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This article was first published 2 years ago  » News » 'We are not a one language country'

'We are not a one language country'

April 12, 2022 10:22 IST
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'This obsession with 'one' is not good for a country like India.'

Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposes.

Aatma Nirbhar Bharat, Amrut Mahotsav, Tika Utsav, Raksha Mantri...

Whether you understand the meaning of all these words or not, this is the new reality in India.

Last week, The Indian Express reported Union Home Minister Amit Anilchandra Shah promoting the cause of Hindi as India's official language. Three years, Shah had pitched for a common language for the country and said as Hindi is spoken the most, it can unite the whole country.

Shah had then asked everyone to use their native languages as much as possible, but said efforts would be made to expand Hindi's reach to different parts of the country.

In his remarks last week, perhaps sensing a backlash from the states, Shah, quoted by the Indian Express, 'clarified that Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English, and not local languages.'

The Modi government's eagerness to promote Hindi even in South India where the language is not commonly spoken was seen when Ananthapuri FM -- All India Radio's FM channel in Kerala -- became Vividh Bharati Malayalam, and the Malayalam programmes were replaced by Hindi programmes created in Delhi.

The first to point this out by writing an article in the Kerala Kaumudi newspaper on February 9 was K Jayakumar, former chief secretary of Kerala and founding vice-chancellor of the Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University.

After Jayakumar's article, many Malayalees started raising their voices. On March 4, a group of literary and cultural personalities including award-winning film-maker Shaji N Karun and Binoy Viswam, MP, protested outside AIR's Thiruvananthapuram centre.

"India is such a varied country that you cannot have one scheme for all the states," K Jayakumar tells's Shobha Warrier in the concluding segment of a two-part interview:


The Thiruvanathapuram municipal corporation passed a resolution against saying this was an assault on federalism...

Who has kindled all these things? People were patronising a good channel, but when somebody violates the rules, people will come to their own conclusions.

Those who provoked should be faulted, and those who come to conclusions should not be faulted.

We should put on dock those who provoked.

Assault on federalism is a big charge, but nothing can be seen in isolation.

You cannot see this one decision of an organisation of the Indian government in isolation.

When you contextualise it with other decisions, people come to such larger than life inferences.

This is not an isolated incident, and not the first one too.

If they had taken listeners into confidence and had there been consultation, this should have been avoided.

In a democracy, we expect that. If not, we shun the channel. It has reached such a level that they announce now, come and advertise in our FM channel!

What is the ultimate result of all this? They lost their listeners. Revenue has plummeted.

We get the feeling that the local Akashavani is powerless and what has happened is authoritarianism.

If this was what they wanted, they have succeeded.

Does it not show Prasar Bharti doesn't care about the listeners?

Yes, they don't care. Who watches Doordarshan these days? We don't know whether there is a larger design behind all this, like takeover by private people.

Anyway, omens are bad.

In your career as an administrative officer, have you seen the centre infringing upon the rights of states like this?

I served in the IAS for 35 years. We had very good relationship with the central government in implementing many projects.

But this one nation, one theory goes counter to the spirit of democratic India and plurality.

Because what is good for Kerala may not be good for Manipur.

What is good for Maharashtra may not be good for Himachal Pradesh.

India is such a varied country that you cannot have one scheme for all the states.

You cannot say, one size fits for all. It is this 'one size fits for all' approach is behind the one nation, one ration card, one country one election, etc.

This obsession with 'one' is not good for a country like India. We are not a one culture, one language country.

Even in Kerala, we have the Travancore culture, we have the Malabar culture, and we have the Kochi culture.

But we survived harmoniously. How?

Because we respected our differences. The moment our differences are not respected, you start talking about 'one size fits for all' theory.

That's when people feel frustrated, and feel their identity is threatened.

That's the larger picture.

You mean, changing the name of an FM channel or changing its content is just symbolic...

Absolutely. We can listen to any other radio channel.

You asked me what prompted me to write about a relatively small issue. The real event may be small, but the real event signifies a larger mindset which has to be resisted.

What is happening in this country is high-handedness. This I decide, you obey attitude will not work.

Is it disturbing?

Highly disturbing.

After 75 years of independence...

(After 75 years of) Liberal democracy. Some words have been discredited... liberal democracy, secular democracy.... They have become ugly words.... That's the issue.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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