Language has always been a contentious issue in India. Ever since India attained Independence, several protests have taken place on the issue of language and linguistic identity. These language protests have often taken a violent turn with people losing lives for their cause.
The battle of Hindi against other regional languages has always been at the center of most of these protests. While the Indian constitution mentions that “Hindi [in the Devanagiri script] is the official language of the Union”, it fell short of naming it the national language.
In 1959, the then PM Jawaharlal Nehru assured the Parliament that the English language would be freely used whenever people of non-Hindi background needed. This assurance got the backing of the law in the form of Official Languages Act, 1963.
Considering that India is home to over 1600 languages, linguistic rivalry is bound to be an unpleasant reality. The 2001 census revealed that close to 41% of the national population spoke Hindi. The other languages that made up the top five were Bengali (8.11%), Telugu (7.37%), Marathi (6.99%) and Tamil (5.91%). Though the statistics may show an overwhelming majority of Hindi speakers, in reality, most of the Hindi speakers are concentrated in only a handful of states.
Language struggle in India is relatively old. The opposition to imposition of Hindi by the central government has been historically led by Tamil Nadu. The state of Tamil Nadu has witnessed several anti-Hindi protests before and after independence. Most of these struggles saw mass participation and violent demonstrations.
The roots of pre-Independence struggle lay in Congress’ attempts at making Hindi a compulsory subject in the then Madras Presidency. It was congress’ way of replacing English and preparing for a British-free India. This led to widespread agitations led by EV Ramasamy or Periyar. Though it stopped the Congress from imposing Hindi in Madras schools, it came at the cost of several lives.
Similar agitation took place post independence. This time, it was to ensure that Hindi doesn’t become the sole official language of the Union of India. The Congress leaders hailing from the South Indian states also took part in the agitation and ensured that leaders like Purushottam Das Tandon and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee don’t have their way. The solution was a clause that English would accompany Hindi as the official Language of the Union for a period of 15 years. Since then, the Congress has never managed to come into power in Tamil Nadu.
Ironically, the agitation against Hindi also saw the support of C. Rajagopalachari, the person who introduced Hindi as the compulsory subject when he was the CM of Madras Presidency in 1938.
Though such violent agitations aren’t seen today, the language protests are still a common idea in the country. Such unhealthy rivalries can be out to rest by providing equal status to all the major languages spoken in the country. An inclusive language policy will go a long way in ensuring that the country doesn’t fall victim to disintegrative politics.
New Delhi, Apr 25, 2017: Aiming to bring a billion people online and make the web more useful for them, Google India on Tuesday unveiled new products on advancement in machine learning for Indian languages.
Google also announced that the neural machine translation is now available for nine Indian languages — Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.
“Google wants to extend internet for every Indian. We have identified gaps that bar Indians from accessing the internet. There are 400 million internet users in India and the number is expected to reach 600 million by 2020,” Rajan Anandan, Vice President, India and SouthEast Asia, Google, told reporters here.
New Delhi: A group of 132 eminent Indian academicians, including many well-known Sanskrit scholars, have expressed strong reservations regarding Columbian University Professor Sheldon Pollock, a scholar of philology presiding over the historical project of Murthy Classical library as the general editor.
The Murty Classical Library of India was established by Rohan Murthy, the son of Infosys co-founder N. R. Narayana Murthy, with an aim to publish modern English translations of classical Indian works present in various Indian languages, including Sanskrit, Bangla, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.
The Library started publishing translations in 2015 and since its inception, Professor Pollock has been serving as its ‘general editor’. Professor Pollock is known for his controversial views on Sanskrit language and Indian philosophy.
The petition contends that “While Pollock has been a well-known scholar of philology, it is also well-known that he has deep antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in our civilization. He echoes the views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express themselves.”
The signatories further state in their petition that Professor Pollock is not politically neutral and has been a “prominent signatory of several statements which are of a purely political nature and devoid of any academic merit; those statements have condemned various policies and actions of the Government of India,” including two “recent statements released by US academicians condemning the actions of the JNU authorities and the Government of India against separatist groups who are calling for the independence of Kashmir, and for India’s breakup.”
Calling the Murthy Classical Library as a “historical project”, the petitioners have stated that such a project must be “guided and carried out by a team of scholars who not only have proven mastery in the relevant Indian languages, but are also deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India. They also need to be imbued with a sense of respect and empathy for the greatness of Indian civilization.”
They have further appealed the Murthy duo to “invite critics of Sheldon Pollock and the approaches being followed in his project, for open and frank discussions.”
We the undersigned would like to convey our deep appreciation for your good intentions and financial commitment to establish the Murty Classical Library of India, a landmark project to translate 500 volumes of traditional Indian literature into English. We appreciate the motives of making our civilization’s great literature available to the modern youth who are educated in English, and who are unfortunately not trained in Indian languages.
However, such a historical project would have to be guided and carried out by a team of scholars who not only have proven mastery in the relevant Indian languages, but are also deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India. They also need to be imbued with a sense of respect and empathy for the greatness of Indian civilization.
We would like to bring to your notice the views of the mentor and Chief Editor of this program, Professor Sheldon Pollock. While Pollock has been a well-known scholar of philology, it is also well-known that he has deep antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in our civilization. He echoes the views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express themselves. He has forcefully articulated this view in his career, starting with his 1985 paper, “The Theory of Practice and the Practice of Theory in Intellectual Tradition” (Journal of the American Oriental Society). He sees all shastras as flawed because he finds them frozen in Vedic metaphysics, which he considers irrational and a source of social oppression. Even as recently as 2012, he echoed this view at a talk at Heidelberg titled, “What is South Asian Knowledge Good For?”). He said:
“Are there any decision makers, as they refer to themselves, at universities and foundations who would not agree that, in the cognitive sweepstakes of human history, Western knowledge has won and South Asian knowledge has lost? …That, accordingly, the South Asian knowledge South Asians themselves have produced can no longer be held to have any significant consequences for the future of the human species?”
