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Language Conflicts And Subordination In India

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 3263 words Published: 8th May 2017

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Language is a vehicle of thought and a means of communication. When a population is linguistically homogeneous, language may contribute to the unity and the political stability of a state. When on the other hand, a country contains sizable minorities speaking different languages may arise serious challenges to the established state. Under latter conditions, conflict over issues like government’s language policy, may give rise to the outbreak of political violence. India has a diversity of language and government’s attempts to solve language problem was created the conflicts.

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Language is undoubtedly the most single possession of human race. Man is clearly distinguished from other specious by his capacity for using language. The term language is derived from the Latin word lingua meaning tongue. Historians of language consider speech as primary and writing as secondary. Dr.K.T.Khader brings some of the definitions of language which are in currently popular linguistic circles that is Ronald Wardhaugh’s definition “language as a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communications.”; Noam Chomsky’s definition “Language is a set (finite or infinite) of sentences, each finite in length and constructed out of a finite set of elements.” ; and the Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition, language as ” a system of conventional, spoken or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participant in its culture, communicate.” On the basis of these definitions we can say language is communication and making of meaning through written symbols, spoken word and visual imagery. [1] 

According to David Crystal, one of the foremost authorities on language is the primary out ward sign of a group’s identity. Language becomes an indicator of a community’s cultural ethos. [2] Language is also the most widely encountered symbol of emerging nationhood. Linguistic identity on the past as well as today continues to play a significant role in defining political and state identity as well as geographical boundaries. The boundaries of nation-states as well as states within countries are often defined on the basis of linguistic identity. The linguistic division of states in India after independence is the best instance for this. Political incompetence and lack of well-considered and long term policies with regard to language and script have caused a great deal of problems in whole over India. [3] Crystal says ‘people who no longer speak the language, or who have never spoken it, are excluded from the culture, even if on other grounds they believe themselves to be part of it. [4] This position is more likely to be espoused by people who do speak the indigenous language. Language can be used to affirm social solidarity among those who use it.

According to Mikhail Bakthin, a scholar mainly worked on philosophy of language, language is a “social phenomenon,” is a “verbal-ideological world” comprised of centripetal and centrifugal forces. [5] Centripetal forces result in a unitary language which Bakhtin elaborates to be “a system of linguistic norms” which are not only grammatical rules but also “ideologically saturated” with a “world view”; such a language creates “within a heteroglot [6] national language” the “firm, stable nucleus of an officially recognized language”. [7] Every individual or collective utterance participates in the unitary language (in its centripetal, unifying forces) and partakes of social/historical heteroglossia (centrifugal, stratifying forces). [8] The living, shaping environment of any utterance is “dialogized heteroglossia,” anonymous and social, as well as concrete and specific as individual utterance. This stratification and heteroglossia “widen and deepen as long as language is alive and developing”. [9] 

Bakthin observes that when any word is used to express an idea or describe an object, it encounters other words about the same idea or object, which then becomes “overlain with heteroglot social opinion,” “charged with value,” and “open to dispute.” In this dialogic interaction with this tension-filled environment, the word gets into “complex interrelationships” with other words, “merges with some,” and “recoils from others.” The word and utterance in any language shape themselves in this dialogic process. In colonial and postcolonial India, English words and phrases became part of other Indian languages precisely through this dialogic interaction. Nandita Ghosh observes this Bakhtinian process of hybridity is also filled with violence and displacements between languages, causing misgivings. [10] 

India is the home of many languages. The languages of India are divided into two large groups, the Indo-Aryan languages and the Dravidian languages, with a smaller number of languages belonging to unrelated phyla such as Tibeto-Burman. Linguistic records begin with the appearance of the BrāhmÄ« script from about the 6th century BC.The languages of India belong to several language families, the major ones being the Indo-Aryan languages (spoken by 72% of Indians) and the Dravidian languages (spoken by 25% of Indians). Other languages spoken in India belong to the Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto-Burman, and a few minor language families and isolates. [11] 

