Language and nationality politics in India.

204 37 44MB

English Pages xii, 180 pages [200] Year 1973

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Language and nationality politics in India.

Table of contents :
LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA
INTRODUCTION
The Background: Developments Under British Rule
Linguistic States And Their Political Consequences
Language And Class In The Strategy Of Indian Communism
Language And Nationality In Tamil Nadu Politics
The Role Of The English-Educated In Indian Politics
Multi-Nationality And Centre-State Relations
Political Parties And The Linguistic-Nationality Question
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

Citation preview

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

Language and Nationality Politics in India

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

KARAT PRAKASH //

ORIENT LONGMAN BOMBAY • CALCUTTA • MADRAS • NEW DELHI

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

Language and Nationality Politics in India © Orient Longman Ltd., 1973

First Published 1973

ORIENT LONGMAN LTD CAT. FOB .LOAN STAC*



Regd. Office

3/5 Asaf Ali Road New Delhi 110001 Regional Offices

Nicol Road, Ballard Estate Bombay 400001 17 Ghittaranjan Avenue Calcutta 700013 Published by

V. Abdulla Orient Longman Ltd 36-A Anna Salai Mount Road Madras 600002

36-A Anna Salai Mount Road Madras 600002

B 3/7 Asaf Ali Road New Delhi 110001

Printed in India

Longman Group Ltd

at Tax and Company Law Press 84, M. K. N. Road Guindy Madras 600032

Longman House, Burnt Mill Harlow, Essex Associated companies, branches and representatives throughout the world

Digitized by

GOOglC

Original from UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

For AMMÉ

CONTENTS PAGE

CHAPTER Introduction

1

The Background :

Developments Under British Rule

1

Linguistic States and their Political Consequences

...

29

III

Language and Class in the Strategy of Indian Communism

...

50

IV

Language and Nationality in Tamilnadu Politics

...

75

V

The Role of the English-Educated in Indian Politics

...

103

VI

Multi-Nationality and Centre-State Relations

...

136

VII

Political Parties and the Linguistic-Nationality Question

...

153

Select Bibliography

...

175

II

Digitized by

C.00Q le

Original from UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

INTRODUCTION This work has its origins in a thesis submitted for post­ graduate research work. Since then, the basic theme has been retained with some reformulations and minor additions and it is being presented as a political interpretation of language and nationality politics in contemporary India. As a result of its origins, the book still bears the marks of academic respectability and at best it can be termed as a mixed product: neither a purely academic exercise nor a full-fledged attempt to give a political standpoint on the whole question. The bulk of the book was written in 1969, and at the outset, the study was intended to be solely confined to the language question. However, it was soon discovered that linguistic issues cannot be treated in isolation from the nationality question and more fundamentally from the class correlations existing on the basis of the relations of produc­ tion. The study still emphasises the language question and if there is a tendency to isolate the problem, it is hoped that the reader will keep the general framework in mind. India before Independence was divided into British India and the princely states and these were demarcated not on clear lines of language, nationality and market principles, but were conglomerate groups of provinces and states, continuing the legacy of colonial annexation. The advent of Independence did not in any way alter these administrative boundaries and the complex and basic problem of multi-nationalism and multi-lingualism remained to be solved. India today has fourteen to fifteen major nationalities (and some tribal and minority nationalities which are very small) and this pattern existed even before the British arrived on the scene. The problems of language and nationality, are interconnected. However, language alone is not the badge of nationhood. Rather as Stalin put it: “A nation is a historically evolved stable community of language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.” This definition should serve as an index to the linguistic-nationality question in India. Historically, the growth of nationalism in the world since

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

X

the 18th Century has been the result of certain concrete forces working in society. In areas where the mode of production was feudal, the growth of commercial and trading elements crystallised into a new class—the bourgeoisie. Capitalism to develop itself had to destroy the old feudal order and its political system of conglomerate nationalities, dialects and languages. The new economic forms of production required a homogeneous market, unified political territories and a common language as an easy means of communication and intercourse. That is why a national movement led by the bourgeoisie attacks feudalism, champions a national language and demands economic independ­ ence vis-a-vis the bourgeoisie of a colonising country or ruling group. The shape of the national movement is determined by the degree of success the petty-bourgeoisie and middle class has in mobilising the broad peasant masses who are also suffering under the oppression of feudal-colonial rule, to help them to overthrow the pre-capitalist system. It is in this process (if led by the bourgeoisie), that a nation emerges by the bourgeois-national revolution. It is with this framework in mind that the first chapter and the second focus on language and nationality developments in the various regions of India. An attempt has been made (no doubt, very sketchily) to relate these developments to socio-economic processes developing under British rule and to study its impact on class formations and the reflection on lingusitic-nationality consciousness. Under British rule, the old order gave way in a limited fashion and stimulated the already existing trends towards new economic formations—the rise of the middle classes, commerce and a little industry. It was these elements that spearheaded the independence movement; but as they were weak in the sea of feudalism, they appealed through Gandhi to the oppressed masses and succeeded in developing their struggle on nationalist lines. In this channelling of mass energies, the peasants had a stake in anti-feudalism, the middle-class in capitalism and the broad movement encompassed demands for the recognition of Indian languages and nationalities to play their rightful role in the creation of an independent state. The independence struggle took on a definite mass character as it drew in various nationality groups and their desire for political and economic independence coupled with linguistic and cultural * ¡rations. The Indian

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

xi National Congress represented precisely such an alliance of interests—an umbrella organisation covering modern urban groups, the petty bourgeoisie both rural and urban of the various regions along with the big bourgeoisie and landlords. This configuration of interests has significance for the future political system after Independence since the element of monopolists and alliance with landlords which took place immediately after the transfer of power, did not lead to the completion of the tasks of the democratic revolution. Therefore in 1947, the India that emerged free from colonial rule was a product of a partial bourgeois-national movement. On the one hand it was a single political unit comprising more than a dozen major nationalities. The Indian Union still main­ tains the basis for this multi-nationality. However this definition contains many inter-related problems created by further political developments, social change and intellectual trends. We have to consider the problem in the light of these super-structural changes and the studies in the remaining five chapters are guided by these developments. The chapter on the communist approach to the problem (Ch. 3); another chapter on the developments in a state with a high linguistic-nationality identity, Tamilnadu (Ch. 4); and an analysis of Centre-State relations (Ch. 6) deal with these aspects. The multi-lingualism of India remains intact; this is because language is independent of both the base and the superstructure. By this we mean that neither a fundamental change in the economic mode of production and the social relations it produces (the base), nor change in those relations in society like religion, law, culture and politics which spring from the base (the super­ structure), directly affects the development of language. To put it rather crudely : Russian as a language has not basically changed under Tsarist rule and after the 1917 socialist revolution. The linguistic-nationality map of India at Independence saw a variegated texture. In certain parts like Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamilnadu etc. a crystallised linguistic-nationality identity existed. On the other extreme there existed feudal princely states being a conglomeration of languages and tribal belts. On top of all this existed the ‘ national ’ framework propped up by the network created by the English language. So broadly there were three layers : at the bottom lay the dialects, tribal languages

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

xii

dotted all over India, with their nationalities dormant or suppressed; in the broad middle and in the mainstream lay the movement of the regional languages and nationalities manifested as a result of the growth of regional bourgeois groups; and finally at the narrow apex, the third layer, existed English which served a function in keeping the all-India political system going. The bottom layer has not been studied in this book. The emphasis is on the main layer: the regional nationalities and their languages and its impact on politics. Attention has also been paid to the role of English (Ch. 5). In the successive chapters, not necessarily chronological, the historical perspective of the unfolding of the problems under colonial rule, the struggle for linguistic states, the problem of multi-nationality and the political responses to the problem (Ch. 7) have been touched upon. In doing so the attempt throughout has been an anlaysis and interpretation, rather than making the work a comprehensive factual account. Hence secondary sources have been heavily relied upon to provide background information. It is quite obvious that the lines on which this book is written, underlining the multi-nationality of India—is not popular in established academic circles. Therefore the problem of secondary sources was quite difficult, given the totally different perspective. This has been resolved to a certain extent by extensively utilising factual material obtainable in such sources without necessarily subscribing to their interpretation. Given the deplorable state of political study in India and its incrasing reliance on Western c political science this has been the only alternative for a limited work such as this book. It is the hope of the author that some of the generalisations and ideas will be put to test of better scholarship in the future and be discarded or developed as the case may be. If this happens, an important sphere of Indian political study will be greatly benefited. I am grateful to Richard McAllister, J. P. Cornford, and V. G. Kiernan of the University of Edinburgh; Duncan B. Forrester of the University of Sussex ; and Dr. Mathew Kurian, Director of the Indian School of Social Sciences, Trivandrum, for the valuable help and comments rendered at the various stages in the writing of the thesis and the book. New Delhi, Karat Prakash 12th July, 1973.

Digitized by

CiOOQle

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

CHAPTER I

THE BACKGROUND: DEVELOPMENTS UNDER BRITISH RULE Introduction

To understand the complexity of language and nationality development one has to go back at least to the British period. It has been pointed out that the unification of India under British rule, in reality checked the emergence of distinct nationalities in the sub-continent.1 This sums up the nationality question in a nut-shell. The political unification of India under British rule did not solve but complicated the nationality formation process. This process surfaced in the form of significant changes in the class composition in the countryside (e.g., the growth of a rich peasant stratum), the emergence of an educated middle class and the introduction of commercial agriculture, industry and trade. This stimulated as well as modified the pattern of nationality formation. The regional languages throughout history were evolving into full-fledged languages and we saw the first flower­ ing on a large scale in the Bhakti movement upto the fourteenth century, when the regional languages were consciously used and developed to propagate social reforms through religious concepts.* In the nineteenth century this continuing process manifested itself in heightened linguistic consciousness and which was inter­ linked with the caste/class factor and its political manifestations. Briefly put, the process worked this way—language and caste boundaries coincide to great extent, e.g., Reddis exist only in Telugu speaking areas, Marathas in the Marathi speaking area and so on. In the clearly demarcated linguistic regions, caste, a social^1 1.

Namboodiripad, E.M.S.: The National Question in Kerala, People's Publishing House, Bombay, 1952, p. 47.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

2

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

institution sanctioned by religion to maintain the class structure, witnessed changes under colonial rule. This varied from region to region according to the differences in socio-economic content. Changes in class relations led to heightened caste-competition and awareness which in turn strengthened linguistic and nationality consciousness. This interaction gave regions their distinct nationality characteristics. Yet the linguistic-nationality regions have certain common features. Out of this heightened * caste­ activity 9 class relations emerge in tune with the phenomenon of bourgeois nationalism. Our task is to explore these factors and their inter-relationship, as it has a crucial bearing on major trends in Indian politics. In this chapter, therefore, a study of some of the non-Hindi areas which have witnessed an upsurge of linguistic consciousness will be attempted. Distinct linguistic regions like the Marathi­ speaking areas of Bombay Presidency, the Telugu-speaking areas of Madras Presidency, Bengal and Kerala, reveal the basic inter­ action between caste consciousness and linguistic consciousness stimulated by varying degrees of economic change and the consequent effect on class-correlations. Similarly, to complete the all-India framework, we shall survey the Hindi belt, and see how far they can be compared or contrasted with the coastal areas. Finally, this whole process has been shaped during British rule, which adds a further dimension to the subject. The intro­ duction of English education and the new economic and social influences and institutions intertwined with the growing class and linguistic identities. This made for a common influence as well as an uneven pattern, depending on the degree of British influence and penetration into the various regional nationalities of India. Language, Society and Nationality under British Rule

From the nineteenth century onwards, there were tremen­ dously important changes in the regional societies which affected language also. These changes are more evident in areas which came under direct British rule. As the British consolidated their con­ quests, they relied on the traditionally literate castes, like the Chitpavan Brahmins in Bombay Presidency, the Tamil Brahmins in Madras Presidency, and the Kayasthas in Bihar etc., for carrying

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE BACKGROUND : DEVELOPMENTS UNDER BRITISH RULE

3

on routine administration.2 These were the groups which perform­ ed the scholarly and administrative functions in the pre-capitalist order that existed in India. 3 There was a logic in their new role. The Sanskritic domain of the literate upper-castes was super-imposed on the socio-cultural life of each region. For them the switch from Sanskrit to English (or Persian to English) was relatively easy as it meant adopting one elitist language instead of another. British rule in one sense reduced the powers of these caste-groups associated with the previous order, but as the only groups providing the key to communication channels and links with Indian society, the British had to give them a certain amount of official recognition and status. As the British were well settled, they found the traditional means of communica­ tion limited, in the context of their expanding activities and the new commercial and land policies. Also there grew the feeling that efficiency and better government, required closer touch with the people. This led to—by the middle of the century—educational experiments designed to inculcate among the elite groups western values of government and society. This meant English education and the displacement of the traditional emphasis on Sanskrit or Persian. Groups from the pre-capitalist ruling classes, mainly the upper-caste literate stratum, took full advantage of this opportunity and established their hegemony over English educa­ tion. 4 The paradox fully developed by the end of the nineteenth century, the social control of these groups had been strengthened, albeit temporarily, and it was western education, language and British patronage which aided them.5 2.

3.

4.

5.

