Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Geopolitics and Sanskrit Phobia by Rajiv Malhotra

jul 6th

Geopolitics and Sanskrit Phobia by Rajiv Malhotra
forwarded by a friend. as usual malhotra does a thorough job of exposition. i like the idea that there are several key civilizations: christian, muslim, and chinese/maoist, indic. the first three are all attempting to destroy the last. as the sabha bulletin has it, it is the 3Ms ganging up on us: marxists, mullahs and missionaries. (oops, correction, it's 4Ms: i forgot macaulayites for an instant). do see the latest SABHA report.

killing off sanskrit is intended to destroy indic civilization from the roots. this is succeeding, too. i am not going for that strawman comparing english with sanskrit; they both have their place. i have expounded in great detail about languages in rediff columns several years ago. my argument is that sanskrit is the only real candidate for national language; even at this late stage, it should be anointed as such. sanskrit is the natural choice based on its importance as a classical literary, liturgical and link language which has influenced all other indian languages greatly.

that reminds me: the 'eminent historian' [sic] of ancient india romila thapar does not read sanskrit. then what kind of historian is she if she has to depend on motivated translations by whites especially missionaries?


Anonymous said...

oh..i thought sanskrit can only by read by the people from the head??

Anonymous said...


There was a vibrant India,before the sancitmonious psuedo-holy Sanskrit.

Anonymous said...

This 'vibrant' India would be what? So-called Dravidian? You probably believe in the Easter Bunny too. You probably also believe in Paul Dhinakaran, Chennai's Pat Robertson, a Christian cult creator and charlatan.

Sanskrit being read by only some people, would that be like a) God has told us that black people are made to be the slaves of white people b) God has told us that women are worth half a man? Or perhaps that Marx has told us that one Chinaman is worth ten Indians?

san said...

So, I just want to ask about the latest militant attack in Ayodhya. I am not religious, so I don't really care about construction of a Ram temple -- and yet I couldn't help notice that right after BJP & VHP started public agitation over this latest incident, then suddenly the Court Case is Resurrected Against Advani

Is the govt trying to quickly neutralize Advani and shut him up in the wake of the rise in feelings over the Ayodhya attack? I think the answer is obvious.

doubtinggaurav said...

Hi Rajeev,

While I appreciate your passionate espousal of Sanskrit, problem is that hardly anyone knows Sanskrit.

The only language which is suitable for communication throughut India is Hindi.....
but knowing your contempt for Hindi.... I wouldn't suggest it

Anonymous said...

As it has been in rounds, Rajeev also said it before, Sanskrit should be pushed the way Hebrew has been pushed. Not knowing is not an escape. Humans use Math, but mathematics is not natural for humans, the way eating etc is.

Anonymous said...

many modern generation non-brahmins see the ancient symbols through
the eyes of social injustice their ancestors suffered in the hands of
the priest class.
dont blame Romila Thapar for being sanskrit illiterate. who needs a
Indian language anyway and for that matter dead Indian laguages too ,
when English is the passport to the world?
(sarcastic remark)
with the amount of literature and documentation of history in English,
I am sure anyone can create an 'alternative universe' of
pseudo-reality, and Romila Thapar's writings of hisory are no
and isnt it a pity that I have to post a message to fellow indians in
the language of its colonoizers?

Gopal Krishna

Siva said...

May be those advocating Hindi should first think about how to save it from Urdu & Arabic onslaught before shoving it through the throat of others.

nizhal yoddha said...

er... i'm not going to get into another long argument about languages, but i would like to make this disclaimer. it's not that i have contempt for hindi, it's just that i compare hindi and sanskrit, and it's like comparing yiddish and hebrew. yiddish is a perfectly fine transactional language with some interesting turns of phrase (all those
'sch' words like schmuck, schlemiel, schlep, schmooze, schtick, shiksa -- awesome words indeed). but it didn't and doesn't hold a candle to hebrew, the historical and liturgical language.

similarly hindi is really just a regional language, although i suppose over time it is de facto becoming the link language.

part of my problem with hindi is that it is in no way superior to many other regional languages, eg. marathi, tamil, bengali, malayalam, oriya; however, all these are being slowly starved of funds because of the imposition by force of hindi.

the loss of one's language is an unbearable loss: to lose one's language is to lose one's culture. this is a point that the so-called hindi pragmatists do not comprehend.

to me, malayalam is precious, and i don't see sufficient reason to learn hindi at the cost of malayalam. what do i gain? i can get by anywhere in india with my broken hindi and my broken tamil, so communication is not a problem, and what should motivate me to opt for hindi beyond that?

this is exactly like all the ex-soviet republics that had russian imposed on them threw it out the moment they got their independence; ukrainians and georgians and so forth revived their own languages.

