Language campaign versus dialect crisis: We are losing our dialects 

Our primary oral tradition that had survived since the prehistoric times in different parts of the country is fast fading. Various language campaigns may finally destroy these reservoirs of diversity

Kaushal Kishore

Nowadays proponents of Indian language are happy since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj have delivered a series of lectures in Hindi on many platforms in India and abroad. Although Hindi and other regional languages are yet to get proper place in the all India services, the government has initiated certain steps in this direction. Next year aspirants of Indian Forest Service can take the advantage of Hindi option in addition to the English during examination. Moreover, existing English language laboratories in the educational institutions can provide facilities for local languages in future.

State governments in Maharashtra and Karnataka are well known for presenting their schemes in local language. Now a similar trend is taking place in certain other states and private sectors as well. The campaign for Indian languages is becoming stronger. Undoubtedly, the people who know regional languages will be able to avail the services of the state. But these efforts in the name of language campaign will eventually destroy the reservoir of natural diversities and will also continue to contribute to the all pervasive inequality.

Most of the leaders active during the freedom struggle had accepted Hindi as a language of the masses in India. They promoted it as a medium of unity in the diversity of the country. But this dream of unity in diversity is yet to be achieved, even after seven decades of the independence. There will be widespread impact on the status of English after proper placement of Hindi and other Indian languages in the state. The protest for this cause has been continuing for last three decades. The government of Madhya Pradesh started Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi University out of respect towards his views. But lack of students emerged as a new problem here. The groups involved in its establishment have now been trying to find out the solution of the prevailing crisis. But there is no such organisation dedicated to address the crisis of dialects. Today primary oral tradition that has survived since the prehistoric times in different parts of the country is fast fading. Once upon a time the Indian scholars actually used to be the proponents of the oral tradition itself.

Languages are born out of dialects. As such the connection between the language and the dialect is as clear as crystal. However the two are different by nature. Dialect thrives on creating meaningful sounds. The sound is any noise available in the nature. After refinement these sounds take meaningful form of the dialects. A dialect turns into a language with the help of script and rules of grammar. In fact this is a political change. The difference in expression of dialects and languages are yet another significant issue. The dialect is a freely flying bird, whereas the language is bounded in the imprisonment of script and grammar. If we imagine the possibility of Mahatma Gandhi's village of Hind Swaraj, it will be on the basis of dialects and not languages. The dialects have been keeping the regional identities and diversities intact for several centuries.

Language and dialect are two different concepts although deeply interrelated, more like civilization and culture. Its political economy can accurately define the equation between the civilised, urban society and tribal or rural community. The system that developed for the civilised society are considered to be the civilization, and the traditions that evolved naturally among the local community have been given the name of the culture.

However, the activities based on civilization are often referred to as a cultural programme today. By doing so the prestigious educational institutions have revealed the same politics, which has long been plaguing the human society all over the world.

This is the politics that has set the standards of testing scholars on parameters of literacy. It played a significant role in accelerating the growing inequality throughout the world for a long time. This is a topic of serious study in itself. The system responsible for the prevailing order is limiting the use of words in the market place. This is surely going to have a negative impact on the indigenous diversity in future as well.

One of the most prominent scholars of Hindi, Namvar Singh fears that if things remain like this, we may forget our own dialects in future. I was tongue-tied in front of the people of my own village and community on this issue of language and dialect. Today it's difficult to ascertain to what extent we have forgotten the dialects of our villages? Recently, on couple of occasions I have appealed to people to consider its seriousness on the forums related to Indian language campaign. If some influential political leaders look into it, it may have a noticeable impact.

(Social activist Kaushal Kishore is the author of The Holy Ganga (2008) and Managing Editor of Panchayat Sandesh. His weekly column Across The Lines appears in the vernaculars.)

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