“All-India Radio has played a very significant role in the country, specially, in integrating the whole nation… It has a unifying and binding role in the country… We are far from the National Capital. If we are attached to the National Capital it is through language. Language is a very very sensitive issue. Now, they want to de-link Assamese language from National Capital. It will go against the interest of the national integration process. So, we cannot support this stand.” – Sarbananda Sonowal, MP, in the Lok Sabha in 2005.
What Sarbananda Sonowal had said as an MP on the question of national languages during the Congress regime is interesting to note. Sixteen years on, the same Sonowal, now chief minister of Assam, has nothing to say about the Assamese language being pushed out of All India Radio (AIR) news broadcasts from the national capital, let alone agitating for a reversal of policy.
Prasar Bharati has closed or is closing down the central news units of several Indian languages namely Arunachali, Assamese, Bengali, Dogri, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujrati, Oriya and Tamil in All India Radio (AIR) at its news headquarter at the national capital in Delhi and transferring the broadcasting of national news bulletins in these languages to their respective state’s capital stations.
The nation is passing through turbulent and challenging times with divisive politics at its peak. Language too has not been spared. There have been constant and deliberate efforts to subjugate national languages, other than Hindi, included in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution. All of this is part of a well-thought out plan to degrade the stature and dignity of these national languages and relegate them to the status of “regional” languages with limited reach.
In a reply to question No: 4566 on August 12, 2016, in Lok Sabha, the minister of state for information and broadcasting informed the house that national news bulletins of 12 Indian languages would be transferred from central news units of these languages in the News Service Division (NSD) in Delhi to Regional News Units (RNUs) in the capital cities of the different states. The alibi was to involve more local talent in national news bulletins.
Replying to another question No: 2159, the minister said that in the wake of the emergence of new communication systems, keeping the news units of these Indian languages in Delhi was an unnecessary expenditure. Interestingly the director general of the News Services Division of All India Radio, while mooting this proposal, cited the shortage of manpower and non-availability of capable talent as a primary reason. The Wire