Thursday October 19, 2017
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Community radio in indigenous language can root out Naxalism


By Harshmeet Singh

Naxalism is widely regarded as India’s biggest internal security threat. One of the major roadblocks faced by the authorities in fighting naxalism is the inaccessibility of the affected areas. While the naxalites blend among the villagers with ease, the authorities find it hard to reach out to the villagers using conventional means.

A number of adivasis living in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand come under the influence of naxalites since the authorities do not talk to them. Even after 7 decades of independence, it is only the creamy layer of adivasis that has jelled with the mainstream India by learning their language. We have let down the adivasis and presented them to the naxalites on a platter as easy prey.

Reaching out to the secluded areas where these adivasis live is a difficult task which can be achieved through airwaves. The authorities need to make use of the radio much more judiciously to put an end to the Maoist problem. The process of launching a short-wave radio service needs to be eased out.

It’s not that these areas have no radio services. A couple of years of back, community radio service was started in the naxal-affected areas. But only few, any if, programs run in the adivasi languages such as Gondi. In fact, AIR doesn’t broadcast a single bulletin in the Gondi language. Adivasi broadcasting cooperatives have the potential to be the game changer.

An exception to this is CGNet Swara launched by Shubhranshu Choudhary. This voice-based portal allows the common man to report and catch up stories related to their local surroundings. Anyone can easily record a message by calling at their number and following simple instructions. These stories are moderated by a group of journalists before being broadcasted in the local language. 

Launching a radio station in India is much more difficult than launching a newspaper or even a TV channel! Considering that mobile penetration in the adivasi areas is relatively high, a robust radio service through which adivasis can be connected with the mainstream has the potential to dent the naxal problem.

Community radio presenting programs in the indigenous language has much more potential of uplifting the adivasis and rooting out the naxal problem than increasing internet penetration through Digital India.

(Image courtesy:

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Skip English, focus on Indigenous Languages for India’s Development


By Harshmeet Singh

“A common perception in India is that Indians need English to succeed. But is it the other way around in reality?”

The sky high vision and aim of becoming a world power that we carry with respect to our nation, are based on an extremely shaky education system which considers mimicking western theories the best way to impart knowledge.

With such a rich culture which is renowned worldwide, you would imagine that Indian students of social studies and humanities would carry with them enviable knowledge of Indian traditions, language and vedic sciences. But unfortunately, all our education system offers to them is western ideas and western thoughts.

Our Anglophonic education system is majorly responsible for a continuing colonized mindset that regards English as a mark of superiority. As the African and Asian nations tread the path of development, their share in the global GDP will see a surge in the coming decades. The economic influence of the English-speaking nations is set to dip in the near future.

With Spanish giving a tough competition to English in the US, English is looking for an emerging economic power that would save its status as the global language. In order to rope in Indian audience and viewers, a number of US and UK news channels have now started covering news from the Indian perspective.

India adopted a three-language for its education system in 1960s, when the Indian economy looked up to US and UK. With English taking the center-stage in this policy, the regional languages started losing ground. Despite vast changes in the economy and India’s global standing, we never thought of re-visiting our language policy for education to save our indigenous languages.


Some of the most renowned scientists in the world have taken birth in non-English speaking nations, thereby ruling out the perception that English is necessary for professional success in the field of Science and Mathematics. Though knowledge of English, like any other language, is certainly a handy skill to have, it is a myth that English is ‘necessary’ for professional success.

There are innumerable examples to break this myth. The onus of breaking this myth for the Indian youth lies with the Government which needs to ensure that there are ample employment opportunities for those who chose to give English a miss, and rather concentrated on other skills.

The first step in this regard would be ensuring that there is high quality educational material in indigenous languages for the students at all levels. The UGC initiated Bharatvani project is a major step in this regard. Proposed to be developed as the largest language portal in the world, the Bharatvani project aims at delivering knowledge in almost all Indian languages, with the help of multimedia formats. It plans to aggregate multimedia content from the government, writers and other non-governmental organizations and put it on a common platform. UGC also plans to rope in publication houses and different universities to make it a success.

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English as Trojan Horse in India


Since time immemorial, languages like English have been used as a tool of cultural and linguistic imperialism. The plight of indigenous languages throughout the world is more or less the same. The imperialists use similar modus operandi everywhere i.e. of subjugating native populations by attacking their culture, language, self-esteem and replacing them with their own.

In India, for instance, English distinguishes those in executive authority from others and prevents the effective participation of the masses in the government process while working as a gatekeeper to better jobs.

Author David Cooke describes English as a ‘Trojan Horse’ – or a virus – and argues that it is a language of imperialism and of particular class interests. This analogy is of particular interest.

Legend has it that Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside so as to enter the city of Troy and win the war. The Trojans, after noticing that the Greeks had conceded defeat by sailing away, carted off the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, decisively ending the war.

Likewise, English, as Trojan Horse, creeps into a society and then gradually destroys and replaces its indigenous languages.

Professor Richard R Day calls this process ‘linguistic genocide’. In the book ‘Language of Inequality’, he writes about his study of gradual replacement of Chamorro in Guam and the North Marianas and pessimistically concludes, “… as long as Marianas remain under the control of the United States, the English language will continue to replace Chamorro until there are no native speakers left. This has been American policy and practice elsewhere and there is no reason to believe that Guam and the North Marianas will be an exception.”

