Friday, June 20, 2014

Tamil and the Concept of India

Narendra Modi's "maximum Governance, minimum" Government has taken a minor detour, throwing in another troublesome issue into the pot of problems. The directive aimed at maximizing Hindi and minimizing English has Indian bureaucrats scrambling for Hindi dictionaries. Quite predictably, regional leaders seeing red, have issued strong written responses to the Center, causing the Modi-regime to partially recall their broad-spectrum antibiotic.

However, this stirred hornet's nest now smells of Annadurai and Periyar and of a certain Mr. Raghunath Vinayak Dhulekar who famously said - "People who do not know Hindustani have no right to stay in India. People who are present in the House to fashion a constitution for India and do not know Hindustani are not worthy members of this assembly. They had better leave."

The days of Hindustani ended a long time ago when the two-nation theory was practically imposed. The Persian-Arabic influence on Hindustani quickly decayed, quite naturally but with a few political nudges from here and there, until what remained was only Hindi. The fact that the Indian Constitution was written in English irked many in those days, but it stayed that way due to political and administrative vision that remained in an assembly ravaged by nationalistic fervour. Sixty years have passed since those turbulent times and we're back where we began. The same parties which had issues back in the day have troubles in accepting changes which are being imposed on them.

I write this article as a Tamilian and as an Indian, hoping that I don't have to choose between the two or explain which I am more - a Tamilian or an Indian. Since Tamil Nadu has been the most vocal state about its displeasure with these new directives, leading to questions about Tamil Nadu's patriotism and "why does TN have a problem if Andhra Pradesh can accept it?", I will give you a Madrassi's viewpoint and state, in clear terms, where we stand.

But for that, we will need to take a short trip into history.

History and Individuality:

The third century BC was a truly glorious period for the land which is now India, with great emperors such as Chandragupta Maurya and his grandson Ashoka creating some of the greatest land empires ever known to man and subsequently consolidating this powerful territory, ushering in a truly golden age. This (see left) is what the Mauryan empire looked like at its peak.

Ashoka, after relinquishing his arms rather dramatically after the Kalinga war, contributed majorly to the growth of another major Indian religion - Buddhism. The languages of his state, namely Magadhi, Sanskrit and the Prakrits flourished during this period.

At quite the same, the southern end of the Indian peninsula, was divided among three dynasties which were each centuries old already.

"Bindusara (Chandragupta Maurya's son) didn't conquer the friendly Dravidian kingdoms of the Chola, ruled by King Ilamcetcenni, the Pandyas, and Cheras. Apart from these southern states, Kalinga was the only kingdom in India that didn't form a part of Bindusara's empire. It was later conquered by his son, Ashoka."
Over the coming hundreds of years, the northern plains would change hands several times - with the seat of power remaining in Pataliputra and with Sanskrit gaining great prominence. The beginning of the golden Gupta age incidentally coincided with the last of the great Sangam meetings in the Pandyan kingdom.

Subsequently, while the kingdoms in the North fragmented further, the Chola empire also faded around the 4th Century AD, and remained hidden for nearly five centuries. This period marked the ascendancy of the Pallavas and the Pandyas in the southern part of the peninsula.

Even during this time, the cities of Mayiladudurai, Chidambaram, Thanjavur, Thiruchi and Pudukkottai fell under the sway of the fallen empire. Meanwhile the ascendant Pandyas further south extended their influence from their capital - Madurai.

Between 800 AD and the end of the thirteenth century, the Cholas were once again a well-established empire and often the most powerful kingdom of the south. Gangaikonda Cholapuram is, in fact, said to have been built after a successful military campaign all the way to the banks of the Ganges.

Beyond the thirteenth century, the Pandyas still flourished and even reached their peak. It wasn't until the raids by Malik Kafur and the formation of the Madurai Sultanate that this last great empire of South India was finally vanquished. All this after 2000 years at the helm of affairs.

Even after the end of the great empires of the south, India as a land was never fully consolidated. Below are two great Mughal empires from the 1600s, and both of them failed to completely absorb 'India' completely.


In fact, it wasn't until the British Raj that the map looked like this:

What all these millenia of indigenous rule has created - please note that the separated territory involved is predominantly Tamil Nadu and Kerala - is a strong sense of identity with language, which has been the pole-star in Tamil history.

Hindus, Muslims and Christians live cheek-by-jowl almost everywhere along TN's coastline today. In fact, some of the best assimilation of different communities in a particular area can be seen in the state, where you can easily mistake a dargah's ritual as that of a temple's, or confuse Mariamman with Mother Mary. These are people divided by faith and united by language.

Unlike most Northern communities where people identify most strongly with religion and caste, the divisions down south are on lingual lines. Although I previously removed AP from this picture, one will do well to remember Potti Sriramulu (picture below), who born into the Madras Presidency died as a Telugu martyr.

His death reshaped India's map and gave us states based on language. Interestingly enough, there were debates as to whether Madras was to be part of Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu (with C. Rajagopalachari and Nehru, both favouring to keep it in TN) owing to the large communities of Andhrites as well as Tamilians in the city.

When human beings draw careless boundaries on the map, they reshape the future of civilization. Only a few decades after the formation of AP, we have only a small (but often influential) representation of Telugu-speakers in Chennai today. Similarly, Tirupati - where boards in Tamil were ubiquitous - has been cleansed of the Tamil language and replaced by Telugu. Stronger divides still, happen on the national level, as in the case of India and Pakistan, where now the respective scripts are mutually unintelligible. 

What all this tells us is that language, like any other aspect of civilization, requires patronage and support in order to exist. The invisible hand of market forces can hardly stand up to the real force of political will. In such a scenario, it makes perfect sense to protect a language and preserve heritage. Reactionary steps are only to be expected when the Government of the land tries to propagate one of its languages preferentially, albeit not necessarily at the expense of another. But we are talking about identity here, and there are few things that come with higher stakes.

The Modern Notion of India:

Sometimes, I am perturbed by the fact that restaurants in Delhi have on their boards messages such as:
"Cuisines: Indian, South Indian, Chinese". The definition of 'India' then begins to confuse me. Is South India a sub-set of India (as would seem logical) or is it another part of a vast region, thoroughly separated, united only by national elections?

Even today, I am asked - "Why do your people not speak Hindi? It is the mother tongue of the majority of India!" To clarify things at this point, I speak Hindi and Tamil, although I can write only in the former, much to my chagrin. My parents, brought up in 20th Century India, decided that it was better for me to learn the language spoken by the majority first, before my own mother tongue. While all that is water under the bridge, this only helps me consolidate my point that the people of Tamil Nadu are not opposed to Hindi as a language.

However, we expect our guests to speak in Tamil (or at least feign to learn) when they are visiting us, just the way we learn Hindi when we visit them. To say that Hindi is more Indian than Tamil is, or the even more inane "Hindi is the national language", is a poor line for a patriot to take. I am reminded of a vivid quote made by C. N. Annadurai - "It is claimed that Hindi should be the common language because it is spoken by the majority. Why should we then claim the tiger as our national animal instead of the rat which is so much more numerous? Or the peocock as our national bird when the crow is ubiquitous?"

It must also be noted here that Hindi and English are both, to some extent, foreign languages in the southern tip of the peninsula. The fact that enterprising Malabaris have picked up the languages quickly and become trilingual (I am assuming not all Malabaris can speak Arabic also) is something they should be credited with, and this is not something one can hold against people who haven't become multilingual with such rapidity.

While the question of whether a person from Region C should be encouraged, or perhaps forced, to speak in Hindi is widely debated, the more basic question regarding whether an outsider should be asked to learn the tongue-of-the-land is being left unattended. When I first went to Roorkee (which lies in the state of Uttarakhand), I was appalled to find out that people couldn't match the southern states with their respective languages. In fact, even today, I'm fairly confident that few will be able to tell which language is which from among the following:

So, another thing that the imposition of Hindi by the state does is promote one-upmanship, and let citizens take it for granted that Hindi is more important than any other language in India. In fact, prominent books written in the twenty-first century use those very words - "Hindi is the most important language in the country". Such statements beg the question: "Does Indian-ness have its roots in Hindi?"

