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Tag Archives | DVG

Linguistic States in India

In an otherwise uneventful journey, recently, I had the pleasure of talking to a bus driver who was plying between Indian states A and  B. He was ruing about how commercial and other state transport vehicles(from the ‘other’ states) do not let you overtake based on the letter code on your number plate.

Anecdotes are the lowest forms of data, that is if it can be considered data at all. That said, the story about overtaking(or the lack of it) is an excellent example of how linguistic sub-nationalism surfaces in India.

The movement for linguistic states in India existed much before Independence, but became a reality due to the unfortunate death of Potti Sriramulu who fast unto death for the creation of a separate Andhra Pradesh. Linguistic states are a now reality and have, depending upon the situation, been a matter of great elation and/or chaos.

Language cloud

Creation of linguistic states has had many advantages but it has also had several negative effects. First, boundary tensions exist between several states. Second, water-sharing agreements between higher and lower riparian regions are still not sorted. Third, multilingual scholarship has been a serious casualty  —  it has become the job of another state to promote their own language.

It is undeniable that strong sentiments are attached to languages. The sub-continent itself has witnessed civil wars and creation of an independent nation on the basis of a language. Therefore, it is important to be cognisant about this sentiment, but it is also important to ensure that sentiments do not get the better of us.

In his excellent essay titled State Name and Linguism in  Public Affairs in 1972, the Kannada poet and intellectual D.V Gundappa, says the following

 Emphasising the linguistic element in the nomenclature of the Provincial states in India is a way of promoting separatism and disharmony. (…) The names of the Provincial States should not be such that they could be used as a handle by a fanatic of any kind. Language is emphatically such, as much as Religion. The name could no harm if it is based upon locality or town or upon a  historic dynasty now extinct and incapable of separatist or offensive sentiment — like Kadamba or Chola. If unprovocative is not found , the best course would be to assign a number to the State. The names of States given in Schedule I to the constitution may be rearranged in alphabetical order and numbered consecutively so that they will be known as State the Eighth, State the Fifteenth, State the Twentieth and so on. This may not be the most convenient nomenclature. It may put great strain on memory. But at whatever cost, our provincialism must be subordinated to our nationalism.

Although DVG’s suggestion about numbering the states is not too practical, it raised extremely valid points, especially at a time when the fervour for linguistic states was at its peak.  It is therefore important for us to now ask similarly important questions: Are linguistic states a ticking countdown for something bad? Will linguistic states continue to strengthen the Indian state with a sub-nationalist layer? Is the linguistic organisation of states truly successful both economically and culturally?

This topic deserves holistic analysis and should not be pushed into the realm of taboo.

Varun Ramachandra is a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution and tweets@_quale

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Remembering D V Gundappa

The literary genius of D. V Gundappa(1887 – 1975) is well known among Kannadigas. A cursory visit to any Kannada book shop will reveal DVG’s(as he was popularly known) works  in abundance. His scholarship extended from politics to poetics and he referenced the works of John Stuart Mill and Alexander Hamilton as easily as Kalidasa and Omar Khayyam. In total, he published more than fifty books consisting of 8,000 pages and another 1,500 pages of editorials, reports, speeches, statements and reviews.

Thanks to the great work done by the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs, Bangalore (GIPA), an institute co-founded by DVG himself, all his editorials and articles that appeared in “Public Affairs”– the monthly journal of the GIPA started in  1949– are digitized.  (Note: You need to install Djvu pdf reader to read all the articles that are linked below).

An article titled Vox-Populi in Economics, written in February 1969, starts with a gem –“Cocksureness is an avoidable risk in every field of human life”– that rings true to this day. The article goes on to explain how cocksureness can be extremely disastrous in economics and how, thanks to socialist pressures, politicians across the world have resorted to pampering people rather than following sound economic principles. The article concludes with a plea to read the following immortal words of Prof. Alfred Marshall:

Students of social science must fear popular approval; evil is with them when all men speak well of them. If there is any set of opinions by the advocacy of which a newspaper can increase its sales, then the student, who wishes to leave the world in general and his country in particular better than it would be if he had not been born, is bound to dwell on the limitations and defects and errors, if any, in that set of opinions; and never to advocate them unconditionally even in an ad hoc discussion. It is almost impossible for a student to be a true patriot and have the reputation of being one at the same time”.

The spectrum of his works had brushes of almost everything related to public life. Examples include —  his scholarly criticism of Indira Gandhi, his nuanced view about religious conversions, about Nehru’s Failures, on linguistic states,  about party and government, the debate about provincialism vs. nationalism, on two Andhra states, the Secular State, of absolutism and tyranny, the philosophies of advaita and bhakti, on the Nationalisation of institutions, on Nehru the statesman, his moving obituary on Nehru among several others. These works are like  time-capsules of a bygone era. Several views that he expressed have stood the test of time; those that are now irrelevant do not seem outlandish as they express genuine scepticism rather than cynicism. His piece on space travel is a good illustration of this. Another noteworthy aspect about DVG was his ability to enrich prosaic topics such as citizenship by displaying the “services that poetry can  provide towards the cause of good citizenship”.

DVG the poet, the journalist, the public intellectual, the polymath is a perfect role-model for anyone who believes that civil criticism can achieve things that bile and vitriol seldom can; it is perhaps this quality of his that we must inculcate the most.

(Edit: All of his works from Public Affairs can be found here)

 

 

 

 

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