The question of minority languages

No state (or nation) in the world is unilingual. Every state in the world imposes its official language on linguistic minorities to the extent that all government communication is only in the official language of the state. But in India, even languages which have tens of millions of speakers have become minority languages because of Hindi imposition. This is a glaring violation of human rights with no parallel in the world, and therefore our protest.

The states of India have been created such that each has one major language. It was never the intention, and it is impossible, to make every state of India one hundred percent unilingual. I don't have migration in mind here, but the presence of minor languages such as Tulu in Karnataka and Badaga in Tamil Nadu. These two are only cited here as examples; there are such languages in every state of India, whether they have names or not.

If I had the power to grant statehood to even these minor languages, I would. I don't have any particular liking for multilingual states. But neither the people of India nor the states of India have ever had the power to make such grants. It is the Govt. of India which has had it from 1947 onwards. So, when it came to deciding how many states to create, it had no option but to grant statehood to linguistic peoples who crossed a certain cutoff population number. That's why separate states weren't formed for minority languages such as Tulu and Badaga. But if the speakers of such languages want to form new states, I personally don't think there can be any democratic way of opposing it.

We must understand that the very concept of a nation or state involves violence. Once we have adopted the concept, the only meaningful thing to do is to minimize that violence. It can never be eliminated. Right now, we are concerned about the rights of linguistic peoples who are tens of millions in number—such as the Kannadigas, the Tamils, the Marathis, the Odiyas, etc. In such discussions, linguistic peoples who are one or two millions in number or less, unfortunately tend to get not much attention. This cannot be otherwise.

As Rabindranath Tagore said, we must move towards that 'heaven of freedom' where 'tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection'. We cannot achieve that heaven or that perfection at one shot, but we must tirelessly strive towards them. Maybe, some time in the very distant future, every individual will be a state. That is the heaven of freedom that I wish the entire world becomes. But before we get there, we must first deal with linguistic peoples who are tens of millions or more in number—the speakers of the major languages, if you will. With this problem solved, our minds and hands will be free and trained to solve the problems of the speakers of the minor languages. These languages will themselves start appearing major then. And then we know what to do.

The only way to deal with every Indian language, major or minor, at the same time and in the same way is to destroy the Indian nation. But I don't think this is a viable option—not because of any attachment that I have for this nation, but because of the eternal threat from the rogue nations of the world.

"English Vinglish" must not perpetuate the lie about Hindi Gindi


There is yet another Hindi movie in the works. And there is yet another way of spreading Hindi hegemony in the works. And there is yet another battle that the non-Hindi speakers of India have to fight to assert that they too are Indian.
The movie in question is "English Vinglish", a trailer of which effortlessly made its way to my computer screen on August 14th. In it, Sridevi goes to a US Consulate in India seeking a visa and tells an American officer, “My English…weak”. The officer asks her “Ma’am, how will you manage in our country without knowing English?” Before Sridevi can answer, an Indian officer standing next to the American officer pats him on his shoulder and tells him matter-of-fact-ly: "Like you’re managing in our country without knowing Hindi".

Now, if that does not offend you, you have been programmed to consider Hindi hegemony as patriotism, as millions are continuing to be programmed formally in India’s schools and informally by Bollywood. The reason why the above dialogue is offensive is, English in the US is not the same as Hindi in India. To manage in the US without knowing English is not the same as to manage in India without knowing Hindi. For the umpteenth time, there are hundreds of millions of people in India who don’t know Hindi and are managing well enough, as they have done from the ages. They cannot be compared to Americans—i.e., they cannot be called foreigners yet, and this is exactly what the offensive dialogue does.

The US is often described as a graveyard for languages, and India’s Official Language policy already threatens to turn India also into one. But this is not something to take down lying if at all India is to become a moral nation. Casual discussions near the water-coolers in workplaces in India’s metros are one thing, and a movie is entirely another. But both need to change, and non-Hindi speakers of India must not be described as foreigners in India—even casually—if India must remain united as one nation.