Is it wrong for an auto-wallah in TN (who probably doesn't know Hindi) to speak in Tamil to a Hindi-speaker, while it is right for the Prime Minister (who clearly knows English) to converse in Hindi alone with a non-Hindi speaker? Why is the promotion of a state-language any different from the promotion of a state-religion? Why is only one of these considered taboo?

Second Language and The Future:

Because most higher-learning in this world is being transmitted through the medium of English, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to reject the language altogether. Unless the state can magically conjure a similar infrastructure in Hindi, as there exists in English, it will be wrong to ask people of the southern states to choose Hindi over English, as their second language.

For all practical purposes, this would imply that quarter of a billion people become trilingual at least, to ensure a smooth transition. Learning languages isn't an easy task, especially when the languages belong to entirely different families. This is another reason why Gujaratis, Marwadis and even Maharashtrians can understand Hindi more easily than Tamilians. Similar scripts and shared roots are a great advantage while learning new tongues.

Contrary to a popular misconception, Tamil does not have its roots in Sanskrit. The other three languages have different proportions of Tamil and Sanskrit, as they evolved over the millenniums, gradually developing a flavour of their own. Kannada and Telugu especially, have incorporated far more Sanskrit, and are therefore slightly closer to the northern stream of languages.

All this makes it difficult, both in terms of learning and in terms of ideological acceptance, for Hindi to become a widely accepted second-language in the south, especially in Tamil Nadu. It is possible that, over time, there will be organic growth of the language (this is actually highly probable due to the one-sided language transfer within the country) and that is the only acceptable solution.

Until then, we don't need any more link languages. And thank you very much, we're well-integrated into mother India. We certainly don't need anyone to tell us how we can be better Indians.


  1. I like the boldness of your language, the force of your argument, and the conviction with which you speak. And yet, as we rapidly move away from speaking, reading and writing Tamil, I wonder what you mean when you say -
    What all this tells us is that language, like any other aspect of civilization, requires patronage and support in order to exist.-
    What can the Government, or any other support system do to make you or me learn and appreciate Tamil the way our parents did?
    It is my opinion that the loss of a language over generations is a summation of individual indifference as opposed to a state-imposed indifference affecting individuals.

    1. This point is more visible when you go to extreme, when you observe govt actually working against a language. Urdu which was fairly kbown in north has been systematically eradicated. It is important that govt works to preserve a language, or the time would be upon us when students wont be offered any language besides Hindi and English in schools as it happened with Urdu in north

    2. When the Govt is busy in imposing indifference towards 'other' languages, it is not worthwhile to look up to the SAME Govt preserve a language! The ONLY way left is to take matter into one's hand, over come one's indifference and work hard in establishing language centres where those interested can learn languages f their choice-like its done in foreign language centres. Yes, one may argue that these centres are run by their governments, but as JFK said (slightly rephrased!)-'Ask not what your Govt did for your language, ask what you did!"

    3. This is a brilliant article taking us through a journey of our past. Kudos Anirud. Now, to answer questions on what can the Govt. do.. it's simple.. a very few measures can go a long way in saving this incredible language and civilization..

      1) Make Tamil a medium to learn anything and everything, including engineering, medicine, arts and science.
      2) Talk about our rich history and heritage in history books (in schools). The great naval fleet of Rajendra Chola, which captured all the way till Indonesia and Thailand. Or the fact that the so called Bay of Bengal was once named, 'The Great Chola Lake' a true testament to our greatness.
      3) Teach our kids about the true 'cradle of civilization', rather than the rubbish story of some Europeans invading India and settling down in Indus valley.
      4) Like Mr. Modi did in Gujarat... Get archeologists to dive 150km south of KanyaKumari (the southern tip of India). Independent archeologists and historians have found proof of a 10000 year old port there. Let the damn world know, we were the true cradle of civilization. (Which makes more sense to you.. 10000 yr old civilization down south to 5000 yr old civilization near Gujarat to 3000 yr old civilization in Indus valley or out of no where a bunch of people enter India and set up a civilization that's head and shoulders above the rest.)
      5) Stop central govt. from pushing Hindi as the communication language (in central govt offices) in our state. Do it where everyone speaks Hindi, not here. This is my state, my language should get top priority.
      6) Push for a Tamil union territory at the least. Only half of our tax funds come back to us as welfare schemes, rest goes to feed the great nation, India. 2 nuclear power stations and we still have power cuts. If a disaster happens, it affects my land and my people, why shouldn't my people reap the maximum benefit and give away only surplus.

      These are some of the measures the Govt. can take. More than anything the Govt. should look at educating people on why it is important for our great language to survive.
      Finally, you see these tiny European nations, the super powers, learn and teach everything in their native language, not English or some common language, because its spoken by the masses. This is the way to go.. the way I see it.. its either split from India or bid farewell to Tamil. In the words of the great Tamil scholar Baradhidasan 'Tamil ini mella sagum' (Tamil will suffer a slow death). If the Govt. doesn't step in, this will be our fate.

  2. Thank you. That is indeed high-praise.

    As to your question, let me answer it this way. Historically, kings and ministers spent vast quantities of gold and currency to propagate whatever they thought is important, be it in the form of science, music, painting or language. This had a very real bearing to how people live in these states.

    Even today, the same concept applies. Unless the Government or other influential bodies make continuous efforts to promote the language (be it in the way Karunanidhi did it, or the way Modi is trying to do it), the language will stagnate. Spreading English throughout the world has greatly increased Britain's "soft-power" and this was a conscious effort over the centuries. Today, it has reached that critical-mass, wherein it can self-propagate.

    Individual decisions - to speak or not to speak - are based on a lot of factors, most of which can be influenced by a Government or a king. For example, if Jayalalitha became PM, a lot more people would be tempted to learn Tamil. It's all about the not-so-invisible hand playing tricks.

  3. Akila, perhaps this is not what he meant, but there is a certain strain of thought which suggests that in questions of culture and politics, aggregated individual preferences are not a useful or organic concept. That is to say, they exist, but are set on their path so easily and so forcefully by small changes in institutions, economic realities and so on, which are often set without a great deal of forethought.

    I find this idea to be depressing and generally reject it without evidence, but it's a theory, anyway :) .

    In this case obviously it is an interconnected global marketplace that drives the individual preferences, and I share your question regarding what we could possibly do to promote our vernacular languages

    1. Rambling Perfectionist (Nikhil?),

      That's precisely what I wanted to say. You've said it as well as I'd want to: "That is to say, they exist, but are set on their path so easily and so forcefully by small changes in institutions, economic realities and so on, which are often set without a great deal of forethought."

      Now, what can we do to promote our vernaculars?

      (1) Let us look at providing incentives which do not infringe upon individual freedom. Blocking another language or not allowing another culture to assimilate is mule-headedness, and such techniques are doomed to fail.

      (2) We need to encourage literature and higher forms of learning in Indian languages instead of forcing shop-keepers to put up boards in Hindi, Kannada or Tamil. This will play the role of your not-so-invisible hand. When you have something that can be gained through a language, you will want to learn it.

      (3) It is pitiful that today, if I want to study Indian languages, history or culture, I have a better chance in the USA than in here at home. This is a major stumbling block if the growth and propagation of a language or art-form. Historically every great language or art-form has had, apart from monetary backing, major institutions which directly contributed to their growth.

      I'm sure there are several other ways too, but these are just a few steps that come to mind.

    2. And do read Vignesh's comment below where he says things similar to what you have said.

  4. Wonderful article .. Many things run in my mind but I was not able to put them in words , you have done it here.. Hats off sir.. Try to send it to editorial sections of some good news paper. . Also write many more articles like this .. Thank you :)

    1. Arvind,

      Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad I was able to put into words what you wanted to say.

    2. I'l neither deny nor support your article..but one thing i want to say is that when we can easily learn the foreign language of global use(even it is not the mother tongue of ol European states)same is the case with Hindi..they hav just asked the govt officials to use it in cntrl govt work which will not effect the regional languages b it north indian punjabi,south indian Tamil n even bengali...regional languages are the source of daily communication in every state by people and the state govt that this issue can not effect them even a nail you urself said that apart from Tamil ol south indian language have roots in Sanskrit wch means more thn 90% indian languages are somehow connected to whts the problem in the official use of Hindi(its easy version)in parliament when you are ready to welcome English.and do you really think that English is the language of the common India..nearly half of us cannot understand it whether it is north or south India..

