In the era of globalisation, the trend of migration has been widely picked up by communities across the world. It is a commonplace now to leave your roots in search of new pastures and perhaps settle out permanently. While there is absolutely nothing wrong in that, the migration trend increasingly puts the indigenous languages and cultures at risk. However, a small community in Uttarakhand have bucked the trend as the Rung community have emerged as the leaders of reverse migration.
The Rung community located in Darma valley at the Indo-China border are leading the beacon of reverse migration as the members of the community return home sometimes even from foreign shores after retiring. Gopal S. Rayapa and Savitri Rayapa are examples of Rung community members who after having stayed in Dubai for nearly forty years decided to move to their home town Dharchula and village Budi. “It’s as if it is engrained in our Rung DNA that wherever we may be born, we never forget our roots are in our respective villages,” says Savitri Rayapa.
All the rituals right from birth, marriage and death need to be performed at the native place as nature worship along with the importance of motherland holds a supreme place in the lives of these communities.
It is easier said than done to return to their hometown in Uttarakhand as the returning community members have to sacrifice their luxurious life to brave the lack of modern facilities, unavailability of amenities such as mainland and difficult terrain.
Sandesha Rayapa-Garbiyal, who holds a doctorate and is working as an assistant professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, commenting the issue said, “The communities residing in these areas never engage with the idea of leaving their birthplace permanently. Travelling for years to Tibet, Nepal, Bombay and numerous other places for trading has been a centuries-old practice. People used to return then after years and they do the same now.”
Sriram Singh Dharamsaktu, a retired commandant from Border Security Forces has already started construction on his ancestral land to spent his retirement in Milam village. “We really never ever leave our homes forever. It’s a centuries-old tradition of returning home. Then it was trade and now it is finding jobs to make a living,” adds Dharamsaktu.
In a report in the year 2018, it was revealed that a total of 5.02 Lakh people migrated from the state’s villages in the past decade. Out of these, 3.83 Lakh people who migrated from 6,338 villages keep visiting their villages periodically whereas 1.18 Lakh people have permanently migrated.
The deep-rooted bond of the Rung community has not escaped the eyes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister made it a point to highlight the community’s attempts to save their indigenous culture in his 59th Mann Ki Baat address. PM Modi said: “Recently, I read a story about Uttarakhand’s Dharchula. This town has Nepal on one side and the Kali Ganga river on the other. I read with interest how the Rung community which is concentrated in this region is using modern technology and social media tools like WhatsApp to keep the script less language alive.” He added: “This language has no script. People started posting songs, stories, poems and correcting each other. In a way, WhatsApp became a classroom where everyone was a teacher and a student. In the effort to preserve Runglow language, various programmes are also being organised.” The Prime Minister concluded by saying that: “This initiative of Rung community shows the way to the world.”
The community was visibly enthused by the Prime Minister’s mention and now the community is all set to hold a literature festival this month. “We are now going to organize a Rung Lvu literature festival in January next year,” said N S Napalchyal, a former Uttarakhand chief secretary. ‘Lvu’ is a word in Rung which means language, he said. Around 20,000 people in India and 1,000 in Nepal speak the language at present, he said. Rung Kalyan Sanstha secretary Ram Singh Hyanki said.“We are highly enthused by the prime minister lauding our efforts to preserve the language.”
The initiative by the Rung community to preserve their heritage and culture is like a breath of fresh air at a time when people are quick to cut off their roots completely and never look back in search of newer pastures.