BHARAT KI KHOJ
DIVIDE AND DROOL
On June 2, 2014, as history repeated itself, there was a sense of celebration in the country. Drum beats, handshakes, exchange of garlands all marked a certain sense of hysteria. The background was marked by the usual debates and arguments among the intellects. Why, but of course – INDIA was divided in its 29th part! A certain sense of rejoice was of course inevitable. For the state of Telangana, it was more than a formation of state – it was a sense of freedom for they were the first to fall prey or better termed the first to face the famous orders of State Reorganization Committee in 1953 when the now Telangana (and then Hyderabad) was merged to form the first linguistic state Andhra of independent INDIA.
As recorded, for better administration the newly born country was divided to “ensure speedy attention to people’s need and development of every part of the nation… bring about a linguistic division of INDIA.” (Guha,TOI,2003)
So, from the country being represented by extents of Empire ruling, from provinces and princely states was now colored with a new adopted yardstick – language. Suddenly new lines found itself composing the country – some moved here, some extended there, some grabbed and some ambiguously just distributed.
Once the initial juggernaut was rolled out, there was no end. For the next 40 years it was a game of jigsaw puzzle. The creation of one lead to the demand of the other and in concentrated times since independence till about 1987, different sections of people demanding their identity in the country kept on colouring the nation with different reasons. While some formed to protect tribes, some for better opportunities, some for governance - people were finding new ways to determine identity; even the older ways – like religion. As can be witnessed with the present needs of the Lingayat community.
Language was chosen as a means for division primarily with three pertinent intent: participation of the local people in administration, ease of governance and to forefront vernacular language that had been ignored by the British. While the first two intents may still be argued as acceptable, what is perplexing is that who chose what languages were important?
For it has been recorded that in INDIA as of 2018, a total number of 121 languages are spoken which has a population of 121 crore. And, out of that we have a representation of just 29 (or even less)? So on what basis do we not assign a state to each of them?
Even more surprising is that out of the 22 languages listed in the constitution – each of them do not have a state, such as Santhali, Bodo, Sindhi and a few others. Are we then headed for a few more states in the future? If the demand arises can we then ignore the same? These are, however, mere speculations.
The fact remains that use of language for division of states was a lethargic effort. May be, not even an effort; but a mere political tool of power by a few to polarise the country. In such a manner that went far beyond just an ease of the governing but one that gave identity. A sort of an identity that has today become a greater tool of recognition than the collective notion of the country.
For today language is how we primarily relate to one another. We use language as a benchmark to distinguish people, to relegate them and to uphold one’s language we even use broader brush adjectives like ‘Madrasi’, ‘North Indian’, ‘Bihari’ and innumerable such terminologies in our day to day mannerisms. Extend language, and it is a great advertising tool.
Noticed the Indian Premier League! Each team is based on a city, but each promote their team through a chosen language! The city or the sport does not bring followers to a team, the chosen language does!
In each of our daily life language however plays an important role. Beyond its communication factor it provides opportunity for means of expression. An expression to celebrate, congregate, collaborate, to unite and with itself carry a sense of joy and pride. But, this divide tends to bring mocking scorning and shaming alongside!
This is probably why when in a group we associate more to the person who speaks the same language as ours; to the participant who sings in our native tongue in a reality show and even show fondness by stating “Oh, you know Bengali!” (or any other form) to a stranger who may speak few words in our ‘mother’ dialect. Similarity in language inevitably provokes a spontaneous reaction.
This ingrained reaction where on one hand reflects a ‘collective’ on the other echoes our deep seeded idea of a ‘divide’. As a community, dividing for us is delicacy - a daily recipe in our lifestyle. And, for this is the language the only ingredient? No! The yardsticks are plenty.
Religion, gender, caste, sub caste, native town, surname, profession, marital status, relationship status, and each and every of those categories that we fill up on an application form or nowadays submit as a data on social media. If that is not enough, we innovate.
We salivate by upholding distinctions between the wealthy and the poor, the urban and the rural of the country, the races and the tribes, the cultured and the uncultured, the city and the nature. This distinction further resonates all the way up in to our expressions and even access to spaces inhabited in the public domain. The moment we interact as a collective, we categorise to define an entity - all for a sense of belonging.
A kind of belonging so that we as a society or at a personal level can not only feel secured and assured, but also use the same to assume and declare power. It's just that we don’t realise one divide gives rise to another. Can we blame this? For the land itself was dictated through the ‘divide and rule’ policy for years and more importantly - a country, in some manner, was itself born out of a divide.
As of today, INDIA has 29 states and & 7 union territories making a total of 36 entities. Further divided into districts and administrations – mostly never expressed except for government or official purposes. The 36, as rightly termed ‘entities’ mark a prominent impression both on the physical map and importantly on our mindset. Reinforced strongly within us, through registration numbers of vehicles, codes, large information boards along the highways and even through celebrations and protests of state formation days celebrated in the country.
But retract from the obvious and recollect the last time you were able to immediately identify a state from the other while commuting. Did you or anyone of us make out the difference unless may be notified through a certain signal or signboard? The answer presumably will be a No! for the line of the state is ambiguous. Ambiguous not because it is intangible but primarily because it has no relation to the physical and geographical lay of the country that each of us are able to perceive naturally. The state on the other hand is a programmed behavioural line that is injected into all of us.
So blinded are we by this idea of ‘state’, that we fail to recognise the inter-related and interdependent cultural lifestyles that make up the country. In fact, we often end up in heated discussions ending with surprised remarks such as, 'Is that so?', 'The same thing is followed in your state also!' As if to imply that one region is ought to be drastically different than the other - just because of an imaginary line!
We have even painted ourselves comforting ideal pictures of each state – the typologies, the occupation, the food, the lifestyle etc. And by doing so continue to marginalise the communities by non-recognition who are nestled and living in this country under the broad self-constructed imagery of the states.
The identity of states in the country cannot be undone. And with vote bank politics taking centre stage to determine the administrators of the country, further formations are but inevitable. On what basis, only time will tell. If as people of the nation, as individuals we are to truly celebrate this long-standing notion of ‘Unity in Diversity’, then the first step towards that is to free ourselves from the idea of a 'state'. Let the 'state' remain intangible restricted only to administrative limits, for that may be required.
But administrative limits is not what should determine our day to day to living in society. Behaviour should. And, for behaviour to take shape the focus ought to shift on the most forgotten word of the INDIAN constitution – Fraternity. Fraternity that is bonded by the emotion of a country, and not a representation of parts. One that admires and equally projects every language, every tradition and every culture (and not always the most common or majoritarian) nestled within the country. One that recognises and respect distinguishing traits – not differentiates.
And, far beyond the State it is imperative to free us from the idea of a ‘divide’. For long, as subjects, we have been treated to this concept; and now we do so consciously, subconsciously and unconsciously. To divide is the most common denominator of citizens of the country, and this needs to be altered. If we don’t, we will soon be in a revolt against each other for ruling each other. How? When? Is it possible? Why should I? Are questions to be found not solutions sought after.
As they say “Zindagi jeene ke do hi tarike hote hai... Ek jo ho raha hai hone do, bardaasht karte jao... Ya phir zimmedari uthao usse badalneki.” (To live life there are only two ways… One whatever is happening let it happen, tolerate it... Or else take the responsibility to change it.)