British Nation Then, Indian Nation Now

In the last post, we saw how forced juxtaposition brings about hatred between groups which have no natural antipathy to begin with, and how organic evolution brings about cooperation and friendship between the same groups. In this post, I'd like to point out glaring similarities between two recent forced juxtapositions which have plagued India: British colonization of India and the imposition of Hindi post independence. We'll also see what the former achieved, and what the latter is already achieving, albeit slowly.

Unorganized British traders and intellectuals would have simply continued their interactions with Indians until it was profitable to them and probably turned into naturalized Indians if they had lived here. But it took a multitude of traders and intellectuals well-organized as the British Nation to turn organic evolution into forced juxtaposition, and the seed of friendship and cooperation into hatred. It was the British Nation which juxtaposed tens of thousands of Britishers with Indians in a short period of time (yes, a couple of centuries years is a short period of time for these things!), armed them with the right to rule and destroy at will, and ultimately succeeded in creating hatred between the two societies.

When India became independent, the forced juxtaposition of the British was successfully undone, leaving mostly whatever can go on by ways of organic evolution to go on. However, this undoing required the rise of the Indian Nation, that is, a political India which never existed before the British. Rabindranath Tagore was completely opposed to the idea of this Indian Nation, because he saw that as the perfecting of organization and corruption of the power of self-protection which would ultimately make India goad all its neighbouring societies with greed of material prosperity, and consequent mutual jealousy, and by the fear of each other's growth into powerful-ness.

He also held the fear that the Indian Nation would stop Indians and Europeans from learning whatever is worth learning from each other by way of organic evolution - seeds of which were seen in M. K. Gandhi's rejection of everything English - such as education and textile machinery. Even today, there is no dearth of ultra-nationalists in India who look at anything uttered by Europeans as against the national interest of India and everything Indian as for the national interest of India - however steeped in vice that may be. The positioning of Hindi as the official language of India where two other European products (first, of having all state languages as official and second, the English language) are provably better is a glaring example of Tagore's fears coming true.

I have argued earlier that the primary concern of Tagore - that the Indian Nation would goad all its neighbouring societies with greed of material prosperity, and consequent mutual jealousy, and by the fear of each other's growth into powerful-ness has come true not with regard to external societies, but with regard to internal societies. India has not yet risen to that level of greed and perfection of organization and science where it can goad other Nations such as say China or Pakistan or Russia or the United States of America, but the version of India which is enshrined in the constitution has become the license for internal goading. I am referring to the Constitution of India according a higher status to Hindi than every other Indian language. This has become the license for Hindi speakers to literally rule over the speakers of other Indian languages who are less important by definition. This has forcefully juxtaposed Hindi speakers with the speakers of other languages all over India.

Now the Indian Nation has juxtaposed tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of Hindi speakers with other Indians in a short period of time (if a century is a short period of time, 60 years is too short!), armed them with the right to rule and destroy other Indian languages at will, and has ultimately succeeded in creating hatred between the two societies. There are some who believe that having Hindi in parallel with other Indian languages cannot be called imposition - but the fact is, Hindi is the only Indian language in matters of the Central Government, without any parallel Indian language. From the perspective of non-Hindi speaking states, then it was the British, and now it is the Hindis. Not much has changed. There exists in the experience of these states a forced-juxtaposition continuum.

Notwithstanding Tagore's ideas in these matters, the fact is: the solution which finally did undo forced juxtaposition of the British was the Indian Nation which he so hated. Just as a thorn must be used to remove another thorn, it was the Indian Nation under M. K. Gandhi which ultimately succeeded in removing the forced juxtaposition. Of course, it came with all the negatives of the Nation which Tagore so feared (two of which I've pointed out above).

If the past is any indicator of what the future holds in its womb, it appears that the forced juxtaposition of Hindi all over India by the Indian Nation will result in the development or strengthening of state-level nationalisms in post-independence India, which will not rest until the forced juxtaposition is removed. This is already seen most visibly in the Southern and North Eastern states. Also, other types of forced juxtapositions such as that due to which large numbers of speakers of one language are still living second-grade lives in states where they form minorities, and that which state governments themselves engage in, will all aid such nationalisms. Inter-state issues between geographically adjacent states are, of course, due to a bad job done during the reorganization of states. All this, of course, will cost all Indians time and money which are better invested in what Tagore proposed as the solution to India's problems: good education in the mother tongue.