    3. Aditi, That is the whole point of the article. Leave the language of choice to the people - don't impose on people what they clearly do not want. History is replete with examples when one form of majoritarianism is imposed across regions - be it Urdu in present day Bangladesh or Shinhala in Northern Srilanka. So leave it to the wisdom of the people. The people are always right - not the rulers.

    4. It is mule headedness to kill a language to propogate another. If one has seen the UN functioning, you would have noticed that no one is FORCED to learn English, Spanish, Mandarin, German or any other language for that matter. You have people called Interpreters who do the job of translating, without the participants from all the countries -who hold important portfolios- having the added headache of learning a language apart from their area of specialization. On the flip side-This helps create job opportunities for those who have a flair for the language!

  5. A very good article. I am proud read this article as a tamilian.And as arvind said above, please send to some newspaper's editorial section.

    1. Murugesh,

      Thanks. I will certainly consider sending it to newspapers.

  6. Hello,
    I really liked your article, and I have a few ideas that supplement it's theme . In my humble opinion, "Sixty years have passed since those turbulent times and we're back where we began" conveys an impression of solidarity in the intervening years that has now began to crumble, as language based nationalism is gaining a foothold. Although this appears to be the case, a comparative analysis with other forms of sectarianism reveals that such feelings as have arisen are ingrained into human psychology. The strong always attempts to vanquish the weak, and the weak attempt to grow in strength. Here, strength lies in majority. Tamil flourished for centuries because it maintained a majority in its populace, the day its borders were opened to accept and be accepted into a much larger community, it accepted the fact that it's uniqueness would soon be modified or completely obliterated.
    The same can be said for our customs in the face of a 'global' culture. The same can be said for caste boundaries and cuisine. Languages are no different, and no amount of 'reservation' or 'special status' can stop the gradual diffusion of diverse social elements into a melting pot of nonentity. It is much easier to develop and maintain pride in our individualism rather than scream for justice and equal treatment from our policy makers, who are clearly elected from and with the help of the 'majority'. It is not even their fault, and in their place, the current minority would have done the same.

    1. Vignesh,

      I accept your mature analysis of the situation and it is true that nothing can be kept intransient in this world where everything is competing for supremacy. Multiple cultures existed in the past only because they hadn't met each other. We may well be heading towards a world where everyone will speak the same language, eat the same food and dress in the same clothes.

      That being said, I think it is natural for humans to resist this change. It is only human to want your own culture to which you are intrinsically linked to be continued into the future. I think the idea should be to accept mutation and change, assimilation and absorption of neighbouring and sister cultures and practices, while promoting the culture of the homeland.

      Trying to block out change entirely will lead to obsolescence. Acquiescing to every external force will lead to extinction.

  7. Good one. India cannot be a One Language country.

    1. Thank you, I'm glad you feel that way Saurish.

      Unity in diversity.

  8. Very well articulated and informative post. While the debate on this move has been around what the "common masses" may or may not understand, I find the comment you made on the not-so-invisible hands is bang on. The cabinet ministers and all bureaucrats at the center will now be forced to learn chaste Hindi. Where does this leave civil officers from the southern state who might be able to converse in Hindi but not to the extent of writing official documents in Hindi or might not be as comfortable as their North Indian counterparts- this causes a conscious bias and exclusion . Its a highly political, unnecessary move, in my opinion

    1. Thank you, Vahini.

      The Modi-Government has partially revoked their decision, saying that it applies only to Region A (Hindi-speaking belt) states. However the fact that this directive didn't come out in this form initially is disturbing and is a cause for distrust.

      I completely agree with what you say, when you talk of non-Hindi speakers having to write letters in Hindi. However, it is common for Civil Servants from the state, if they are posted elsewhere (even though their home state is normally where they are sent) to face such an issue.

      To counterbalance this, however, is the fact that a Civil Servant from the North may have to learn Telugu or Kannada if they are placed in AP or Karnataka respectively. As long as there is a mutual-interchange of languages, it is only good for the nation.

      The problem is when one language is more equal than the rest.

    2. Anirudh,

      It's not a Modi government decision. It was approved by the UPA Home Ministry in March. The Model conduct meant that the bureaucracy couldn't circulate it until the elections were completed. It was circulated on May 27 before the new Home Minister assumed office (May 29). The new government diluted the circular as much as it could without revoking it. You would appreciate that the government couldn't completely revoke it since it has been government policy for 60 years to issue orders in both English and Hindi in region A states (upon request). In practice, communication is usually in one language.

      While I respect your overall arguments. I think you are being unfair to the Modi government and mildly guilty of relying on the media instead of accessing the actual circular yourself. The whole cultural nationalism rhetoric very comfortably fits the world-view of many of the readers and obviously people need to be more unbiased.

      I completely agree that English is the most practicable link language and any preference hindi/tamil/malayalam etc. is outside government mandate. Individuals who feel strongly about a particular language should take suitable measures to retain and promote their culture through support to non-profits/events/awards etc.

      We unnecessary digress from core governance by paying undue attention to such non-issues. I'm trying to be not preachy (and my advance apologies if it seems like an accusation - this is more directed towards us, the Indian society rather than an individual) but it really bothers me to see social media erupting on this non-issue while maintaining relative silence on issues like the dalit girl murders in U.P.

    3. BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi says “this time, the government is honestly doing everything to promote Hindi”.

  9. The point of you knowing how to write hindi but not tamil could be held true when compared to your knowledge of english vs tamil. But I do not see you ranting against english becoming the de-facto national language. The point about rats vs tigers is a bad political rhetoric that shouldn't be part of any logical discussion.

    My point is: It's not just about linguistic identity, it's about convenience. As a fellow tamilian, I agree that learning Hindi is inconvenient. But I do not agree that it is an assault on "the linguistic identity" that we now possess. That is a very big stretch.

    1. Deepdown,

      I'm happy to find the first dissenter here. I was afraid about an artificial, unreal unity being created on this page, like something which can never exist in the real world. So, thank you.

      The rats versus tigers point was only a "vivid recollection" and not a point of logical debate. I was, of course, showing you how unreasonable moves have been countered by irrational arguments in the past.

      Why I am not ranting about English becoming the de-facto national language is because this allows preservation of all our respective languages, allows us to integrate with the world community (which is a superset of national integration) and doesn't propagate feelings of distrust and one-upmanship.

      Finally, I am also certain about the fact (reinforced by historical evidence) that the chances of a language surviving in a one-out-of-two scenario are far higher than of it surviving in a one-in-three world.

    2. I know many friends who cannot speak a word of hindi and find it very tough to move around in their own country. I am very thankful I learnt Hindi when I was young even though I hated that language. This is a very big spanner in national integration. Your argument is correct that English has enabled us to communicate globally, so therefore you have just agreed with me that it is a point of convenience.

      I would also like to point out that Hindi is still not being made the national language, it is being made the language of "first priority" in "official communication".

      This is the largest written language in the country. It is a matter of convenience to them that this step was taken. This was not taken to "destroy tamil" as you allude to.

      You have every right to preserve the tamil culture and tamil language as a fellow Tamil speaking Indian citizen. But to convenience yourself at the inconvenience of others is plain wrong in my opinion.

    3. In the vast majority of India, people do know three languages. Their local language, Hindi and English.Their local language survived perfectly well.

    4. I do agree with deepdown.. many people in India know 3 languages.. And i find it weird that when AP and KA can teach 3 languages in school, why not TN. I do accept that roots of tamil is not from sanskrit but tamil doesn't have roots of english either.

    5. First of you have to understand. In South India, it's not the religion but language that close to people. We have kept our language for 4000 years and we like to keep it until the world end. If you think National Integration is Important rather than people itself, then please give us Independence, We like to have Republic of Tamilnadu, where we can keep out Tamil Language. That's all I have to say

    6. Sorry. I don't believe even the author of this post would want secession from India. Neither was that the intention of his post. And I am willing to bet 99.99% of tamil people DON'T want their own "eelam".

    7. Deepdown,

      The point I made does not conflict with yours. In fact, you have given me an example of a case where the model of "organic growth" will succeed.

      I learned Hindi for the same reasons as you, and when I went to North India, this helped me quite a bit. That is why I haven't said, at any point, that the state government should block the growth of Hindi, Kannada or for that matter, Japanese. The options are currently available and they should continue to be available.

