The Great Divider
Any debate along the lines of linguistic politics is bound to be a vibrant and thought provoking one. The International Festival of Literature and Art, held in Dehradun saw college students bring to the forefront, their views on weather or not English can be viewed as an Indian language.
The panel, moderated by Dr. Amna Mirza, saw various prestigious names like Rahul Singh, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, and Pratibha Prahlad. The participants spoke bilingually, and created a space for thinking on both sides of the aisle as they tried to convince the audience of their stances. Viewpoints ranged from posing English as a foreign entity that does nothing more than stifle regional voices and aspirations to a more accepted notion of it being a mediator of sorts in a nation with unsurmountable levels of linguistic and cultural diversity.
The debate raged on with applause as participants incorporated examples from the Constitution too, of how intelligently the framers had devised the idea of a state language being different from one another, and how not having a national language is far more sensible in a national where linguistic divisions have had disastrous consequences in the past.
Rahul Singh went on to explain the distinction between Hindustani and Hindi, and how the former was an amalgamation of various widely spoken dialects and was a mixture of languages. “People think, in India, religion has been the great divider. That’s untrue, it has been language.” He went on to give examples of nations that have forgone the utilitarian principle of convenience for the majority by adopting the language as spoken by the largest number of people, but chosen to adopt an altogether new language present somewhere within a miniscule population; a great neutralizer of sorts.
“If we claim English to be alien to India because it has foreign roots, should we also then do the same to our Constitution that has been derived from a variety of legal documents from across the world?” said Ujjwal, one of the participants speaking for the motion.
Mr. Gopal Krishna Gandhi tried to tell the audience that the reason why English despite its popularity cannot be accredited with the status of an India language, is because of its colonial connotations and elitist nature of its usage in common culture. “Our own vibrant linguistic culture needs to be advocated for first.”, he said, adding to the opposing voices in the debate that denied English the platform as the twenty third language in India.
The session, however contentious its contents, proved to be a great unifier of thinkers and led to some very constructive points being laid out for pondering over afterwards.
Yusra Khan, St.Stephens