Monday, October 25, 2010

Idea of a Nation - ii

I think we are living in a time when many non-English speaking developed countries are reassessing their definition of nation. It may soon be an issue with English speaking countries eventually, however, considering English being the global communication lingo these countries are somewhat immune to idea of multicultural nation at present.

Incidentally, today* after reading German Chancellor Angela Merkel's denouncement of multiculturalism I came across this piece by the English author Aravind Adiga's call for action to Kannadigas.

Indian identity, for many, is India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's unqualified observation, "unity in diversity". This rhyming observation has been taken as some kind of unwritten rule. What was lost in this witticism was that the cultural dominance and influence of all diverse identities were not uniform and the diversity was never going to remain a status-quo. I'm sure Nehru might have known, with his vast knowledge of history, that diversity had always been uneven and a dominant unique identity had assimilated many diversities. And isolation have created too many linguistic identities.

Many people of course forget that, in India, linguistic identities have changed for multiple reasons. I would divide the linguistic history of India into two periods.

A. Pre-1950 India: 
In this period there was a lack of idea about nation state and linguistic identity.
1. Migrations:
    There could be two cases, individual migrations and community migrations. The shift in linguistic identity in the case of individuals  could happen in couple of generations. Migrations have changed the linguistic identities of many communities as a whole too.  Based on community strength this would take around 800-1000 years for a such shift in language to happen. I have come up with this number based on herders, artisans, merchants and priests' migration to South India and their migrations within South India.

2. Religion:
    The language of religion can spread through neo converts of different linguistic identity. Many Dravidian converts to Islam had renounced their Dravidian languages to an Indo-Aryan language(Urdu). But this requires a non-native ruling class with which the natives share the religious identity. This may be a quick transition taking around 200-300 years.

3. Sedentarism:
   As tribals make the transition from tribal way of life to sedentary life, they would take up the dominant sedentary language around them. In central India, nearly 50% of Dravidian Gond tribals have taken up surrounding Indo-Aryan languages.

4. Assimilation with caste or religion:
    Through intermarriages the migrant community would take up the native language eventually. However, the caste identity and religious identity may make linguistic identity stagnant (which probably is the dominant case in India).

5. Ruling class linguistic identity:
    The language of prestige is generally associated with the lingo of ruling classes. However, I'm not sure how strong these languages if they weren't represented at least in a section of masses. Even though Persian was the language of the court and that of the royal families during Islamic rule in parts of India, it never became a mass language.

B. Post Independence India
In this period linguistic identities have been legitimized.
6. Language of prestige and commerce:
    This would initiate shift in mobile educated masses. But stagnancy in mobile working class people who speak the language of commerce. English and Hindi are mostly doing that job in India respectively. Applicable to post independence India.

7. Sense of identity:
   This situation is applicable to post-independence India with linguistic states. This situation arises in regions where two linguistic population meet. In such border regions, the language of the province or state would be adopted by the communities quickly, within a generation or two,  if they don't have any strong sense of linguistic identity. However, would be resisted by other communities with a strong sense of linguistic identity. Few years back I read a pro-Kannada writer's (Patila Puttappa) article where the author lamented that in border regions of Maharashtra mostly traditional Kannada speaking communities have switched over to Marathi except for Brahmins. I'm not sure how universal is this case in India since in Andhra Pradesh I have observed many Kannada Brahmins have become Telugus. But if this is true in certain cases, I suppose that boils down to a sense of identity because of their historical literacy in that language.