      Please refer to the part where I say "Reactionary steps are only to be expected when the Government of the land tries to propagate one of its languages preferentially, albeit not necessarily at the expense of another." I am not insinuating that the goal of the Center is to squash Tamil and Tamilian interests. But it is a necessary by-product, and my issues lie with that part.

      I will urge you to google the phrase "Language Prestige" and see how languages react in contact with one-another. Once again, I'm not proposing to close the borders to the growth of any language, but I'm saying that we don't want to throw open a one-way gate.

    8. Bhargav,

      I thought I explained clearly in my post how TN (and Kerala, to an extent) differ from AP and Karnataka. Again, you speak of Telangana where the Nizam's kingdom had spread Urdu quite liberally before India came into being.

      I have spent the last couple of years in Seemandhra and I know for a fact that they do not understand Hindi. Learning three languages is fine if people want to learn three languages. Who is stopping them?

    9. And Gohul,

      I don't think my identity as an Indian conflicts with my identity as a Tamilian. I will fight anyone who tells me otherwise. I do not think that a "Republic of Tamil Nadu" is required at this date. I will be happy living in a Republic of India where people are taught to respect, not just tolerate, diversity.

    10. "Once again, I'm not proposing to close the borders to the growth of any language, but I'm saying that we don't want to throw open a one-way gate". Please explain how to open a two way gate? And again, this is a circular for bi-lingual communication of all official communique and that is only a point of convenience.

      On the language prestige issue: We already have this issue, english speakers in TN are looked upon in awe. But this is only because of the "opportunities" people perceive by learning to talk that way.

    11. All I am saying is, I disagree with this point "Reactionary steps are only to be expected when the Government of the land tries to propagate one of its languages preferentially, albeit not necessarily at the expense of another."

      Only because I see signs of trilingual acceptance all over India. The Marathis are a classic example. They have language pride. But don't protest against Hindi because it does not inconvenience them.

      You protest against Hindi by alluding to a destructive by-product which I think is an exaggeration of the case. You are doing so because Hindi is an inconvenience language to learn for tamils given its etymological differences with tamil.

    12. are you trolling or are you stupid?

      you do understand that there are etymological differences don't you.
      Trilingual acceptance all over India ? which India are you talking about, you entitled sob. Its just like those arguments some stupid people down south make for english ("most down south understand english"), i don't know what is more stupid. comparing marathi-hindi to tamil-hindi is just as hilarious.

      even for those who have the moolah, what you are suggesting is this.

      hindi belt -> Hindi + English
      all other poor souls -> Hindi +regional + English, we're not linguists for f's sake.

      and it will be destructive. if not now , it will in soon enough. why would anyone bother learning Tamil if everyone in India speaks Hindi. why do you think the author doesn't know Tamil?

      if the need arises why would anyone not learn Hindi ? the point that you put forward sounds as if you want everyone to learn Chinese so that when they travel to china (if they do) it would be easier for them to converse with the locals.

      people don't do that , usually only the ones who're traveling to china learn chinese, or someone who has the use for it. why do you want to force it on everyone? even first world countries can't do that trilingual shit.

      this is not about you or me. its about an entire culture and its people, and the ramifications it would have even in the short run. preferential treatment of hindi WILL kill many languages. if you can't see that then you don't understand language or culture.

      even english+regional is still a dream for many Indians. i don't know in which ganja smoking den you are sitting in, please clear your head.

  10. I liked the post, I hold the same opinion when the insistence of north Indians for everyone to speak Hindi comes around.

    But, look at the same problem : If we are to promote regional languages, we do not have a national language.

    This has many implications.
    If a company releases a new product to India, which language should it produce the instruction manual in? Should it create one for each state? Not nearly possible.
    If an sign posts are to be made at public locations, how many languages should they be translated to? This is especially relevant at national institutions such as railway stations. Which language should the railway station's name be written in? Tamil Hindi and English? If tamil is written so that TN travelers understand it, then what if they travel to another state? Must railway stations in AP also be written in Tamil?
    If an online website wishes to translate their website for access from India, which language do they use?

    The simplest way out is to use English for all these cases. This is what is being followed today.

    While it is practical, it is patriotic? Is India, which won its freedom from the English, requires their language for all matters? Dont get me wrong, I am not against learning english, but depending on it for us to stay together as India leaves a bad taste.

    I always promote Tamil, but these problems that arise from not having a national language is troubling. How do we solve them?

    1. India is Multi Diverse. U can't put 1 language or religion as national thing. people differ in culture were integrated in this country. I will say let's leave it like that. If North press south too much, that will left one question - why we can't have a Independent Country called Tamilnadu - where we can keep Tamil as national language and keep safeguard our Culture and traditions.

      If Indian have to survive then it has to start respect every language and culture in this country. Because that is what makes our country special from others.

    2. One have to remember Singapore Model - where in that City Country 76% Speak Language Mandarin.This is not imposed on the other Communities who use English as Link Language. There are Chinese , Malay , Tamil and English Medium ( of Instruction ) Schools and Citizens can choose theirs to learn their Culture and Language.

    3. Deepak,

      India has already solved that initial problem quite admirably, although one could argue that people could have insisted on more language-diversity initially also, by dividing the country in Regions A, B and C. These are the Hindi-heartland belt, the semi-Hindi belt and the non-Hindi belt.

      Besides, one must understand that speakers of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi etc. are similar in number to people who speak Portuguese withing Portugal, Spanish within Spain, Norwegian within Norway etc. If companies can come up with ways to target these sections of populations in Europe, they can quite easily develop similar models in India.

      One must also remember that the European Union is also a block of multilingual states (although different in functioning from the Indian Central Government). But work there is not hindered or barricaded by language-differences as there is extensive translation, which has never become a major issue.

    4. And before I forget, let me tell you something rather interesting, Deepak.

      In Tamil, we say இந்தியா (pronounced 'Indiya') when we refer to the motherland, as opposed to பாரத் (pronounced 'Bharat') which is a virtually non-existent word. Please note that the word which has Persian, Greek and Latin roots is used instead of the Sanskrit-Hindi word.

      Many people here seem to think that English is foreign and alien influence within the country must be mitigated. Let me tell you that, in addition to the practicality of English in the modern scenario, English and Tamil both played pivotal roles in introducing a sense of nationalism in TN.

      So there is nothing wrong in English being a link language. What's the point in abandoning a highly utilitarian language, which incidentally linked us to the rest of the country (and which currently connects us to the rest of the world), for a language which we have little shared history with?

    5. And I completely agree with T S Durai's Singapore language-model. It is brilliant and easily applicable in the Indian context.

    6. As far the concern about the language the manual of any product is to be produced in.. it is silly to worry about it! I have travelled to almost all the countries in EU and note that some of those countries size like our states.. But each has a different language and they do have products released for them customized to the local language.. Then why can't the same happen to India??

    7. Divya,

      I totally agree with what you said. I remember writing something similar as a reply to someone else (either here or on Facebook).

      It can definitely happen in India and we must insist that it should.


      just in case people want to check it out. population of TN is around 70 million. france and germany have 65 and 80 respectively. some people just don't understand the gravity of such issues.

  11. it could be defined in a simpler way..
    A language which is thousands of years old will survive for the next thousands despite its political hindrance!
    History repeats itself...

    your article was good and convincing..
    but you forgot the point that CASTE being an ascriptive value united all the linguistic states as INDIA...
    We can easily prove it..
    u cannot see any other country with caste holding its people other than our India.
    to be simple,
    we call it as European Union but not Indian Union.
    caste was absent in Europe to hold its countries but India through caste united every possible state with itself..
    hence creating Nationalism is not an easy job.
    we could see parochialism in every move of the Govt. even today..
    we know that we are diverse and so we try to create Nationalism but every time when we implement some techniques to create it there comes a hindrance called 'PAROCHIALISM'
    but thats obvious 65+ yrs old democracy(Nationalism) always lose to thousands of years old parochialism....

    1. the system of Caste is exist still in many place, just in different name, In Islam also there are so many branches, Sunni, Shia, Sufism, Ibadi, Quranism, Ahmadiyya, Non-denominational Muslims and Nation of Islam (NOI). And they kill each other worst than our country. Caste system is a Problem but it can be eliminated with education and a change in people's social mentality views about others.