Anil Seal: The Emergence of Indian Nationalism, Cambridge, 1966 and Robert Frykenberg: Guntur District, 1788-1848: A history of local influence and central authority in South India, Oxford University Press, 1965. McDonald, Ellen: The Modernising of Communication : Vernacular Publishing in Nineteenth Century Maharashtra—" Asian Survey ” : Vol. VIII, No. 7, July 1968, p. 591. In 1891, eleven groups of castes totalling just under 14 percent of the population provided more than half the literate community. Davis, K: The Population of India and Pakistan, Princeton University Press, 1951, p. 156. McCully, Bruce : English Education and the Origins of Indian Nationalism, Massachusetts, 1966; for a valuable analysis of the role of English in the nineteenth century. A similar viewpoint as to the observation made is put forward by Broomfield, J.H.:

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

4

The Non-Hindi Areas

The stirrings took place when inter-caste competition for English education increased. This originated in the emancipation of the merchant classes and rich peasant groups (often middle castes) from their occupational rigidity by the mobility and limited amount of economic innovations introduced by British rule. The growing urbanization and commercialisation of the economy resulted in these groups behaving like nascent bourgeois elements. This release of growing bourgeois energy (one major channel was through the newly formed English-educated middle classes), though hampered by a predominant feudal base, led to a revolt against the orthodoxy of both language and social institutions, as seen in the great social reform movements of the nineteenth century in Bengal, Maharashtra and elsewhere. This new aware­ ness resulted in the turning towards the regional languages and a consequent attempt to utilise regional languages as a vehicle of this newly found ferment. In the areas where the British impact was greater and immediate this encouragement to regional languages was dramatically illustrated. In Bombay Presidency, British poli­ cies were instrumental in creating a rich peasant stratum based on the kunbi peasant caste.6 The rise of the kunbis as a rich peasant class, foreshadows the movement of non-brahmin rising castes into a new class formation in the rural areas. These eventually competed with the entrenched brahmins for education and social status. In their fight for recognition, these rising castes (agricultural petty bourgeoisie) made extensive use of Marathi, the vernacular, as well as demanding more English education for their caste-members. Like the anti-brahmin movement in Madras, the rise of the kunbis indicates growing class consciousness expressed through caste activity and the resulting awareness of similar sub-caste groups spread over the Marathi-speaking area. The common economic developments among such caste-groups demarcated by language and their aspirations for a change in their social and political status, broadens their outlook to take into account the whole linguistic region. This is the nationality

6.

The Regional Elites: A Theory of Modern Indian History. In " State and Society : A Reader in Comparative Sociology ” ed. by Richard Bendix, Boston, 1968. Ravinder Kumar: Western India in the Nineteenth Century, London, 1968, for an account of the rise of the kunbis.

Digitized by

GooqIc

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE BACKGROUND : DEVELOPMENTS UNDER BRITISH RULE

5

consciousness manifesting itself with the break-up of the pre­ capitalist order and the formation of proto-bourgeois groups. Since sub-castes like the kunbis (Marathi speaking) do not exist say in Gujarati-speaking areas, the importance of caste/class consolidation for linguistic-nationality consolidation can be seen. Paralleling these developments in the rural areas, western­ style educated groups in the towns were becoming increasingly aware of their distance from Maharashtrian society. An awareness which resulted in interesting developments. Given their new bourgeois awareness, the stirrings of nationality led them to find roots in their rural and cultural background, critically appraise it and attempt to reform it if necessary. Out of this appraisal, the fight for liberal social reforms began. Fired by this new zeal, there arose in Maharashtra, for example, men like Chiplunkar, G. H. Deshmukh and M. G. Ranade—all brahmins, but of a new type—motivated by an intellectual bourgeois consciousness. Deshmukh was the pioneer of Marathi journalism, Chiplunkar in the words of Kumar was a ' creative writer and journalist who transformed Marathi into a language capable of expressing modern ideas.’7 Ranade was the most sophisticated Marathi thinker and man of letters of that period. His views bordering on agricultural capitalism and the role of the State in the economy reveal a depth of bourgeois liberalism which is significant. Among non-brahmins, representing the other strand of Marathi creativity, there was the dominating personality of Jyoti Ba Phule, who belonged to a kunbi sub-caste and became the leading light of the anti-brahmin movement. His antibrahminism, his vigorous advocacy of Marathi and the rise of the kunbis as a rich peasant stratum are all tied together. They represent the strands of anti-feudalism and nationality consciousness based on the new rising class interest of a nascent bourgeoisie. Therefore, there were two parallel strands so far as language was concerned. There was English, which meant increasing competition for English education among elite-groups mainly brahmin and the growing pressure from the rising castes/classes. Secondly, and significantly this did not mean the neglect of Marathi. In fact it benefited from these developments; as the 7.

Ravinder Kumar, ibid, p. 280.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

6

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

newly-educated classes and the social reform movements initiated by them, led to pioneering efforts in regional language prose and journalism. Such efforts sprang out of structural changes in Maratha society. Chitpavan predominance existed in 1901 until 1921, and among Marathi newspaper editors never less than twenty-five per cent were Chitpavans.8 This position slowly changed : the picture of a traditionally literate group by virtue of their superior knowledge of English and access to Marathi, continuing to be leaders of society, was bound to be a temporary phenomenon, even though it was crucial. Only in the twentieth century did the real struggle begin—Maratha—brahmin conflict— reflecting the struggle of new classes on the ascendancy, with the Marathas winning inevitably. This paralleled the importance of Marathi, since the reorganisation of education and use of * verna­ culars’, introduced as a consequence of the Woods Despatch of 1854. We can see how Deutsch's criteria, "In the political and social struggles of the modern age nationality then means an alignment of large numbers of individuals from the middle and lower classes linked to regional centres and leading social groups, channels of communication and economic intercourse both indirectly link to link and directly with the centre...” 9 comes gradually to be fulfilled in Maharashtra. Unlike the Hindi­ speaking regions which are still emerging from the multiplicity of dialects, or Tamilnadu, which had to witness a bitter fight for the position of Tamil purified of Sanskritic elements, Marathi found its footing relatively early in Western India. From the Bhakti movement of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, to the smooth transition of the power balance in favour of the Maratha ruling classes in the twentieth century, we find that Marathi enjoyed a steadily growing importance. The smooth course of Marathi is also reflected in the course of political and social developments. The Maratha—brahmin tussle had none of the ferocity of anti-brahmin struggle in Madras. Marathi did not have to be drawn into agitational politics in the internal politics of Maharashtra. The milder caste-cleavages explains to a certain extent why the Peasants and Workers Party in Maharashtra did not achieve the same dynamism as the D. M. K. in later decades : 8. 9.

McDonald : Asian Survey, op. cit. p. 604. Deutsch, K : Nationalism and Social Communication, M.I.T. Press, 1953, p. 75.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE BACKGROUND : DEVELOPMENTS UNDER BRITISH RULE

7

both were based on anti-brahminism, but only the D. M. K. possessed the linguistic issue, Tamil, as a weapon in this fight. _ A similar process took shape in Andhra, in the history of its linguistic struggle, where the revolt against the pre-capitalist order by the rising peasant castes of Kammas and Reddis, the use of Telugu as the badge of nationality, and the intense class consciousness often disguised as caste consciousness, resulted eventually in the "Vishala Andhra” movement. The stirrings of nationality consciousness at first reflected itself in heightened inter-caste activity and competition. The Telugu brahmins initiated this process to realize certain political and economic benefits which they felt they were deprived of in the composite Madras province.1011They suffered adversely in competition with the Tamil brahmins, but as far as Andhra Pradesh was concerned modern English and vernacular education was propagated by Telugu brahmins, who were also the dominant beneficiaries of such education. The Telugu literary renaissance and the first stirrings of Telugu nationalism also had its origins in brahmin groups. This was not, however, solely due to the skill and (cleverness of the brahmins. In Madras Presidency by 1891, there were eight brahmins who knew English for every non-brahmin who was educated in English. The brahmins constituted only three percent of the population, however.11 So we see here also, I the traditionally literate groups had in the course of transition, ' monopolised English education, as in Bombay province. The dominance over education and the English language reinforced their chances for economic and social positions. The tie-up between English education and government jobs of the white­ collar nature, was crucial in British India. But social and economic changes were taking place in the rural areas. Brahmins did own land in the Circars. But the transformation from subsis­ tence to commercial agriculture in the rich delta districts led to a situation where by the late 19th century, there was extensive irrigation and export of rice and tobacco—these changes resulted in the establishment of a vast number of peasant proprietors who 10.

11.

Leonard, John G : * Politics and Social Change in South India: A Study of Andhra movement’ — Journal of Commonwealth Political Studies» March 1967, p. 62. Leonard, John G ibid, p. 63. The figures are quoted from Census of India 1891, by Leonard.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

8

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

were non-brahmins.12 13 The zamindars, mainly non-brahmins, provided much of the support for cultural activities. Language again shows the uniting of common interests. Telugu brahmins of the middle classes eager for an autonomous region to enhance their dominance, used English, but increasingly harped on Telugu and Andhradesh. In this they found the ready support of the peasant castes who with their growing prosperity associated Telugu with their badge of nationality. It was later in the twentieth century, a convenient weapon in the brahmin - non­ brahmin race for power, and like the Maharashtrian kunbis, the Andhra kulaks triumphed. These developments however, did not change the linguistic scene drastically ; no doubt some pre-existing elite groups were dispossessed of their monopoly of linguistic channels, but the structure of the system was not much disturbed. English was still paramount, only now there was a rising bour­ geoisie to pay court to it. The persistence of English in certain spheres points to the fact that just as social and economic changes were never thorough-going in British India, similarly the Indian languages still did have a long way to go before gaining full recognition. As for the caste equations in the Telugu areas, they were caught up in the anti-brahmin movement in Madras. There had been throughout the Dravidian movement, prominent partici­ pation by the major non-brahmin Telugu caste-groups—the Reddis and the Kammas representing the rich peasant and landlord classes.13 The Justice Party had throughout its active phase segments of Telugu leadership which commanded the support of the zamindars and landlords of the Circar and Rayalaseema districts. Therefore, along with, and preceding, the growing linguistic nationality identity of the Telugus, there was an equally intense shaping of economic interests, which reflects itself in caste-consciousness. The reason for the lesser enthusiasm for the anti-brahmin struggle among the Telugus, lay in the nature of the class formation taking place. The type of middle­ 12.

13.

The irrigation facilities centering round the Krishna and Godavari deltas were much more advanced than in other Presidency areas. Leonard estimates there were at least a million Kamma peasant proprietors in the Circars. Irshchick, Eugene F: Politics and Social Conflict in South India» University of California, 1969, p. 176.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE BACKGROUND : DEVELOPMENTS UNDER BRITISH RULE

9

classes that developed in Tamilnadu was relatively lacking in the Telugu-speaking regions. Moreover, as we shall discuss later on, the brahmin - non-brahmin divisions were not so pronounced among the Telugu castes as with the Tamils, reflecting differences in the rural economic structure. Linguistically, therefore, group identity among the Telugus developed over a period of time and became pronounced not because of internal cleavage alone but also because of contradictions arising from association with the multi-national Madras Presidency. The impetus for Telugu nationalism, also developed dramatically when the conflict between the peasant castes the Kammas and Reddis became evident. This development should not be seen as a purely inter­ caste conflict between two dominant caste-groups, but of conflicts emerging out of the emergence of new economic groups in the rural areas aspiring for bourgeois status.14 No doubt Telugu nationalism was stimulated by the participation in the anti­ Brahmin movement, whereas, in the Tamil areas, the earlier impact of British rule, led to a viable middle-class and also contributed to the greater cleavage between brahmin dominance and the growing pressure from the numerically larger number of non-brahmin castes (more in number than in the Telugu areas). In Tamilnadu where a clear identity of language and nationality emerged at times stronger than in the Telugu areas, the process took place as a result of the attempts to bring down the dominance of the old order by the rising middle castes (urban and rural petty bourgeoisie) and found content in the anti-brahmin movement and the championing of Tamil. Hence despite the fact that there was no integral movement for a separate Tamil state, the identity was established. The explanation becomes clearer if we see the example of Bengal. Bengal was the first linguistic area to find a distinct identity in the modern period and this was accompanied by a renaissance of Bengali and the formation of the bhadralok.15 In Bengal, unlike Madras, there were no sharp conflicts between the upper castes and lower castes, but the impact of British 14.

15.

