Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Purpose of language is to unite people please don't use it to divide them.

Our ancestors invented language to use it as a useful tool for communication. Like every animal on our planet we also need to communicate with each other for various reasons, efficient communication is also key to the survival of every species on our planet. Spoken languages were invented to satisfy our need to communicate with each other. Humans are social animals and we like to communicate with each other more compared to other animals. Our body language might be universal but there are thousands of spoken languages and different dialects. Spoken languages differ from country to country and region to region. We all know by experience that same spoken language is a very good medium to form bonds between two people  or communities. India is such a diverse country and pluralism in every sense whether it is language, religion, food, clothing, culture is unique feature of India. In this part of the world for many years many different cultures lived side by side in reasonable harmony. Even now in India most states speak different languages and have very unique cultural features, even withing the state there are different dialects of same language. Diversity and pluralism are unique features of India but these things also pose very unique challenges and create very complicated problems. India don't have any national language, it is very difficult to create any consensus on which language should be its national language. Hindi is spoken by more than 40% people in India, and it has status of unofficial national language of India. But there are many states (specially in south) where they don't understand and speak Hindi. I don't think India needs any national language because of its unique diverse nature, status of official language is good enough for Hindi. It is already one of the most popular languages in India and its use can be encouraged without making it a national language.

English is also very popular language in India, specially among the educated class, this is mainly because of its demand in job market and its status as international language. Dominance of English in higher education (specially in the area of science and commerce) has created unique challenges for students who get their primary education in regional language. They face mammoth task of getting familiarized with English version for various concepts and terms when they enter into college. I faced similar problem when I started my higher education and believe me it was not a easy task at all, for first few months I had no clue what my teachers were teaching in class. Current protests of UPSC aspirants against aptitude test in English language is another example of complicated language problem in academia. Students coming from regional language medium schools feel being discriminated when they see unfair advantage offered to students from English or Hindi medium schools. This issue is very complicated but is also a very important one and I hope our government can come up with some viable solution where students from regional language schools don't feel discriminated.

Belgaum border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka is also because of language problem, in spite of Marathi being a spoken language among majority of its residents Belgaum was included in Karnataka rather than Maharashtra. This has created a border dispute between these two state which is still going on. The matter is pending in supreme court, no one knows when this issue will be resolved but lot of politics is already being played using this topic. Recent lathi-charge by Karnataka police on protesting mob just confirmed once again urgent need to attend this issue. Purpose of any language is to connect people, not to divide. Language was invented to communicate with each other not to fight with each other, this politics using language as a criteria to divide people should stop. I always wonder why two states belonging to same country fight over a piece of land, after all that part is a part of India why does it matter to Karnataka if Belgaun goes to Maharashtra if it has majority of population which speaks Marathi? If the situation has changed now and it has majority of Kannada speaking people then Maharashtra should not stake its claim on that land. This is very trivial dispute which is stuck in a political deadlock. Even though the state governments from both the states belong to same political party there is no progress in resolving this conflict. Ultimate sufferers in all these type of issues are common people, they suffer as their daily lives get disturbed by all these protests and actions taken by government to curb the agitation movements. Various political parties try to reap benefit by instigating people's emotions and sensationalizing the issue, this all need to stop. Some concrete steps to resolve this issue should be taken rather than just sensationalizing it.

Any border dispute related with language or exam issue (UPSC entrance exam problem), these all are avoidable or easily resolvable issues but wasted interest of some political parties or organizations don't allow to reach any consensus to resolve them. People who are suffering because of these issues need to realize this and act accordingly. Respective governments also should stop their attempts to crush any peaceful demonstrations by using brutal force. People have right to express their grievances in peaceful manure and as a government they have to listen to their problems and try to find some reasonable solutions. Ignoring any problem only aggravates it, no authority (government or private) should use language to discriminate people, it should not be used as a political tool to divide people. Role of language is to unite people, please let it do its job of uniting people.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]


