Thursday, June 27, 2013

Language issues

I am reading the book 'Language Conflict and National Development' by Jyotirindra Das Gupta. The role of language in drawing lines across population and its role in politics is as alive as probably it was several decades back. The genesis of this langauge conflict and the key aspects of what went earlier can to an extent help in understanding the popular sentiments of today. This is one of the areas of interest that I have today along with other scientific and sociological aspects pertaining to language development. I am thankful to Prof Rajesh and TISS which decided to choose the course on 'Language Mind and Society' in our curriculum on Education. Never realized that linguistics was such a deep aspect worth multi dimensional study.

History is fascinating as it is one way in which one can interpret the present by going well past today and then coming back to the present. The interesting part is that issues of language which are so fundamental to the modern fabric of our society are very easily ignored in our history books at school level for the very fact that these cupboards store within them most volatile skeletons that the powers that be would not want to be tampered with.

Most political parties have chinks in their armour and meticulously ensure that history books are written in most neutral ways possible without actually giving an opportunity for the study to really understand who played the key role in national development or its disruption.
In the absence of that, the perception of youth on these crucial matters is shaped mostly by popular opinion and feelings than any reasoned understanding. And both of them are of little value in helping us interpret things well enough.

Sharing a passage on the reasons for resentment of Southern states towards Hindi

"The opposition to Hindi found its strongest political expression in southern states, especially in Madras. In these states there had been a long tradition of suspician against the North. Even during the national movement, political leaders from the North were sometimes treaded as cultural outsiders in the South. For many leaders of the Dravidian movement, the North symbolized a potential source of Aryan domination. In part this was tied in with the anti-Brahmin resentment expressed by the non-Brahmin leaders of the Dravidian movement in South India. .............. It is not difficult to imagine why the identification of the southern Brahmins with Sanskritic culture, and of the latter with the Aryan symbolism evoked by the northern leaders, could attain a unique symbolic capability for political mobilization of the masses in the South. The northern leaders themselves were largely responsible for generating this resentment, if not consciously, at least by virtue of their actions.

As we have seen before, political mass mobilization in the North was substantially facilitated by the actions of many Hindu symbols. Phrases like Arya Samaj, Arya Sanskriti, Arya Bhasha, Arya Lipi- referring to the greatness of Hindu organization, culture, language and script respectively- were extensively used, not only by the Hindu communal leaders bu also by many of the leading lights of the Congress organization in North India, especially in UP and Punjab. Some of the national leaders like Tilak and Lajpat Rai defended the cause of Hindi and Deva Nagari by claiming that these were sacred Aryan inheritances. It was precisely the use of these Aryan symbols which substantially contributed to the alienation of Muslims. These Hindu leaders weighed this loss against the great mobilizational capacity of these symbols among the Hiindu masses. What they failed to see was the power of the Aryan symbols to alientate southern Hindus. They failed to develop a sensitivity to the idea that what is functional for mobilization in the North may be dysfunctional for communal unity in the North as well as for national unity in general."

Most of the ideas that I read in the book really revealed to me the gross errors that were done in the name of language based nationalistic movement initiatives that were started even before the independence.

The baggage of the errors still continue to haunt our present...