[lg policy] Karnataka: For the self-serving elite, mother tongue poses hindrance

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 27 15:13:12 UTC 2014

 For the self-serving elite, mother tongue poses hindrance
  Tuesday, 27 May 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA


   Garga Chatterjee <http://www.dnaindia.com/authors/garga-chatterjee>



 I studied in an English-medium school in Kolkata where thankfully, I was
taught and rebuked mostly in my mother tongue Bangla. English was the
answer-script writing language. On May 6, a five-judge constitutional bench
struck down the Karnataka government's 1994 language policy that mandated
that either Kannada or mother tongue be the medium of instruction for
Classes I to IV. Judges cited freedom of expression and speech. It's widely
documented that mother-tongue instruction is far superior when it comes to
grasping ideas and fostering creative thinking and the 2005 National
Curriculum Framework recognises this. The people who felt most 'persecuted'
by the 1994 language policy is the same rootless class that increasingly
converses in English with people from the same mother tongue, even
dismissing the concept of mother tongue in this 'globalized world' of
'cosmopolitan ethos'. The judgement signals the rising clout and confidence
of the miniscule and powerful Anglicised elite in using the language of
rights to marginalise the masses.

This class, by their inordinate grip over certain urban centres (Bangalore,
Delhi, Mumbai), has been exerting an influence over policy that they cannot
gain by democratic means. Karnataka's Chief Minister Siddaramaiah knows
that his people have no great resentment against mother-tongue instruction.
Karnataka is among those few states that have tried to restore dignity of
their languages. The deliberate marginalisation that comes with terms
'regional'/ 'vernacular' has now become normal. If the judiciary is so
concerned about freedom of speech and expression and rights of linguistic
minorities, it might want to look at the primacy accorded to English and
Hindi. A staggering majority of the subcontinent's population does not know
English. The same goes for Hindi outside the Hindi belt.

The elite and decision-makers come from a class that would start perspiring
if they were asked to speak their mother's tongue only, even for a week.
The classes of people who actually perspire due to hard labour that puts
food on the tables of the urbane and the entrenched elite can accomplish
this easily. The subcontinent is almost unique to have a class that looks
to non-mother tongues with so much pride. No wonder, when it comes to
scientific creativity, China, Russia, South Korea, Japan, etc surpass this
nation. In these nations, their mother tongue is their language of
instruction, often all through the university level. So-called
incompatibility between 'higher education' and mother tongue is a creation
of the self-serving Anglicised classes whose privileges, entitlements and
'authentic spokesperson to goras' status are threatened if mother-language
education in the subcontinent goes the Japanese way. But privilege doesn't
self-destruct. Hence we remain a self-hating land of forgotten mothers and
persecuted tongues, good for creating cyber-coolies and enthusiastic
third-rate documentalists of Euro-American mood-swings. From building
high-rises to making highways, the real heavy lifting in the cosmopolitan
cyber-coolie haven of Bangalore is done by Kannada mother-tongue folks.
Next time, look at the counter-girl in a chain-coffee store, uncomfortable
in her dress. You walked up to her and placed an order in English. She
breaks into Kannada when you are not looking. We are all complicit in the
annihilation of her cultural self and its potentialities. Perverse is the
word play that paints the calls for the rights of the marginalised majority
as chauvinism.


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