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Linguistic Identity in India UPSC NOTE


Linguistic Identity in India

  • India is home to over 22 official languages, and more than 1,600 dialects are spoken in the country.

  • This linguistic diversity reflects the country's rich cultural heritage and has contributed to its social fabric in several ways.

  • For example, the diversity of languages has led to the development of a strong sense of regional identity and pride among the different ethnic groups in India.

Historical factors:

  • The linguistic nationality movements, which imagined India as a federation of nationalities. 

  • While the north imagined India as a homogenous nation that resonates with the Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan slogan.

  • The south aspired to build India as a federation of nationalities.

  • The print and publishing culture led to the formation of distinct linguistic public spheres in the south, which were further consolidated by cinema, mainly through the mediation of film stars.

  • By the early 20th century, different linguistic communities in the south began to claim nationality status for themselves. 

  • The leaders were inspired by the political developments in Europe where, in the aftermath of major revolutions, new nations were founded based on linguistic identity with the political objective of achieving ‘popular sovereignty.’

  • Linguistic identity had proven to be secular, flexible and more inclusive than religious or racial identities, so the then Madras Presidency leaders consciously tried to cultivate it. 

  • The middle-class intelligentsia from the south recognised the crucial connection between language and liberal democracy. 

  • For a democracy to function, it is essential to employ the language of the common people in the domains of education, administration and judiciary, without which equality and justice cannot be realised. 

  • Also, to perform this new role, people’s languages needed to be modernised adequately. 

  • However, all these, it was believed, would be possible only when India was created as a federation of nationalities. 

  • These languages would perish if India were forced into a single homogenous nation.

  • Puchhalapalli Sundarayya (Telugu), Annadurai and Periyar (Tamil), E.M.S. Namboodiripad (Malayalam), and much later, V.K. Gokak (Kannada) and others spoke and wrote on the importance of creating India as a federation.

  • The Andhra Mahasabha leaders, in particular, argued that India was not a nation but a subcontinent of multiple nationalities (similar to the European Union), and a unitary India would be unsuitable for democracy.

  • They argued that no single language could facilitate such a process for the entire subcontinent. 

  • Moreover, a strong nation needs strong bonding among its people. 

  • But the population of the Indian subcontinent spoke multiple languages, so no single language could bind them all as a national community.

  • After independence, the Congress made peace with the south through a compromise formula of agreeing to create linguistic States with limited powers granted by the Constitution.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Linguistic Identity in India UPSC NOTE
Linguistic Identity in India UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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