Combating both sides: The new linguistic-literary identities of the Rajbanshi community of North Bengal, India
Mithun Narayan Bose (Sarai, Centre for the studies of Developing societies, New Delhi, India) and Dripta Piplai (Department of Linguistics, University of Delhi, India)
The nature of Speech Community varies. At one hand there is a pressure from the dominating language(s), on the other hand the communities feel the urge to retain its linguistic-literary traditions in order to retain the communal identity. The language-varieties are remaining under a chain of domination of the regional standard --> national language --> global language in extensively multilingual India. Such a community is the Rajbanshi community (Rajbanshi language is spoken in part of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Nepal and Bangladesh) which has almost 7lakh speakers in West Bengal.
Rajbanshis are bilingual/trilingual in North of Bengal and Bangla (Partially Assamese) is the lingua franca for them. Domination of regional standard has become a phenomenon, which is co-occurring with the pressure of the national as well as global language and culture. The community is trying to reconstruct their year-old linguistic and folkloristic traditions in order to revive themselves and also to construct a new-identity. The construction of the new identity is manifested in a language movement which had been started in 1970s, strengthened in 1990s and the demand for the separate state on the linguistic basis is continuing still now.
The paper will examine the role of the oral-tradition of the Rajbanshi community in terms of re-shaping the linguistic-literary identity, and on the other hand the influence of the Bangla-Hindi-English combined pressure, which is continuously restricted them to re-shape their language-culture-history.