Baum Tongue (Chittagong Hills, Bangladesh)
Language: baum (chin)
Population: 6,000 – 20,000
Language Family: Tibeto-Burmese
Written language: no (Spanish Latin)
Danger level: danger exists
The Chin people of Mongol origin, to which the Baum belongs, came to the southeastern part of the peninsula in the 14th century through Western China and Tibet. Baum and tagalog to english grammar translation speakers settled in the Indian states of Mizoram and Tripur, in the south of the Chin Mountains (Burma) and in the Chittagong Hills (Bangladesh). Currently, most of the Baum people live in the southeastern part of Bangladesh – in Bandarban, in the south of Chittagong. The Baum language is spoken by all generations.
Originally animists, the Baum people adopted Christianity from the British colonialists in the 20th century. Subsequently, they abandoned many of their cults and rituals, such as the worship of the supernatural and the sacrifice of animals. Several written monuments have survived – texts of Christian content written in Latin, although initially the language existed exclusively in oral form. There is a growing awareness among young Baum people of the threat to cultural identity associated with tradition and therefore language.
There are no exact data on the number of the Baum people; information from different sources differs significantly. According to the Baum Community Council, in 1998 there were about 20,000 representatives of this people. UNESCO, in turn, refers to research in 1991, according to which their number was 13,500 people, and according to the results of the state census of 1991 – 6978. Baum accuses the government of Bangladesh of deliberately reducing the data so that they do not have representation in the region and regional advice where every indigenous people should get a place by default. In addition, the Christian denomination argues that the baum are not a small indigenous people, but a religious minority, and therefore the measures taken to support the indigenous people should not apply to them.
The education system in Bangladesh is monolingual, although the constitution provides for instruction in the native languages of approximately 30 indigenous peoples. A people like the Baum, living in the inaccessible mountainous area of Chittagong, not engaged in trade and having little contact with the Bengali environment, practically does not come into contact with the state language. At school, children are confronted with a language of instruction that they do not understand. Therefore, many of them drop out in the early years. To save the indigenous literature of Bangladesh, which is often presented only in oral form, and their culture, according to the linguists of the University of Dhaka, it is necessary, at a minimum, to immediately introduce teaching in one or another native language in primary schools. The Ministry of Culture has neither the finances nor the personnel to carry out research on the languages of all the indigenous peoples of the country in order to develop a strategy for their preservation. In reality, however, it is a lack of political will to recognize the rights of indigenous people in Bangladesh.
After all, this would entail serious progress in the implementation of the peace treaty with the Chittagong District of 1997, which, among other things, provides for an end to the settlement of the Chittagong Hills by Bengali peasants, as well as a ban on the unbridled exploitation of natural resources. The Baum people burn the vegetation on the gentle slopes of the mountains, turning them into arable land in order to cultivate the main food plants: rice, pineapples, bananas, and various vegetables. Due to the nature of the landscape, the usable area is limited. The evictions from the villages, as well as logging, plantation breakdowns and the growing influence of monocultures on nature, have already had a negative impact on the Baum’s way of life. Gradually, the people are deprived of the natural foundations of their existence.
The lives and cultural identities of others, especially the small indigenous communities in Chittagong County, who, like the baum, live in very isolated situations, are also under threat. These include the peoples of Khumi (2090 people), Pankho (2500) and Asho (2340), whose languages belong to the same group of Cook-Chin-Naga, as well as Chak (or Sak; 5500 people) and Riang (500), languages which are included in various groups of the same Tibeto-Burmese Jingpo-Cognac-Bodo languages.
The situation is slightly better among the larger indigenous groups of Chittagong, in particular among the Chakma (350,000) and Marma (150,000) peoples, whose languages are written. There is no immediate threat to these languages, but the Chakma language has changed so much as a result of assimilation that, being originally Tibeto-Burmese, it turned into Indo-Aryan, adopting many features of the Bengali dialect Chittagong.