Tribes in News

Who are the Tangams?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tangam tribe

Mains level: Tribal issues in the NE

Last week Arunachal CM released a book titled “Tangams: An Ethnolinguistic Study Of The Critically Endangered Group of Arunachal Pradesh”.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Q.Consider the following statements about Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India:

  1. PVTGs reside in 18 States and one Union Territory.
  2. A stagnant or declining population is one of the criteria for determining PVTG status.
  3. There are 95 PVTGs officially notified in the country so far.
  4. Irular and Konda Reddi tribes are included in the list of PVTGs.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1, 2 and 3

(b) 2, 3 and 4

(c) 1, 2 and 4

(d) 1, 3 and 4

Who are the Tangams?

  • The Tangams is a little-known community within the larger Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh and resides in the hamlet of Kugging in Upper Siang district’s Paindem circle.
  • In 1975, the community’s population was pegged at 2,000 spread across 25 villages.
  • From 2016 to 2020, a team from the Centre for Endangered Languages (CFEL) of Rajiv Gandhi University (RGU), carried out extensive field research and documented the community.
  • Their survey revealed that Tangams were now concentrated in only one village (Kugging), with only 253 reported speakers.
  • As per the UNESCO World Atlas of Endangered Languages (2009), Tangam — an oral language that belongs to the Tani group, under the greater Tibeto-Burman language family — is marked ‘critically endangered’.

Why are there only a few speakers?

  • Kugging is surrounded by a number of villages inhabited by Adi subgroups such as Shimong, Minyongs, as well as the Buddhist tribal community of Khambas, among others.
  • To communicate with their neighbours over the years, the Tangams have become multilingual, speaking not just Tangam, but other tongues such as Shimong, Khamba and Hindi.
  • They rarely speak their own language now since their population is restricted to a single village. Moreover, the Tangams are relatively unknown — even within their state.
  • The village lacks proper infrastructure in all basic sectors of education, health, drinking water facilities, road and electricity. Roads have reached Kugging only in 2018.
  • Not a single person from the community has gone to university.

Why are the languages at risk?

  • The diversity of languages has led various communities to depend on English, Assamese and colloquial variety of Hindi called Arunachalee Hindi as the link languages.
  • Many believe this shift has led to the loss of native languages of the tribal communities.
  • Even the numerically larger tribes like Nyishi, Galo, Mishmi, Tangsa etc. whose population exceed the ten thousand mark are also not safe from endangerment, hence marked unsafe.
  • The younger generation of these tribes especially in the urban areas has mostly discarded the use of their mother tongue.

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