Anonymous said...

hindi in its present day form is like a hybrid between a cow and a donkey. the result of taking the words of the invading persian and arab armies.the devnagari script is the only saving grace. those advocating use of hindi are people for dictatorship.democracy is the right of the people down to smallest towns and villages and not some policy maker in Delhi.
7 million Quebecois dont dont say that their language is English, they are as much proud to be Canadians as the rest of the Canadians.why cant the hindi fanatics leave this concept that a country has to have a single national language.?
india never had a single language in its history and besides there are richer and better languages than hindi

Santhosh said...

Lets be pragmatic.. Its unfair to burden Indian kids with the three language system. Mother Tounge and English is good enough to move on.

I've to agree that if there's a medium in which the distinction between Southerners and Northerners in India disappears, its only Sanskrit. Agreed that Hindi is very expressive and all. But thanks to Bollywood and its nexus with Mafia, Urdu has been flowing into Hindi transparently ever since.. Similar to English in Europe, Hindi might slowly become an amalgam inter-lingua. More over Hindi is a much younger language than many of its peers.. All said and done, non-Hindi speakers might find it easy to learn Sanskrit than Hindi because of the word-origins, derived vocabulary, etc

We are not a marxist nation to implement a rule for all. So its going to be a dynamic interaction. I can only predict that the Sanskrit learners will increase but only by a trifle. (These including the newly literate youth eager to learn Hinduism directly from Sanskrit texts)

Atleast in North India, Hindi will be more acceptable every where while English would serve as the lingua-franca in the South.

Anonymous said...

I'm a polyglot as many reading this blog would be and my view is that India offers the opportunity for one to learn so many languages - and only when one explores other languages does it become clear as to how much the languages have in common. And this also gives credence to the fact that all of them are rooted in Sanskrit. I think it is pessimistic to think of learning 3 languages as a burden, but rather see it as an opportunity. I mean nobody is asking one to get a doctorate in those languages - it does help in equipping people with the conversational ability in the state language.
As to why Hindi is the choice, one can hash and rehash and continue to analyze as to how this came about to be, but it is time one moved on. And it would be most unfortunate if this thread continued on to be one of those North India - South India debates on the superiority of Hindi/Dravidian languages.
It is funny because, this whole thing is a non-issue. Please correct me if I am wrong - but when was the last time you heard people protesting about Hindi being an issue (except for a few on this blog).
I am not aware of the circumstances under which Hindi was declared the national language, but the fact that there were no riots speaks volumes about the decision.
Imposition of Hindi as a second language, will not erode one's culture but enrich it, because one gets a wider perspective. As one who has grown up in a different state from the one I was born in, I tend to identify with the culture of both states and proud of that fact.
All said and done, evreything here is being posted in English, so I don't see any issues unless Rajeev starts posting in Malayalam/Sanskrit.

PS: I don't know if regional languages are lacking funds at the cost of Hindi - any facts to that effect ?
On the other hand, I think all the funds are diverted towards making English the first language (which is a good thing, albeit at a cost in the long run)

Anonymous said...

Hindi is not *the* national language, by the way. There are 18 national languages, including Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, etc.

Hindi is one of two official languages.

When all the Hindi textbooks say, "Hindi hamari rashtrabhasha hai", it would be equally truthful for a Tamil textbook to say "Tamil namma rashtra bhasha thaan". I hope you get the point. It's not *one* national language, but many: a very awkward construction.

As for funds going to Hindi, how many "Marathi Prachara Sabhas" have you heard of, funded by the government? How may "Speak Malayalam" days are advertised by the State Bank? How many millions are spent on translating all sorts of things to Oriya, by the government?

There were plenty of anti-Hindi riots some years ago, you are probably too young to remember.

Most people who cannot understand why Hindi imposition is offensive to others are Hindi speakers themselves. That is like a white person not being to understand what racism against non-whites feels like to non-whites. How would you like it if you were told that can if you wish speak Hindi, but you must also speak Tamil today onwards and Tamil will get state patronage?