    2. Karthik,

      I am hopeful that the rich legacy of Tamil and of other indigenous Indian languages. However, I am not sure how to interpret the rest of your arguments as I don't believe caste has had any role in keeping India and Indian states united.

      If you mean that it is holding people back, then I will agree to some extent. But the caste-issue must be tackled separately and I don't believe language will play a conflicting role in this.

  12. I want to begin by commending you for your great sense of logic and clear arguments. And I am sure a person of this calibre would appreciate some constructive criticism.
    1) Who is this great person "Mr. Raghunath Vinayak Dhulekar" , you live in Delhi and so is this person ver famous in Delhi ? Does he have a following ?
    2) You seem to be mislead into believing that Hindi is the mother tongue of majority of India, infact there isn't any significant state with its first language. Try googling the languages of Kashmir, Punjab, Bihar, UP, etc and you'll know.
    3) Indian, South Indian, Chinese cusine is just a way of differenciating just like in Chennai we have Tiffin, North Indian written. It doesn't mean (probably) that they consider it as a different part. Maybe, South Indian Food is a speciality of that place and that is why they mentioned in this way ( I see this a lot in Gujarat).
    4) There was no decision by Modi Govt, this is a policy which has been in place for a long long time. They simply issued instructions to follow it rigousously.
    I am not sure if I'm qualified to offer advice to someone as erudite as you, but it is always nice to go and check at the source of a news to know what actually is happening and then take correlating facts from everywhere, and when taking in somebody else's opinion I would never accept it without giving a serious thought.

    1. Gurunath,

      (1) Raghunath Vinayak Dhulekar ( was a participant in the Indian Freedom Movement and a champion of the cause of Hindi. He died in 1980 but his thoughts seem to persist in this country.

      (2) I know that Hindi is not the mother-tongue of a large section of the population that speaks it. But I was hoping not to get into the nitty-gritties of the matter. But thank you for pointing it out. This, in conjunction with one of T S Durai's comments below, goes a long way in explaining why there is resistance to the language in the South.

      (3) The point I was making through the "Indian, South Indian cuisine" comment is that in south india, they don't refer to their food as "Indian". In TN, we call dosais and idlis "South Indian" and rotis and sabjis "North Indian". There is nothing which suggests that South India is the real India and the rest of the country is something different.

      (4) This has been there since a long-time ago as you say, but to bring it up again now, in a period of peace and relavtive progress, is utter foolishness. I hope Mr. Modi and his Government realize this soon enough.

      Finally, I'd like to thank you for your comment. I am glad to be able to talk to people with so many interesting opinions on this subject.

  13. No Way, One language country is a dangerous path to totalitarianism. I didn't learn for nothing in my school that our country has the attribute "Unity in Diversity".

    What do they want to do? Fist force the language, then the culture, then I guess the final step would be to burn the different raced dravidian people?!? Sounds a bit too familiar, doesn't it. We don't need that once again. Learn from history!

    1. Son Of Neptune,

      I am inclined to agree that this borders on totalitarianism. To insist on something that the masses do not want is a dangerous line for a democratic Government to tow. Mr. Modi will do well to realize that several people in TN also voted for him: for progress, not Hindi.

      The problem is exacerbated by the fact that language plays the role of 'carrier of culture'. You take away our language, you take away our identity. Educated people running the Government should realize that.

  14. friend i appricate your point of view, but i feel like being a indian we should uplift our national language, i am not saying we should only speak hindi, in india u know that there are more than 10000 languages, its not possible for every one to learn these much right? but if we all start learning a single language like hindi then it would be great, there will be no problems at all. our regional language should remain regional, if we can learn english then y cant hindi?, my regional language is also different but i learnt hindi to aclimatize myself in middle east because most of the countries people can understand hindi, i will ruther then saying i am tamil, i should feel proud in saying i am indian and i feel that.

    1. Vijendar,

      Just like you feel it is difficult to learn all of Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and English, the people of TN too have a right to feel that it is unjust to be asked to be trilingual at least.

      Currently, there is no issue in carrying-forward our culture or in leading economically-satisfying lives using the languages we have. Why change things in a world where everything is peaceful?

      In fact, I would like to point out that the people of Tamil Nadu will be very happy if you speak in Tamil, rather than in English, when you come into Tamil Nadu. We are proud Indians who like to speak our mother-tongue.

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  16. Hello!
    Really liked your firm yet balanced writing. Would like to share my opinion on this.
    You have extensively cited ancient Indian history to justify tamil people's Ideological indifference towards Hindi , which I feel is not completely true. The "ideological non acceptance" was more of politically motivated feeling by dravidian parties than about history. CN Anna Durai though a great visionary and inspiration ,was a former secessionist, this attitude does reflect to an extent on anti Hindi agitations that he led.The present Boundary of India is nothing but a product of circumstances. If mere history are to be used to justify such emotions,then we would never be able to see People especially from North-East India ever having a pan Indian feeling, because historically the region has been quite isolated form Indian heartland.So, It would be ideal if we had a common link language to bridge the gap between various cultures within India at the same time emphasising on preservation and promotion of regional language. Majority of Malayalis,Telgus, Kannadigas though distinct from Hindi did not have much problem with the idea of hindi learning. States like Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim though historically, Linguistically and Ethnically different from majority of Indians, have moved on and accepted Hindi along with their indigenous Language.
    The sentiments in Tamil Nadu is the result of 50 years of Dravidian party rule, than anything else. Also greatly attributed to arrogance by handful of Hindi speaking chauvinist .
    On a lighter Note: Inspite of my views, I am a poor hindi speaker and quite fluent in tamil, Malayalam and English. And also among those who believe in the superiority of Tamil Language. :-)

    1. Arjun,

      I agree that there have been politically motivated movements in the past, but what I am trying to say here is that even political will notwithstanding, there are genuine issues that Tamilians face with such moves.

      Although we are in no way promoting secession, there are concerns about violation of individual freedom. I agree that the situation is worsened by "a handful of Hindi speaking chauvinists" but that is not the root cause of this unrest.

      I appreciate the fact that you are multilingual, and I think that is an essential quality in modern-day India. Indians should be encouraged to become multilingual (if they have the means to do so) but to suggest that any one language is the most important of the lot is foolishness.

      As I have said before, there is a language of culture - which is usually the mother-tongue, and there is a language of commerce - which is the language that best supports one's livelihood. Only the individual can determine which language provides the best support.

  17. I thank Anirudh Arun for expressing in much better language what I wanted to express - on this issue of languages - Tamil, Hindi or an Indian national language.

    As for Vijender Mahar's comment, I think Anirudh has already answered it well: Being a Tamilian doesn't contradict being an Indian. India does not require a national language that has to be imposed on all its citizenry.

    Whether anyone likes it or not, history stands testimony to the fact that the region predominantly inhabitated by the so-called-Tamilians was never ruled by people other than those three - Chola, Chera, Pandya kingdoms, except for a brief period by Pallavas - other than the British who ruled it well over two centuries and thereby managed to IMPOSE English on an 'educated' class in that region.

    Just as how a State religion is not a sound policy to the future of any country, a State language is also not a necessity. Humanity is looking forward to a global amalgamation of ideas and cultures. It can live with different languages, relgions, cultural practices in an atmosphere of brotherliness and friendliness. Imposition of one language or one religion or one culture over another will only lead to greater calamities.

    1. Thank you for your views. I couldn't have summed it up better myself. I am glad you feel this way.

  18. Even i delhi urudu is also official language. why you forgot about mithili and bhogpuri states. Hindi is also regional language. You cannot ask french people to learn english. I stay in US for long time. where south indian cannot stay with north indian vice versa. Even though they converse in english/hindi. There is lot of cultural ,food habits and lot more.We cannot accept the map that shows sinhala as the only representation of the Sri Lanka. Let us know where you got this map as source?
    I am for "UNITY not for UNIFORMITY"

    1. "Unity, not uniformity": great words to go by.

