Outrage after AIWC bans Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’s performance in Nepali, calling it a ‘non-Indian language’

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

Nepali/Gorkhali is included in the eighth schedule of the constitution of India and is widely used in the northeastern states. The NGO’s decision sparked a wave of anger, particularly within the Gorkha community and elected officials in Darjeeling, who demanded an unconditional apology from the organization and dismissed those responsible.

On June 9, Chandra Prabha Pandey, AIWC member in charge of events, sent a note requesting contributions from the organization’s regional chapters for the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations. Contributions were to be patriotic songs and dances performed in regional languages.

When performers from Kalimpong district in West Bengal sent in their contribution, Pandey reportedly said, “We cannot perform in non-Indian languages.”

The artists then contacted 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 the Nepali language, because it is not a language of India”. Although Pradhan tried to tell Pandey that Nepali is an Indian language, the latter apparently rejected it.

Speaking to News18, Gorkha rights activist Dr Ashish Pradhan said: “We came across this phone conversation between the AIWC Kalimpong Unit Chairperson and her counterpart in Delhi. What the lady at the Delhi end had to say, we were deeply distressed. Because see, the whole linguistic 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, the whole country has been part of British India since 1816 and then the Indian Union and the nation-building contribution of the Gorkhas, the Nepalese-speaking Gorkhas, has been immense. Despite this, we have the ignorance of a large part of the intelligentsia. We don’t seem to fit into the national imagination. It’s deeply distressing.”

BJP Darjeeling MP Raju Bista also demanded an apology from the AIWC, saying the actions had hurt people’s feelings.

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