International Mother Tongue Day; Baloch Cultural Activists Mourn Neglect of Their Language in Afghanistan

On February 21, the International Day ofMother Tongue is celebrated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote the preservation of linguistic and cultural diversity around the world. In Afghanistan, there are numerous ethnic groups and languages spoken, with Farsi and Pashto being the official languages. However, Balochi, Uzbeki, and Pashto are also spoken in various provinces. On the eve of Mother Tongue Day, Baloch intellectuals are expressing their concern over the decline of their language, which has even led to the closure of the Balochi literary department at the university in Kandahar. They attribute this to the wrong decisions of previous governments in terms of the preservation of languages in Afghanistan, such as the failure to manufacture and distribute Balochi literature in the schools of Nimroz.

In a conversation with HashteSubh, Abdul Rauf Baloch, a Balochi cultural activist, stated that the Balochi language has been neglected due to unjust and discriminatory policies, and this neglect is evident even in the provinces where the Baloch reside. Mr. Baloch further noted that the only department of Balochi literature at Kandahar University was closed and no efforts have been made to restore it in the past few years.

The Baloch cultural activist asserted that civilizations are sustained by language, and that forgetting a language leads to forgetting one‘s identity. He highlighted the importance of the mother tongue as the identity of a nation. He then criticized the governments and statesmen‘s policies, citing the closure of the Kandahar University‘s Department of Balochi Language and Literature for several years, despite the efforts of Baloch cultural leaders to establish the department and appoint professors from Pakistan to teach language and literature.

Abdul Rauf Baloch also notes that, despite the fact that the Baloch population is significantly larger than other ethnic groups in the south and west of Afghanistan, these provinces do not yet have the capability to provide language education or distribute textbooks in the Baloch language.

Meanwhile, Mir Ali Baloch, another Baloch activist in Nimroz, has asserted that the Baloch language has been forgotten and that discriminatory laws have even hindered Baloch people from having the means to teach their language in their homeland. Mir Ali further stated:The Ministry of Education printed Balochi language textbooks from elementary school up to ninth grade, but when they reached the head of Nimroz Education, they were not distributed among students due to discrimination and ethnic politics. Mir Ali Baloch went on to say thatdespite the fact that all people in the province of Nimroz speak Balochi fluently, Balochi books must be made available in the province‘s schools so that Balochi children can learn the language from literature.

Sources in Nimroz have confirmed to HashteSubh that the Taliban have replaced the signs of some local offices in the province, which were written in the Baloch language. This has caused discontent among Baloch culture activists, who feel that the government is disregarding their language, an unprecedented move.

In 1952, the city of Dhaka, which was then known as East Pakistan and was not yet independent, saw the beginning of a peaceful protest to make Bengali the second language of Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Pakistani police opened fire on the demonstrators, resulting in the death of some of them. On November 17, 1999, UNESCO declared February 21 to be International Mother Language Day, in response to Bangladesh‘s separation from Pakistan and at the nation‘s request. This day has been celebrated around the world since 2000.