Saturday, January 28, 2023

Politics of Superiority and Discriminated Dignity of Regional Languages – A.S. Gawrisanker, Delhi


We congratulate the activists of United Malayalam Movement (Aikya Malayala Prasthanam) for orgnising the uncompromising movement in order to ensure question papers in mother tongue (in Malayalam) in addition to English in State PSC’s examinations. Their protest was to ensure dignity for Malayalam where as the institutional framework of the State showed deliberate negligence in making the native language an institutionally capable one for decades. Even though Malayalam was accepted constitutionally as the administrative language in the State for a considerable breadth of time, deliberate attempts with ample financial backupwere deficient for making the language as suitable for ensuring livelihood requirements like government jobs. So that, in a State where some students are exposed to English than mother tongue from primary classes onwards, it will be simply impossible for ordinary students (who are majority) to compete with these privileged ones’ in examinations and interviews which are conducted in English only. 

As a result these ordinary students are not able to access higher level government posts. Hence, through imposing English as the medium of such recruitment processes, all these posts are becoming reserved for English medium learners. As a result those coming from marginalized sections, remote villages, financially poor backgrounds (who cannot afford good quality English education) and language minorities will be stopped from accessing key roles in decision making bodies of governance. The urban based upper strata of society who are socially and financially capable of investing in English based education can dominate in all these government and other similar jobs. This will keep social inequalities perpetually.

The so called experts pointed out that Malayalam language is in deficiency of many technical terms that are used extravagantly in academic disciplines hence it will be difficult to make question papers in Malayalam. Even though it is true (but all regional languages face this problem) partially at present, it cannot be treated as a principal barrier in strengthening the institutional acceptance of a regional language. Instead it should become a reason for enriching the language by developing new words. All dominating and growing languages of present world tried continuously and consistently to create new words suitable for new requirements and already there are many new words created by local professionals which are in wide use.

English is the symbol as well as remainder of colonial dominance we had several decades ago. They plundered all our wealth and established their rule over us. They regarded our culture as uncivilized and looted our cultural heritage for the growth and development of their own society. Due to their colonial-influenced education, our previous generations believed whole heartedly that learning in regional languages are unproductive. Now we realize that these languages are repository of rich as well as competent knowledge and they can support survival and success in international arena. All those fundamentals of dominating knowledge at present were first communicated in regional languages. The conquering nature of English and others looted several regional languages for its own benefit. But what they were able to loot was only the peripheries of traditional knowledge. The developed and prosperous civilizations of outside Europe before colonialism are sufficient to explain the richness of knowledge in these languages. We need to utilize the real potential of our indigenous community who saved all their traditional knowledge in their own languages only.

Similarly, some argues that English is the language of modernity, technology, knowledge and international communication. Even though such comments are so common, they are nothing other than gossips. It is true that English is an important international language used widely. But it was an invader too. Along with the military supremacy to conquer the small and self sufficient communities of America, Africa and Asia, the colonial powers also used cultural tools like language and religion in order to intrude into the already conquered communities’ social space. It made a long standing casuality in these communities. We must regain our identity through making our languages abundant and vibrant.

Even though it was aimed by the founders of modern India (at least in papers), vary hardly any institutional framework was carried in order to realize it. In the last seven decades of planned developmental activities, the state and market (separately or together) did barely anything to ensure the meaningful recognition of regional languages as an effective carrier of knowledge. In addition, the visionless and non-professional political leaders along with lopsided policy makers ensured further elevation of English by ensuring marginalization of many Indian languages. Instead, all regional languages should be enriched with new terms either independently or by adopting from other languages. Only through protecting and developing regionally recorded surviving-knowledge through internationalization of their regional languages, we can achieve an egalitarian international order of societies.

It is nothing but the interests of Superiority created barriers in making Malayalam a real and effective administrative language in the state. Language hierarchy reflects and guarantees power as well as status. That is why all codes of administration, control, regulation and similar others were written and enforced in languages which are unfamiliar to common people. Hence protest for mother tongue is becoming a movement for human rights. It is indeed shameful to make such protests for ensuring Malayalam question papers for government jobs in a state where Malayalam is both official and administrative language. But the protestors did not ask for conducting examinations in Malayalam only; instead demanded to provide question papers both in Malayalam and English. Hence those learned in mother tongue will also stand on par with predominantly urban based upper class English medium pupil.

On this 62nd birth anniversary of Kerala state, we are happy and proud to knew that the above mentioned protest was not leading to any language nationalism like happened in other states. The protest also addressed concerns of language minorities and tribal communities. In a democratic society different language communities can stand together with equality and mutual respect. Therefore, the protest also exposes the fascist and authoritarian stand of ‘one nation, one language’ slogan by the national government.

Editorial Team of Indian Ruminations.


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