To put this in perspective, how would you like it if you were told that there is a state religion, and that you were required to follow it, and not the religion of your choice? Hindi imposition on other cultures is exactly like that. Free will is important to people.

Anonymous said...

pardon the slip up in using "the national language" instead of "a official language" - thanks for correcting the error.

As to the things you pointed out - all the funds are going to regional languages (as you would have liked them to). It is still upto the states to decide whether they should advance state languages over English or not.

As far as I see it, the status with Hindi is that it is the second language, subsidised by the centre (a guess). The state is responsible for deciding whether English should be the first language or the third and it would be in the states' best interest to push English to the fore, as it would open up new avenues for employment.

I think the painting of Hindi as some kind of brutal imposition is not quite accurate. Hindi is not my mother tongue nor am I brainwashed.

If you so feel threatened that by imposition of Hindi is somehow eroding your culture, you are perfectly free to pursue it on a personal basis. I can say with certitude that Hindi speakers will not be up in arms trying to stop you from doing so.

doubtinggaurav said...

As I was afraid my mention of Hindi evoked strong responses.

Let me clarify on this,
Nobody says that Hindi is superior to any other indian language,
It is just a handy tool,because it is widely spoken.
Sanskrit is definitely more scientific but as I pointed out hardly anyone knows it.

When I say Hindi can be link language, I do not advocate government shoving Hindi people's throat , I only suggest that people become familiar with Hindi for communication (not for writing proses or verse), for their own advantage.
Because I speak Hindi I dont have any problem as far as communication is concerned in North,East or West and in some parts in South (Blr,Hyd etc.)

When people suggest that English be made a communication language they fail to realize that it is only middle class language (that is mostly).
What they should realize is that lower classes also need to communicate.

For example,in Mumbai lots of people from south, from worker class as well as middle class migrate. Surely if they are familiar with Hindi they will have less problem in adjustment.
In the same way in Kolkata or Ahmedabad (to which many people from south migrate) requires familiarity with Hindi. As you can see none of the places are in North.

I can understand people in South feel apprehensive regarding "imposition of hindi"
and regard it as conspiracy from north.
I will admit that advocates of Hindi from North (which includes me) often come strongly (sometimes to absurd limits), but that is NOT because they want to dominate or colonise fellow Indians , they do it because they loathe english and all things associated with british,
why they do so is a long history, but if you wish you can start with mutiny of 1857.
I admit that hatred of English to such an extent is counter productive as English is global language, but suggesting that people from North want to colonise fellow Indians is to me very dismaying.
One other point that was raised amount of money spent on Hindi promotion.
First, I do think that all the state goverments spend on different languages.
Second, I think the thought that state can promote a language or a culture is absurd.
Language (or culture) is promoted by people, in that way, so while people in south think Hindi is being imposed,reality is, Hindi is suffering as Hindi speaking people are embarassed to promote hindi thinking it as inferior to English.
Hindi literature is suffering (as no one wants to read it), usually, in North Hindi is a maidservant to English.
As opposed to this,Malayalam Marathi, Tamil and Kannad literature is still vibrant and people dont feel inferior reading the literature.
This is, despite, "being starved of the funds".
Regarding Urdu/Arabic words
First of all Urdu is an Indian language and many in educated classes in North could hardly read Hindi (or Hindustani) before independence.In fact, it was Hindi advocates who formally pushed Devanagiri script as opposed to persian script.
I find it a little absurd people objecting to Urdu or Arabic words in Hindi. Come on people, languages evolve, I hope you realise that your objection to Urdu sounds exactly like DMK cleansing Tamil of Sanskrit.
Rajeev, when I said contempt it was just on basis of my understanding of your some earlier post, my apologies, if I am wrong.
I dont say if you dont learn Hindi it is a bad thing, I just feel hurt when Hindi is seen as enemy of the Indian Languages (i.e when you say "learning Hindi at cost of Malyalam").When you learned English or Tamil was it at the cost of Malayalam ?

I don't mind any debate about Hindi
but yes it suxx when people raise "Us versus Them" bogey.
Rajeev this line of arguement is more in line with "Eminent Historians", it doesn't fit well with your theory of Indian civilization.

avidnewsreader said...

