Purvanchali superstar status.
AAP has already attempted to reach out to the population through Chhath Puja initiatives such as increasing the number of ghats for devotees from 72 in 2014 to 1,055 in 2018.