For an one-sided • caste ’ interpretation of Kamma-Reddy rivalry. Harrison, Selig: India—the Most Dangerous Decades, Oxford University Press, 1965, pp. 204 to 237. Broomfield, J.H.: Elite Conflict in a Plural Society, University of California, 1968. The introductory chapter deals with the bhadralok.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

10

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

influence and the rapid growth of commerce and education substi­ tuted for the impetus that could have taken the form of caste­ conflict. It also showed that a process of caste-competition is not absolutely necessary to reflect the emergence of new classes. Instead a modern social group like the ‘ bhadralok ’ operated in a nationality to assimilate members of all castes through the process of English education and allied middle-class activities. Throughout the non-Hindi regions there were variations on the same theme. In Gujarat, most of the early reformers were associated with the Gujarat Vernacular Society in Ahmedabad in the 1840’s. The Ahmedabad society which was founded in 1848 stressed the educational aspect and began a co-educational school.16 The growth of Gujarati is seen in the remarkable vitality of the ‘ vernacular ’ press. Western Indian reformers attached great importance to and relied on the regional languages media. Poetry, drama and public debates on social problems frequently appeared in the Marathi and Gujarati newspapers.16 Therefore the vigorous infusion of life into-the regional languages and its rapid adjustment to modern communication needs was spurred on by deep and urgent social and economic motives. The destruction of pre-capitalist caste-rigidities, the campaign against untouchability—all these radical forces needed a new medium, the Indian languages. Languages, which are still being shaped to meet some of these needs. This alongside the effects of English education led to a new bourgeois awareness ; like Ramrnohun Roy, many of these newly-educated, supported English at the expense of Sanskrit and Persian, and this helped the regional languages, as it breached the hold of the literary-caste groups and their orthodox traditions which were unsuited to any type of bourgeois-nationalism. Those who did go in for the new type of education, were drawn from the upper castes to start with, but belonging to the middle and lower income groups. The nobility and the upper classes did not seem to find it so essential to get a western-type of education. Therefore one of the clear tendencies was for the upper-caste traditionally literate-groups 16. Heimsath, C.H.: Indian Nationalism and Hindu Social Reform, Princeton, 1964, for factual information given in this paragraph. Also p. 210 “ Newspaper debates between Tilak’s Kesari and Agarkar’s Sudharak were reaching dramatic heights and in the view of one witness were * likely to remain enshrined in Marathi literature ’. ”

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE BACKGROUND : DEVELOPMENTS UNDER BRITISH RULE

11

to use the new education for their economic advancement. The upper classes, accepted the new type of education, but not with the same compulsive enthusiasm.17 Just as the disparity in accepting English and western influences among castes and classes existed, similarly there wasjisparity among nationalities arid provinces also. In the subordinate province of Bihar, for instance, unlike in Bengal, there was a widespread reluctance to take up English. The famous dispatch of 1854 was looked upoiU with suspicion by the landlords, mainly Muslims.18 This indicates that the prevalent Indo-Persian culture there was not very receptive to new influences. And this brings us to the Hindi areas. Language and Society in the Hindi Belt

If our comparative framework is to appear credible, we have to explain the Hindi belt in the pattern set forth. The five Hindi states Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana19 did not undergo any movement for linguistic reorganisation or distinct nationality process in the 19th century. Whereas in most non-Hindi states language and caste are co-ter­ minus, in the Hindi belt, along with Hindi language, caste groups cut across state boundaries. For example Kayasthas can be found in U. P. and Bihar; Jats in Rajasthan, U. P. and Haryana, etc. Apart from this significant phenomenon, the Hindi states had a different historical and political experience- from most other states. D. A. Low pinpoints these qualitative differences.20 Low's explanation of the husk ‘ culture' is very relevant to our discussion. To paraphrase some of his points : The dominance of Indo-Persian culture in the Hindi heartland, a legacy of centuries of Muslim rule, was left undisturbed by the British, especially in the light of the 1857 Mutiny. " In U.P. a compound of still extant remnants of traditional ' little * rulership together McCully, op. cit., p. 184. Misra, B.B.: The Indian Middle Classes, London, 1961, p. 158. An important qualification has to be made with regard to Rajasthan, which though generally considered to be part of the Hindi belt has a distinct socio-economic and cultural background and its language Rajasthani is also highly developed. This question cannot be gone into detail in this book, therefore it has to be reserved for further study. Haryana, the Hindi-speaking region of the old Punjab was formed into a separate state in 1966. 20. Low D.A., edited: Soundings in Modern South Asian History, London, 1968. See his Introduction, pp. 4 to 18.

17. 18. 19.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

12

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

with 'big' landlordism, ‘Urdu' culture and the autocratic concepts of the Oudh taluqdars and their associates of the ‘Oudh’ school of British administrators stood dominant there”. 81 Upper caste Hindus of the elite group accepted the Islamised culture and Urdu as the language of refinement. At the same time there was no great class of rich peasants in U. P., which might have over­ thrown the predominant elites and their dying culture.88 The old pattern was hence a 'husk' and the official language Urdu, was past its prime. It no longer served the needs of the majority of the U. P. ruling classes. The old pattern was broken only after a series of peasant rebellions against landlords and by the 1920's the alliance of certain upper class sections headed by Nehru, Kidwai and others, with the peasants provided the foundation for the nationalist activity which came to U. P. belatedly. This development is paralleled in the struggle for Hindi. In the Hindi­ speaking areas also the association of language with the begin­ nings of change in caste and the movement of social reform is significant. Heimsath observes that caste-groups increasingly aware of the new opportunities, started forming themselves into associations. The first, the Kayastha Conference was to be a model for the others, and was founded in 1887.83 The creation of caste associations was itself a radical departure from the ascriptive to the voluntary body. This was paralleled in the linguistic field with the growth of journals espousing the cause of such castes, in both English and the 'vernacular', i.e. Hindi. The Hindustan Review and the Vaishya Hitkari are examples. The Vaishya sabhas laid great stress on the encouragement of Hindi and the use of the nagari script.84 These developments took place in the 1890’s. The eventual demand for the recognition of Hindi and its acceptance in the Law Courts in 1900, has its roots in such earlier developments. The role of the Arya Samaj in both caste and Hindi reform was significant,85 but has not yet been adequately studied.21 * 25 24 23 22 21. Low, D.A., ibid, p. 6. 22. Ibid, p. 10. 23. Heimsath, op, cit„ p. 281. 24. Heimsath., ibid, p. 284 ff. 25. Das Gupta, J.: Language and Group Process in India, University of California, Ph. D. Thesis, p. 80 n. Now published in revised form as a book.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE BACKGROUND : DEVELOPMENTS UNDER BRITISH RULE

13

The first victory was won in 1900 when Hindi and nagari script were accepted in the law courts. 96 By 1921, Hindi publications for the first time began to outnumber Urdu publica­ tions. 37 The old order was undermined by economic, political and also linguistic change. The taluqdars gave way to bhumidars, the British to the Congress Party and Urdu was replaced by Hindi. In this we detect a similarity with other regions, but it is distorted by a crucial fact. Whereas in the non-Hindi areas linguistic and cultural movements express themselves in demands for linguistic reorganisation of states, in the Hindi belt there is a difference. In the whole region comprising the five states we have mentioned, boundaries of language do not arise, and the caste groups overlap, giving the whole region scope for the term • Hindi heartland * which cuts across state frontiers. Hence the linguistic aspirations express themselves politically in an identi­ fication of the Hindi-speaking areas as the real India. This goes along with the lack of a regional identity on a nationality basis. 26 28 27 The size of the area and the numerous dialects did not, because of the conditions mentioned earlier, develop into a standardised Hindi. Hindi has been affected by these peculiar conditions. r There was in the * Aryavarta* tradition, another inhibiting factor I to Hindi, viz., Sanskrit. Bruce McCully quotes, “ Is it not i painful, a shameful necessity that compels me at present moment to advocate the cause of Aryan language in a foreign tongue ? Should not Sanskrit rather than English be the universal medium of communication in the Aryan land.” 29 This sublime love for Sanskrit, the nostalgia for the * Aryan* tongue, however commendable, often led to the neglect of the more down to earth claims of Hindi. Therefore it is pertinent to note that j there has been only a partial development of nationality consciousness in the U. P. and other Hindi areas primarily because of the incomplete socio-economic evolution. Land structure has changed less and the general lack of consolidation of a linguistic-nationality identity is suggested by the still 26. 27. 28.

29.

Das Gupta, ibid, p. 80. Low, D.A., op, cit., p. 13. Many writers have commented on this. See Dyakov, A.M.: The National Problem in India Today, Moscow, 1966, p. 164 and Paul Brass in State Politics in India, edited by Myron Weiner, Princeton 1968. McCully, op, cit,» p. 257.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

14

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

unfinished fight for Hindi to occupy its rightful role as an official language in the regional spheres. The long submerged ' little * village culture has emerged and it is no coincidence * that U. P., should be so aggressively minded about Hindi.*30 So in the linguistic regions of India, giving allowance to local variations, differences in time schedules and other modifying factors, we see the regional languages and relations with socio-economic change as reflected in caste-activity reflecting common symptoms. There was an increasing competition among social groups for the acquisition of English, one aspect of this struggle being the rivalry between entrenched groups and • newly arrived * sections. Secondly heightened caste-activity, whether they were in the form of caste-reform, caste-competition or just caste-consciousness—all representative of new classes emerging—had given a fillip to regional languages and by the twentieth century had grown into an organised demand for the linguistic determination of state boundaries. Language-Caste Interrelationship in Nationalities The Class Significance

Our brief survey of developments in the various nationalities in an all India framework should now lead us to come to grips with the inner dynamic that motivated these developments and the specific forms it took. The inner dynamic was the class­ relations developing, specifically the development of the regional bourgeois and agrarian classes and one form it took was the heightened caste-consciousness and linguistic identity in politics. This must be seen as a stage in the development of the nationa­ lities. The specific relations between language, caste and nationality, underlines the fact that all three play an interrelated role in the development of bourgeois society. The impetus for linguistic determinism and nationality cons­ ciousness implied the development of regional bourgeoisie and allied groups and reflected itself in heightened caste-conscio­ usness. Linguistic states, once established, provided a base for competition among the major caste-groups of that nationality who were solidifying into classes and their attendant political interests. Therefore in the study of the relationship between language and nationality politics, caste figures in the equation. 30.

Low, D.A., op. cit., p. 17.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE BACKGROUND : DEVELOPMENTS UNDER BRITISH RULE

15

In the various linguistic regions of India socio-economic changes resulted in intense inter-caste politicking indicating class conflicts and then found shape in a strong linguistic-nationality identity. This stage in the development of nationalities was a historical process associated with the development of capitalism and the breakdown of the pre-capitalist system in the rural areas. In this process of linguistic solidarity, the political role of caste assumed a sharp focus. As language and caste boundaries ' coincide in most cases, it was natural that this meant an increase of caste-oriented politics. However this was the surface indication of caste-groups becoming economically and socially mobile in the spectrum of class-relations. This aspect is totally ignored by western-oriented political studies which ignore the class content and interpret politics purely in terms of caste-rivalries: the pioneering study of “ Caste and the Andhra Communists” is indicative of this trend.31 This model was especially convenient for the South, where states were linguistically reorganised. The concept of ‘ dominant castes ’, who used their economic and numerical superiority to gain political power fitted into the pattern of politics viewed purely from the standards of electoral politics. 32 However, there is an element in this approach which should not be ignored. Sub-castes which were insignificant groups in a sea of castes in multi-lingual provinces, found them­ selves in sufficient numbers to make their presence felt in states divided on linguistic-nationality basis. Lingayatsand Vokkaligas in Kannada-speaking Mysore, Reddis and Kammas in Telugu­ speaking Andhra, non-brahmin castes like Nadars and Mudaliars in Tamil-speaking Tamilnadu, were some of the groups in such states, which took advantage of the formation of linguistic states. But this movement unless seen in class terms can be deceptive. We have seen earlier how these sub-castes were involved in the struggle to improve their social condition within the pre­ capitalist order and how they manifested their aspirations by being in the forefront for separate linguistic units. Within 31. 32.

Harrison, Selig S.: "Caste and the Andhra Communists’"— American Political Science Review, June 1956. For the concept of * dominant caste Srinivas, M. N.: " Caste in Modern India ”—Journal of Asian Studies, July 1957. And for a discussion of it see. Contributions to Indian Sociology, Nos. 1-2.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

16

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

linguistic units, politics assumed a pattern of caste manipulation and alliances to secure maximum electoral support in the pursuit of class ends. However as a clear linguistic identity and cultural homogeneity were achieved the caste-factor receded within the politics of a nationality. The position of ' dominance* acquired by a sub-caste is based at the village level, where ownership of land is the major determinant of a 'dominant caste '. When this is supported by numerical superiority in a region or a group of villages then the position of the sub-caste becomes stronger. Stronger in the sense that it is possible for the economic and social notables to have a vote-bank or a base to operate with. This is facilitated by the continuance of semifeudal relations in society. However this position is precarious and deceptive in the political sphere. The so-called dominant castes have to form alliances with other caste-groups with similar class interests, to protect their interests. Caste interests, a tenacious phenomena derived from the still extant semi-feudal relations in Indian society, generally have to be subordinated to class interests, if the two don’t coincide. The nature of caste­ groupings in a nationality dictate this development. Within a linguistic-nationality, there is no sub-caste whose leaders can by itself maintain electoral dominance, simply because there is no sub-caste in any state which has an absolute majority in numbers. The concept of 1 dominant caste ’ is useful to a limited extent to explain the economic roots of new class formations within various castes. A caste becomes dominant only when some or a large number of its members are also able to establish themselves economically either in land, commerce or trade. In the context of linguistic states, caste activities in politics must be viewed as a process by which various groups belonging to different castes ascend the economic ladder (or descend) and the resultant activity is an integral part of the nationality formation process. The economic background of the caste is at first responsible for its ability to act at the state level through village to village links. But since all members of the caste do not remain at the same economic level they get classified into classes and since there is no sub-caste so widespread or wielding such economic power to dominate in State politics, conglomera­ tions of sections of various castes form into classes. In this process, the urban-petty bourgeoisie of various castes, the

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE BACKGROUND : DEVELOPMENTS UNDER BRITISH RULE

17

rural-petty bourgeoisie and rich peasants tend to be the most nationality conscious. The strength of the nationality and linguistic identity often depends upon how effectively they transfer their understanding to the rural masses. But as long as the leadership vests with the above groups they limit themselves to the stage of bourgeois nationalism. Within a linguistic-nationality, caste-politics invariably assumes a factional type of politics in pursuit of class aims, based on wide-ranging, cross-cutting ties of social groups who form together under political parties or leaders to protect their class interests. With the consolidation and settling of political patterns, caste gradually becomes just one of the factors that has to be taken into account by a politician, when he adopts his political strategy and makes decisions. It should be noted that linguistic identity and the fight for linguistic states always cut across caste loyalties. Andhra is a good example, as we have seen before. Telugu brahmins and non-brahmins participated in the Andhra movement. It has been pointed out by the Rudolphs that the Telugu brahmin was less caste-conscious than the Tamil brahmin in the 1950’s.33 One reason for this was that the protracted struggle for a Telugu­ speaking state forced the brahmins to ally with other caste-groups. More basically, the caste-structure as it evolved from the economic base was different from the structure in the Tamil areas. As one went north from the southernmost districts of the old Madras Presidency in the late nineteenth century—the agricultural^ system of bondage and the other features of a harsh landlord \ system (based on caste) disappeared.34 Therefore historically \ there had been no deep divisions between Telugu brahmins and \ other caste groups—not so much as there was in Tamilnadu. This along with the fears of Tamil domination, gave the Telugu castes cohesiveness to fight for a separate state of their own. Fear of domination by another linguistic group or the development / of a strong nationality consciousness cut across caste barriers. effectively manipulated by the D.M.K. However, as the above thesis has shown, a party like the Congress had also to accept and advance this socio-political movement to retain its political cre­ dibility. Heightened linguistic solidarity in Tamilnadu through Tamil, served at first to mobilise the non-brahmin castes into parliamentary democratic politics; since then it has served to break down caste influences. Brahmins led by Rajaji supported the D.M.K. in 1967. Younger brahmins found the dynamism of the D.M.K/s cultural propaganda attractive. And the culmina­ tion of this process has resulted in the consolidation of the regional bourgeoisie. If we recapitulate, it was Ramaswamy Naicker, the brahmin-baiter who conducted his campaign against Hindi during the Chief-ministership of Rajaji. Rajaji was then assiduously trying to promote Hindi. Curiously it was Rajagapalachari who was the leading light of the anti-Hindi movement subsequently. The nonagenarian E.V.R. and the octogenarian Rajaji both advocated English. E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker went to the extent of calling Tamil a barbarous language. r It could well be, as Rudolph claims that the populist ideology of the D.M.K; is not radical in the sense that it is a protest, but a protest whichjs made by the “ small man ” in the hope of reachirig the privileged positions of wealth and power.61 In this sense tEeTinguistic-nationality upsurge is part of the rising of the^ nascent Tamil bourgeoisie and the result has been in fact that while in power the D.M.K. has consolidated the whole Tamil bourgeoisie behind it. Between the D.M.K. and the Congress therefore the Tamil bourgeoisie and landlords have a choice to support one or the other according to the suitability of the political position of either.54 54.

