As the sound of ‘Dhan- Dhan Turr..Dhand Tanatang Turr…Noa Hake Asur Ahada Radio Enegabu Degeabu Siringabu Urrarr’ (Come sir, dance and talk…This is Asur Mobile Radio) reverberates through the hustle- bustle of the weekly market ‘haat’ in Netarhat, a crowd gathers around to listen to the local news, songs and gather other information relevant to them - all in their local dialect.
Around 200 Kms from Ranchi, nestled in the dense forests of Jharkhand, the Asur mobile radio is the first programme of its kind started by the members of the Asur community that is among the few Primitive Tribal Groups in the State to preserve their language.
The first broadcast of the pre recorded 30 minute programme was aired on January 19 in the Kotia haat and since then about 16 more have been aired on different locations in the Latehar district.
“The programme on an average is generally between 30 to 45 minutes and the mode of transmission is a public address system. A radio broadcast involves a large amount of money and many legal formalities which we cannot afford. So we decided to record pre record the broadcast packed with incidents from across the globe and also with news and songs related to the community, transfer it on a pen drive and play it through sound boxes,” said Sushma Asur who has been at the forefront of the mobile radio.
Due to the lack of resources and transportation facilities, the broadcasters generally trek across the forests and mountains to reach the market and play the recordings.
Asur radio programme leader and General Secretary, Jharkhand Bhasha Sahitya Sanskriti Akhra Vandana Tete feels that the initiative has received over whelming response from the locals. “This is something the people of the region relate to. The primary objective it to protect the language and also popularize it amongst the coming generations as the new generation is getting detached from its language People around the area are keen to participate in the programme and also request us to organise the event at their place,” said Tete. Natives of the Latehar and Gumla districts, the tribe has a population of around 23,000 with only about 10,000 well versed in the Asur language.
“Since their language is at risk, there is also a threat to their survival. This is because their land has been acquired and they have no traditional means of livelihood. There are plans of starting similar programmes for the Birhor and Birjia communities as well,” added Tete.
The Asur tribe is among the nine PVTGs — Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups found in Jharkhand while the language features in the UNESCO list of definitely endangered languages. Retired Principal Chait Toppo, Melan Asur, Roshni Asur, Manita Asur, Ajay Asur are the others actively involved in creating the programme.