Professor Alastair Pennycook in his book ‘The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language’ warns that English poses a direct threat to the very existence of other languages.

‘More generally, however, if not actually threatening linguistic genocide, it poses the less dramatic but far more widespread danger of what we might call linguistic curtailment. When English becomes the first choice as a second language, when it is a language in which so much is written and in which so much of the visual media occur, it is constantly pushing other languages out of the way, curtailing their usage in both qualitative and quantitative terms.’

How language shift affects native people

The shift from native language to foreign one may take a long time but the end result, usually as can be seen around the world, is the death of the former. As the example of Marianas shows, the language shift there from Chamarrow to English was completed in but a few generations. When the native language is no longer the first language learned by children, it dies a painful death.

For instance, when the Native Americans i.e. Indians made a switch from their language to English, their language died because there was nobody left to speak it. The death of Native Americans’ language was not voluntary. In India, the spread of English and its wide-spread usage in educational institutes and bureaucracy has ensured that the country’s slavery was kept intact even after our independence.

Today, those who know English rule the roost and this ensures that masses are kept away from the corridors of power and decision making. English is literally a passport to good jobs; the speakers of native languages are seen as inferior beings.

Sankrant Sanu – an entrepreneur, writer, and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon shared an anecdote with NewsGram related to his recent visit to IIT Kanpur.

Sanu has been hopping from one place to another, delivering lectures in schools and universities, educating the youth about the pressing need to create equal opportunities for those who wish to study in their mother tongue.

“A friend of mine who had gone with me to IIT Kanpur for my lecture was initially dismissive about the damage caused by English to our society, especially the youth. However, during my speech when the students themselves began sharing their plight, how they suffered because of their lack of proficiency in English, light finally dawned upon him… So much so that he at once handed over a cheque of Rs five lakh for my work that is aimed at securing justice for Indian languages.”

Like those IIT students, there are millions of Indians whose stories need to be heard and shared to ascertain the reason behind their lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. English – or Trojan Horse – that is read and spoken by only a fraction of total Indian population should not be allowed to sabotage the lives and careers of so many bright Indians who can, if given a chance, do pretty well by studying in their own languages.

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Regional language Comic books reviving Indian vernacular


Regional languages in India are going through a rough phase. Our country is focusing on the ‘global language’—English, and not working on enriching its own diverse indigenous linguistic spectrum. Local schools of different states don’t offer enough regional language courses and most teach in English medium. In a situation of this sort, youngsters are not able to understand the importance of their respective mother tongues.

In such times, ‘comics’, the favourite form of ‘literature’ for most children, has come ahead to the rescue of Indian languages. Children, as well teenagers, are mostly fascinated by comics and when these comics take a regional turn, there is nothing better for the local kids.

There are several famous comic book writers and cartoonists who work in regional languages. Narayan Debnath’s Baatul the Great– could ward off bullets, stop trains, run through concrete walls, hurl military tanks in the air and have a whale for breakfast. Baatul, essentially, was a Bengali child’s Superman. On the other hand, Mayukh Choudhury introduced Agantuk (a humanoid extraterrestrial creature, who grew deadly claws at will), who was similar to Wolverine from X-Men comics (and movies), but was created more than a decade earlier.

V.T Thomas, also known as Toms, a cartoonist from Kerala, created Boban and Molly, (12-year-old twins) who presented childish adventures and pranks as well as contemporary, social and political satires in the comic strips. It is also said that Toms influenced the way a Malayali read magazines –from back to front– as this comic strip would appear on the back pages of the Malayalam Manorama weekly.

These cartoonists present the impact which can be created by comics on social and educational consciousness levels of children as well as teenagers. This artistic way of creating awareness about the regional dialects is disappearing in recent times, which needs to be reinstated for saving our vernaculars from getting drained out.

There are several Indian comic book publishers focusing on Hindi or other regional languages. Publishers such as Diamond Comics, created the very popular Chacha Chaudhary (an old man who solved his problems with common sense, but with a touch of humour), while Radha Comics published Shaktiputra, featuring a character of the same name, who is very similar to RoboCop.

Recently, Tinkle Digest, in their November edition, introduced ‘Mapui’ the wing star hailing from Mizoram’s Aizawl. Also, with Comic-con India expanding its horizon to non-metropolitan cities, more of local and regional language books are finding their way into the mainstream comic business.

A quote by famous cartoonist, Dr Seuss explains the power of caricatures: “Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.” This is what we need to take advantage of to develop an awareness of our local dialects.

Comic books such as these are not only enhancing the niche of regional languages but also enriching the vernacular. Such efforts to use comics as a medium of expanding the flow of regional languages amongst children is a very gratifying idea.

“Reading regional language comic books is helping students excel in academics. These comics fascinate youngsters, compelling them to learn and read their local dialects,” said Priyamvada Rastogi, regional language editor of Tinkle Digest, while in a conversation with NewsGram.

Language has its own discourse and, in the same way, the hundreds of Indian dialects also have specific characteristics. Comics are one of the most interesting ways of expanding regional languages across the youth of this nation. We should explore this spectrum not merely for entertainment, but also for educational purposes.