Therefore, we are dismayed that Pollock has been appointed the Chief Editor and mentor of the entire program.
In his recent book, “The Battle for Sanskrit”, Shri Rajiv Malhotra has articulated that many of the writings of Pollock are deeply flawed and misrepresent our cultural heritage.
Furthermore, Pollock does not claim to be politically neutral. In recent years, Pollock has been a prominent signatory of several statements which are of a purely political nature and devoid of any academic merit; those statements have condemned various policies and actions of the Government of India. He has shown utter indifference and disrespect for democratic values and even the international norms of non-interference in the internal functioning of constitutional representative institutions in other countries.
In addition, we now find that Pollock is a prominent signatory of two recent statements released by US academicians condemning the actions of the JNU authorities and the Government of India against separatist groups who are calling for the independence of Kashmir, and for India’s breakup.
“काश्मीर की आजादी तक जंग रहेगी, भारत की बरबादी तक जंग रहेगी, भारत तेरे टुकडे होङ्गे,
इनशा अल्लाह इनशा अल्लाह”.
“The fight will continue till Kashmir is freed; The fight will continue till India is destroyed; O India, you are going to get shattered by the will of Allah.”
Beside these slogans, the disgruntled youth also went on to condemn the highest court of India by way of hoarding posters and banners describing the action of court as “judicial killing” of a terrorist.
To add fuel to the fire, Pollock by way of signing petitions has demanded that the Government of India should end its “authoritative menace”. However, we do not find him petitioning against his own USA government’s authoritative policies within its borders and around the world.
Thus, it is crystal clear that Pollock has shown disrespect for the unity and integrity of India. We submit that such an individual cannot be considered objective and neutral enough to be in charge of your historic translation project.
We petition you to reconstitute the editorial group of your project with the following ideals in mind:
There must be a fair representation of the lineages and traditional groups that teach and practice the traditions described in the texts being translated. This would ensure that the sentiments and understanding of the millions of Indians who practice these traditions are not violated.
The project must be part of the “Make in India” ethos and not outsourced wholesale to American Ivy Leagues. Just as your visionary role in Infosys showed the world that Indians can be the top producers of IT, so also we urge you to champion the development of Swadeshi Indology. This would entail developing an entire ecosystem of India-based research, translations, journals and conferences. These would be run by leading Indian academicians as well as traditional practitioners.
There must be a written set of standards and policies for the entire project, pertaining to the translation methodologies, historical assumptions and philosophical interpretations that would be used consistently in all volumes.
How will certain Sanskrit words that are non-translatable be treated?
What will be the posture adopted towards the “Foreign Aryan Theory” and other such controversial theories including chronologies?
What will be assumed concerning the links between ancient texts and present-day social and political problems?
Will the theoretical methods developed in Europe in the context of the history of ancient Europe, be used to interpret Indian texts, or will there first be open discussions with Indians on the use of Indian systems of interpretations?
We urge you to invite critics of Sheldon Pollock and the approaches being followed in his project, for open and frank discussions. We are convinced that this would lead to a dramatic improvement in your project and also avoid any adverse outcome.
Scholars and Intellectuals
Prof. K. Ramasubramanian, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay.
Prof. Ramesh C. Bhardwaj , Professor and Head, Department of Sanskrit, Delhi University
Dr. Kapil Kapoor , Former Pro Vice Chancellor, JNU, New Delhi.
Dr. Girish Nath Jha, Professor of Computational Linguistics and Chairperson, Special Center for Sanskrit Studies, JNU, New Delhi. Professor & Concurrent Faculty, Center for Linguistics, School of Language Literature & Culture Studies, JNU, New Delhi.
Prof. V. Kutumba Sastry, President, International Association of Sanskrit Studies, Former Vice Chancellor, Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi
Dr. C. Upender Rao, Professor and Chairperson, Special centre for Sanskrit Studies, JNU, New Delhi.
Prof. Madhu Kishwar, Senior Fellow, CSDS, New Delhi
Prof. R. Vaidyanathan, IIM Bangalore, Finance & Control UTI Chair Professor
Shri N. Gopalaswami, Former Chief Election Commisioner of India, Head of the HRD ministry’s committee on Sanskrit Promotion, Chairman, Kalakshetra, Chennai
Prof. Ramesh Kumar Pandey, Vice Chancellor, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi.
New Delhi: The Human Resource Development Ministry’s Bharatvani project will surely prove to be a great boon for the promotion on Indian Languages, a step put forward by the BJP government.
The Ministry will release multimedia content and study material for school and professional courses in 22 Indian scheduled languages on this International Mother Language Day on February 21.
Task for gathering and compiling the content for the portal is assigned to the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysore by the Ministry. This project, creating a knowledge society is also a part of the Prime Minister’s Digital India initiative.
School and college textbooks, dictionaries, grammar books in 22 languages will be made available on the portal. The content for the website and other data is being compiled by University Grant Commission, Central Board of Secondary Education, National Book Trust, Indira Gandhi National Open University, National Council of Educational Research and Training and its 16 state partners.
“Besides the school textbooks, Bharatvani will also have books on anthropology, history, books on medical science and text books for engineering courses, available in all possible regional languages,” informed Professor Awadesh Kumar Mishra, director of CIIL.
Education bodies affiliated by Sangh have been only attempting to influence decisions made by the officials to make study material for professional courses available in regional languages.(input from agencies)