Rong Aring awareness efforts audible: 80 pc Lapchas can now use it

Kathmandu, September 2:

A study has revealed that about 55 per cent of Lapcha community members speak their mother language well, another 25 per cent have the ability to talk and 20 per cent cannot talk in Rong Aring (Lapcha).

The study conducted as a part of Rapid Participatory Appraisal on Livelihood and Need Assessment Study of Highly Marginalized Janajatis, by researcher Dr Sumitra Manandhar Gurung, with support from Janajati Empowerment Project (JEP), has also revealed that Lapchas have increasingly felt the need to learn their mother tongue because several researchers have been asking them about it.

“More and more members of the Lapcha community are feeling the importance of their language because of several studies being done in recent years on their language. This has made them feel the need to preserve the language,” the study report says.

The report said, “although Lapcha children are humiliated and laughed at when they use their language, they still use it as private language when other groups are around.”

Lapchas have their own script called Chhyoming and a written language. Use of the written language varies among communities. The report has also cited lack of education in mother tongue as the main reason that has prevented Lapcha children from formal education.

The report said the Lapcha people overwhelmingly emphasised the need to promote formal and informal education and teaching in Rong Aring, as education is the only way to increase awareness.

They aspire for books in Lapcha at all levels in order to retain their language and identity.

“There seems to be an awakening that the language needs to be preserved and promoted for their identity and culture. As schools do not use the language, it contributed in endangering the language.

Lack of awareness in the past and absence of teaching/reading materials in Rong, and the regulation of using Nepali language, and poor economic condition to develop own materials are other factors that contributed in endangering Rong Aring language,” the report states.

The tribe’s settlement extend up to Sikkim and are said to have settled in Ilam. Lapchas are also found settled in Karphok, Antu and Haspokhari in Kolbung VDC.

Presently they are spread within the perimeter of Darjeeling in the east, Maikhola in the west, Sikkim in the north and Jhapa in the south. The main settlements (VDCs) of Lapchas are Panchakanya, Fikkal, Kanyam, Kolbung, Sri Antu, Samalbung, Jirmale, Irauntar, Pashupati Nagar, Gorkhe, Jogmai, Shantipur, Godak, Laxmipur and Namsaling.