This is the truth as we see it at Banavasi Balaga. The question is - will thinkers and policy makers and men and women of power realize this and take corrective actions?

21 comments:

Damodharan said...

Well... I agree that Indian Union is trying to impose hindi on to other non-hindi states at every given opportunity, but i don't think there is any hatred exist among the common people on either societies.

Kiran Rao Batni said...

@ Damodharan,

I agree with your comment. You need to look at the groups as a whole - including all the elements of those groups. Any tension between those groups is represented by the word "hatred". It doesn't matter for the purposes of this topic that such tension or hatred is not present in everybody in the society. The word comes from Dr. Ambedkar's use (see earlier articles here).

Al Wasliya said...

Southern states are not without fault on the matter. Whenever there has been an opportunity to articulate a response to this forced juxtaposition, it has inevitably been either violent (riots in the 60s) or with a hue of state-nationalism.

Hindi, at the end of the day, is a cosmetic construct (I will not call it a "language"), created through a haphazard incorporation & replacement routine of "garishly" Persian/Arabic words with their Sanskritised replacements. That such a language should enjoy status and privilege in India over languages steeped in antiquity and tradition such as Tamil, Kannada and Telugu is certainly wrong. This is without question.

However, can our Southern (and North Eastern) states construct a response to such imposition (most recently evidenced by Kapil Sabil's articulation in the new Educational policy) without resorting to violence, nationalistic or linguistic chauvinism and demagoguery?

This is not a South vs. North debate. Quite simply, this is a an issue of upholding the inalienable right of equality of all Indians.

Mannaran said...

@Al Wasliya,
Do not say that southern states take up violence as if we like it. Look at the history and references before making such harsh statements.

When the constitution itself is hell bent on pushing Hindi, obviously Anti Hindi Imposition can be seen as anti constitutional.

Suggest me, how can you fight imposition using the means you said?

It is funny and ironic to come to southerners and say, how to oppose imposition rather than asking hindi-pushers to understand the issue. It is like saying, I will hit you, but you should not defend yourselves in this or that way. First stop hitting me.

This accusation has to actually come from people, who lost their lives for upholding the fight against imposition. People self killed themselves, and got shot by police fire. Now you are saying, it is violence created by southerners.

The logic is very simple. The harder one pushes, more violent the reaction will be. Check it out
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Hindi_agitations_of_Tamil_Nadu

Apart from this, regarding your description of Hindi, the answer is "We don't care". Yes, we don't care what Hindi is. All we want to say is "Do Not Push it, even if it has 20000 years of literature. Our language is good for us. We have other things to take care to grow our language. We don't have time to fight Hindi imposition."

カンナダ語伊賀 said...

Some one said opposing imposition is fine but dont disrespect Hindi. Don't hate/create hatred blah blah.

Mannaran rightly says above "It is like saying, I will hit you, but you should not defend yourself in this or that way. First stop hitting me."

maaysa said...

I support Mannaran. We southerners need not respect the thing which is aggressive, impolite and forcefully imposed on us. Not respecting doesn't mean disrespecting.

We all must behave as if the Hindi thing doesn't exist on this earth. And if one speaks Hindi speaks with us, it is equivalent to he saying nothing, just make meaningless sound which we must usually ignore using common sense.

For me, my world is Hindi-free. I don't know Hindi, and won't be knowing at any cost.! Because I don't need it.

maaysa said...

@Al Wasliya

State-nationalism obviously exists because all the people in India do belong to different ethnicity and races. We are not similar people all over the country.

Indian states are created based on language. The language is the most powerful force which binds people. A Bengali feels he belongs to Bengal. He hardly feel he BELONGS to Karnataka or Tamil naadu though he may feel he belongs to India.! But he will definitely have a relationship or bond with Bangladesh because of the language binding. Same goes with a Srilankan and Indian Tamil, Urdu speaker of Pakistan and India.

And more our we southerners have thousand years of history of being independent countries unlike north. Mysore was a Kannada country under Kannada kings Wodeyar till 1947, with Kannada as the national language, a national anthem in Kannada, Kannada as the main administrative language etc. Same goes with Malayalam, with Travancore Kingdom and Tamil with Madras presidency.

