Justice at last!

The Ainu have become a people!

Persecuted and unrecognised for centuries, the Ainu, the original people of Hokkaido in Japan, have been finally granted justice. From now, the Japanese government will recognise them as a distinct ethnic group, who have their own language, music, and mythology. No longer will the Japanese government try to assimilate them into Japanese culture.

We are one species, Homo sapiens, but we are many people. Our biological differences may only be two-fold (male and female), but our cultural differentiation can run into many dimensions - linguistic, religious, geographic, by sexual orientation, by gender identity, etc.

Nation-states have long pretended that only one kind of people live within their borders, and that other kinds must be assimilated or exterminated. France does that with its many minorities - Corsicans, Bretons, Basques, Catalans and Occitans; the Turks do it to the Armenians and Kurds. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and organisations like the UN Human Rights Council and Amnesty International have in recent times brought enough pressure to have such extreme nationalistic notions suppressed and minority rights recognised.

Turkey recognised its Kurds in a minor way (it still thinks they are Turks) by allowing them to teach and broadcast in their own language since 2002. France allows some language rights, but it still pretends that France is one nation. The Japanese government granted the Ainu language rights in 1997, and today, recognises them as "an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture".

India is such a happy country that way - never a record against it for suppressing languages. The only attempt in the 1960s in spreading Hindi was a disaster, but it never sought to outlaw any language.

Today has brought sunshine to the Ainu, but it seems it happened because of realpolitik - Japan doesn't want egg in face during the G8 summit in Toyako, Hokkaido. But its a sunshine that's not going to darken in some time, and holds out hope for many other communities - in China, Burma, many African countries - that are still unrecognised. Someday, these words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. will ring everywhere on earth:-

"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"


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