Lost in translation,twice over

In Jharkhand,a lot gets lost as the state translates village names from the local dialect to Hindi and onwards to English.

Written by Deepu Sebastian Edmond | Published: July 24, 2013 2:38:11 am

When a gang of nine men dragged four tribal girls out of a hostel in Pakur district and raped them recently,no one could spell the name of the village concerned. Was it Lovda,Lawda or Laudha? To top it,neither the district administration nor the Primary Census Abstract-2011 for Jharkhand had a name that even sounded similar in its records.

The Deputy Commissioner estimated that the village could be a hamlet of Jamjuri,a Santhal (revenue) village. However,as it turns out,the facility where the girls were living was built on land donated by someone belonging to a Paharia tribe and hence,it was concluded,it must be part of an adjoining Paharia village.

The confusion was not surprising. Most Paharia villages are known by other names in state records,which have simplified the Paharia dialect or Malto names so much that residents often fail to recognise them. The problem isn’t confined to Paharia villages either. In Jharkhand,a lot gets lost as the state translates village names from the local dialect to Hindi and onwards to English. Across Jharkhand now there are hamlets which,officially,are lost to the state.

I was in Latehar district’s Manika block recently and visited four villages. To the best of my approximation,in the residents’ words,these villages were Jobla,Hata,Amwatikar and Kurumkheta. That’s not how they are known to the outside world.

The Sarju Area Development Action Plan,which has a map of Barkadih panchayat where these villages are located,calls Amwatikar Amwatika.

The Primary Census Abstract-2011,on the other hand,records the first three as Jabla,Hatla and Ambatikar. There is more confusion. According to the locals,there are two “Amwatikars” — the other being in adjoining Barwadih block. The Primary Census does not even mention this other Amwatikar.

The site of the March 27-28 attack in Chatra district,which killed 10 Maoists,was called by this newspaper as Lakramanda. It has also been called Lakrabanda. The administration is helpless as “Lakramanda” is a hamlet of a larger revenue village and hence does not appear in their records.

The implications of such a mess are many,and may get worse as files go online and bureaucrats — twice removed from these sites and the cultures that named them — wield their hurried pens.

In a state like Jharkhand about which ignorance is almost as widespread as its rich diversity,a census initiative can’t be an administrative formality and must show more cultural sensitivity.

Deepu is a senior correspondent based in Ranchi


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