But where as North India was almost always ruled by external people steating with Alexander, Huns, Moghal, British etc etc.. The last native ruler to rule North may be during Maurya or Gupta( I don't know ).

カンナダ語伊賀 said...

If we are talking about promoting a language just to transcend the language problem in different state keeping the language of the State intact then I think it is possible for "one India".

In any other cases,it will run into one hell of a resistance and may be an emotionally divided india.

Al Wasliya said...

@mannaran, maaysa - Don't think you got my point. If there's something in the Constitution that a section of India doesn't like, it can taken up in Parliament. It you YOUR constitution - you can change it. That's the whole purpose of contitutional amendments. Does anyone really need to resort to violence?

It would be fairly simple to bring up the issue in Parliament and suggest that GoI favor according status to language based on the 8th schedule or the official languages act (1963) - both of which recognise 22 "scheduled"/"official" languages in India, without any hierarchy. But has any minister/MP from the south done this recently?

Recently, Azhagiri was refused the request to address Parliament in Tamil. It goes without saying that this is unfair. But apart from expressing momentary outrage, what has been done to address this?

Please don't misinterpret my intentions - I'm from the south and a Kannadiga. As the artcile says, I think we all see this juxtaposition as wrong. My point is, what's being done about it? Saying "we don't care" doesn't solve the issue. If no one cares, nothing will change.

maaysa said...

@Al Wasliya

Since we care, that's why we have enguru, karnatique, KRV etc..

South has done lots of things starting with Anti-Hindi protest to Azhagiri trying to speak in Tamil. Don't think that Anti-Hindi movement was unsuccessfull. If Hindi was consitutionally declared as the one and only national language in 1962, the situation would be worse.

If more and more ministers from South start using there own language in parliament then obivously there will be change. But to do that we need to build the thinking.
All the classical language issue started by Tamils is also a way of expressing things. Because of that Tamil, Kannada and Telugu get a lots of benefits including monetary ones.

All the regional party politics has started from south, though the Kannadigas needs to cash it. A classic examples are Jayalalita bringing down Vajpayee and DMK having 8 ministers in centre.

Look at our economic development.

Remember Periyar movement in Tamil naadu, Potti shrinivalu in Andra, Alur venkat raya in Karnataka etc etc

To bring any change, there needs a start and these things are the start.

One brilliant thing which all the Tamils minister including Chidambarm have done is not never use Hindi in parliament. They always use English. It is also in a way indicating that we don't need Hindi!

If you are Kannadiga, you can tell us and answer you own question "What can be done?".

If we don't care the very existence of Hindi, we are essentially giving strong message to the imposition.

Al Wasliya said...

@maaysa - Thanks for the reply. I sincerely feel that this is an issue that must be addressed in Parliament. Anti-Hindi rights are misplaced and may achieve temporary relief, but do they address the real issue (i.e., why one "Indian language" should have a higher status than others)?

This is a constitutional issue - it is a structural flaw in our republic and the place where it should be challenged is in the Parliament. Not on the streets.

"Don't care about the very existence of Hindi" is classic disengagement. Disengagement is a poor tool to utilize against the Indian framework.

We've seen this time and time again. The common man is disillusioned by corruption & bureaucracy, so he disengages from government. All this breeds is status quo. Not change. What is needed is not disengagement, what is needed is engagement.

maaysa said...

@Al

We are engaged in disengaging to Hindi :)

What is your solution?

We obviously like all the languages to the official languages of center

カンナダ語伊賀 said...

@Al Wasliya
You have presumed that all are up to creating violence.

On one hand you subscribe for engagement of public, you want people not to breed the status quo and all that, but on the other your solution to the problem is to ask ministers to raise the issue in the parliament? thats it.

How are you planning to engage the general public in this. and forming a public opinion.

Al Wasliya said...

@maaysa, カンナダ語伊賀

My solution is one of two:

1. To take up the issue of favoring an interpretation of permissible languages in Parliament, either along the lines of the 8th Schedule (aka "Scheduled languages of India") or along the lines of the Official Languages Act. I would favour the 8th schedule because the Official Languages Act imo repeats the same mistakes of the constitution and accords special status to Hindi and English (including providing funds for the promotion & development of Hindi in non-Hindi states).

2. If the above is shot down (and I suspect it will), English should be the language for Parliamentary affairs. This is how it already works in the Supreme Court, so why not the Parliament? If the MP is unable to converse in English, translation may be provided.

