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The spectre of non-Hindi resistance

BY GARGA CHATTERJEE
A spectre is slowly but surely beginning to haunt the imperial forces of Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan ideology – this is the spectre of non-Hindi resistance under the banner of linguistic equality, state rights and federalism. All the powers of the deep Indian Union state have entered into an unholy alliance to exorcise this demon: the Delhi elite, the ruling BJP, the RSS and its associated organizations, Hindi-Hindu militias and vigilantes, Delhi think-tanks, pan-Indian Union corporate, Delhi ideology media, Delhi ideology academia of all hues, their contractors and collaborators.
Where is the force against Hindi imperialism and for linguistic equality and state rights that has not been decried as ‘anti-national’ by its opponents in power in Delhi? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of “anti-national”, against any party that has stood for State rights and linguistic rights?
Two things result from this fact. Firstly, the struggle for federalism and linguistic equality is already acknowledged by all Delhi gangs to be itself a power. Secondly, it is high time that linguistic equality movements openly publish their views and aims, and meet this fairy tale of a “single mother tongue “with a manifesto of the movement itself.
To this end, linguistic rights activists of various linguistic nationalities will be assembling in Bengaluru and draft the Bengaluru resolution for linguistic rights. This will happen on February 21, 2018 for that date is a special day for all linguistic nationalities all over the world which face discrimination on the basis of their mother tongue. That day promises a future, a future when such discrimination will end.
The 2014 election of the BJP has given a strong fillip to non-Hindi mother language rights movements in the Indian Union. These are not fringe movements, as multiple non-Hindi state governments have not been able to accomplish what they have in three year since 1947. Since 2014, official announcements have been made making Bengali compulsory in the schools of West Bengal, Kannada in the schools of Karnataka, Telugu in the schools of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and Malayalam in Kerala schools. They join Tamil Nadu, which has been a beacon in such issues. What is important to note here is that they are all non-BJP states, representing a very wide political range – from states’ rights ideology parties like the Trinamool Congress to a strong states’ rights advocate in a weakening Delhi party like the Congress’ Siddaramaiah in Karnataka to a universalist ideology party with a strong local base in the Communist Party India (Marxist) in Kerala.
What these states have started doing in this short period between 2014 and 2017 is something that they haven’t done since 1947. Thus, one must look at the emergent realities of the 2014-2017 periods to answer questions related to language issues in India. Across the non-Hindi states, there is a realization that soft linguistic nationalism has the potential to effectively counter the BJP’s Hindi-Hindu nationalism. It is one of the last remaining strongholds against the all-round Hindi imposition, communalization of politics, and the unprecedented attacks on, the erosion of and the interference in state rights, with NEET, the Goods and Services Tax and Niti Aayog being just a few examples. It is this combination of factors that had led to this moment.
It is high time that linguistic equality movements openly publish their views and aims, and meet this fairy tale of a “single mother tongue” with a manifesto of the movement itself
And like elsewhere in the world, the issue of linguistic rights is being associated with issues of discrimination in civilian government jobs, military jobs and in terms of how the non-Hindi state subsidizes the Hindi states. Even N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief of the tenuous BJP ally Telugu Desam party has raised concerns about Hindi belt migration and huge fertility differences between Hindi and non-Hindi states. Leader of the foremost Tamil party, DMK M.K.Stalin has termed Union government moves a threat to the integrity of the Indian Union. West Bengal premier and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee has stated on record that the Union government should only have four departments – currency, external affairs, external defence and railways. In fact, under her regime, for the first time since 1947, the West Bengal government now has its own state logo. Karnataka Chief Minister and votary for Kannada rights, the mighty Siddaramaiah, are exploring the possibility of Karnataka having its own separate official state flag. Tamil Nadu already has a state anthem. While this democratic emphasis is there, Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan forces are busy pushing forward with their own divisive agenda. Currency notes have been Delhified and Hindified, as have passports and Union government offices. Now even entry for science subjects at the PhD level in elite institutes require compulsory Hindi literacy.
Thus, February 21 this year is a milestone in the path of a long gathering storm that is rising out of discrimination to the point of annihilation. Since linguistic discrimination essentially results in second class citizenship, the backlash is natural. This backlash is democratic, people-centric, bottom-up and not top-down, undemocratic and imperial as is in case of Hindi imposition. What were language rights movements in various states are now working in tandem with political forces on the ground and also in co-ordination with each other. Because this fraternal co-ordination between sister linguistic States is the best guarantee of integrity in a federal democratic Indian Union whose unity is under the threat from the divisive forces of Hindu extremists.

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