Republic Day Special Series




Chapter XI: Flag of Liberation was looted before it unfurled (Part 2)

The Reincarnation of the Caste Domination:
That in the post-independence India the masses in the agrarian society were subjected to horrendous exploitation and that the urban industry was pampered beyond measure was, clearly, not an esoteric event or a sudden accident.

This duality was the very basis of the Indian freedom movement. 

Thus it was that the British left; but the British army continued. The British administration remained the same; the police system remained unaltered. Not that there were no changes. The British had spread the most expansive railway network on the Indian Sub-continent; the Indian successors to British Rule applied breaks on that policy. The British had promoted India’s international trade, at independence it represented 4% of the world trade; the new Indian rulers started slashing down these links with the world ostensibly in the interest of self-sufficiency. Rulers in independent India, exactly like their Bolshevik counterparts, isolated the territory for their exclusive enjoyment. The Russians created an ‘iron curtain’, the Indians created a ‘bamboo curtain’ which was as effective as the iron one under the Indian conditions. Iron curtain effectively stopped all give and take of ideas as also goods and technology. That kind of strict ideological discipline was beyond the capacity of the Indian leadership. An open entry to goods and technology would have benefited the masses at large. Indians needed the machinery and the technology required for the industries of the urban elite. However, the contact with the world had to be selective. The bamboo curtain had lots of slits and holes, all suited to the convenience of urban cities and their industry. Indian rulers erected another barrier within the country, thus partitioning independent India a second time. This was not a territorial partition but it effectively created two entities – one which obtained the inheritance from the British of colonial domination and the other which continued to be under the harrow of colonial exploitation even after the departure of the British. In George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” the animals revolt against the “two legged master” and drive him out; but, shortly thereafter the pigs who take over the management, start behaving like the human master and go to the extent of learning to walk on two feet. The allegory fits the Indian condition even better than to those in the Soviet Union. The Indian ‘pigs’ started walking on two feet soon after independence. A polity and an economic system was meticulously designed to deny the Indian masses all contact with the outside markets, thought and science and technology.

The Language Imbroglio:
During the period of the freedom movement all the leaders were agreed that Hindi should become the national language of independent India. In the first flush of enthusiasm at the dawn of independence people speaking different languages were favorably disposed to making Hindi the national language. They were determined to promote their regional languages but accepted the need of one common language for communication throughout the territory of the newly independent nation. This enthusiasm eroded pretty fast. The leadership lost the spirit and the ideals of the freedom movement. The states in the South started opposing Hindi. Israel which was created at about same time as independent India decided to accept a dead language like Hebrew as their national language in a spirit of national pride and soon the language of the Israel’s ancestors became an effective modern language for administration, communication and education. The harrowing experience of the post-partition period was such that if the ancient Sanskrit had been made the national language there would have hardly been any opposition. But, the government of new India had its own pervert outlook. It decided to have two national languages instead of one. Hindi had to be one of them. In order to obtain a national consensus it would have been understandable if one of the languages of South India were made, side by side with Hindi, the second national language. But, in the Constitution it was English, the language of the colonial masters, got enshrined as the second national language. Fifty years after independence, the dominance of English is increasing; the usage of Hindi is diminishing; English has become, for all practical purposes, the one and only national language.

It is not difficult to imagine to which class and community this language-policy suited best. The communities which had made for themselves comfortable niches in the colonial bureaucracy that continued to dominate even after the British left were, of course, delighted. It suited the urban elite who had got themselves English educated thought it only logical that English should continue. With the exception of these urban communities that formed barely 4 to 5% of the total population, the rest of the population found themselves cut off from the global currents. The rural Indians have never been comfortable with the English language. Even the educated villagers are scared when required to use English. Asian countries like Japan and China and countries of the developed world like France and Germany appear to be doing pretty well without English. There are only a select few that have relations with the external world learn English. This does not appear to have hampered their advancement or prosperity. 

The mother-tongue remains medium of thought throughout life. Languages acquired in later life are used only selectively in specific fields. India, nevertheless, accepted English as a national language mainly because the Indians have never had the ambition to be original thinkers. The wished that the alien literature, arts, culture, thought and science and technology should enter India in convenient doses and, that too, through their intermediary so that the lower castes remain dependent for these inputs on the communities “Superior” to them. Nehru would have never accepted that the administration should be in the people’s language. Many senior Indian thinkers, like Nani Palkhiwala, even today seriously believe that the formation of linguistic states was a grave error. They maintained that the linguistic states were primarily responsible for the dismal performance of India after independence. Socialistic State meant a hyperbolic proliferation of paper work. The educational institutions could barely keep pace with the demand for officials and leaders being able to transact business in acceptable Hindi/English. The list of subject in the state list were of minor importance and those in the top echelons of India were unlikely to be hurt if the state governments carried out the administration in regional languages. In fact, formation of linguistic states made it possible to raise whole new battalions of rural leaders who would support the cause of “India”. The fact that even forty years after the reorganisation of states, English continues to dominate fields of Science and Technology and business is an eloquent testimony of this fact.


(... continued in Part 3)

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