Hi folks..interesting discussion here...,

Instead of imposing a any "ONE" native Indian languages on all the states,I think it would be a better idea to make it mandatory for students to learn one Indian language(from any state) other than their own mother tongue.This will help in reducing the Linguistic/Inter State rivalry common among Indians.One can go a step further and make an Inter-State student exchange programme.This will expose students to diverse cultures in India.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting discussion about the imposition of Hindi. I am a south Indian and had lived in north India (Bihar!) for 17 years. I learned to speak Hindi and Kannada from from childhood, and am more proficient in Hindi than Kannada. However, I have observed that those Hindi has propagated more easily with the spread of Bollywood movies and popular music than with the Indian government's shove-it-down-the-throat approach. Also, having moved to south India after 17 years, I have observed that south Indians, living either in the north or south, adapt themselves more easily than north Indians. Attending engineering college in south India, I had many north Indian friends, each of them very contemptuous of the local language and culture. Although I don't have statistics to back the claim, I have observed that more south Indians learn Hindi when living in north India than north Indians learn the local language when living in south India.

I'm not claiming the superiority of one language over another. If I could I would learn as many languages as I could. This sort of diversity is what makes India unique. Making Sanskrit the national language would probably have been a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Yeah ....

North-Indians dont learn other languages by the simple argument:"Hindi is the national language,you must learn Hindi instead of me learning yours".In other words one is at loss of reason to shove down their throats.
And we have the Aryan/Dravidian divide; though not evident on the surface has had a deep impact on the psyche of Indians.Most people with whom i have discussed believe in it and hence think Hindi/North=Fair Skinned and Posh/Superior.

siva said...

dear doubtinggaurav,

if you advocate hindi to everyone just because you loath english, then the fault is yours. how about asking the hindi speaking people to learn other indian languages to communicate with non hindi speaking population so that they don't have to use english which they loath so much. and what is this comparing english to mutiny of 1857... are you saying those who speak english supports british's rule in india? and you are talking about absurdity.. wow.

btw learning a new language is a good thing, but that should be individual's choice. i always think indians should learn atleast three indic languages on top of their mother tounge (including those whose mother tounge is hindi). i read some one saying that it is difficult for children to learn three languages. i guess he cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. fyi roger federer speaks four different languages fluently (like so many europeans) and on top of that he is number one tennis player in the world. no one is saying that as a super human achievement (if you exclude what he has done in tennis).

doubtinggaurav said...

Dear Siva,

"are you saying those who speak english supports british's rule in india?"

Where did I say that ??
I suggest you read about mutiny of 1857.. learning about history is a good thing.

I advocate Hindi not because I as an individual loathe english (I thought that was clear from my previous post).I was explainign the strong emotions about english in North.

"how about asking the hindi speaking people to learn other indian languages to communicate with non hindi speaking population"

Good idea, only India had 14 "national languages" not to speak others,which are not in the list (Tulu being one of them)...
As you can see it's not practical.
It will be more convenient to have a link language for which Hindi is a better choice than english (read my earlier post)

I do not believe in two language or three language formulae, it should be up to individual.

I have no problem if one doesnt learn Hindi, I have problem with this current fictitious Aryan/Dravidian divide

Dear Anonymous

Bias towards fair skin does exist in North (I would know, being a dark skinned)but from what I think is it exists in South also as in west or east.
This bias has nothing to do with Aryan/Dravidian divide (Bhagwan Shiva ,Bhagwan Ram and Bhagwan Krishna are all dark complexioned)
but a recent phenomena due to our subjugation by fair skinned Turks and then british.
Also this divide is a recent one as a result of "Dravidian movement"
Historically North and South have lived in harmony.

Dear Anonymous (Bihari/Kannada)

I agree, government has more harmed than benifitted cause of Hindi.
I also agree about the fact that more South Indians learn Hindi, but this may be due to the fact that Hindi is a link language.
Do you think South Indians living in Maharashtra or Gujarat learn the local languages, I dont think so (I am not very much sure about this point)
About your experience in college, I will agree with that, but it is a common phenomena. When I was studying in Bengal we students had resentment against Bengalis and we were a mixed bunch, it is just a case of "fish out of fish bowl and in the sea".Also this feeling of contempt is mutual (which I think is most unfortunate).
But did you feel any discrimination when you were living in Bihar because you were from South ??
Let us stop degrading each other,
there is no point in it.

Anonymous said...