The Three-language formula is a formula of language learning formulated by the Union Education Ministry of the Government of India in consultation with the states. The formula was pronounced in the 1968 National Policy Resolution This formula directed that those in educational institutions, media, industry, and administration learn English and Hindi as the two official languages, and it also provided for the optional learning of Sanskrit, Urdu, or another regional language. This formula was still unsatisfactory because regional communities perceived their language to be in third place to English and Hindi in importance and market value. Nehru was unable to retain Hindi as the only official language as per the Official Languages Act in 1963; he had to amend it in 1967 to retain English as the associate official language. He also linguistically reorganized states and discouraged any demand for special languages unless these had popular support. [12] Nehru’s policies proved to be unpopular. Language riots broke out in Madras in 1950 and in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, and Punjab through the 60s and 70s, which partly fueled the rise of militant separatist movements in the 1980s.

The Anti-Hindi agitations of Tamil Nadu were a series of agitations that happened in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras State and part of Madras Presidency) during both pre- and post-Independence periods. The agitations involved several mass protests, riots, student and political movements in Tamil Nadu, and concerned the official status of Hindi in the state and in the Indian Republic. The first anti-Hindi agitation was launched in 1937, in opposition to the introduction of compulsory teaching of Hindi in the schools of Madras Presidency by the first Indian National Congress government led by C. Rajagopalachari. The new Constitution came into effect on 26 January 1950. Efforts by the Indian Government to make Hindi as the official language after 1965 were not acceptable to many non-Hindi Indian states, who wanted the continued use of English. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a descendant of Dravidar Kazhagam, led the opposition to Hindi. To relieve their fears, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru enacted the Official Languages Act in 1963 to ensure the continuing use of English beyond 1965. [13] 

On 25 January, a full-scale riot broke out in the southern city of Madurai, sparked off by a minor altercation between agitating students and Congress party members. To calm the situation, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave assurances that English would continue to be used as the official language as long the non-Hindi speaking states wanted. The riots subsided after Shastri’s assurance, as did the student agitation. [14] 

The Official Languages Act was eventually amended in 1967 by the Congress Government headed by Indira Gandhi to guarantee the indefinite use of Hindi and English as official languages. This effectively ensured the current “virtual indefinite policy of bilingualism” of the Indian Republic. There were also two similar (but smaller) agitations in 1968 and 1986 which had varying degrees of success. [15] 

The Konkani language agitations were a series of agitations that happened in the Indian state of Goa (formerly the union territory of Goa, Daman and Diu) during the post-Independence period. The agitations involved several mass protests, riots, student and political movements in Goa, and concerned the official status of Konkani in the state and in the Indian Republic. [16] 

The Kosli language movement has been campaigning for recognition for the Kosli language. This movement is going on from last five decades in the districts of Western Orissa or Kosal. Persons like Kosal ratna late Prayag Dutta Joshi, Dr. Nilamadhab Panigrahi and others have started this movement.. Kosli language is considered as a dialect of Oriya language. In the Census of India- 2001, Kosli language is shown as a mother tongue grouped under Oriya language. There are several Radio and T.V. programs in Kosli language. The main objective of this movement is to include the Kosli language in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution. [17] 

The Rajasthani language movement has been campaigning for greater recognition for the Rajasthani language since 1947. Rajasthani is still officially considered a dialect of Hindi. However, the Sahitya Akademi considers it a distinct language. [18] 

The Punjabi Suba movement aimed at creation of a Punjabi-majority subah (“province”) in the Punjab region of India in the 1950s. Led by the Akali Dal, it resulted in the formation of the Punjabi-majority Punjab state, the Hindi-majority Haryana state and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Some Pahari majority parts of the East Punjab were also merged with Himachal Pradesh as a result of the movement. [19] 

