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Preserve the linguistic diversity

Though our political traditions speak highly about unity in diversity, attempts are being made to propagate a “one country, one language” theory. Of course, India needs strong political solidarity as regionalism, communalism and terrorism are posing serious threats to national unity and integrity.

But our policy-makers should realise that cultural diversity is the element which creates a strong sense of belonging among people in various parts of the country. Linguistic diversity adds new shades of cultural richness in our social life and any attempt to destroy it will destroy that beauty of this part of the land.

Can one imagine even a shade of Indian heritage without Kalidas (Sanskrit), Subramanya Bharathi (Tamil), Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali), Meera Bhai (Rajasthani), Lalleshwari (Kashmiri) and Mirza Ghalib (Urdu) and many more distinguished names from different languages? Abrogation of this or that language from different walks of life cannot be an appropriate measure in a country where a Rajasthani proverb says, “Barah Kosa Boli Palate, Banphal Palate Pakaan/ Baras Athharah Joban Palate, Lakhan Nhe Palate Lakhan (The dialect changes every 24 miles, the fruit changes after getting ripe, youth takes a different shape after the age of 36, but the common tendency of an individual can’t be changed even after repeated attempts).”

Acquaintance with different languages and dialects enriches the power of expression of an individual or society. Every language has its own qualities. For example, if the softness of Urdu captivates the soul of an individual, Rajasthani generates a different kind of charm. When attempts are made to make a language dominate over other languages, it will adversely affect the creativity in vernacular languages and disappoint the common folk.

Macaulay adopted the same policy during British rule. Does our system want to step into his shoes after seven decades of Independence? We are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi who was a staunch supporter of vernacular languages. What kind of tribute we want to offer to the Father of the Nation on this occasion?

I started reciting poems in Hindi Kavisammellans at the age of 13. As I completed my graduation in English medium, I wrote in English too. A little later, the flow and beauty of Rajasthani captivated me and I started writing in it, fetching me the prestigious Sahitya Academy Award for my novel Joon-Jaatra (The journey of life) in 2011. During the course of my school studies, I learnt Tamil as the third language.

Though I cannot read the Urdu script, I can understand the language to the level of satisfaction. I translated an Odiya and a Bengali book for the Sahitya Academy. Though these books were translated from Hindi, I tried to relish the flavour of the original language with the help of my friends.

I can say from my own experience that languages never provoke people to fight with each other. It is the politics of power which pushes people to battlegrounds, sometimes in the name of faith, some other times in the name of languages. Otherwise, knowledge of different languages tends to enrich our

creativity and our expressions.

Basically each language has its own accomplishments. I use to say during my lectures that abusive words are not an accomplishment of Hindi. No such word originated in Hindi, but have been borrowed from other languages. That is another matter that during the course of history, Hindi has incorporated most of those words.

For another example, camel is a favourite animal for the people living in the desert area of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Language can’t live away from the life of common men. In fact, different walks of life create different shades for the expression. Rajasthani has more then 45 words for camel. Similarly, arrival of clouds in the sky means a lot for desert people. Can one find different names for clouds arriving in different months? But Rajasthani offers that texture as clouds in 12 different months have 12 names.

Imposition of any language over this linguistic heritage will definitely destroy our cultural and historical melodies. This is also noteworthy that the UN has already expressed its concern over the vanishing of several local scripts and languages. We are lucky enough to have most of our regional languages and dialects intact enough, but any attempt to damage them will ruin our cultural riches.

Languages are more then a medium of expressing ourselves. They carry cultural and historical accomplishments of a society with them. This is the reason that during colonial rule, rulers tried to impose their language on common folk. When one finds a language other than his or hers dominating the system, morale is adversely affected. This may be a good policy for colonial powers but for the leaders of a “sovereign democratic republic”, it might be a matter of big concern. Of course, there should be a language which people can understand across the length and width of the country, but that acquaintance should be spread through knowledge and literacy. In a country where people happen to be very sensitive and sentimental towards the use of their language, any attempt to play with the dignity of any dialect or regional language could compel the authorities to walk on hot bricks.

One shouldn’t forget what happened in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) between 1948 and 1952. The Pakistani government ordained Urdu to be the sole official language and people decided to defy the law. Several agitations were held which even took a violent shape at some place and finally the Pakistani government was compelled to give Bengali its due status. We are not expecting a similar situation in our country but we are expecting a democratic approach towards a matter of people’s concern.

atulkanak@yahoo.com

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 4:30:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/preserve-the-linguistic-diversity/article29542642.ece

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