As we have seen, in modern day India the situation is different from the past. Now the linguistic identities have been legitimized. But there are too many differences across the nation.
 - There is no equal sense of identity across all linguistic groups
 - Also, the cultural identity associated with that linguistic identity is not uniform in many regions
 - Because of numerical strength and reach Hindi has become a dominant language. Its film industry has become its imperial machine by attracting talents from across India (including non-Hindi speakers)
 - Southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala because of socio-economic mass movements, that used the movie media and literature respectively (Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu and Communism in Kerala), have given a strong sense of identity even to faceless working classes

With these background, let us consider linguistic regions without any socio-economic mass movements (eg. Karnataka). These regions have to face multiple issues.
- Lack of sense of identity among many groups
- Migration of groups to this region with a strong sense identity and migration of groups with linguistic stagnancy as they speak the language of commerce

According to Aravind Adiga the migrants should feel they own the cultural icons of the land(speaking in the case of Karnataka). Of course, owning cultural icons is something very critical for the development of sense of belonging. Though it wouldn't make sense for a person who wasn't born and brought up in that region, it would be tough for his/her next generation too to embrace the cultural icons. When we know that even stagnant(for few centuries) sons of the soil would embrace cultural icons that are in thing and global(giving a nominal respect to their own icons), it might be unjustified to force  migrant sons of the soil to own local cultural icons.

And there we see a ray of hope to states like Karnataka. Kannadigas should be like Scots and Irish before them or Gauls and Franks before them. Renounce your language. Take up a global language. Retain your ethnic identity. Kannada or Hindi would both limit their growth. Aravind Adiga has shown the way. English is the way to become globally relevant. That hasn't made him a lesser Kannadiga.

* I started writing this post on 17th Oct.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Idea of a Nation - i

"Multicultural society in Germany has utterly failed"
-German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Funny, she thinks multiculture includes only language and not religion. At present I have only one alternative for each, English and Atheism.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Movements and Ideologies - Overview

I was thinking about the causes for success or failure of any movement. I opened the Iranian Revolution page at Wikipedia. Well, that certainly was not the best revolution to understand the causes. The Iranian Revolution was supposedly an exception than a true case for any revolutions to succeed. Anyway, I consider the four causes given in the article as the basis for understanding other movements. According to that article one of these four causes have helped revolutionary movements.

1. Defeat at a war
2. A financial crisis
3. Peasant rebellion
4. Disgruntled military

But I'm more inclined at mass movements and I believe only second and thirds causes can be called genuine. However, considering the Iranian Revolution, I would say a third cause , Threat to identity, can be added for any mass movements. Then there is a fourth factor, a revolution driven by outside wave, should be added. Because sometimes other causes may be secondary. Here, I'm considering all kinds of mass movements revolutionary or otherwise. Also, I consider these causes responsible for both success and failure of a mass movement. My causes for the success or failure of any mass movement;

1. A financial crisis
2. Rebellion of the left behind
3. Threat to identity
4. Driven by outside wave

All these movements need intellectual leadership and ideology. At present I can only think of two such ideologies, Communism and Religion.

Let me look at various countries.
1. Russia
  Ideology: Communism
  Success: Rebellion of the left behind
  Failure: A financial crisis

2. Iran
 Ideology: Religion (Shia Islam)
  Success: Threat to identity

3. China
 Ideology: Communism
  Success: Rebellion of the left behind

4. India
  Ideology: Religion (Hindutva)
   Success: Threat to identity
Comment: It would have been a natural course of action for the caste system or Hinduism to become multiple entities as the middle and lower castes would have become enlightened and would have their own intellectual circle. However, by breaking the nation into two Muslims gave all the castes an anti-identity. This was further solidified by the Hindutvites by blowing up issues like Muslim breeding and Muslim men marrying Hindu women while keeping their own women closeted.

5. Afghanistan
  Ideology: Communism
   Success: No internal causes; driven by outside wave
   Failure: Threat to identity
Comment: In Afghanistan, Communism was driven by elites. We should note that a vast majority of the Afghan society is highly egalitarian (probably, nothing to do with Islam but because of its tribal and non-hereditary leadership structure). So, there was absolutely no room for Communism to make any kind of difference in their life. Thus religious fundamentalists could easily exploit these people.

6. Yugoslavia
  Ideology: Communism
    Success: No internal causes; driven by outside wave
    Failure: Threat to identity

I suppose any new ideology should align itself to one of the above four causes if it has to become a mass movement.