Rudolph, op. cit.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

96

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

Tamilnadu and the Federal System

The 1967 General Elections brought nine non-Congress governments to power in the states. For the first time in Indian politics, the federal structure faced the breaking up of Congress monopoly. The D.M.K. being the only single opposition party to capture power with an absolute majority, was in the strongest position to pose difficulties for the Congress Government at the Centre. How these relations have developed between the vanguard of Indian nationalism on the one hand and the former advocate of secession, on the other, will throw some light on the process of interlocking and contradiction between the regional bourgeoisie and the Central power. Language and nationality in Tamilnadu can be seen as an important factor in this process. First, the strong nationality identity contributed by Tamil, has given the Tamil bourgeoisie enough strength to represent itself as the spokesman of the Tamil people which the Centre cannot ignore. In the case of Tamilnadu, the identity has been reinforced by the Tamilian struggle against Hindi. In such a position the State Government finds it possible to enter into a bargaining relationship with the Centre with clearly defined interests unlike in some other states where there is a heteroge­ neous unstable coalition government. Being a strong state-based party, the D.M.K. plays an important role in the power balance at the Centre. Linguistic nationality identity (which led to the formation of linguistic states) can be seen as a process by which the regional bourgeoisie mediate their relations with the Centre and compete for a share of the country's spoils. In this there is a basic contradiction and dichotomy of interests, but as long as the Centre can deliver the goods, they will remain united. The forebodings of a Centre-State confrontation leading to a deadlock, as a result have not proved right. The State Govern­ ment under Annadurai was firm in stating that Tamilnadu should have more say in the realm of finance and grants from the Centre. But he also made it clear that, “ If, by being in office, the D.M.K. is able to bring to the notice of the thinking public that the present Constitution is a sort of dyarchy by the back door, that would be a definite contribution indeed to the political world." 66 The death of Annadurai has not altered this approach. After55 55.

The Hindu, 17 January 1969.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY IN TAMILNADU POLITICS

97

the dramatic changes in the political situation at the national level in 1969, the D.M.K. has played an important role in national politics, with considerable advantage to the party’s interests. Karunanidhi,. the Chief Minister was approached by various opposition leaders for consultation on the Presidential candidate.5657The D.M.K. eventually came out in support of V.V. Giri. Since then it has also supported Indira Gandhi and her wing of the Congress Party. For a former secessionist party condemned by all-India parties as obscurantist and chauvinistic, the D.M.K. is now at the height of its prestige, courted by the Central ruling party and the Opposition alike. The secret of its strength lies in the party’s sound base in Tamilnadu (where all the twenty four D.M.K. candidates who contested for the Lok Sabha in 1967 won). That this could be achieved, was due to the political mobilisation of the Tamils, with Tamil acting as one of the major instruments in engendering this distinctive conscious­ ness. This process called * federalising ’ by Western political scien­ tists, can be called other things also.67 The D.M.K. now that it has got the ' loaves and fishes ’ of office is quite content to per­ petuate its power and enjoy the fruits of office.58 Having no radical ideology it has fitted into the bourgeois landlord power structure and its primitive populism enables it to make conces­ sions to “ North Indian capitalists ” and pro-English students. This should not however obscure the fundamental fact that the phenomenon of the D.M.K. and its militancy on language reforms (however slow they may be),59 and emphasis on Tamil culture 56. 57.

58.

59.

The Hindu, 18 and 19 July 1969, for details of consultations. For a study of the * federalising process ’ in an Indian state, see Marcus F. Franda: West Bengal and the Federalising Process, Princeton, 1968. Ironically, Karunanidhi chided A. K. Gopalan, the Communist (Marxist) leader for advocating the wrecking of the Constitution. When Gopalan retorted that he was surprised that this should come from the leader of a party which had burnt the Constitution often, Karunanidhi replied that his party had burnt only the language provisions of the Constitution in protest against the language policy. The Hindu, 12 July 1969. The Chief Minister, Karunanidhi, in a statement said that orders had been issued requiring heads of departments of the Government of corresponding with each other only in Tamil and also with subordinate offices. Introduction of Tamil is being implemented

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

98

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

and economic interests represents a facet of the genuine contra­ diction that exists between the non-big bourgeoisie of the various nationalities and the all-India bourgeois landlord rule. Whether the D.M.K. can continue uninterrupted in its present role of complementing Central power, depends ultimately on the class­ correlations in Tamilnadu and in the whole country—factors which are beyond its control. Profile of a Nationality-based Politician

It would be relevant to conclude this chapter by analysing the role of a Tamil scholar-politician, because his political career exhibits most of the themes explained in the previous pages. M.P. Sivagnana Gramani (popularly known as Ma Po Si) is not a big time politician in Tamilnadu, nor does he belong to any of the powerful political parties. Yet the independence of his political career, affords us a good chance to find out the influence of linguistic and nationality environment of Tamilnadu, and the type of political views it could shape in a petty-bourgeois politician. Ma Po Si is also in a unique position, in that he represents a mixture of political currents, which seem in varying degrees to be characteristic of many other Tamil politicians. Sivagnana Gramani is a politician operating within the boundaries of the Tamibspeaking area, strongly imbued with linguistic patrio­ tism and who devotes his political activities to advance the cause of Tamil and those sections of the people who speak it. Sivagnana Gramani's career spans the period of Tamil politics when great social and political changes were taking place. He belongs to a caste allied with the Nadars, who have as a rising caste, played a significant role in the bourgeois democratisation of caste-relations. In fact his lower-caste background and fight for Tamil are tied together, if we remember that the anti-brahmin movement used Tamil as one of its symbols. In this sense, the formative period of his political life is similar to that of leaders like Kamaraj and Ramaswami Naicker. Sivagnana Gramani’s in four stages. The first stage under Congress rule in 1963, required heads of departments to reply in Tamil to letters in Tamil from the public. The second stage of corresponding with the district and subordinate offices in Tamil was partially introduced in 1965. Under D.M.K. rule this and the next stage have already been implemented. See The Statesman (Weekly edition), 25 October, 1969.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

¿

I I



; I I* I

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY IN TAMILNADU POLITICS

99

position of stature in politics derives to a great extent from the distinguished place he holds in Tamil literary circles. His reputation as a Tamil scholar is an invaluable asset for political activity.60 Sivagnana Gramani is a regional politician, but his politics is primarily ‘ nationalist *. He joined the Congress in 1927 and he took part in all the major all-India nationalist movements.61 His contribution to Gandhian philosophy in the South is pheno­ menal. The important aspect of his allegiance to Gandhian nationalism is that it is firmly allied to his passionate advocacy of Tamil and linguistic states and their autonomy. He attributes his political popularity, in fact, to the linguistic agitations he participated in. He led demonstrations to get the Tamil­ speaking areas of Travancore and Andhra Pradesh included in Tamilnadu. 62 He formed in 1946, the Tamil Arasu Kazhagam (Tamil State Movement) within the Congress to work for linguistic states, for making Tamil the official language of the state and medium of instruction and the non-violent achievement of socialism. Gramani left the Congress in 1954, and his movement gathered strength because of its independent policies and its strong attacks on secessionist demands put forward by the Dravida Kazhagam and D.M.K. In recent years since the D.M.K. has given up its demand for an independent sovereign Tamilnadu, Gramani has found more in common with the D.M.K., especially after the tardy efforts of the Congress in Tamilnadu to Tamilise the administration and education. He is in favour of more autonomy for the states and wants the Centre to look after only defence, foreign affairs and com­ munications. This demand again is similar to the D.M.K.’s talk of more state rights, which is more moderate. Such an attitude to the Centre is inevitable among states with strong nationality 60.

61.

62.

He is an expert on ancient Tamil classics like the Tirukkural and Silapadikaram and is therefore familiarly known as • Silambu Selvar *. In the modern period, he was instrumental in populari­ sing Kattabomman, the Tamilian freedom fighter against the British, by his historical writings. He was arrested in 1942 and twice before that by the British. He took part in the Simon Commission Boycott and the Salt Satyagraha. The Hindu, 8 July, 8 September and 8 December, 1954 for Sivagnana Gramani’s border agitations. On his resignation from the Congress see The Hindu, 8 August, 1954.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

100

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

identities. The federalist approach of Sivagnana Gramani is again dictated by the growing Tamil consciousness of the people and his own conviction of Tamil capabilities, perhaps stimulated by his study of ancient Tamil literature. Like many of the pettybourgeois Tamil politicians he is very much aware of the poten­ tialities of the Tamil legacy, which can be used to construct a modern bourgeois-democratic society, and at the same time utilise it for whipping up political support when threatened by radical movements. His position on English differs from the D.M.K., as he is an avowed opponent of English remaining in any form in administration and government both at the state and Central level. Curiously this is because of his intense nationalism and Gandhian beliefs. He believes as long as English remains in India as a dominant language, the creative energies of Indians will be stultified. And he directly links continuance of English at the Centre as associate official language, as responsible for Tamil's secondary position in the state administration. As far as the Tamilian attachment to English is concerned, he thinks this is due to the lead given by the brahmins, and the non-brahmins in their desire to catch up with the brahminshave stampeded for English education.63 Logically, as a nationalist he is more moderate on the question of Hindi. He thinks Hindi can become the link language, when the South voluntarily accepts it. Sivagnana Gramani considers the D.M.K. success in the 1967 elections mainly due to their ability to communicate with the people. As he put it, if the Congress held twenty Koottams (meetings), the D.M.K. held two hundred.6465Significantly he is satisfied with the bona fides of the D.M.K. as far as its language policy is concerned. He thinks the D.M.K. are sincere in their efforts to step up the use of Tamil, but they are constrained by the limited governmental powers in society.66 It is obvious that 63. 64.

65.

Interview with Sivagnana Gramani in Madras on 1 August 1969. He quoted a Tamil poet as saying that the Tamil people have their eyes in their ears, to stress the importance of verbal com­ munication in Tamilnadu politics. Gramani thought the D.M.K. could not hasten Tamilisation because society had not changed relatively to the D.M.K.*s deter­ mination. The entrenched administrative cadres, and people's prejudices in education had to be changed before the government could do anything effective.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY IN TAMILNADU POLITICS

101

he finds a common identity with the petty-bourgeois ideas of many D.M.K. politicians. Sivagnana Gramani combines linguistic particularism with nationalist horizons. This as we have seen before are the two ingredients in the mixture which many Tamil politicians adopt for political success. Secondly, his political popularity which is centred around him and not a mass movement, is based on linguistic-nationality politics of the bourgeois-democratic variety and his standing in Tamil literature. This again, like the D.M.K. leadership illustrates the role that Tamil has played in shaping Tamil political leadership. We have spelt out in some detail the political standpoint of Sivagnana Gramani. What emerges most prominently is the blending of an intense Tamil patriotism which is interlaced with a nationalist outlook. His life-long fight for Tamil is tied to his understanding of Tamil society and the belief that the fight for Tamilisation is the crucial key to the social and political direction of Tamilnadu. However, given its character, it can degenerate into a chauvinist position when its class viewpoint is threatened. This represents the aspirations of the dynamic pettybourgeoisie of a nationality. Admittedly Sivagnana Gramani’s sphere of activity is confined to Tamilnadu only, and there too it is not a major one. Yet to look upon it as based on narrow parochialism will not be altogether correct. His political career is evidence of the innate trends of language and nationality in Indian political life. APPENDIX I

The Tamil film industry by output of feature films per year ranks second among Indian language films. Hindi with the largest number of people speaking it in India, (roughly 40 per cent) tops the list. The position of the Tamil cinema relative to the population of Tamilnadu is significant as Telugu and Bengali speakers outnumber the Tamilians. Yet more Tamil films are produced annually. Below are given figures of the production of feature films for four languages which produced the largest number of films:

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

102

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

Hindi Tamil Bengali Telugu

1956

1958

1960

1962

1964

1966 1967

123 51 54 27

116 61 45 36

121 63 38 54

96 62 38 48

113 44 34 41

97 60 30 41

— 65 25 61

Source: Times of India Directory and Year Book, Vols. 1956 to 1968 According to a sample survey conducted by L. Rudolph and S. Rudolph on communication exposure in Madras state, the cinema is the biggest attracting media in both rural and urban Tamilnadu, e.g. in rural areas 13.7 per cent watched cinema, while only 3.7 per cent read newspapers alone. Radio accounted for 4.3 per cent. (Figures taken from “ Afro-Asian attitudes ” Bombay 1963, article by V. K. Narasimhan) APPENDIX II The Tamil Press

