SYLHET: ‘Deshoali’, the parlance of the tea workers of Sylhet region, should be preserved through research and used in pre-primary education to encourage children from this community to enroll in schools, said a language researcher from the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST).
“The responsibility of preservation of ‘Deshoali’ and research falls on the Bangla speakers,” language researcher Prof Dr Md Ashraful Karim said.It should be one of our key demands in February, the month of the historic Language Movement, the Bangla department chair of SUST said.
Most of Bangladesh’s tea gardens are situated in the three districts of Sylhet region. And Moulvibazar has the highest number of tea gardens, reports UNB.
“The tea workers came here from various regions in India about 150 years ago. They used to speak in local language at first. ‘Deshoali’ gradually came into existence through the amalgamation of various languages. It became the language of the tea workers,” Prof Karim said.
But they don’t have alphabet or written form.
“’Deshoali’ is the mixture of local Bangla, Hindi and the tea workers’ own language (from the regions they came from),” the researcher said.
He noted that there have been research and surveys on the tea workers’ socio-economic condition but the language has hardly been focused. “We practically show no interest in the language of this socially neglected community,” Prof Karim said.During his research, the SUST teacher said he found that Bangla has a great impact on ‘Deshoali’.
The tea worker community is lagging behind in various fields, particularly education.
Although the government mandates setting up primary schools within one mile of the tea garden, hardly anyone follows the directive, Prof Karim said.
“Researches are being conducted on the Chakma, Monipuri and Santal languages. Many indigenous languages now have dictionaries. We can similarly compile a dictionary of the ‘Deshoali’ language,” he said.
The public and private organisations and the media should come forward for preserving the language. “Protecting language is the responsibility of the country,” he said.
Bangladesh is imparting education in some indigenous languages.
“As part of that initiative, the government should use ‘Deshoali’ in pre-primary level in the tea producing region. This will encourage more members of the community to enroll in schools.
“This will bring down illiteracy rate in the community. This will help preserve the language and allow us the opportunity to pay respect to the Language Movement martyrs,” he said.
Saidur Rahman, a worker of Sylhet’s Malanichhara tea garden, said their life revolves around the tea garden. “We can’t think outside of this,” he said. “Everyone should know about our lives and culture [through our language].”
Rahman said the government should come forward to preserve their language.
Rajvojon Koiri, leader of Alinagar Tea Garden workers, said the language spoken by them holds the diversity of the tea workers and their culture.
“We’d like our language to be preserved and spread further. We request the government to help introduce our new generation to ‘Deshoali’,” he said.