[lg policy] Language policy crisis in India

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 3 17:06:57 UTC 2014

The language policy situation in Ukraine has dwarfed all other language

reporting, it seems.  This includes the situation in Andhra Pradesh, India,

supporters of a separate state of Telangana have managed to get the Lokh
Sabha (India's lower house of parliament) to vote to separate Andhra
Pradesh into two parts, Telangana and whats' left (coastal Andhra).  This
is a very curious situation, since Andhra was originally formed when Pottu
Sri Ramulu, a Telugu activist, fasted to the death infavor of the creation
of a Telugu speaking state.

After Indian independence, states and territories that had been established
in colonial India retained their borders, but though some states, such as
the Madras Presidency, were dominated by speakers of Tamil, other regions
and principalities often lacked a majority language, and the remnants of
Hyderabad, a former Islamic "princely state" was the only territory where
Telugu was dominant, whereas many Telugu speakers found themselves as
minorities in states like Madras and Mysore, dominated by other linguistic
groups.  Sri Ramulu's fast

resulted in a linguistic "States Reorganization Act" and Andhra Pradesh
became the first product of this reorganization, in the mid 1950's.  India's
census had always asked questions about language, so the 1951 census was
relied on to establish these new state boundaries.

But there were lingering resentments in Andhra.  The area in the western,
noncoastal part of the state was economically less well off than the
coastal area, and the dialect(s) of Telugu spoken there (known as
Telangana) were considered to be inferior and sub-standard by the coastal
speakers.  The Telangana supporters lobbied long and hard for a separate
state, even though Telangana Telugu is in fact only a different dialect (or
set of dialects).  The irony of India's

first state after independence to be created along linguistic grounds now
splitting into two over language is viewed as ridiculous by speakers of
coastal dialects, but support for this has finally been reached.  Hyderabad,
the capital, will remain the capital of both states for a period of 10
years, but how this will play out is anybody's guess.

Any of you who have more information about this situation, or corrections
to make in my take on it, please contribute!


Hal Schiffman


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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