According to the Annual Reports of the Press Registrar all through the 1960’s, Tamil consistently ranked third after English and Hindi in the highest combined circulation of papers and all periodicals, (e.g. in 1960 English circulation figures were 4.15 million; Hindi 3.59 million; Tamil 2.49 million) The position of Tamil daily newspapers :

1953 1957 1960 1965

Digitized by

Google

No. of dailies

Circulation

12 12 23 28

168,000 273,000 487,000 686,000

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

CHAPTER V

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS It would be appropriate at this stage to evaluate the role of English in our society before going on to discuss the problem of Centre-State relations and the attitude of political parties to the language and nationality question. English by its bureaucratic, intellectual and military role provides the ruling classes with the super-structural cohesiveness needed to run a vast and disparate country like India. The continuance of English can be looked upon as a colonial and semi-feudal legacy which reflects the paradoxical alliance between the bourgeoisie and landlords in India. Jawaharlal Nehru made his 'Tryst with Destiny ’ speech to the Constituent Assembly of Independent India to mark the transfer of power, in English. Since then, English has persisted in Indian public affairs in varying degrees of use and import­ ance. Like the parliamentary system, India has found English indispensable for the running of its political system. But this legacy of British rule, unlike ' parliament ’ was expected to be a short-term feature and to fade away as India set about consolidating its political and economic affairs. However, the plan has gone astray. Like most of the British inheritance, English pla^ ed a crucial role in the socio-political changes and innovations during colonial rule, and India's political leaders are finding the task of displacing English fraught with serious con­ sequences on important sections of Indian society, and some claim on Indian unity itself. Our task in this chapter is not to make a comprehensive assessment of the position of English in all sectors of Indian life, but to ascertain the role English

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

104

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY IN TAMILNADU POLITICS

occupies in politics, what function it serves for certain social groups and finally to study the impact of political developments on the role of English in India. What emerges is that, political developments have forced changes in attitudes to English and its functions, and this in turn stems from changes in the economic, social and nationality patterns within the country. English as a linguistic medium in education was instru­ mental in the creation of the new Indian middle classes and the intelligentsia. These groups, under British rule, founded and led nationalist politics. Hence the social composition and peculi­ arities of the middle classes affected Indian politics—and still affects it now. Colonialism through English, created a supply of clerks and persons for intellectual functions. But English as a colonial language was mainly confined to administration and an educational set-up suitable for providing administrative per­ sonnel. It did not become the natural means of communication between the urban centres and the vast rural hinterland. English was therefore confined mostly to urban groups who were trained to be the native * comprador ’ class engaged in subord­ inate administration and allied tasks. This in fact contributed to the tardy growth of an infra-structure for a bourgeois political movement. The middle class as a creation of new economic forms of production was slow in forming and often failed to be the dominant force in that social group. The press and political associations were stifled by the canalising of energies to the enervating babu tasks.1 The rapid acceptance of English among the proto-middle class arose from two motive forces. There were on the one hand traditional upper-caste groups like the Bengali Kayasthas, the Tamil Brahmins and the Marathi Chitpavans who transferred their old literate occupations to the new task of mastering English, to serve their new masters. These elements outnumbered the sections of the middle class who could be classified as elements of the commercial and business groups. 1.

For historical analysis of the growth of the middle class and English education, see B. B. Misra: The Indian Middle Class, London, 1961; Bruce McCully: English Education and the Origins of Indian Nationalism, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 1966; Anil Seal: The Emergence of Indian Nationalism, Cambridge, 1966; A.R. Desai: Social Background of Indian Nationalism, Bombay, 1945.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

105

New forms of commerce, administration and legal institutions— all dictated the necessity of a westernised native class. This was provided for mainly by pre-existing social groups who made the necessary adjustments in their scholarly pursuits. Sanskrit and Persian, themselves languages divorced from the people, gave way easily to English. The importance of the connection between the introduction of English education and its relation to certain social groups, has been obscured by the focus on Macaulay's Minute on Education and the debates within the East India Company on the utility of English education in India. This focus tends to emphasise the British initiative in introducing English, without paying sufficient attention to the eagerness of upper-caste Hindus to be educated in that language. As Macaulay accurately noted, “This is proved by the fact that we are forced to pay our Arabic and Sanskrit students while those who learn English are willing to pay us." 2 Those “ willing to pay " naturally came from upper-caste middle­ income groups aspiring for better economic status. This flow of students for English has gone on increasing up to the present day as the twentieth century witnessed heightened caste-com­ petition among petty-bourgeois groups, education being the key to the loaves and fishes of office. The nature of the social groups which acquired English education, also explains much about the initial outlook of the nationalist movement and the legacies it has bequeathed for Independent India. The political associations formed by the English-educated, like the Indian National Congress, manifested common features in their demands to the British. Demands for higher government service (specifically entry to the Indian Civil Service), rights of leaders to a place in the legislative council etc. were the political aims of such groups. There was hardly any concern for the plight of the peasantry and issues like adult franchise.3 While it may be conceded that, given the importance 2.

3.

From Macaulay’s Minute of 1835, which is quoted in full in G.O. Trevelyan’s: The Competition Wallah, pp. 410 - 424. See S. N. Chib: Language, Universities, and nationalism in India, London, 1936, for attempts by Indians to * out-Macaulay Macaulay also as he points out it is important to note that the introduction of English was not intended to replace the vernaculars, but Sanskrit and Persian. Macaulay, op. cit., for remarks by Romesh Chander Dutt, p. 231.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

106

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

of representative institutions in the British political system the demands were shaped accordingly, yet the nature of the grievances and demands put forward by the English-educated middle class indicate its narrow elitist preoccupations. This should not be surprising if we analyse the class background and social attitudes of the early advocates of English. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, known as the ‘ Father of Modern India* for his enlightened attitude on matters of social reform, defended the British indigo planters. Indigo planters were the most vicious and cruelly exploitative of all British planters and their behaviour aroused great indignation not only among Indians but also some of the British civil servants. When there was a demand for an inquiry into their conduct, Ram Mohan Roy wrote, ‘ As to the indigo planters, I beg to observe that I have travelled through several districts in Bengal and Bihar and I found the natives residing in the neighbourhood of indigo plantations better clothed and better conditioned than those who lived at a distance from such a station...There may be some partial injury done by indigo plan­ ters, but on the whole, they have performed more good to the generality of the natives of this country, than any other class of Europeans...”4 Dwarakanath Tagore, another ‘enlightened’ sup­ porter of English wrote, “ I found that the cultivation of indigo and the residence of Europeans have considerably benefited the community at large, the zamindars becoming wealthy and pros­ perous, the ryots materially improved in their condition.” Today the argument for English is presented in another form, but with the same content: “ The English Language was never imposed or forced upon the people of India. It was the Indians them­ selves who realised the value of English in the present age for themselves, and almost everywhere the desire to learn English came from the intellectual leaders of the people. Of course, the question of respectable jobs in Government and in private ser­ vice, and of independent lucrative and honourable lives in the professions, was there as an important incentive...Éut with the

4.

L. Natarajan: Peasant Uprising in India» Bombay, 1953 for the quotes on Roy and Tagore. This little book is an attempt to analyse the socio-economic forces behind peasant revolts. Dwaraka­ nath Tagore was himself an indigo plantation owner.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

107

Indian pioneers of English education, the liberalising influence of English studies was a goal in itself.” 56* The legacy of English in free India, still retains in essence most of the distinguishing features of the colonial rule. As far as English is concerned, it is an obstacle to the intellectual decolonisation, which should accompany physical decolonisation. Indian nationalism was primarily a product of English political thought and the aspirations of the Indian middle classes.8 Since these early beginnings, the economic and social structures have necessitated the enthroning of the regional languages in their territorial spheres. But this process has been hindered directly or indirectly by the dominating presence of English; this has also greatly contributed to the lack of any creative political thought and practice in India. The middle-class Indian National Congress prone to semi-feudal influences because of its weak bourgeois roots, took refuge in English inspiration to provide it­ self with the necessary drive to implement social reform and political change. In doing so, the attitudes to nationalism and politics of the Srinivasa Sastris, Saprus and Nehrus, were moulded more by the language they used, rather than nationalism creating a political rhetoric and language suited to indigenous political society. The impact of politics on the position of English in post­ colonial India should be understood in the general framework of trends in political developments. The importance of state poli­ tics has been increasing; causes for this lie in the nationality variations in levels of development, education and the growth and consolidation of nationality identity, culture and language. All these factors impinge on the political implications of English vis-a-vis the Indian languages. A general analysis of the statistical data available on the number of English-knowing persons in India should throw some light on problems of this nature. The term English-educated in this chapter is used to refer to those persons who have an adequate command of English acquired by study of English at least up to the higher secondary level 5. 6.

S. K. Chatterji: Official Language Commission Report - minority report submitted by him, p. 293. Government of India Press, New Delhi, 1957. It was Gandhi who succeeded in linking up the struggle with the peasant masses through his personal magnetism.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

108

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

(and above). It also includes the numerically less, but more in­ fluential group of persons who have had their education solely through the medium of English from school to University. An estimate of the English-educated by the above standard is less than two per cent of the total population of India. The estimate made by the Official Language Commission from the 1951 Census figures, placed those literate in English at 3.8 million.7 As this figure included only those with the educational standard of matriculation (higher secondary) and above, the figures were less than those who actually claimed to know English in the 1951 Cen­ sus. Similarly, in 1961 Census, 10.5 millions (i.e. 2.84% of the total population) claimed to know English.8 Kumaramangalam points out that going by the educational qualification, the number of English speakers would be less. He was able to produce figures for two states—Tamilnadu and Gujarat—to prove this. We have computed the number of persons in the whole of India and by states, who have higher secondary education and above, and from these figures it is possible to state that the percentage of English-knowing persons in India in proportion to the total population still remains under two per cent (1.87%). The total number of English-educated is in the region of 8.2 million As for the states, the figures and percentage are given in Table A. TABLE A

Number of English literates in India fudged by educational qualification

Total Population All India States 1. Andhra Pradesh 2. Assam 3. Bihar 4. Gujarat 5. Jammu & Kashmir 6. Kerala

7. 8.

Matriculation and above

Percentage

438,936,918

8,210,582

1-87

35,983,447 11,872,772 46,455,610 20,633,350 3,560,976 16,903,715

565,966 141,948 579,111 303,550 53,532 502,051

157 1.19 124 1-47 150 2*97

Official Language Commission Report, Government of India Press, op. cit., p. 34. Mohan Kumaramangalam: India’s Language Crisis, Madras, 1965, p. 80.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

109

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

1

7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

32,372,408 Madhya Pradesh 33,686,958 Madras 39,553,718 Maharashtra Mysore 23,586,772 17,548,846 Orissa Punjab (including Haryana) 20,306,822 20,155,602 Rajasthan 73,746,401 Uttar Pradesh 34,926,279 West Bengal

2

343,909 780,894 934,497 449,163 114,305 626,572 230,343 1,192,881 996,158

3 1-06 2-31 2-36 190 065 3-08 114 161 2-85

(all Union territories have been excluded)

[Source: Computed from Census of India, 1961, Vol. I, Part II c(i): Social and Cultural Tables,

It is this 8 million who man the country's administration, and the professions and services both in the public and private sectors. The nationality variations in the numbers of such people is one of the major reasons for the acrimony over the future of English. All the Hindi states—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have lower percentages than the non-Hindi states like West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Madras and Maharashtra. The quarrel over English, therefore, has regional connotations which are the products of history and colonial educational patterns. The introduction of English was uneven with the coastal areas benefiting most, and this con­ versely heightened regional differences. The rimland and heart­ land of Indian education which the Rudolphs have delineated, have their origins in the introduction of English education into India.9 The rimland areas where educational opportunities are advanced, coincide with the non-Hindi states; these are the coastal states which first came under western influence. The heartland is predominantly the Hindi belt. It is this unfortunate division of past history, which makes the battle against English assume the form of a crusade by the Hindi states for their own language ; a move, of which the non-Hindi states are very suspi­ cious. The controversy over English is reflected in the question of the medium of instruction in higher education. The 9.

L. Rudolph and S. Rudolph : *• Regional Pattern of Education ; Rimland and Heartland in Indian Education ”, Economic and Political Weekly, 28th June, 1969.

Digitized by

LnOOQle

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

110

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

introduction of regional language media in universities is wel­ comed by all sections of Indian public opinion, except a tiny anglicised minority. However this acceptance is tinged with fears and reservations on the part of the English-educated. Regional languages by displacing English creates a vacuum which Hindi hopes to fill. Therefore opponents of Hindi are faced with the unpleasant dilemma of either opposing any change in the status quo—which means preventing the spread of the regional language; or accepting the regional media and thus sign­ ing the death warrant of English dominance. In reality, the claims of the regional languages can no longer be ignored or stemmed. The initiative in this matter has been taken by the Hindi states. As an illustration, in Bihar, the dominant University medium is already Hindi for most under-graduate courses, with English continuing only in the postgraduate level. This means that Bihar has nearly 100,000 students at University, who will graduate in the medium of Hindi.1011What this portends for the future is increasing pressure to Hindi-ise the state administration and official work completely (this has already happened in Bihar). A similar pattern prevails regarding Hindi medium, in varying degrees in all the Hindi states. Meanwhile in the non-Hindi states, especi­ ally in the South, the switch from English to the local languages has been hardly perceptible. As the Rudolphs point out, in the south, 91 per cent of the colleges were still using English medium only, in 1967.11 There are variations in the non-Hindi states also. In Gujarat, a survey done of the three colleges in Ahmedabad offering English medium, showed that Gujarati students attending arts and science colleges preferred the Gujarati medium.12 Factors like this have led to the clash of interests The five universities in Bihar—Patna, Ranchi, Magadh, Bhagalpur and Bihar Universities all have Hindi medium in under­ graduate courses for B.A. and B.Sc. The total number of students enrolled in all of them in 1966-67 was roughly 1,12,060. This, however, includes a few private colleges which might offer English medium. The information has been taken from Times of India Directory, 1968. 11. Rudolphs, op. cit., p. 1048. 12. Michael Buroway : The Language Problem and University Education in India, (unpublished dissertation), Cambridge University, 1968, p.27.