  1. " tanSEN was bengali my dear friend, so were a lot of other people! want to see the entire list as it stands today? so was subash chandra bose and sri aurobindo :)

    and i can name a million others and i am proud to say our greateness can be exerted beyond our national borders.
we are the fifth largest speakers!

    we bengalis have won pretty much every award in the world stage
you name it we have it and we are damn proud of what we have :)
its the only country in the world which took rebellion because it couldn't speak its mother tongue and it won! and won so hard that the UN had to adopt that day as the international language day, which celebrates languages from all over the world. "

    MBA (2013), IMT Bhaziabad
    Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
    hometown: Kolkata

    1. I am sorry but your comment didnt make any sense to me, what are you exactly trying to say here? It will be great if you can elaborate it or write in such a way that people can understand what you mean to say.
      Thanks in advance.

    2. Thank you Vinay for considering my request.

      Sardar Patel was not in favour of such language-based division. But unfortunately he was not keeping well during those days and he died before anything could be done.

      Shantaram Prabhune

    3. Language based creation of states didn't help much, it created strong regional sentiments based on language people speak. I believe they should have avoided this approach and must have divided states only based on administrative needs, but it didn't happen and we need to deal with these issues now.

  2. Division of states on basis of language is correct. Otherwise many of our local languages which have over 1000 years of history will meet with doom. You cannot expect a Bengali to preserve Malayalam nor a Kannada to preserve Assamese. It was therefore felt that linguistic division would do away with the issue of how to best preserve our linguistic culture and heritage.


    1. Thanks Varun for visiting the blog and sharing your thoughts. I have few questions about your hypothesis, why you think people don't care about other language and they want to destroy them (or don't want to preserve them)? If Bengali is not exposed to Malayalam or Kannadi is not exposed to Assamese how you expect them to preserve these languages? Rather in current political environment political parties try to fuel local regional sentiments by projecting other languages and people from other states as threats to their so called local culture, this is the reason we see lot of regional politics and enmity between people from different language groups....

      Let me illustrate this by using my own example, my parents are from UP but I was born and raised in Maharashtra, main language which most people speak in my own family is Bhojpuri, but my mother tongue is Marathi..For most of my life till now I only spoke this language, I also speak Bhojpuri, Hindi and English and I love all these languages. In my family we celebrate all festivals from Maharashtra and from UP. I respect English, Hindi and Bhojpuri as much as I respect Marathi, this is just because I was exposed to all these amazing languages with right spirit, none of these languages were projected as a threat to each other in front of me. My parents never objected to my Marathi speaking rather they were glad that I learned this amazing local language. So the logic that people from different cultures or regions can not preserve each others traditions is wrong, it can happen if we allow it to happen.

      This linguistic or regional politics if not controlled can become threat to unity of a diverse nation like India. We are very diverse and plural country and for our unity we need to respect and understand each others sentiments. Interaction between different communities and cultures is the only option to remove the feeling of any enmity between them. This is why I feel that creation of states based on language was wrong.

    2. I will have to agree with Varun. Very large languages such as Marathi or Bengali (as our friend Kamonasish Mazumdar will be happy to hear) do not run the risk of extinction. But some smaller Indian languages are definitely doomed as they are not the dominant language of a state. For example, the language KUMAONI is facing imminent extinction within one generation. It is much closer to Nepali and other Pahari languages than to Hindi. But today the majority of Kumaoni speakers use Hindi to speak even with each other. There is another language SYLHETI that is spoken in Bangladesh that is more similar to Assamese than to Hindi. But because the Sylhet speakers don't have their own state, today all Sylhetis are considered to be Bengalis (which again Mr. Kamonasish Mazumdar will be happy to hear).

      Luckily, the story with another small language called KONKANI is different. This is because Konkani is the predominant language of Goa as well as the official language of that state.

      So unless smaller languages such as Sylheti or Kumaoni are associated with their own unique political/geographic units, they will be gradually assimilated by larger languages like Marathi or Bengali.