Another Language war in the making 

ArulMozhi.T.N.K 26/09/2015

  
In the last few months the momentum for Linguistic equality has gained traction throughout India. The constant protests and statements being made across India against the imposition of Hindi and in favour of Linguistic equality has started to attract a lot of eyeballs and activity. Even though the mainstream media still continues to ignore this rising trend of dissent amongst Non-Hindi speaking states, this lack of coverage hasn’t in anyway hindered the progression of these campaigns.
  
In a previous post we briefly covered the rising dissent against Hindi imposition amongst the youth of Non-Hindi states. Two hashtag campaigns, #StopHindiImposition and #StopHindiImperialism initiated and led by a group of social media activists called "Promote Linguistic equality"(PLE) has now moved beyond the normal limitations of social media conventions and have successfully organised campaigns outside the virtual world. In Karnataka a group called "Banavasi Balaga" had organised a photo exhibition on the topic "India's language policy must promote equality" and now Chennai has hosted a conference or a confluence involving activists from different linguistic backgrounds to raise awareness on linguistic equality.
  
This conference was organised by the Tamil Language Rights federation and was also supported by the members PLE Tamil Nadu who along with TLRF made it a succesful event. This event also gave birth to the Chennai Declaration of Language Rights(Chennai Declaration).* 
 
This Chennai declaration calls for the "setting up of a New Language Commission to review and amend Part 17 of the Constitution of India and other relevant provisions to create a new language policy, based on the recommendations and demands for all language communities in the Indian Union".
 
They have also demanded that the Union Government
a. Make all the languages listed in Schedule 8 of the Constitution of India the official languages of the Union Government
 
b. Include in the Schedule 8 of the Constitution the languages for which the demands were made by their respective language communities and pending with the Union Government for many years
 
c. Provide urgent support to the ethnic, indigenous and other languages with fewer number of speakers through an exclusive government agency and save them from extinction and assimilation." 
 
The declaration also "seek the support of all political parties, organizations, civil society organizations including human rights bodies, educational and cultural entities, and media to bring what we call The Language Equality and Rights bill in the Parliament and pass it to achieve the above goal."
 
It is worth noting here that this is the first note-worthy conference organised for linguistic equality by the civil society with representation from all over India. What started out as a Twitter campaign has now gracefully progressed from the virtual world of hashtags to the real world. 
  
  

Image of the Invitation to the Language Rights conference held in Chennai 

  
  
The mobility of this cause in the society is unprecedented and the sudden rise in support for this cause also shows that it has struck the right chord. It is also important to note that such campaigns are also being emboldened by the actions of the Indian government.
 
Outside the virtual world the voice for Linguistic equality was also heard inside the chambers of the Madras High court. A group of lawyers from a group called "Tamils Struggle Movement of Madurai" had appeared in the courts on the 14th of September with their mouths covered with black-cloth holding placards and banners demanding Tamil be made the court language in Madras High court, Tamil Nadu.  While most of the media outlets reported the agitation by the lawyers and the condemnation they received, they however failed to highlight the purpose of the protest and the demands that were put forward. 
 
15 lawyers who protested inside the court were suspended by the Bar Council of India, and this incident has also prompted a reaction from Justice Markandey Katju the Former Judge, Supreme Court and  Former Chief justice, Madras High Court  who called the decision to suspend the lawyers “asinine and dim witted as it will certainly aggravate the situation and lead to agitations by lawyers all over Tamilnadu and resultant closure of all Courts. No doubt some lawyers did some untoward things during this agitation, but then one must also understand the strong sentiments and emotions prevailing”.
  
  
  
  
It is not just the lawyers and the netizens who are protesting against Hindi imposition, many student organisation and labour unions have also protested against Hindi imposition in the recent past.  Serious discussions have also started on social media and other intellectual circles and a lot of activists are  putting aside their political and regional differences and joining hands for this cause.
 
Day by day this movement against imposition is garnering support from all corners of India and a lot of small political parties from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have also started to react to this new wave of dissent. From social media to the streets of Karnataka and inside the chambers of Madras High court the voice for Linguistic equality is starting to make noise. Unlike in the past, this time the narrative is very clear. This issue has now grown out of the anti-Hindi imposition narrative and this time the non-Hindi speakers want to be recognised as equals, they want Linguistic equality. They are not agitating over a problem anymore, they are promoting a solution. How long is India going to ignore these voices? How long can India afford to ignore these voices? 
 
"War is what happens when language fails", Is another language war in the making?
 
 
 
 
 
*A correction has been made to the orginal article after taking into consideration the factual error that was made by the author. The error was brought to our notice  by Mr. Aazhi Senthil Nathan (Coordinator of the Chennai conference) and we have changed the article accordingly.  
 

The author can be reached at leftoutvoices@gmail.com.