10.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

111

over the question of the official role of English in the Indian Union. Its consequences are evident in the acceptance in prin­ ciple of allowing all fourteen national languages as the media of examinations for the Union Public Service Commission (Hindi is already an alternative for certain papers).13 The switch to the regional language in the South is hindered by the fear of the middle classes, of losing their existing lead in English education, And while there is a genuine desire for, say, Tamil medium in Tamilnadu, it is mixed up with the equally strong motivation for retaining English which provides the Tamil middle class with their traditional avenues of employment. However, this situation is bound to be altered by political action. The moves initiated by the state governments in the southern states for the speedy implementation of the use of the regional language in administra­ tion will slowly result in the re-orientation of education away from English. If we consider the fact that only 78 million Indians live in the urban areas as compared to 360 millions in the rural areas and contrast this to the concentration of the English-educated, we find the English literates are located over three to one in urban as compared to rural areas.14 With the increasing trend towards the ‘ ruralization ’ of politics, it is only natural that the rural politicians who are generally less conversant with English should press for a change in the linguistic balance.15 Similarly, if we can broadly accept that English education has benefited the upper and middle classes more in the past, then again the grow­ ing numbers of workers and peasants coming into politics are also less acquainted with English. Therefore the democratisation of politics in India wrill be necessarily accompanied by demands for reduction of English dominance in administration 13.

14. 15.

The 14-language formula emerged from a Working Committee resolution of the Congress Party in June, 1965. But it has not been given any effective implementation. Census of India, 1961 shows 2.5 million English-educated in the rural areas out of 8.2 million for the whole of India. For the trend tqwards the rise of rural interests in politics and their representation in legislative bodies, see Stanley Kochanek: The Congress Party in India, Princeton, 1968; D. B. Forrester: “ State Legislators in Madras Journal of Commonwealth Political Studies: Morris Jones: Parliament in India and The Government and Politics of India, London, 1967.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

112

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

and education. However, as we shall be noting later, the complex problems associated with the Official Language, have politically made the prospect of a prolonged bilingualism at the Centre feasible. This state of affairs will continue, until the displace­ ment of English at the state-level by effective political action to introduce the mother-tongue as the dominant language of the states. An assessment of the political importance of the Englisheducated and westernised elements in Indian politics must be made. In this context, it would not be very helpful or accurate to approach the English speakers as an elite group. English does provide a person with the requisite qualifications for import­ ant jobs in government and other sectors of high status employment. But English is only one of the factors to make the grade. There are other more important factors like class back­ ground, and inherited privileges of a certain type of education etc. It would be more useful to first estimate the role of English in the spheres of civil society in India. Firstly, it is an indispensable qualification for recruitment into certain types of public activity and employment. Secondly, alongside other status and class requisites, English provides a measure of common stand­ ards as well as a test for success in these spheres. English is not only important at the higher levels of public activity, but all down the line in government, bureaucracy and professional life, English has degrees of indispensability. Therefore, it would be misleading to base an elite group purely on the knowledge of English. It is only one of the essential, but not the single attribute of certain sections and sub-stratums of the ruling class in India. English serves as a test for recruitment for the Civil Service (bureaucratic stratum); the high-income jobs (the professional and executive stratums) and to the officer corps of the armed forces (military stratum).16 How are these three groups connec­ ted with the ruling class? The ruling class by its economic composition, comprises a mixture of semi-feudal and pre-capita­ list economic classes and the industrial bourgeoisie dominated

16.

The bracketed descriptions would be used in an elite-concept analysis.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

113

by monopolists.17 This alliance has been necessitated by the peculiar conditions of Indian historical and economic develop­ ment. Colonialism, caste, the slow growth of industrial and commercial middle classes, have all resulted in the existence of certain semi-feudal features in the economy. Because of the under-development of the bourgeoisie, it had to rely a great deal on the inherited colonial framework of bureaucracy to create the conditions necessary for the growth of capitalism. This meant that the private entrepreneurs welcomed State capitalism, and its introduction served to lay the foundations for a heavy industrial base—a base on which private enterprise could build.18 This is where the governmental bureaucracy plays the significant role of serving and representing the ruling class. The armed forces in India (as the instruments of final coercion) is greatly relied upon. Even though the army have not had to undertake any major domestic operations (except in Kashmir and Nagaland), it is fre­ quently employed to restore * law and order. ’ The police on the other hand have had the thankless job of quelling political, social and economic unrest, which erupts in India from time to time. Both the army and the police are officered by the English-educa­ ted. As such the coercive power of the ruling class is a vital necessity for the maintenance of law and order sufficient for maintaining the political system. The above analysis indicates the crucial position occupied by the English-educated in the functions of “officers'1 of the ruling class. It corresponds to Gramsci's formulation of the role of intellectuals vis-a-vis the exercise of the twin functions of running subordinate government and social hegemony based The term semi-feudal ” is used here specifically to describe pre­ capitalist social groups, like big landlords in India whose relations with the tenants or as a rentier class is distinct from capitalist agriculture. S. A. Shah in “ A Statistical Estimate of the class structure of Contemporary India *’, Science and Society, Summer, 1964 states “ The real power in rural India rests with perhaps a tenth of the rich peasants allied with the small group of landlords and rent receivers.’* 18. It is significant that the first draft plan to be worked out for free India was prepared by businessmen connected with the giant Tata enterprises. Known as the Bombay Plan, it was published in 1944. See Charles Bettelheim: India Independent, p. 169. McGibbon and Kee, 1968. L—8

17.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

114

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

on spontaneous “ consent ”, and coercion when this ** consent ” breaks down.19 The excessive reliance on the governmental bureaucracy by the ruling class in the economic sphere and its dependence on foreign capital is a fact that we have to keep in mind, when we assess the position of English in India. The ruling class consists of a relatively weak bourgeoisie (Foreign capital still has a significant share in the control of the Indian economy)20 and therefore it is prone to depend on English also. The reasons for this are (1) the bureaucracy that operates in India is a colonial legacy. For such a civil service to act as an agent of the ruling class, the pri­ vileges acquired through English by the Civil Service, have to be acquiesced in by the ruling class. (2) The military is an import­ ant sub-group of the ruling class,21 which makes it necessary to tolerate the anglicised officer group. The business executive elite is also drawn from the English-educated. Therefore the integra­ ted structure of the ruling class finds English indispensable. This tolerance of English exists despite sections of the ruling class being in favour of Indian languages. The pro-Hindi Marwari business interests and indigenous business groups like the Gujarati banias and the Tamil Chettiars have strong cultural and linguistic identities, but the exigencies of the situation described above, make it essential that they co-exist with the prospect of the continuance of English. The anachronistic aspects of the role of English, on the other hand is evidenced by the existence of exclusive public schools and the Oxbridge badge of status. These sources still provide a channel of recruitment into the Civil Service, Military and Management groups. The excessive dependence on English leads to a continuation of the I. C. S. mystique. Senior civil servants are also constantly recruited into industrial and business directorships, though new management cadres are being produced by the Indian Institute of Managment at Ahmedabad and Calcutta. Higher specialised educational 19.

20.

21.

A. Gramsci: The Modern Prince and Other Writings, section entitled ‘ The Formation of Intellectuals/ London, 1967. Bettelheim, op. cit., p. 59. See also Michael Kidron: Foreign Investments in India, London. As far as private foreign invest­ ment is concerned, Britain is still the largest investor. In 1965, the army was called in to aid civil authority on 3 occa­ sions, in 1966 on 9 occasions and in 1967 on 16 occasions. See Mohan Ram : Hindi against India, Delhi, 1968, p. 131.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

TSE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

115

institutions like these naturally use English and the financial and technical aid also comes from Anglo-American sources. The English language also serves another important function. It enables the recruitment of individual members from other classes (generally the middle-class) for the bureaucratic and intel­ lectual functions, which is a prime necessity for the smooth running of the political system. The universities have to be staffed, the huge government departments need clerks and the ever expanding armed forces need officers. Also the impact of State capitalism has led to a significant advance in industrialisa­ tion requiring the flow of technical and scientific personnel. In this process English plays a fundamental role. The distinction between the officers and jawans (privates); the I.A.S. and the rest of the clerical staff, is strengthened by superior knowledge of English. The parliamentary apparatus operated by the ruling class necessitates co-operation with the Mosca-type new middle­ class, and this function is served through English education. English has a vital function in what might be called the assimi­ lation process of intellectuals. As Gramsci has pointed out, peasants, even if they constitute the largest mass of the popula­ tion and economy, do not possess an intellectual group which is organically linked to them. Instead they might provide other social groups with intellectuals and generally traditional intellec­ tuals might have sprung up from peasant origin.23 In a country like India with seventy per cent of the population living on agriculture, this has important implications. The ruling stratum has to be provided with the means to recruit intellectuals for specific functions and also for the linkages necessary in any modern economy. The process of education, socialization and recruitment is facilitated by English education, Otherwise, without English, the ruling class would find itself in the untenable position of operating within an extremely narrow base of urban intelligentsia, which would endanger the existing political system. This process is not, however, applicable to politicians so rigidly, as we shall discover a bit later. The actual process of assimilation has always been very complicated in India. M. N. Srinivas has pointed out that along with ‘ Sanskritisation ’ of the lower castes there has been the ' westernisation ’ of the upper-castes. Westernisation through English education first22 22.

A. Gramsci, op. cit., p. 118 ff.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

116

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

affected the upper castes and they were greatly influenced by it. But by the nature of the openness of education, lower castes have also taken advantage of its benefits. English education is therefore not subject to any particular caste-connotations. The important fact in regard to English is that, if the only way to advancement had been through Sanskritization, then caste would have been functioning still as a closed system; but there is increasing evidence that Sanskritization was just a prelude (impractical at times) for castes aspiring to better economic status. They soon used direct political means or individual advancement through better education and migration to urban areas. Option for this was no doubt heightened by the availability of an * Englisheducated status ’, which cuts across caste and linguistic barriers, provided one did conform to the social and cultural habits of the English-educated. The criteria for English education is class and the ability to pay.23 The role of English in the ideological and intellectual func­ tions of the ruling class continues though it is rapidly being supplemented by Indian languages. The mass media, like the government-run All India Radio and the publicity organs are still dependent on English to a great extent. The English language press is practically controlled by the industrial monopoly concerns. The Birla Group controls The Hindustan Times, Searchlight, The Leader (all dailies) and the Eastern Economist (weekly). The Dalmia-Jain groups control: The Times of India, The Illustrated Weekly of India and other Indian language publications. The Goenka business group based in Madras own the Indian Express which is the daily with the highest circulation in India. The Tatas have a controlling share in The Statesman, India’s prestigious English daily.24 Such business interests also control directly, or indirectly, numerous English periodicals specialising in various fields, like films, sport, fashions etc. In a country with low literacy and with the English press being the biggest, the scope and control by big business is magnified. 23.

24.

Andre Beteille: "Elites, Status Groups and Caste in Modern India ”, In India and Ceylon, Unity and Diversity, ed. by Philip Mason. Oxford, 1967. The Tatas, Birlas and Jain Groups belong to the top ten business houses which controlled 22% of total paid-up capital and 24% of total assets of all the corporate sector, excepting government and banking companies. Monopoly Commission Report.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

117

English has served as a mark of an intellectual in India, since his intellectual work is often done through that language. Politically this has repercussions. The intellectuals themselves, experience a strong feeling of alienation from the people because of the linguistic barrier and the resulting gap in social and cultural habits. This feeling of alienation and rootlessness cannot be explained in terms of caste barriers alone which have through centuries tended to isolate Indian from Indian.25 The heightened intellectual and cultural alienation can be attributed to English. While the caste system has certainly been a cause of this division in modern India, the equally discouraging fact is that middle-class intellectuals often want to consciously break out of their isolation and detachment, but they are incapable of going so. Their position as intellectuals and their values and attitudes stem from a false premise^vorced from Indian realities. Therefore attempts to get over the handicap of alienation from the people are self-defeating as they are formulated within the circle of thought, action and belief instilled in the intelle­ ctual. A circle, which to survive, has to remain isolated and above the ground.26 The Indian failure to destroy caste by political means, does not arise from an Indian ‘ ambivalence * to caste. The intentions are genuine—that has to be admitted—but they will never be transformed into action. Destruction of caste requires not the rationale of Western liberalism or the * language ’ of Burke and Mill, but a motivation derived from indigenous circumstances. Since Indian political behaviour is still dependent on a Western medium for inspiration, practical action on matters like caste will always be found failing to achieve the goal. This is not, however, to preclude the fact that political action can undermine caste. What is emphasised is that the Indian intellectual effort in its present state can provide no initiative. 25.

26.

