The opposition to the government’s intention to make Hindi mandatory in schools would have been an ideal moment for India to introspect on what it means to be such a language-rich country. It would have been an opportunity to take stock of the languages we have and those that are threatened, of those that require support in terms of documentation before they disappear, and how to honestly – and not just on paper – promote education in mother tongues. But none of this happened. The moment the “Hindi” issue cropped up, it became a political stand-off, instead of leading to a fruitful debate about what languages and linguistic diversity indicate about our sub-continent, and how such richness can be conserved. And so, once again the issue has been brushed under the carpet, and our ever-present notion of the vote-bank and other populist ideals have taken precedence. The present calm has lulled us to believe that nothing is the matter. The storm of linguistic decline is yet to unfold.
Author: Madhu Ramnath
Madhu Ramnath is an independent researcher in central Indian Adivasi languages, and is the coordinator of the Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) Exchange Programme India. He is the author of the acclaimed book, Woodsmoke and Leafcups: Autobiographical Footnotes to the Anthropology of the Durwa People.