Garo language, which is fighting for inclusion in the Eighth Schedule, has piqued Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s interest. She knows many languages. Russian and Vietnamese are also on that list. However, there are no Khasi, Garo or Paar on that list. Mamata Banerjee admitted this in front of the residents of Meghalaya on Wednesday. People of Meghalaya mainly speak those three languages. Mamata said at the public meeting that she did not know any of those three languages. However, before coming to Meghalaya next time, she will learn those three languages from YouTube.
During her public address here on Wednesday, Mamata Banerjee said she would like to learn the local language. “Next time I come, please teach me your language. I heard Dr Mukul Sangma speak in Garo and it sounded so sweet. I will be very happy to learn your language. Meanwhile, I can start learning Garo on YouTube,” she said. At the end of her speech, Mamata, who was presented with the traditional headgear kotip, connected with the public by declaring the winning slogan from the West Bengal elections, ‘Khela hobe (the game is on).’ West Bengal too has a Garo population. Garam Basti in Alipur Duar has a substantial Garo population. However, the tribe is losing its identity in the state owing to the ignorance of government officials.
Mamata has always expressed interest in learning different languages. A few years ago at a trade conference in Bengal, a video was widely shared on the Internet in which Mamata claimed she knows at least 14 languages “but does not brag about it.” She said, “I can speak Gujarati. I learnt Vietnamese when I visited Vietnam. I know a little bit of Russian after visiting the country three times. I also know Nagamese since I’ve worked in Nagaland for a long time. I know Manipuri, I know Assamese,” Mamata said. “I know Oriya, Punjabi, Maratha and Bangla languages. I know Hindi, Urdu, Gorkha, Nepali. But I don’t brag about it. Rather I’ll feel proud if I can speak for them.”
Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday also said that the TMC is the only credible alternative in Meghalaya against the “proxy-BJP government” in the state gearing up for Assembly elections. Addressing a rally of TMC at Mendipathar in Garo Hills, Mamata said, “We are taking care of farmers in Bengal and giving them Rs 10,000 per year. We are providing free rations for people at their doorsteps, giving free education to girls and a credit card of Rs 10 lakh for students. We have schemes for the fishermen, tribals, OBCs and all sections of society. But I have come to know that many villages here lack even electricity. What has the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government done? Let them present their report card before making so many big big promises.”
The National People’s Party (NPP) now leads the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government, in which the BJP is a minor ally with two MLAs in the House of 60. In the 2018 Assembly elections, the TMC did not win a single seat but the Mamata Banerjee-led party suddenly became the principal Opposition party in November 2021 when 12 out of 17 Congress MLAs, led by former CM Mukul Sangma, joined it.
This is Mamata’s first visit to the Garo Hills and second visit to Meghalaya to campaign for the TMC ahead of the Assembly elections. Mamata last visited Shillong on December 13. TMC has named 52 candidates. Garo Hills has 24 Assembly seats and both Mukul Sangma and Conrad Sangma (Meghalaya CM) are candidates in Garo Hills. It was on Wednesday that the Election Commission of India announced poll dates for Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland. The Election Commission announced that the assembly polls will be held in the state of Meghalaya on February 27.