Shils blames the caste system primarily for the barriers between Indian upper-caste intellectuals and within the intelligentsia also. See his The Intellectual Between Tradition and Modernity. Mouton and Co., The Hague, 1965, p. 70. See p. 183 for the argument that it is English by its non-caste status that provides the English-educated to find a common meeting ground, which in fact depends on one cutting off many of the other cultural, linguistic and traditional ties.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

118

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

We have so far disregarded the subtleties of the political system and presented a rather simplified picture. This has been done deliberately, so that mitigating factors, new patterns and other potentialities and implications of English in India can be discussed and fitted into the fundamental hard-core analysis we have presented above. There is a tendency among certain scholars to view the intelligentsia and the political elements in the third world count­ ries as forming a class of their own. In other words "these intelligentsia are a ruling class par excellence as they are not the spokesmen for entrenched social forces.”27 This belief in the independent position of certain groups, is no doubt, easy to support, due to the added factor of such ‘ elite groups * possessing knowledge of a Western language. In the case of India, it is English. Shils in his writings has put forward this view frequent­ ly, “ It is only the personality and skill of the Indian elite which compensates for the fact that India is not yet a political society.” Yet again, “ Only a political elite which is wedded to democratic ideals can stir up and guide the population—if it is to be stirred up at all—to disciplined political judgement and initiative. ” 28 First of all the belief in the impartiality and independent dedica­ tion of a ' modernizing9 elite is erroneous. Despite the slow formation of indigenous capitalism, a process of class formation had been taking place in India, reflecting the development of the Indian bourgeoisie. Both Beteille and Bottomore have noted the tardy growth of an industrial elite and the importance of the middle classes, not necessarily tied to the bourgeoisie.29 Misra in his work The Indian Middle Class has also emphasised the origins of these groups as springing from the administrative and educational pattern under British rule. While all this is undisputable, and must be given due importance, we should not over­ look the fact that the intelligentsia and the middle classes were allied with the industrial bourgeoisie in the fight for independence. 27.

‘ 28. 29.

Tom Kemp: “ Leaders and Classes in the Indian National Congress”; Science and Society, Winter, 1964, p. 2. This article attempts to establish the links between Congress leadership and business and landlord interests during the nationalist period. E. Shils : Political Development in the New States. Philip Mason (ed): Indian and Ceylon, op. cit., for contributions by Beteille and Bettomore, the latter is entitled • Cohesion and Division among the Indian elites. *

Digitized by

Goodie

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

119

The support of financial houses for the Congress, the attraction of Gandhi for the landed and industrial interests, have to be taken into account to understand the link between the educated middle class and the ruling class.30 If there is no business elite exerting influence through their organisations in India, like in the West, this does not mean that a strong tie does not exist.31* As Bottomore points out, the two unquestioningly important * élite9 groups are the political leaders and the high government officials. These two groups are, as our above analysis indicates, closely linked to the ruling class. The tie-up has been especially strong in India, as the bourgeois class had to establish itself in the political arena. The process of maturing in the political field is evident. This coming of age is having repercussions on the other sub-groups. This is seen in linguistic policy shifts and changes in the attitudes to English in public affairs. Coming back to Shil's quotation given above, it must be noted that the concept of a ' political elite' is not appropriate.33 This term obscures the class composition of those active in poli­ tics and ascribes to them an independence outside the class structure. One of the major factors in Indian politics has been the widening of the social base of recruitment, for political acti­ vity. Those who enter such politics normally serve the class interests of the ruling classes or components like the petty-bourgeoisie. They are drawn from diverse strata and classes. The limited studies of political recruitment and analysis of members of legislative bodies show that political personnel are increasingly drawn from rural areas; they are less westernised and represent multiple interests. The relevance of English in this distinction concerns that drawn by Betielle, who notes the difference in Barrington Moore : Social Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship ; and Kemp, op. cit. 31. In fact the role of big business in exercising power and influence over the Government is more pervasive than in the West. The govern­ mental compliance in economic measures in favour of big business has been well documented; Monopolies Commission Report and Report on Industrial Licensing ; Government, of India, New Delhi. Accord­ ing toa statement by T.T. Krishnamachari, Union Finance Minister in 1965, in the Lok Sabha, from 1961 middle to September 1964, Rs. 1 crore and fifteen lakhs was given by companies to political parties, of this 98 lakhs to Congress and 15 lakhs to Swatantra. 32 The term ' political elite ’ was coined in sociology by Pareto and Mosca to counter the Marxist classification of ruling class.

30.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

120

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

social background and education (in English) of the political ' elite ’ on one hand and the bureaucratic and professional groups on the other. As he states “ In effect the political elite is far more heterogeneous in its social composition than appears to be the case with bureaucratic or even intellectual elites. " If we refrain from the term ‘ elite ’ with its ideological connotations this observation is valid in the sense that the political stratum of the ruling classes are much more widely drawn than the profes­ sional and bureaucratic stratum or groups. Just as we noted that English is one factor which heightens nationality divisions, similarly we see a significant division between bureaucratic and other professional groups on the one hand marked by * superior ’ English education and the more heterogeneous indigenous politi­ cal elements on the other.33 The liberal nationalist, urbanised politician is only a minor figure in the political scene. Any ana­ lysis of Central policies considering members of the Union Cabinet as widely representative of the political stratum of the ruling classes in Indian society, will provide some interesting insights. It shows that the so-called ‘ elitist ’ elements are used in politics by this political stratum to serve their interests, whereas the political stratum itself shows a consistent mixture of styles: the combination of English education and all-India sta­ ture with roots in nationalities and proficiency in regional languages. An analysis of the Union ministers of Cabinet rank since 1955 by educational background and career details provides some understanding into the role of English and the mixture of styles deriving from this, at the national level of politics. It indicates the shifts and adjustments since Independence, of leaders having varying degrees of education and exposure to English and western-style education. Altogether there have been forty-nine members of the Union Cabinet from 1955 to 1967. Some of them still continue in the present Cabinet headed by Indira Gandhi. We have begun from 1955 as Cabinet Ministers before this period came overwhelmingly from the ‘ Old Nationalist group', which is a category that has slowly waned by the 1960’s, with a few exceptions. Our task is made easier by the fact that the Congress has ruled at the Centre 33

For quote see Beteille, op. cit., p. 240. For detailed list of Cabinet members and other particulars see Appendix IV.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

121

without a break since Independence. Therefore it reflects many changes within the political arena, as the one-party dominance of the Congress, sheltered a spectrum of political and social groups. All Cabinet members were divided into the two broad categories of professionals and politicians. The professionals are those recruited into the Cabinet for their ability and skill in some specific professional spheres of activity, like law, economics, education etc. Out of the forty-nine, nearly 16 per cent can be identified as professionals. They have high educational quali­ fications (all are foreign qualified) and have distinguished records in their professional careers, e.g. V.K.R.V. Rao is a wellknown economist, M.C. Chagla is a distinguished jurist etc. The complement of professionals are highly competent in English and much more westernised in outlook and training than the politicians. The term westernised, here, implies a type of social outlook, attitudes and status acquired through a distinct type of education. This complement of professionals have a representa­ tion in the Cabinet, which has been relatively constant, except that it has declined in proportion as the Cabinet has expanded. They are not stable elements as far as survival is concerned. They are taken in for expertise, but they are vulnerable to a high rate of change-over in Cabinet reshuffles. So far they have been almost exclusively concentrated in the Education and Finance portfolios (they have been later shifted to other portfolios in reshuffles, e.g. Chagla and Triguna Sen). They have never been a significant section of the Cabinet as far as political influence is concerned and it is interesting to note that many of them have resigned over time, on disagreements over policy matters, or they have been eased out as a consequence. This seems to have occurred more frequently among the professionals than the politicians (e.g. Deshmukh, Chagla and Kabir). Another common feature of the professionals is their foreign education, an impor­ tant mark of professional status and capability. This group indicates the position of the western-educated or English-educated professional and high-income groups in India. They serve as a substratum of the ruling class. They work in an advisory capa­ city rather than as policy or political innovators. Politically they have only a subsidiary role. The political membership of the Cabinet which comprises the rest of the list has its share of nationalist-Congressmen, who

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

122

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

distinguished themselves in the Independence struggle.3435Men like Pant, Azad, K.C. Reddy and Katju, etc. were in the earlier Cabinets in significant proportions. Nationalist status was a more important criteria than effectiveness at the State level. Since 1960 this element has been receding and increasingly replaced by State politicians who have made their mark—Chavan, Subramaniam, Sanjiva Reddy, S.K. Patil, etc. are some of the examples.86 They number in all, more than half the Cabinet representation so far. Educationally they are all significantly university graduates, which implies familiarity with English. But this attribute is subsidiary and does not impinge on their political activity. How­ ever, the important point to emerge is that all Cabinet politicians at the Central level have had so far a high level of education of the western model and this common element is under-pinned by their political effectiveness at the State level, which requires an intimate knowledge and familiarity with the regional language and cultural milieu.36 Those who survive with foreign education and Oxbridge qualifications show that their political prominence is mainly because of their ability to operate on the strength of an Indianoriented background and qualities. Ram Subhag Singh (erstwhile leader of the Opposition) having joined the Congress (Organisa­ tion) studied at Kashi Vidyapeeth, a non-westernised Indianoriented institution and proceeded to get his doctorate in journalism at Missouri. His educational and social background in Uttar Pradesh explain part of his political effectiveness. Similarly, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, a Cambridge graduate and barrister, has a good nationalist record which contributes to his political success. Finally, the type of educational background predominant among Cabinet Ministers since Independence, is the Indian University product. It is significant that the Central Cabinet has found this educational standard as a minimum feature, 34. There is a small group of members who combines both professional and political status. Men like Krishna machan, Manubhai Shah, Hathi etc. made a late entry into politics, before which they were successful in other careers. However it is relevant to include them in the politician category, as they were recruited to the Cabinet on that basis. 35. The nationalist casualties were mainly because of old age and death. 36. There are notable exceptions to the above formulation e.g. Satyanarayan Sinha and Mahavir Tyagi.

Digitized by

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

123

when State cabinets are more and more open to politicians who have not attended university. This might be due to the nature of the Central portfolios, but more the necessity of having men with an outlook above state politics and the ability to cut oneself off from parochial ties. This might be provided by a certain amount of English education. It is clear that most of the cabinet ministers have been bilin­ gual, speaking their mother-tongue and English. This is paralleled by a mixture of education which combines professional expertise and solid roots in Indian society. Santiniketan and Oxford attended by Mrs. Gandhi, is replicated in more down to earth qualities among other Cabinet ministers. It is reasonable to suggest that M.Ps are of a similar type as this dominant poli­ tical stratum, though in a lesser proportion as the Cabinet, as the Cabinet has always been drawn from all sections of the domi­ nating Congress majority in Parliament. This points to the fact that the English-educated (as distinct from the western-educated) are not very much cut off from the centres of power, provided they are willing to enter the political arena. But if they do so, it is increasingly evident that direct recruitment to all-India politics is all but impossible, except in the case of professionals. The start has to be made at the state level. This is increasingly becoming difficult for the English-educated university graduate, with the rise of nationality-oriented politics and its increasing democratisation.37 Therefore it can be safely predicted that the chances of the English-educated participating in active politics is bleak at the Central level and bleaker at the state level, unless they are prepared to shed many of the trappings which English as a linguistic medium burdens them with. At the Central level at least, there seems to have been a 37.

It should be emphasised on the other hand that even at the state level, the regional parties who have formed cabinets also recruit university products, but the difference is that, such persons have also an excellent command of the regional language, and numerous local contacts. Such people would also come under our earlier classification of rural/semi-rural, rich peasant and less westernised background. Therefore even though they possess educational qualifications entitling them to be termed Englisheducated they generally do not possess the social and cultural requisites of the English-educated.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

124

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

synthesis, similar to that Singer observes in Ceylon.38 But the situation is not exactly analogous, because of the existence of fourteen other nationality centres—where the synthesis has to be between the local language and culture and western influence (through English). How these nationality constellations are to adjust to the Centre is the major problem. The trend in Indian politics reveals the necessity for such an adjustment and it is possible only through the political field, if this succeeds, it should be possible in the bureaucracy and other public services. The increasing diversification of the political elements in Indian society points to the untenability of the proposition that modernity is indispensable for the elites. " To be modern, elites of new states think they must not fear change.”39 As far as those who have a vested interest in English are concerned, their privileged status is threatened by the political developments in the country, and contrary to the above statement, are the defenders of the status quo. What they fear most is change, change which will inevitably lead to a decline in their importance. It is their commitment to and familiarity with English that produces this attitude. The view that an English-educated minority is essential for 'modernising ’ India is held not only by many Western scholars, but also by many educated Indians. We shall consider some of their arguments and discuss them at length, as it is of great importance to the future role of English in India. Many educated Indians rightly discard the concept that a State must have a national language and the rigid interconnection between language and nation. From this contention, they proceed to point out that the political argument, that English enables an English38.

39.

Marshall Singer: The Emerging Elite in Ceylon, Massachusetts, 1964; Singer’s main theme is the co-existence of Sinhalese and Western styles among the emerging political groups. In language, for example, they use both Sinhalese and English for political writings, newspapers, etc. This is paralleled in army, civil service and other arenas. Singer also points out the connection between Sinhalese nationalism and the middle classes. The similarity with India cannot be overrated. Rise of rural groups, predominantly middle-class with the accompaniment of Sinhalese nationalism and the repercussions in Civil Service, Politics and Armed Forces are analogous to India. E. Shils: Political Development in the New States, op. cit., p. 7.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

125

educated minority in India to concentrate power in its hands, is hollow. Even if English is removed, the concentration of power will continue, only it will then be in the hands of a minority " a little less modern and less enlightened than at present. ” 40 The above argument raises several questions. One, it implies the acceptance of elitist politics in developing countries as inevitable. Secondly this is looked upon as a necessary evil and therefore it is better for an enlightened 'elite ’ to do the job. Realities of Indian politics prove that this Pareto-type doctrine is untrue. The ' elitist * base of Indian politics has been rapidly eroded in the course of the last four general elections. This has reflected itself in the linguistic scene with the demand for the removal of English. It is precisely the threat to ' elitist ’ politics that is deplored. Admittedly language-monopoly is not the avenue to power-monopoly. Yet English in India, serves to strengthen the domination of the ruling clans by its exclusive nature of selec­ tion. Power cannot be divorced from economic domination in India; English serves as a link between the bureaucrat, the brass-hat and the industrial directors. It used to serve as a link with the politician too, but this is no longer true and the politician's actions are affecting the above link-up. The political solution to the problem, is to tackle it on various fronts. One step is to deprive groups possessing linguistic-monopoly, of the advantage. An advantage which is instrumental in the domina­ tion of the super-structural features of Indian society—in the cultural, intellectual and educational fields. If we agree that language is not a direct source of power, then the fear of Hindispeakers dominating Indian politics, after the displacement of English is also removed. The fear of Hindi-wallah’s domination is very real in the minds of the English-educated. But do the Hindi states, through sheer numbers enjoy political domination in India ? The course of Indian politics in the 1960’s have proved this fear groundless. In the selection of the two prime ministers after Nehru, the crucial balance lay with the non-Hindi states. Similarly non-Hindi politicians and states have shown themselves adept at manipulating the intricate power balance at the Centre 40.

