Santhali has become the first Indian tribal language to get a Wikipedia edition in its own script after the Santhali Wikipedia went live earlier this month.

“The Santhali Wikipedia got approval from the language committee of the Wikimedia Foundation on June 28 and went live on August 2,” said Jayanta Nath of the Indian chapter of Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia.

Wikipedia contributors from India, Bangladesh and Bangladesh generated the content to make this page possible, Nath said.

It presently has content of about 70,000 words.

Santhali is written in Ol Chiki script and spoken by 6.4 million people, according to the 2001 census, in India alone and its speakers live mostly in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Assam. It is also spoken in Bangladesh and Nepal.

The home page of the Santhali edition of Wikipedia carries an article on Raghunath Murmu, who created the Ol Chiki script.

There have been several initiatives in the past few months to push the Santhali language.

In November 2017, 24-year-old Shikha Mandi became the first radio jockey in the language. The programme is aired by Radio Milan 90.4 with listeners in West Bengal’s Jhargram and West Midnapore districts.

Several hundred students wrote their Class 10 board examinations under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) in the Ol Chiki script for the first time this year.

The Santhali language was heard for the first time on a global platform in March during the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a body made up of national parliaments from all over the world, when Uma Saren, a 33-year-old doctor by training and a Lok Sabha MP from Jhargram constituency, addressed a conference in Geneva.

The Wikipedia initiative was first taken up in 2012 when workshops were held, but lost steam soon after due to the lack of contributors.

The project was revived in September 2017 by the Bangladesh chapter of Wikimedia Foundation. Workshops were first conducted in Bangladesh in December 2017 and then in India in March this year.

“We are soon going to conduct more workshops in India, Bangladesh and Nepal,” said Manik Soren, information and research secretary of Jatiya Adibasi Parishad, a tribal-rights organisation in Bangladesh.

Soren was among the key contributors from Bangladesh.

Pashupati Prasad Mahato, an anthropologist, said this will help boost people’s interest in getting higher education in Santhali.

“The scope of higher education in Santhali is increasing over the past few years. Coming at this juncture, this will increase the scope of reading in Ol Chiki script and enthuse Santhali speakers to pursue higher education in their mother tongue,” Mahato said.

Among the 22 scheduled languages in India, Dogri, Bodo and Manipuri have no version of Wikipedia in their own language. The Assamese version of Wikipedia, which is live since 2002, is in the Bengali script.

Bishnupriya Manipuri, which is spoken mostly in parts of Assam and Tripura in India and Sylhet in Bangladesh, and Bhojpuri spoken mainly in Bihar are the only non-scheduled language to have its own Wikipedia edition.

However, the script of Bishnupriya Manipuri is Bengali.

Wikipedia is available in nearly 300 languages globally as of August 2018.

First Published: Aug 09, 2018 13:23 IST

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