The CNCR (Consiliul National a Culturii Romilor -- National Council of Romani Culture), an institution of the Romanian Government, headed by the non-Rom Mihai Neacsu, has published a book paying homage to the honour of Nicolae Gheorghe via the publisher Amare Rromentza. The book is called From Victimisation to Citizen Consciousness: The Route to Roma Inclusion.
The book we are reviewing is of the anthology type. The author Martin Kovats, in the article The Integration and Politicization of Roma Identity, makes an extremely insulting claim about the Romani language:
One of the most commonly recognised cultural markers for the basis of identity is language. As far as the discussion about the Roma is concerned, the usual reference is to the Romani language. However, the Romani language is NOT the language of the “Roma” (page 129).
The meaning of these offensive claims against the ancestors of the Roma killed by the police of the Empress Maria Theresa, who forbade the use of the Romani language under the threat of 40 lashes with the whip, is a political one. Why? Martin Kovats appealed to the statisticians who counted about 1.5 to 2 million Romani speakers in Europe, out of a Romani diaspora of 8-10 million. Furthermore, Kovats says that if there are no native Romani speakers in the UK or Spain, this supports his negative claim. Martin Kovats's conclusion is definitive:
Therefore, language in general, and the Romani language in particular, cannot offer a basis for identifying Roma in political discourse.
Through these words, Martin Kovats excludes Romani-speaking Roma from political life. It is an established fact that native Roma have no right to represent themselves in their own culture or politics. It is a violation of the right of self-determination of nations. Yaron Matras, professor of Romani language at Manchester University, made this offensive statement when attempts were made to set up an institution in which the Roma could present their own culture without the help of non-Roma (1): “The plan for a European Romani Institute is a hindrance to the Roma of Europe.”
Here's what Mihail Kogalniceanu said about the Romani language:
Through their language, the Roma feel proud, look down on other peoples, and live in specific castes, preserving their customs and their nomadic life .... The language has made them reject the culture and through it they have been able to endure a life of slavery in our country lasting 400 years. (Page 30, An Outline of The Gypsies, translated into Romanian by Gheorghe Ghibănescu in 1900).
Here is what Roma elder Ronald Lee of Canada says about Romani language in his book “Das duma Romanes” on page 218, the old Romani tradition concerning Ţigani who do not know Romani: “Rom bi shibako nai Rom” (He who does not speak the language is not a Rom). The Ţigani who do not speak Romani are called Kashtale: Wo si Rrom kashtalo – he is a wooden one (he cannot speak Romani). Nai chache Rroma, Kashtale si -- They are not real Roma, they are wooden ones. Rrom Kashtalo would be Rrom bi-shibako, without a tongue. (Ronald Lee, p. 164). Ronald Lee's book can be found online.
Martin Kovats is actually helping Nicolae Gheorghe, who acknowledged in a famous interview given to Iuliu Rostas that there are two different races, the Roma and the non-Romani-speaking Ţigani, and that they, the non-speakers, have won, they have stolen the genuine rights from the Roma:
Nicolae Gheorghe: And? Who succeeded: the Roma or the Ţigani?
Iuliu Rostas: I think we actually present ourselves as Roma, you cannot present as Ţigani. Because the emancipation project is for the Roma, the emancipation project does not belong to the Ţigani.
Nicolae Gheorghe: Whose emancipation project? Who is the political actor presenting the project?
Iuliu Rostas: Roma activists.
Nicolae Gheorghe: Who are Ţigani. The majority of us come from among the Ţigani , not from the traditional Roma “clans”.
Iuliu Rostas: They define themselves as Roma, they re-brand themselves as Roma.
Nicolae Gheorghe: That's what I meant, but they are not necessarily recognized as "legitimate" Roma (Rom sau Ţigan, p. 334)
Nicolae Gheorghe: And if you can have access to resources by playing the Roma card it's good, because at a given moment we are all Roma. (Rom sau Ţigan, page 336)
Nicolae Gheorghe: When I die, when I talk constantly with death, I want to die as a man, or as a Ţigan, but I cannot die as a Rom. (Rom sau Ţigan, page 328)
In conclusion I would like to announce to the Romani speakers that Mihai Neacsu, the director of the CNCR, an institution of the Romanian Government, created for Romani culture and language, is not Rom, because he does not know the Romani language. This is our custom, and it would be good for the Romanian Government to accept our customs, otherwise it would mean that we are denied the right to self-determination in our own culture.
Without the Romani language, Romani culture does not exist!
Rom or Ţigan The dilemmas of an ethnonym in the Romanian world, Institute for the Study of the Problems of National Minorities, Cluj-Napoca, 2012.
Transalted by Dr. Natalia Ivend. Thank you Bibie!