Prabhakar Padhye : “The Language Problem of India”, article in The Radical Humanist (Calcutta), 4th April, 1965. The whole issue is devoted to the Language Question. Padhye’s article is the source for the discussions in the paragraph above.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

126

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

on important policy matters. The language question is itself, a good example of the non-Hindi states blocking any arbitrary imposition of Hindi. North/South, Hindi/non-Hindi political blocs are not representative of Indian politics. As far as the fight for English is concerned, it represents not a defensive oppressed minority, but an aggressive elite trying to retain its privileges. Another Indian writer candidly states: “ Not only individuals but entire social classes, may suffer an eclipse after brilliant record in literature, science, philosophy and other branches of culture, if a Hindi-oriented education is substituted for an English-oriented education. ”41 The fact seems to have been over­ looked, that actual education will be in the mother-tongue— Bengali, Tamil etc. Hindi and English can only be taught as subjects to master the language. Social classes (there are none that survive on English in India) can still be open to the inspira­ tion of English or any other language, without making it the medium of thinking and instruction. There is, however, more to the point put forward that, “ If democracy is on the whole a success in India unlike other Asian countries, it is largely because she is saturated with English political ideas, thanks to five generations of an English-oriented education. Civil control over the military, parliamentary control over the executive...are lessons learnt by the English people through centuries of struggle. These lessons can be ours if we take the trouble to learn them through their language...The English language is inseparable from this legacy. When civil liberties, fundamental rights, rule of law, adult franchise, direct elections, parliamentary democracy and the controls which go with them have become so deeply rooted in our soil and our souls, that there is no fear of a setback, when a modern scientific humanism has become so firmly ingrain­ ed in our national being that there is no fear of a reversion, when we have acquired the intellectual requisites but also the ethical foundations of a free society, it will be time to part with English... ”42 41.

42.

Ananda Sarkar Ray: "Time to Part” article in The Radical Humanist, op. cit. For similar arguments also see C. Rajagopalachari: The Question of English, Madras, 1962. Ray, p. 166. This is a relatively rational and sensible appeal com­ pared to the views of some other English advocates. For example

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

127

We have quoted the argument at length because along with the concern for Indian unity after the displacement of English, the stand of the English-educated intellectuals is eloquently expressed in the paragraph above. The essence of the statement reveals why the English-educated do not participate or cannot involve them­ selves in politics. The attitude of the whole argument is anti­ political. It exhibits a deep distrust and pessimism about the politician’s effort at operating a political democracy in India. If democracy has been successful, it is attributed to the political and civic consciousness of those who know English. Actually politicians at the state level who are the sinews of the political system, are increasingly mono-lingual—knowing their mother­ tongue only. Yet they have shown an impressive capacity to work within the framework of electoral politics. In the linguis­ tic sense—it is not evident why Indian languages cannot serve the purpose of political education. In fact nearly all political activity is conducted in the regional language. The last criticism is the disturbing assumption that certain concepts growing out of the British historical experience, should be so arbitrarily and unquestioningly assumed to be ‘ good ’ for India. To adopt such institutions, the * intellectual requisites ’ should be acquired. A capacity only possessed in India by the English-educated. Implicit in this statement is the derogation of politicians (of whichever political ideology) who do not fit the mould. Historically there is hardly any example of a people deve­ loped intellectually who have an underdeveloped language. India is no exception to this.43 Political leaders from Gandhi-ites to Communists have advocated the removal of English. The English bloc consists mainly of sections of the middle-class and big business.44 In actual politics, the politicians who adhere to this

43. 44.

a sample from a letter to The Hindu—“I generally think poorly of a foreigner who cannot speak English, no matter how clever he is in his own language. So will others think of us when we keep babbling in Hindi, in world assemblies. ” This is quoted in Ludo Rocher : 'Letters to the Editor ’ ‘South India’ and the Indian Language Problem, Bruxelles, 1963. Mohit Sen : Role of the Mother Tongue ” Seminar 76. Both the All India Manufacturers* Organisation and the All India Exporters* Association opposed linguistic reorganisation of the States—a step essential for the displacement of English. See Wind­ miller: “ Linguistic Regionalism in India ”, Pacific Affairs, Dec. 1954, p. 312.

Digitized by

GooQle

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

128

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

creed are few. Rajaji is a notable example and so are a few other Swatantra personalities.45 Frank Anthony, leader of the AngloIndian community valiantly battles to retain English in its posi­ tion of dominance. But his stand is basically impractical as he is an opponent of giving Indian languages in the States the posi­ tion of a State language. His bias against the regional languages is revealed by his opposition to their being labelled national languages. He fears this will lead to secessionist ideas.46 Paralleling the political flexibility on the language question, the decades after Indian Independence have witnessed breaches in the linguistic elitism in education ; a breach which affects other public activities also. It had been noted earlier that English provided the useful channel of recruitment into the upper echelons of authority and the manpower required to run a mammoth State enterprise. But the production of English graduates is far outstripping the requirements. The tremendous expansion of schools and universities is rapidly creating the masses of educated unemployed. Traditionally, the Government has been the largest employer of such graduates, and the urban white-collar occupations are insufficient to meet the demand.47 Moreover the influx of students is effectively challenging the monopoly of public-school, * old established’ college education, which was necessary for a good career. The more vernacular, regionally-minded students who get into the I.A.S. differs from the old anglicised types, as Beteille has noted. The problems of employment, were sought to be solved by the opportunity to expand the army after the border skirmishes with China and Pakistan. The Indian army has nearly doubled its strength 45.

46. 47.

Erdman: The Swatantra Party and Indian Conservatism, Cambridge, 1967, p. 142 for views of Pasricha, Ruthnaswamy and other Swatantra leaders. The Review (Delhi) Aug./Sept. 1967, ed. by Frank Anthony. In 1951, there were 3,900,000 civil servants. See Bettelheim, op. cit., p. 103. At present the figures are in the region of 5 million. However, there are 77 universities compared to 20 in 1948. And the total enrolment of students in higher education is 2 million in 1967, with numbers increasing by 10 per cent every year. Figures given by D.C. Kothari, Chairman U.G.C. in The Times, October 13th, 1969. Unemployed (educated) 1955: 216,000 ; 1961 : 600,000, 1962 : 700,000. These figures are given in Rosen : Democracy and Economic Change, Berkeley, 1966.

Digitized by

GooqIc

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

129

between 1962 and 1967. The spate of emergency and short-term commissions might have eased the situation a bit, but it also meant that the officer corps became more heterogeneous. The supply of officers would have significant proportions of the rural classes, with strong family and traditional influences. Very significant to our study is also the growth of regional intellectual centres based on regional languages. A careful study of its impli­ cations is beyond the scope of this paper, but it must be pointed out that the vitality of Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam has created virile intellectual and cultural centres in their respective states. The gap between creative work done in English, and the regional languages will become intolerable. But the Indian languages face an uphill task—since the pattern has been inspi­ ration from western ideas conveyed through English, filtering down to the regional media. The strait-jacket is stifling and contributes to the intellectual tension and conflict in Indian society. What has been indicated so far in the above analysis reveals the growing incapacity of English to cope with the needs of Indian society. The long term, difficult, task of adjusting to a different pattern of linguistic communication and medium, can be solved only through political dynamism, as the political sphere is the most sensitive to the changing needs of a society in transition. One of the reasons for the continuance of English despite the growing pressures, is well illustrated at the lowest level of officialdom—the Panchayat Samiti. D. P. Pattnayak relates an incident at a Panchayat Samiti in Orissa.48 He moved a resolution in the Samiti concerned, demanding that their day to day work be conducted in the regional language and that 48.

D. P. Pattnayak : “English in India : A Reassessment”, Mankind, (Delhi), May, 1967. The reasons given for the Samiti’s behaviour by Pattnayak are paraphrased above. One important explanation for the attitude of village administrative units must be traced to the traditional deference to anything that emanates from the * Sarkar ’ above. Shrader & Joshi’s “ Zilla Parishad Elections and the District Political Elite ” in Asian Survey, March, 1963 showed that in Satara district, Maharashtra, linguistic ability was a signifi­ cant criterion for candidates. While only one of the rebel Congressmen reported ability in either English or Hindi, but of 19 Congressmen who responded—13 Hindi and 6 knew English. The official Congress candidates were more successful, p. 149. L—9

Digitized by

GooqIc

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

130

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

the State government be requested to send communications in Oriya instead of English. The resolution was defeated even though only two of the executive members knew English. The reasons for the Samiti’s behaviour can be adduced to a number of motives. English serves as the distinguishing factor for those with executive authority, no matter how low the level is, and acts as a convenient shield against effective participation of the mass of the people in the government process. For the rest of the members of the Samiti, the two educated executives formed the only positive reference point,../' therefore they expressed their choice in favour of the benefit of conformity, by identifying themselves with the leadership.” This safeguards the retention of their privileges. As Pattnayak puts it, " With the declaration of the various state governments to adopt regional languages for government work, it will be interesting to study the adjustment in inter-personal rela­ tionships within small power groups at various levels.” What happened at the Samiti level is an indication of the pressures and postures adopted at the higher levels of State and Central govern­ ment and administration. The practical realities of the domination of English in the public life of India, places it in a position, where it has to be ardently courted as the source of bread and butter. It is interesting to note that the Shiv Sena, a product of the socio-economic frustrations of the urban lower middle-class in Bombay, lists one of its main demands that English must be the medium of instruction at all stages of education. " Total neglect shown in this respect by the educational authorities has undermined the capacity of the past two generations to meet the demands of the age.”49 It is a curious demand, but enlightening when we consider the fact that the Shiva Sena draws its political support from the unemployed and long-suffering white collar workers. Despite the militant Marathi chauvinism, and xeno­ phobia of the Shiv Sena, the practical questions of employment and educational advance, force it to enter the rat-race for English education. The paradoxical feature is not peculiar to the Shiv Sena, but it is universal in all sections of Indian society. It is the realistic estimation of the economic power behind English which leads an Indian politician to champion Tamil or Hindi 49.

Shiv Sena p. 47.

Digitized by

(Official statement) Kapilachavya, Bombay, 1968,

GooqIc

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH-EDUCATED IN INDIAN POLITICS

131

publicly, but makes sure his children are sent to the best English-medium convent school.50 Macaulay had no doubt that a Western language would civilise India just as “ the languages of Western Europe civilised Russia” and " I cannot doubt that they will do for the Hindoo what they have done for the Tartar/’51 The Soviet Union could not have been Macaulay’s conception of a ' civilised ’ Russia, as for India he did anticipate Marx in assessing the potentialities of British colonial rule. But the assessment differed. Marx also recognised the potential of British rule, but his perception was not clouded by Whiggish arrogance or reliance on isolated pheno­ mena like the English language in India. He predicted that British rule would destroy the traditional stagnant economy and the advent of the railway would usher the machine age into India, and set her on the path to progress. It is by acknowledg­ ing this basic fact that we can fit in the subsidiary role of English in helping to contribute some of the necessary trappings for the 'regenerating' mission. English without doubt has played an extremely important role in determining the behaviour of certain vital sections of Indian society in politics, and has shaped to a great extent their endeavour to create a political system in India. The dialectic of English in India has to be recognised and understood. The positive effects of English and the scholarship it engendered, injected fresh blood for the revival of the Indian languages to meet the tasks of modern society. Bengali in the nineteenth century is a good example of this interaction.52 The Lord’s Prayer and the Gospel also contributed to the modernising of the vernaculars. The creative influence of English in shaping Indian nationalism, within the 50.

51. 52.

Opening new ' English-medium ’ kindergarten and primary schools is a flourishing business in Indian cities. ' The Minute ’ in Trevelyan, op. cit., pp. 416 and 417. The contribution of English and British scholarship has been equally significant in other Indian languages, e.g. in Tamil, Bishop Cald­ well’s : "A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages’ (1856) is one of the authoritative sources on which Tamil linguistic and cultural revivalism is founded, political expression of this is found in the Dravidian movement. See Dr. R.E. Asher : “The Contribution of scholars of British origin to Tamil scholarship and the study of Tamil in Britain”, Tamil Studies Abroad, Kuala Lumpur, 1968.

Digitized by

Google

Original from

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

132

LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY POLITICS IN INDIA

structure of an Indian political unity, made English assume vital tasks. Tasks which led to stages of political and social develop­ ment, which otherwise might have had to wait for a period of favourable economic growth and political integration. The dialectic has worked itself out to its logical conclusion. In politics, as Marx predicted the oppressors themselves provided the instruments by which the oppressed could liberate themselves. English as such an instrument has now been partially engulfed by the resulting synthesis. The synthesis that it is emerging in politics is an indication that creative processes in India will now lead to the gradual displacement of English from the centres of power. English will, however, remain,