Accepted Paper:

Observations on public concern for the mother tongue after Vice President Jha's oath in Hindi  


Alaka Atreya Chudal (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

Ethnic groups in Nepal identify themselves not only by their ethnic origin, culture and religion, but also as separate ethnic groups on the basis of language and region. Interest and pride in presenting such forms of identity can also be seen in the definitions of a mother tongue.

Paper long abstract:

The first ever Vice President (henceforth VP Jha) of the Republic of Nepal Paramananda Jha took the oath of office and secrecy in Hindi on 23 July 2008. According to the interim constitution of Nepal (which was in force at the time), the President and Vice President could only take the oath in the Nepali language. As taking the oath in languages other than Nepali was said to be a violation of the Constitution, some Nepalese pressed charges against him in court. The issue of VP Jha's oath-taking led to a discussion of linguistic and cultural rights and the use of mother tongue languages. VP Jha's controversial oath provoked a heated debate in the Nepalese media. Against this backdrop, this paper aims to outline and study the discourse which emerged on the mother tongue issue, raised in various newspapers and online blogs published between the first and the second oath of office taken by VP Jha. Our focus topics, such as the importance of the mother tongue, its definition, the disagreement with VP Jha's oath in Hindi, the interest in preserving one's culture and language, and mother tongue in particular, reflect mostly recurring public concerns in the discussion. It can be observed that unrelated to any particular language issues, VP Jha's oath has also made the public think about, discuss and define the idea of a mother tongue in general. The paper will attempt to present these recent discussions and definitions of the mother tongue as they appeared in the Nepalese media.

Panel P28
Public displays of ethnic identity in Nepal