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In Maharashtra language conflict has taken a violent turn and Marathi is now being used as the instrument to drive out all non-Marathi speakers. In the nineteen sixties, a new political party called the Shiv Sena became a force to reckon with because it promoted the concept of Maharashtra for Marathi speakers only, the implication being that jobs in the state and especially in Bombay, should go to Marathi speakers and nobody else. Over the years the Shiv Sena has embraced different platforms including a fundamentalist Hindu stance. But two years ago the Sena split and the breakaway group, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has gone back to the original agenda of the Shiv Sena. [20] 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Hindustani, i.e., a blend of Hindi and Urdu, should be accepted as the national language for future use. So, the future members of the councils will take a pledge that till the use of English is stopped in correspondence, etc., at the national level, Hindustani should be used in the Imperial Council and regional languages should be used in the Provincial Councils. They should resolve that Hindustani would be implemented as the compulsory co-language in middle schools with freedom to choose either the Devanagari or the Urdu script. English language will be accepted in the field of administrative matters,

diplomacy, and international trade.” [21] 

Pierre Bourdieu assumes that the symbolic domination of one or a set of languages is directly a result of market-governed instrumental rationality. [22] The issues related to linguistic ideology with the structure of social stratification and division of classes in a speech community. According to N. Dorian, a noted scholar on language, most people feel a degree of attachment to their ancestral language. If conditions are reasonably, people identify with their own language and do not seek a preferable substitute. In case in which people have changed to another language and given up their own entirely, it has nearly always been due to a local history of political suppression, social discrimination, or economic deprivation. [23] 

Other factors that threaten the survival of a language include the small size of a language group, extinction of sizeable members of the community on account of wars, ethnic conflicts, displacement, and epidemics or due to migration necessitated by economic or social factors.

Crystal has suggested several steps the linguistic minority community could adopt to protect languages from extinction. These include increasing the prestige of the minority language within the dominant community, improving their economic status, power and authority, reducing the language to writing, and strong presence in the educational system. [24] 

India alone is home to about 380 languages. Northeast India is home to about 240 languages and dialects. There is also the hegemony and the dominance of the stronger groups over the weaker ones. In northeast India there are several factors that threaten language survival. These include geographical isolation of ethnic groups, migration of youth to towns and cities for education and work, ethnic conflicts and displacements. There is the absence of adequate policies to promote mother tongue education at primary school level. Often the members of the community themselves are not conscious of the danger of their language becoming extinct. According to Riley, the survival of a minority language is closely bound up with the affirmation and preservation of a distinct ethnic identity and culture. [25] 

The plight of minority languages in the world is very precarious as most of them are facing extinction. Scholars speak of ‘language murder’, ‘language death’ and ‘linguistic genocide’ to refer to the phenomenon of extinction of minority languages. [26] The most important direct agents in language murder are the media and the educational system. Behind them are the real culprits – the global economics, military and political systems. Children are taught through the medium of dominant languages – often forcing them to use only the dominant languages. [27] 

Children from minority language communities often attend classes taught in national or regional language that they do not understand. Many of them find it difficult to learn to read or master other academic skills, forcing them to drop out of school before completing primary school. Being poverty stricken and lower caste, most adivasis cannot afford an education in any of ‘official languages’ because it is expensive. Their exclusion from mainstream languages incapacitates them from representing their interests to government officials and bargaining for the funds set aside for their welfare.

One cannot ignore the fact that linguistic aspiration and ethnic identity continue to be underlying factors in some of the present day conflicts and tension as well. India beautifully combines a rich diversity of languages. Instead of seeing language plurality as a problem, we ought to see it as a resource. Our rich cultural and environmental resources and our varied tongues can be the best gifts that we can hand over to posterity. In colonial times, the British played havoc with us with their “divide and rule” politics. But it’s sixty-one years since we won independence. Do we really want to divide and tear the subcontinent apart in the name of language? Most other countries have a single language. How fortunate we in India are to have this treasure-trove of twenty-two major languages, not to mention hundreds of dialects. The further subordination any regional, and tribal languages creates a hierarchy, which becomes a site for the struggle for dominance and control of resources and power in India.


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