カンナダ語伊賀, engagement with the public and taking up the issue in Parliament are not mutually exclusive. As you say, I do subscribe for the engagement of the public, but that should be only part and not the entire extent of our response.

The flaw exists at the very structure of the Republic of India. That's where it must be changed. Public engagement is fine, but what do you expect to happen next, after the public is engaged and aware of the issue?

Thennavan said...

@maaysa, @Al Wasliya

I think @Al Wasliya is correct in saying that the language issue should be resolved permanently in the parliament by according the official language status to all Indian languages in the Central Government. Otherwise, it would only be a temporary solution like the promise, not a law or an official clause in the constitution, of Nehruji that Hindi would not be compulsory for non-Hindi people until they accept Hindi. As it is only a promise, the Central Government has officially every right even now to compel all including Tamils to study Hindi.

But, people with power (at Centre) don't listen even to the genuine demands so easily and rather neglect and make the aggrieved party resort to violent means before being even noticed.

It should be noted that the Tamils have been fighting against the imposition of Hindi since even before independence. Tamils are asking for the official language status for Tamil at the Centre also and also for more autonomy at the State. However, as long as only Tamils do this, the equal status for all Indian languages at the Centre and more autonomy for states will only be a dream. At the most, it can help Tamils to stop Hindi from being pushed down through their throat, but, not to attain the official status for Tamil at the Centre. All non-Hindi people, at least south Indians, should work together so that all languages get official status at the Centre. But, will it ever happen? Of course, it is happening at the individual level in many states, especially Karnataka. But, will it transform into a organizational demand?

An example of the poor status of non-Hindi languages in India is as follows: A Hindi person can go to a Central Government office in any state, say Karnataka, and do his business in Hindi without even knowing English, whereas a Kannadiga living permanently in Karnataka can not use Kannada even in a Central Government office in Karnataka. Will this ever change?

A question for Kannadigas: When Tamil was accorded the classical language status, you had immediately reacted by asking for the same status to Kannada also. Good. But, why don't many (even most of) Kannadigas do the same vis-a-vis Hindi or Sanskrit?

maaysa said...

@Thennavan

"But, why don't many (even most of) Kannadigas do the same vis-a-vis Hindi or Sanskrit?"

Here is the difference between a Kannadiga and Tamil. Many Kannadigas still think Sanskrit is divine and superior to Kannada. And about I don't think Kannadas have much affection except some in Hubli.

But you are right. You see, we didn't have a Periyar in Karnataka!

As far as the classical language issue, you Tamils enlightened us about our own language and its pride. I can only say 'Thanks'! :D

maaysa said...

@Thennavan

"But, why don't many (even most of) Kannadigas do the same vis-a-vis Hindi or Sanskrit?"

Here is the difference between a Kannadiga and Tamil. Many Kannadigas still think Sanskrit is divine and superior to Kannada. And about Hindi, I don't think Kannadas have much affection except some in North.

But you are right. You see, we didn't have a Periyar in Karnataka!

As far as the classical language issue, you Tamils enlightened us about our own language and its pride. I can only say 'Thanks'! :D

Thennavan said...

@maaysa

"We didn't have a Periyar in Karnataka"

What an irony! Periyar himself is a Kannadiga by mother tongue though he was born in, lived in and enlightened the Tamil Nadu and Tamils. Actually, he wanted to include all south Indians under Dravida Nadu. However, he was accepted only in Tamil Nadu and very fondly and reverently called 'Thanthai Periyar' by the majority of Tamils. There is no town / city in Tamil Nadu without the statue of Periyar.

For full details about Periyar: read Wikipedia

saara said...

do we have what is call "will". when state govt wanted to make "kannada" medium of instruction compulsory, most of the schools n parents went against it and file an affidavit in court. When we are not been able to encourage our "own" people to make their kids study in kannada, how are we going to take on the outside world. Current genretaion, whom we see our future,are becoming more and more ignorant about kannada cause.

ಅಜೇಯ said...

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,839222,00.html Maybe this link will provide some perspective on the anti-hindi movement of the earlier days.

maaysa said...

@Thennavan

I know Periyar was a born Kannadiga. But what's the use for Kannadigas? Nobody knows him in Karnataka.

Periyar is silently and proposefully sidelined!

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