The Article By Rathin Das In The Pioneer news Paper, Delhi

A yatra to promote mother tongue

Rathin Das | Ahmedabad

Yet another yatra would wind its way through Gujarat next week. But this would be a yatra with a difference as it will stress on the need to learn and use one’s mother tongue.

The Matri Vasha Vandana Yatra, which would start from the Saurashtra town of Junagadh on January 30, is the brain-child of eminent author and columnist Gunwant Shah. This is probably the first time that a linguistic region is taking out a yatra to safeguard its mother tongue.

Unlike various other yatras, usually sponsored by the State Government, this one is purely a private affair, though the State Sahitya Parishad would contribute its share by a way of supplying books.

Gunwant Shah, a former professor at Michigan and Arizona universities who took pre-mature retirement to devote his time to writing and reading, was recently offended by the treatment given to a student for speaking in his mother tongue, Telugu.

A student of an English medium school in Andhra Pradesh was punished and made to display a board proclaiming “I will never again speak in Telugu,” Shah narrated what he watched on a television channel about two months back.

“It is a colonial legacy that students cannot speak in their mother tongue. It disturbed me a lot”, Shah told The Pioneer from Vadodara on how he was inspired to undertake this Matri Vasha Vandana Yatra.

He contacted his friends and admirers all over Gujarat and decided to take out this yatra to stress on the importance of mother tongue. Junagadh was chosen as the starting point as it is the birth-place of Narsinh Mehta, the 16th century saint-poet of the ‘Bhakti-Yuga’.

The yatra, comprising about half-a-dozen vehicles including Shah’s own, would pass through the towns wherein the literary personalities will hold public meetings and distribute relevant literature to create awareness about the importance of mother tongue.

“This yatra is not a provincial jingoism,” Shah explained and added that they are not asking anyone to give up teaching of English and computers. Gujarati people are not against any other language but mother tongue should get prominence, Shah added, making it clear that the yatra is not against any other linguistic group.

Gunwant Shah has a solution for the language issue: Gujarati medium schools should have best facilities for English teaching while English medium schools too should teach Gujarati with equal zeal.

The proposed yatra is receiving a good response, though Shah is refusing to accept any cash donations. A fan of Shah’s writings, Ilyas Khan Pathan of Rajkot has put up hoardings and will place advertisements in local papers, at his own cost, to announce the event for the cause of mother tongue.

“Accept other languages, but do not abandon your mother tongue”, Ilyas Khan told The Pioneer from Rajkot.

Starting from Junagadh, the Matri Vasha Vandana Yatra would go through Gondal, Rajkot, Surendranagar, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Palanpur, Mehsana, Nadiad, Vadodara, Bharuch, Bardoli, Valsad and Navsari before finishing at Surat on February 6.

During the halt at historic Bardoli, nearly 3,000 college teachers and principals will join deliberations on the importance of mother tongue in education.

The Gujarat Sahitya Parishad would also sell and display the 100 best books in Gujarati, selected by a panel of three literary figures.

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