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  20. Almost 67 years since independence and India still does not have a national language. Although, Anirudh has articulated his facts well, these facts are completely historical when the identity of India was not established. When every kingdom had an identity of its own. Do you think China does not have different languages? Instead, China still has a national language which is propagating across the world and contributing towards its growth. Someone said "Unity in Diversity", Is this what you call unity in diversity wherein we are not able to come together to accept one language as our national language. Nobody is stopping you from speaking your mother tongue. The only reason government was forced to impose was because all the states would never come together to accept Hindi as the national language. All the previous governments have waited for all these years since independence. And the reason hindi is being imposed is because a majority of the population is comfortable speaking it. It is sad to see educated people use their education and knowledge and post such comments. If you wish to save a language or its culture, you should do a lot towards the community like arts, cultural and etc. Does anyone here listen to the carnatic music? Do you go to theatre and watch groups performing live? Do you take your kids to art festivals? All this is dying and I have seen the city change over the last so many years. Just because we have lived differently for 1000's of years does not mean we should not unite for the country, especially in the modern age where knowing a place or its history is just an click away. Someone compared french and english, how can you impose english which is the national language of one country to be imposed on another country France whereas here it is about one country India. Agreed, earlier dynasties was ruled by the cheras, cholas and pandyas, but do you even realize at what cross roads do we stand today? Are you trying to tell me that we are going to oppose a unified national language because we werent the same historically. Arent we one country called India today??

    Instead, if the blog or the comments would have been against one loophole that all files/communication should be in hindi which is unwarrented, it would have been well appreciated.

    And I second Arjun Nair's comment about the difference being politically motivated, tamil's superiority over all other indian languages being one of the oldest in the world and its preservation.
    I have loved the Tamil culture and I truly cherish being part of this wonderful history but please do look at the politics that is being played. Nothing is further from the truth that my family is an amalgamation of hindi and tamil people. Jai Hind as we say being Indians!

    1. " If you wish to save a language or its culture, you should do a lot towards the community like arts, cultural and etc. Does anyone here listen to the carnatic music? Do you go to theatre and watch groups performing live? Do you take your kids to art festivals? All this is dying and I have seen the city change over the last so many years."

      All this is dying indeed, and it's dying because politicians have corrupted people's minds. Also, due to certain reasons, Bharatanatyam and Carnatic Music have become Brahmin-dominated today, and, being viewed as brahmin-culture, which is 'anti-tamil', are getting ignored.

      "Are you trying to tell me that we are going to oppose a unified national language because we werent the same historically. Arent we one country called India today??"
      Why do you think is Hindi an official language of India while Tamil isn't? The reasons you are providing in support of Hindi are only good enough to keep it at the state of Official Language. They are not enough to make it the national language.

      "And I second Arjun Nair's comment about the difference being politically motivated, tamil's superiority over all other indian languages being one of the oldest in the world and its preservation. "
      Political motivations do not undermine the fact that Tamil is one of the oldest languages in the world. Tamil is the only pure Indian language that does not trace its root to Sanskrit or any foreign language.

      Tamil is as old as (some say it's even older than) Sanskrit, and hence obviously needs to be preserved. Imposing Hindi on Tamils will definitely hinder this. You speak so much about language; are you aware of the fact that Tamils are discriminated even when it comes to History? Do you know that Pandyas were one of the longest (perhaps THE LONGEST) ruling dynasties in the world? Are you aware of the extent of Chola Empire during the reign of Rajendra Chola? Why are your History books hiding it?

  21. In Quebec, Canada, One cannot ask french to learn English. Tamils are not asked to learn malay or chinese in singapore. Spanish are not asked to learn english US at more states. These countries are united. If language "only" will unite us all mean they do not aware of telangana creation.
    The tamils,keralite,telegu are still in large of indian army they sacrificed in all wars for india. They do have strong national feeling. But touching their language is touching their identity.

    Tamils are ruled by marathas in thajavur after chola dynasty. thirmalai nayakar telugu ruled madurai where pandyas ruled. cheras mallus were also ruled as but we do not forgot the language. people do not represent the politics. Politicians ventilated our views else they cannot run politics in tamil nadu.

    The immigrants to india do not have regional identity in culture or in language or in food so the imposition of nationalism is obvious. This is called politics. This will not work. It is an old and worn out technique. The author has also to explore why the national parties are not in the map of tamil nadu.

    1. Gopal, Thanjavur was ruled by Marathas - they did not impose Marathi on the Tamil population there.

      In Tamilnadu - the contribution to Tamil Literature have been done by Communities which not having Tamil as Mother Tongue -- since Pre-Indepence till now ( Except Recent Migrants of Marwadis )

    2. I wanted to stress that though the king are different the people do not went behind it. I mean the migrants came after kyber pass. not the GU pope or other who greatly contributed.

  22. I wanted to write a blog on this issue, but after reading your's, i think it would not be necessary ....patriotism, love for your mother tongue, facts, everything mixed in equal proportion makes it a perfect article for the issue discussed.
    Good job done bro.

    People of today may not be able to compete in tamizh with previous generations but I am sure we can challenge them with the love we have for the language.

    When everyone is treated equally in this nation(at least on paper), i think its important to treat everyone's language in the same way.

    1. Rudhra,

      I am happy to have been able to write what you wanted to say. Thanks for the kind words.

      As long as people understand and respect the fact that love for one's culture and language does not undermine his / her patriotism, we will be fine as a country.

  23. Wonderful Article...hope that the people understand the fact you tried to reflect...even I believe that a person should know his language very well, at first.

    1. Sayan,

      I believe in that as well, as there is no other way we can keep the world so rich in culture.

  24. Well Written Article which will help North Indians to understand that South Indian Region were NOT under any North Indian Rulers during Pre-Colonial Rule.

    One Question

    Why the following Individual Languages are clubbed as Hindi ?
    ( To increase % ??? )

    2001 Census
    Bhojpuri - 3,30,99,497 Speakers
    Rajasthani - 1,83,55,613
    Magadh/Magahi - 1,39,78,565
    Chhattisgarhi - 1,32,60,186
    Haryanvi - 79,97,192
    Marwari - 79,36,183


    1. because a Bhojpuri speaker can easily understand hindi and most of the words are same.
      jaate hai becomes jaavat hai
      hum is common (difference of singular and plural though and many more similarities)
      plus, they are willing to accept hindi

    2. T S Durai, that is a fine question. And I thank Garv Malik for answering it in such a simple way.

      But this also brings me to my other point about why Hindi is acceptable to a speaker of Maithili or Bhojpuri. A major contributor to this fact is that there is similarity. Besides, due to the common-cultures of these people, the "loss" - there will be a certain amount of loss - that these people feel when Hindi replaces their own tongues is not nearly as much as what will happen is Hindi replaces Marathi or Telugu.

      We must remember that language 'verbifies' our culture. When you change the language you speak, you will change the way you live.

  25. another Question

    Why Census of India Site not mention the Count & % of People with their Mother Tongue ? suspicious ! May be Somebody have to File a PIL in Court to get these data ??

    The Last Census was taken in 2011 and before that 2001

  26. Great article with sound logics and historical insight.

  27. One thing about Hindi that bugs me is the absolutely different culture that its literature portrays. Imposing Hindi as something that is the "heart of the country" (according to BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi [1]) would mean imposing Hindi literature which would somehow create this idea within, that the culture that an individual has been born into, was somehow less Indian than what is portrayed in Hindi literature. What I'm saying is that when you're imposing Hindi, you're not just imposing a language, but a culture that is foreign to the people you are imposing it on.

    An aside: no disrespect to Hindi writers, but I enjoyed the Tamil literature I studied in school much more than the things I read while studying for Praveshika, Rashtrabhasa (they must have that name changed), Visharad (Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha exams), primarily because I found the culture and the peoples alien.


    1. Harish,

      Language does help 'verbify' the culture. So your point is very valid. Applying an alien language, in effect, enforces a foreign culture.

      It is good to know that you are well read in both these great languages.

