MEGHALAYA: The serene hills of Meghalaya find themselves at the center of a cultural storm as the national anthem becomes the subject of spirited debate. The Jaintias, the most important tribes in the region, are demanding that their language be included in the song along with the currently recognized Khasi and Garo languages.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma responded to these demands by insisting that the current one sticks to the existing legal basis and language provisions. Sangma referred to the Meghalaya State Language Act of 2005, which declared English as the state language and Khasi and Garo as common languages in particular government offices.
The Chief Minister cautioned against deviating from established norms and expressed concern that such changes might lead to similar demands from other languages. Arts and Culture Minister Paul Lyngdoh seconded Sangma's stand, stressing that any amendment to the song would require legislative amendments to bring it into line with the existing Act.
He pointed out that the Jaintia language Bill, introduced in 2005, did not raise concerns about anthem inclusivity at the time, further bolstering the government's position. Minister Lyngdoh defended the anthem's existing message of unity, asserting that it beautifully encapsulates the "cohesive community" spirit shared by the Khasi and Jaintia people. He questioned the timing of the language issue, wondering why it had not been raised earlier during the enactment of the Language Act in 2005.
The debate takes place outside the rich cultural fabric of Meghalaya, where the demand for the inclusion of Jaintia, which communities contribute to the state’s living heritage, reflects the community’s desire for cultural representation and redemption reflecting recognition in the official symbols of the country. While Chief Minister Sangma and Arts and Culture Minister Lyngdoh emphasize the legal and historical aspects, critics argue that cultural continuity and inclusion should be paramount in shaping the identity of the national anthem and celebrating language diversity is celebrated, adding that the song should reflect Meghalaya's pluralistic society.
Meanwhile, the debate revolves around whether the state should consider rethinking its language policies and songwriting to ensure greater representation of the linguistic mosaic that makes up Meghalaya.
As dialogue continues, the government faces the challenge of balancing compliance with the changing cultural preferences of its diverse population. The outcome of this cultural discourse will undoubtedly reflect Meghalaya’s identity and commitment to unity in diversity.