The number of people who believe that Hindi is the national language of India, or that it ought to be, has become huge thanks to the lie perpetrated by the education system. Hindi is forced down the throats of hundreds of millions of innocent non-Hindi children, together with the lie that it is the Raj Bhasha or Rashtra Bhasha, depending on which dark political cloud covers the Sun of Truth. It has become increasingly difficult for the Truth to assert itself—the Truth that all the languages of India have the right to an equal status in India. Given that the number of Hindi speakers is growing out of proportion with the rest of the country, the voice of Truth will find it increasingly harder to be heard. Movies must make the voice of truth heard and not amplify the lie as the offensive dialogue in English Vinglish does.

Will the makers of English Vinglish take the necessary corrective action? The minimum that can be done is to remove the offensive dialogue and make an apology to the non-Hindi speakers of India.

Thoughts on Hindi and India's linguistic diversity

I love all the languages of the world, and given time, I would learn them all. If the theory of rebirth is correct, my love for languages will make me take birth as many times as required to learn every language on the planet. I speak very good Hindi. Even today, when I go to North India where Hindi is the language of the common man, I speak Hindi. But where I live, I utter not a single word of it. By choice.

I hate the imposition of Hindi on Indians. I hate the fact that I was made to learn Hindi in order to feel more Indian, and in order to appease the feeling of a few early politicians who felt it necessary to hide India's diversity from the world. I hate the fact that the growth of my own mother tongue, Kannada, which is spoken by close to sixty million people, is impeded by Hindi imposition. The fact that I speak good Hindi and love the language does not make me stop hating the system which taught it to me.

I would love to see Hindi grow and become a language which is on par with English, French, German, Japanese, etc. This it must do by becoming the chosen language for science, technology, and all other modern uses to which modern languages are put. And yes, this it must do without making it difficult for other Indian languages to do the same. This would be Hindi's vertical growth - a perfectly welcome one.

However, Hindi is growing horizontally, more or less like a cancer, by throwing money, half-nude women, and Government rules and regulations around. It is burning up India's linguistic diversity in the fire of desire and unjust law. This horizontal growth of Hindi, which results in both the horizontal and vertical destruction of all other languages of India, must stop if at all India must remain one nation.

Real growth is vertical growth. It's possible. My Hindi friends who don't think this vertical growth is possible aid the destruction of India's linguistic diversity. By becoming a "nation", which is the organized desire of a whole people, Indians have started the worship of a European deity of death called Endless Hunger. Now, this Endless Hunger must consume something. If it finds it difficult to consume the difficulties on the path of vertical growth, it consumes innocent humanity on the path of horizontal growth. This must stop.

Let's say no to pessimism!


I have come to feel that the Kodavas are like any other linguistic people in India, in feeling that their linguistic identity is becoming increasingly meaningless in today's world. Only, the Kodavas may be an extreme example of a people stuck with this feeling. But living with that feeling is no answer to the questions confronting the Kodavas or any other people of the world. I believe that the best way ahead for the Kodavas, as it is for every other linguistic people, is to do away with pessimism and bring their language up to speed so that it can compete in today's competitive world.

There is no denying that languages such as Kodava, that have not much of a history of literature, have more ground to cover than those that do. But this must not turn into fatalism, in the same way that a child lagging behind in the class must not consider his/her progress at school impossible.

I do not like to call any language as underdeveloped or laggard, because these terms are applicable when one uses a linear measuring scale to compare languages. Languages are not linear systems; they are mindbogglingly complex nonlinear ones, and linear scales can never do justice to 'measuring' them. It is as meaningless to 'measure' a language as it is to 'measure' a flower. Kodava Tak may not have much literature, but it has served the purposes of the Kodavas for thousands of years, and the Kodavas are a great people in many ways.

But the unfortunate reality of today is that languages are being measured using the linear scale of modern science, technology and human organization. Languages that have not been tailored to suit this linear scale are being called underdeveloped or laggard languages. The 'proof' of this is the relative material poverty of their speakers, which is oftentimes inflicted by the speakers of the languages 'at the forefront' in this respect.

In such a world, the speakers of every language have two options: (1) to accept the challenge and fight to win, and (2) to accept defeat in the challenge. I believe we should all accept the challenge and fight to win. And when we win, we should remember that we have not won, for believing it to be a victory is agreeing with the oppressors. Instead, we should win with the full understanding of our colossal defeat. Only then can we deliver ourselves from the bondage of the duality of victory and defeat.

(Pic: dinodia.com)