  28. Great article... Well done... Just a couple of points to be more specific
    1. On central govt trying to impose Hindi...
    After reading the article its quite obvious and there is nothing much to add why it is not wise to impose Hindi to nonhindi speaking population...
    2. We r about 60 years old as a country... I was born well after independence and as I grew up i was always nurtured to take pride in calling myself an Indian and rightly so... So I m not sure if I should put nationalistic or regionalistic attitude ahead... All the facilities from fundamental rights are provided to me by Indian constitution by virtue of my citizenship... If I can go to a college in north India I can study easily without any trouble.. Language is the only barrier here... But imagine my friends from other states who have absolutely no issues in shifting from one state to other... When I had to move from chennai to kolkata for higher education I had to no clue about how to communicate...( obviously English doesn't help much in busses, autos markets etc) discussing with a broker to find a house to stay is so difficult. Sometimes I used to feel that may be I would ve been more confident walking down the streets of London than those of kolkata? Does it sound good if I m not confident in my own motherland? Hence as much as I m not happy with imposition of Hindi (that I see only as my inability in understanding the most commonly spoken language in the country than being overpowered) I m equally opposed to the opposition for making Hindi compulsory in schools... There is nothing wrong in learning an extra language more so if it ll allow to confidently move around in your own motherland... After all languages are meant for communication...

    1. Narayanamurthy,

      Opposition to teaching Hindi is schools is at least as bad as making a Hindi compulsory in them. But now, I'm beginning to wonder how people in UP and Bihar will react if Bengali or Malayalam was popularized by their schools.

      This is not a point of argument, of course; just something to think about.

  29. A nice, extensive, profesional article. I can definitely say the debates and arguments will definitely continue on and on! But your and our point has been raised! Kudos!!!

  30. Great article my few knowledge to this article, i was never language expert or people expert throughout my life.But it worth noting.

    Languages grow by how we promote them in regions (not by political pressure) where they aren't spoken. The reason I say it, when you get into situation you can communicate to people around you, you are forced to learn the language. As human tendency you will learn the language both writing and reading easily on that region for sure.
    My personal opinion on language I am Tamilian, I saw this in my daughter who was bought in USA all of her 12 years, when her grand parents arrived when they kept talking Tamil, she kind of accepted and learned the language by herself to have decent conversation with you. We have tried classes and other things for her to know another language nothing worked. Until it forced she needs to use it that when things changed.

    How did Hindi/Sanskrit promote them in southern India, is by having off school classes to learn them. Student create their one pace and also have exams on them. Most of the south Indian kids participate to learn Hindi and Sanskrit this way.

    But when I got Northern India we don't create classes for Tamil or any other regional languages at all. Only thing I see small discrete group of people teaching them Tamil or southern language. It might be worth promoting the language that way. This gives Indian students at least to know three or more languages. It will put them more elite level other people around them in world.

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  32. Diversity is the law of nature, encouraging monopoly in language is like encouraging monopoly in musical notes, is it not boring? Now with advancements in technology - Google translators, automatic speech recognition, and text to speech conversion, we can invest in tools to help people of different languages to communicate i.e, if they are too introvert or arrogant to take help from local people which is more cheaper and fun.

    I hate monopoly in anything..!! Thanks for exploring the historical reasons for the same.Some countries are united by language - like European countries. India is united just by common history.

    1. I like the analogy that you draw. It puts things into perspective and makes them quite vivid.

      It is also funny that the tech-savvy man that NaMo is, none of his cabinet members have taken to technology to bridge these communication gaps that they cite.

  33. Great article anirudh, your neutral approach over issue is why i guess has resulted very less harsh replies. Its hard to hit someone who neither hits nor runs away.

    I am from chennai and i would like explain why we are raising our voice against this move by government.

    The very fact that this official order from governmnent pushes panic button. If this is the first step to impose common medium of communications, one must wonder what shall be the next.

    Even if the government intension is the encourage a common medium of communication for official purpose, one must understand the fact that encouraging one language comes with cost of other language being discouraged.

    And for those who don't understand why learning hindi is more difficult than learning english for us, the fact is tamilnadu education system is designed as a bilingual learning system. And higher education is mostly with english as medium of communication. In other words practicaly don't use hindi.

    And not all here are bilingual from the roots. Most of my classmates in college did their schooling in tamil medium, hence they have to learn english along with their engineering degree subjects. So like rest of the india, we to learn english well past our ideal age of learning.

    So if the government successfully implement this trilingual necessity. We shall be forced to learn two new languages alien to us.

    Hence it is not cultural identity but fair opportunity irrespective of cultural background or society in question

    1. Thank you for the analysis, Rudra. I was beginning to wonder how I have escaped relatively unhurt so far. But I must also credit the people of this country, for they have reacted rather maturely to an issue which ostensibly is so sensitive.

      I agree with the practical problems which you have identified. After all, the people of most developed countries in this world are monolingual. A lot of us, even with all our "third-world concerns", are still bilingual. Expecting people to be trilingual is madness.

  34. Thanks for writing this wonderful piece and the brief but still very relevant recap of India's history.
    I also went through the comments and found some arguments in favor of the recent directive by the central government - for which I think it is important to add another dimension to this discourse.
    I have often come across people who despite agreeing to all that you said (and is very valid) switch to the point of view that English is a 'more' foreign language than Hindi - that it is a colonial influence which brings people to take this unreasonable, unquestioned 'nationalistic' stand in favor of a 'national' language (which Hindi is at large, but mistakenly taken as)
    No doubt that it is a colonial influence and one can also say that spread of English (rather for that matter, spread of any language - be it Spanish,Latin, Persian, French - I have started to see Hindi too in the same light now!) - but what I find contradictory, if not double standards - is that while the new lifestyle changes is being embraced by the populace - many of these people actually in favor of state control over forest and rivers (damming of rivers too) - fail to see all those as a colonial influence - or to put it more bluntly,
    What happens to their nationalistic moralistic stand when they take pleasure in visiting the malls, plan exotic vacations, ride on fuel guzzling shiny SUVs ?

    Also, Another point raised often was that of what one should / can to promote its own culture - language in particular?
    I, being a native hindi speaker and a bit of hindi reader too - have often regretted the loss of literature and quality of Hindi (As a language) - even in Northern India. Books written in English by many contemporary Indian writers (like Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth, Mistry) are available in French - but are not available in Hindi. I have been looking for books/stories written by Premchand, Dinkar, poems written by Mahadevi Verma, Nirala - translated in English or any other language -but in vain !
    Point being, while we are so hell-bent on promoting one language over the other - where is the scope for languages to actually evolve. Languages evolve with literature and intercultural exchange - not by promoting it like cheap soaps and shampoos by Unilever.
    My answer to the above question would be - the best way to promote your own culture is to stop perceiving it as a rate-race between languages - this is not about winning - this is about cultural exchange - and the best would be if you could learn it as much as you can.
    Speaking from a governance point of view, the government (state and center) could together invest in bringing up cultural centers - to promote studies and research in linguistics (and by linguistics I mean - Indian languages). I find it really surprising that there are courses on Indian cultural studies, indian languages, sanskrit in German and American universities whereas Indians cannot find time from attending call centers and doing back-end jobs of the multi-national giants of the west. (And yet, we pretend to show resentment against the west and the colonial influence? Not that one should, but since we cannot change history - its better to accept it than regret it)

    1. Shishir,

      Thanks for being here. I really enjoyed some of the suggestions you've made; many of them reverberate with my own thoughts, while a few of them are refreshingly new.

      The point you make about selective rejection of Westernization, while accepting points which are seen as convenient, is damningly true. The point about accepting History as something which as happened (and therefore shaped our present), and not something which we necessarily must react emotionally to is very mature.

      We definitely require better centers of holistic learning in India. Perhaps, instead of that forty-seventh IIT, we can have an Indian Center for Languages and Arts?

  35. Author must understand Tamil is just another southern language.
    Equally significant is Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam in their own sense.
    all have shared roots and none is superior to other.
    Tamil fanaticism is a little stronger than others,doesnt mean tamil is more ancient, more unique...
    We accept other languages equally and we arew more tolerant than tamils towards other language.

    1. Sunil,

      There is nothing fanatic about love for one's language. You will do well to understand that. I have not undermined the importance of Kannada, Telugu or Malayalam at any point in my most.

      As a matter of fact, I speak a little bit of Telugu and I can understand basic Malayalam. I don't know where your analysis of relative-tolerance comes from.

  36. good one buddy , but pls try to learn tamil (reading and writing) also :)

    1. Santhosh,

      I can read Tamil. I will learn how to write :)

  37. very articulate and well-written... there have been lots of opinions that Indians belong to one race...admittedly, there has been inter-mingling over the years, and even if some cultural nationalists manage to include south indians in the same race, it would amount to patently excluding the people of the north-east as they are clearly and visibly different...and yet u have people repeating this opinion.. y somebody would strive to create a monolithic bloc is when it clearly doesn't exist is incomprehensible..