Dear doubtinggaurav,
I agree with you that this feeling of contempt is sometimes mutual. However, you see that more in the north than in the south. And yes, we were discriminated against when we lived in Ranchi, Bihar. My father was even physically threatened to leave the place because he happened to be a "madrasi" working where "madrasis" shouldn't be. One of his colleagues from Andhra Pradesh was beaten up so badly that he decided to leave. Again, this could be because it was Ranchi, where people can be very, very nice to you but at the same time can show a very, very ugly face.

This does not mean that I do not have fond memories of Ranchi. It is almost my second home town. There were a lot of positive things not only about the place, but about the people too. Biharis will do anything for you if they know you personally; individually they are very nice people. However, this does not take away the fact that they were contemptuous of south India and south Indians when I lived there.

I think it's easier for Hindi speakers to say let's impose what we speak on the rest of the nation. Do you think if Telugu, for instance, were the "link" language and made the official language, Hindi speakers would have learned the language?

san said...

Well, I think there should be stronger cross-social interaction to avoid Balkanization of society. The problem is that the AfroDravidian languages are not spoken by a high enough portion of the population to be practical as a link language. Hindi at least benefits from overlap with Urdu, and has a high enough usage base to function as a native link language, as compared to english which is more of an international language than an Indian language. What's the point in keeping barriers between various Indian states/ethnicities stronger than the barriers between India and the outside world?

Don't get me wrong, I think AfroDravidian culture has a great history, stemming all the way back to its root origins in Somalia many millenia ago. All culture in India is a result of immigration, so nobody should try to one-up the other in claims for nativism. The real criteria should be on unifying India as a social space, rather than promoting tribalism and balkanization. Because ultimately, the common sharedness of the physical space is far more real, relevant and beneficial than seeking solace in ancient past.

Anonymous said...

Here's an article from NYT. Though the subject of the article is tangential to the above discussion, it just goes to illustrate China's efforts in homogenizing the country's culture. I heard reports (have no solid proof) of Chinese converting the Mongols to Han - by asking them to adopt Chinese names - and guess what everybody has a "Chengiz " in his name (I am not sure of the females) - which has in turn created another headache.

I could not find an appropriate place to post this piece of info - given to me by my Korean colleagues- who were outraged by the fact in an interview conducted by a Korean TV channel, Chinese students at Peking Univ, said that they felt Korea was a part of China and eventually the Koreas and China would be one country. Rajeev has been writing about Chinese land grabbing for a while and it is definitely something one should watch out for. The above fact also goes lengths to suggest the amount of brainwashing that has been carried out. And mind you, these are undergrads who will have to play some or the other public role in the future.

Anonymous said...

ooops here's the URL

doubtinggaurav said...

Dear Anonymous (Bihari/Kannada)

I sincerily regret that you had to face such ordeal.
I come from Lucknow, and one thing I am sure about is that the city doesnt have a history of violence against people from outside.
I think usually in Jharkhand people have a resentment against people from outside (not limited to south indians)as there was some movement against marwaris in 70's or 80's.
By the way it will be instructive to have a look at Dravidian movement.
As I said before I am against "imposition" of Hindi or any language.

My point was Hindi can be learned as a link language and it should not be tarred as a "imperial language" just because some people have misplaced convictions.

Regarding Telugu, yes, if it was as popular as Hindi, I would have advocated it as a "link" language.

Interestingly Telugu is second most popular language in India after Hindi and before Tamil
And yet,most oppposition to Hindi comes from TamilNadu
Telugu have a familiarity with Hindi, being under Nizam

fanaah_phantom said...

The 1965 anti-hindi riots were largely taken up by the students in Madras state (currently Tamil nadu). According to the constitution, hindi would become the sole national language on Jan 26, 1965. This would mean that all the administrative exams conducted by the govt., have to be in Hindi alone (NO english). This put the students from non-hindi speaking parts at a severe disadvantage and hence they revolted against the govt rule.
There are also other reasons, like love for one's language that is strong in Tamil Nadu so much so that the language is seen as more important than one's mother.
You also need to look into other political reason's including a further understanding of the problem in Sri-lanka which started with the Sinhala speaking govt. imposing a similar rule in the early 50's whereby all the tamil speaking ppl in Sri-lanka had to learn sinhala to compete for govt jobs and academic admission. This put them at a dis-advantage.
The 1937 riots against hindi imposition, it seems resulted in a congregation of people atleast 2-3 times the size of the Dandi salt march.
These are just 2-3 factors that dominate the scenario. Even a hindi-speaking person with access to internet could easily gather these points and additional information by searching the omnipresent web !