Language controversy revived:

Divisive and diversionary tactics

The ruling class is geared up to push ahead full steam with capitalist reforms. The new government has lost no time in announcing measures that have gladdened the hearts of the big bourgeoisie, while stepping up the exploitation and oppression of the working class and people.

The promise of ‘acche din’ for the bourgeoisie inevitably means bad times for the masses of people. In order to carry out their anti-people measures, the ruling class needs to step up its efforts to divide the people and divert them from jointly fighting the attacks on them. The Indian ruling class has a number of tried and tested weapons in its arsenal for this purpose. One of these is the issue of dividing and discriminating against people on the basis of their language.

As soon as the news of the recent order regarding the use of Hindi on government social media sites came out, political leaders from various non-Hindi speaking states opposed it, saying that this was a backdoor method of imposing Hindi on them, and that it would place the peoples of their regions at a disadvantage. Responding to this, the Union Home Minister declared that it was not a policy of his government to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states, and that the order would apply only to states wherein Hindi was spoken. It was also said that this order had actually been issued in May by the previous UPA government but that it had not been implemented then only because the elections were in progress. With all these mixed messages, the result has been to bring the issue of the status of the Hindi language once again to the fore, and to revive anxiety and differences among the people on this score.

The experience of the last many decades shows how the bourgeoisie has used the ‘official language’ issue to stir up political passions, starting from the time of the first Congress provincial governments in 1937. The debates in the Constituent Assembly, the inclusion of Articles 343, 344, 345, 348 and 351 in the Constitution, the report of the Official Language Commission, the reports of various parliamentary committees, the Official Languages Act of 1963 and subsequent amendments to it – all of these, far from arriving at a solution to the issue of the status of Hindi and other languages of the Indian Union, have only kept alive the controversy and served to deepen divisions among the people. Scores of people have died and hundreds have been injured in agitations over this issue.

The Indian Union consists of a large number of nations, nationalities and tribal peoples, who have historically developed their own languages, many of them of great antiquity spoken by many crores of people each. For harmonious relations among all our peoples, the languages of all have to be respected equally. At the same time, to achieve the social and economic advancement of the people, including full literacy and high levels of education and culture for all, full support must be given by the state to each of the languages to develop. No people must be forced to learn the language of another, while every opportunity must be given to learn other languages.

This must form the basis for the harmonious resolution of the issue of having many languages in one country. However, the bourgeoisie does not have any interest in reaching a solution. Very little has been done to either develop the languages and cultures of the peoples of India, nor to enable the people to appreciate and become familiar with other languages. Instead, the debate is channeled on the lines of so-called ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ languages, leading to anger and chauvinism all around. This serves to deepen divisions and also to help bourgeois politicians develop votebanks for different political parties.

The Indian bourgeoisie is not actually concerned with developing a link language amongst the peoples of the country which is Indian in origin. In the debates in the Constitutent Assembly on the issue of what should be the “official language”, proposals that would go in the way of strengthening the unity of the peoples and developing their languages and cultures were brushed aside. One such proposal was that spoken Hindustani, and not Sanskritised Hindi should be developed as the means of communication between the different peoples of our country, enriching its vocabulary from the different languages of the peoples in different states. This Hindustani would be different than the languages of the states in which Hindi was the state language. Another proposal was that all the languages of the peoples must be developed and given official status. Instead of discussing these proposals, a division was created between votaries of English and votaries of Sanskritised Hindi. Using this division, English was effectively imposed as the official language of India. Hindi was also given this status formally. It was stated that English would be retained as official language only for a period of 15 years. 64 years after the promulgation of the Constitution, the domination of the English language in our country has become so much that knowledge of English has become a requisite for any youth aspiring for a decent job.

The continuing dominance of English in government, education, the judiciary, etc is a colonial heritage and serves to marginalise the vast masses of workers and peasants and working people, while creating an English speaking and English thinking elite who are alienated from the people.

The solution must be found by harmonising the interests of all the concerned peoples, in a manner that serves the progress of all and builds genuine and not forced unity. A state of the workers and peasants in India can and will find such a solution. In the meantime, all attempts by the bourgeois state and political parties to incite divisions on the basis of language must be unitedly opposed by all.


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tactics    strengthening    official language    non-Hindi    Language controversy    Home Minister    English language    domination    diversionary    constitution    Jul 1-15 2014    Political-Economy    Communalism     Popular Movements     Privatisation    Rights     War & Peace    

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