    1. Vahse,

      Awareness is something that leaders need to inculcate in their people. The kind of knowledge (or lack thereof) that we have of the people of the North-East is quite alarming.

      We really should give up the idea of this "monolithic bloc" as you put it, and focus instead on educating people about differences. We'll create a happier world that way.

  38. A lot of water has flowed down the Cauvery since the DWH (Down with Hindi) days. The 1950s and the anti Hindi agitation saw the rise of DMK as a political party.
    As a Tamil Nadu born Indian whose mother tongue is Hindi I could never fully appreciate the imposition of Hindi. During the 1950s and 1960s Tamil Nadu, the erstwhile Madras State had practically NIL penetration of Hindi or any sort of North Indian culture. Chapatis & Rotis were edible items confined to the Muslims households. Similarly, the fluffy Idly or the golden fried Dosa was not familiar in the North. I remember when Idli’s and Vada’s were first introduced in Chandigarh (Punjab) the Sardarjis used to throw away the Chutney and eat them instead with Tomato Sauce!!! During the 1950s in Tambaram, when my little sister was taken to the local market the locals were heard whispering ‘ para para punna pyjama potaranga’. In those days the Tamil girls used to wear the gracious looking half-saree. Alas, the half-saree is all but vanished from their wardrobes today. In those days, people from North, South, East or West could be easily identified from their dress. Now-a days, the Punjabi Suit has been totally adopted by Tamil girls & women. If the DMK or AIDMK were to dare to ban them, you can surely expect Amma to lose her next election.
    In 1958, the Globe theatre opened on Mount Road (now Anna Salai) with much fanfare. At that time it was India’s first Air-Conditioned picture hall. We all went to see a movie there. The first picture to be screened was a Hindi movie ‘Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behati Hai’. It was a North South starrer having Raj Kapoor and Padmini in the lead roles. There was no looking back and thereafter Bollywood was flooded with heroines from the South with Hema Malini as the most famous.
    Today, the North-South story is very much different. Both are well aware of each other’s habits and culture. A lot of people travel north to South and visa versa. Moreover, today it is difficult to differentiate a Delhi youth from a Chennai youth. Both wear their jeans and munch Burgers and Pizzas. Wow! Eating and dressing habits have changed but have become the same across the country. Similarly, as far as language is concerned it does not matter if it is Hindi, Tamil or English as long as each can communicate with and follow the other person. People will always adopt what is useful or beneficial or convenient to them. No language or religion etc can be imposed in the name of integration. The integration will come on it’s own and in it’s own time.
    The Government of India has lots of more important work in hand and it must allow notions such as National Integration etc to be handled by the Media, Films, Fashion and trends as they have already done a good job.

  39. Just wondering when these Tamil chauvinism ends.Being an Indian what is wrong in learning Hindi.I am a Telugu guy,I am proud of my heritage and I don't hate any other language probably no one in India do.I would dare to say no one in India perhaps is as arrogant as Tamil lunatics.

    1. Dear Rami,

      I understand and appreciate the fact that you know Hindi and that you are proud of having learnt the language. We do not condemn you for learning Hindi, but that doesn't mean we have to accept you as some kind of role-model. Respect differences, my friend. Perhaps one day, it will help you.

  40. factually incorrect on one part. There was andhra bhasha- that was more of Prakrit, then the now telugu is has a good mix of sanskrit. Tamil comes for Pali. Tamil is not the root language of all southindian languages.
    I dont know how one can miss the importance of a link language taht is more indian- even if you say that hindi is not indian. iam not sure what facts you base on saying hat hindi is not an indian language?>then pray tell me what was spoken before the advent of sanskrit above vidhyas?

    random thoughts: by your logic, sanskrit is predominantly a northindian language, so are ramayana and mahabharata, valmiki and vyasa. when we can accept history, personalities, own them and be proud of them..whats in a languge. bloody hell, we are writing in english.- language of an opressor.
    There are many benefits of knowing a language, one of it is effective communication, but also articulating self that goes a long way in psychological well being

    1. sanskrit has much influenced by pali. dhamma becomes dharma, kamma become karma, siri () become sri in sanskrit. (In sri lanka sinhalese call siri mavo bandaranayake due to influence of buddhism ). Theser are all already discussed by ambedkar.

      Origin of tamil, it is three letter in our language. has strong consonant sound

      The first letter follows high syllable(vallinam), (ka, sa, da, "tha", pa, ra)second letter follows medium syllable (idaiyinam)and final one has (melinum) lowest syllable(ya, ra, la, va," ila"). Even the word tamil has originality and its own root. That follows its own origin. This sounds are not defined in pali.

      I got this information from robert caldwel and u va saminatha iyer works.

  41. I respect all languages, we should a language model for a country.... no language should be forced on anyone .. at the same time ... as one nation we should have one identify, i don't mind learning Kannada orr Bangala.. but everyone should agree to it.... another big issue here is that... as soon as we have some hope of development such article start coming up... is there is any big hand still dividing us ... just think of it ?.. someone really don't want us to grow....either we say one nation.. or we divide live as we are living.... for the sake of higher purpose can we stop thinking at low level.. rather think how you can add value to your language.....let us stabilize first.. then reform....Nandri...

  42. Read the blog n all comments
    Instead of arguments which we Indians indulge in look at how the society is progressing
    Look at south films songs all languages now have songs lyrics with Hindi in it
    S products like soaps n biscuits have different package for south
    All tv commercials are now in Hindi n 3 south languages with even a different brand ambassador for south
    N s all south ppl are slowly learning or understanding Hindi
    Just look at prabhudeva
    It's wrong to assume state patronage makes a language grow even though it helps unless the speakers themselves do speak n take pride
    Look at tulu speakers just the love of the Ppl has made it survive
    Other stray thoughts
    Coz of computers n internet English is lording over
    Governments all over are fighting a loosing battle worldwide
    Even French German Japanese have such issues n arguments
    N maravadis don't have problems learning local language be it in Bangalore Chennai or Coimbatore
    N ty never complain
    Finally it's just plain simple
    See every where ppl just want to fight language religion caste race etc
    Just want a reason

  43. Well written. I dont understand why children have to take the burden of learning 3 languages. Especially if the third language is not going to be of any value addition. Most of our country folks need to retrospect our history. English is here to stay atleast till India is a services country for MNC's

    1. Ramesh,

      Thanks. And I agree with you that it is very difficult to replace English completely in the current scenario.

  44. Kannada did not evolve from Tamil. I understand your pride and agree with most of your points. But facts which are wrong are wrong

    1. I'm sorry, Sudeep, but you seem to miss the point of this post.

      But yes, if you want to talk of the origins of Kannada, it belongs to the Tamil-Kannada stream of Dravidian languages. I acknowledge that the language did have oral existence around the 3rd century B.C., around the same time as the last Sangam meetings.

    2. Sudeep / Anirudh I would say you might lose the focus of this argument which is against Hindi imposition. We can agree that Kannada did not evolve from Tamil as it has an equal history and also a classical status. The ground reality we face today is Hindi is enforced directly or indirectly upon us through TV ads like Bejdhe quikr etc.. or Newspapers like Times which hardly carry english headlines, only Hinglish. TN and Karnataka are the only states to voice opposition

  45. Sorry Rami reddy, cant agree with you. India is not an autocratic country but a democratic country. People cant be forced upon. Just like how you have the freedom to choose to learn Hindi others have the freedom to choose to not learn / converse Hindi. It is purely a personal choice. You cant call it arrogance. Going by your logic. If Tamil people don't learn Hindi they are arrogant. But if Hindi people don't learn regional languages (even when they migrate to a different state which has a different language) it is called national interest. Wow defies logic. Now i call that audacity and arrogance.

  46. It's now proven that learning a language other than your mother tongue actually helps the brain become healthier. That beiong the case let's drop all nationalistic reasons for learning a language and keep a 3 language formula in all schools in India. If first language is hindi then second language must be a regional one. If first language is a regional one then second language must be Hindi...third of course remains english. The perhaps a a greater bridge will be formed among this wonderfully diverse nation.

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