In India, tribal languages are on the verge of extinction

Tribal girls dancing. They belong to the Gadaba tribe. Orissa, India.

Tribal girls dancing. They belong to the Gadaba tribe. Orissa, India.

In India, the state of Orissa is famous for its monuments, its beaches and its tribes. Unfortunately, tribal languages of Orissa are fast becoming extinct. While 62 tribal languages existed at the time of Independence ( in 1947), only 22 have managed to survive.
In some cases, the strength of certain tribes has decreased at an alarming rate. The population of tribes such as Chenchu, Baiga, Birhor, Mankidi, Ghara and Kerua ranges now from a mere 100 to a little more than 1000. The population of tribes like Bonda, Juang and Didayi is hovering around 5000 but they have stuck to their own languages.
Some tribes ( the Ho, Bhumji and Bhatudi) have discarded their own languages and adopted oriya, the language spoken by mainstream Orissa. One of the reasons why these languages have disappeared is that educated tribals have delibarately avoided to speak their mother tongue even at home. In some cases, political decisions have forced the tribes to move or split up, resulting in language loss.
However, several languages such as Santhali, Mundari, Koli, Saora and Gorum have resisted. These tribes take pride in their cultural roots and thus they have been able to withstand the challenges.
In western Orissa, where most tribals are living, many people speak a new language called Desiya.It’s a language born out of the mixing of tribal and non-tribal languages.
The Orissa state runs schools for the tribals, but there is no effort to educate tribal children in their own languages. So, most of the remaining tribal languages are likely to die out in the next 50 years.

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