Tamil Tribune

Is it Time to Divide India? Are Basic Rights Denied to Some Minorities? 

B. K.

TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 2013 (ID. 2013-12-01)
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South Asia is a land of many languages; may be, more than the Continent of Europe. Much of South Asia comes under the country "India", which was created by the British, erstwhile colonial rulers of South Asia. Does this India contain too many languages, that the legitimate aspirations of some minority language speakers to use their language in government and business have to be denied because of "practical considerations"? (Many of these minority languages are spoken by over a million people and some by more than the population of many countries of the world. India does not have a majority language. Hindi, including some of its dialects, is spoken by about 40% of the population.) 

I read an interesting news item from "The Hindu" newspaper dated August 11, 2009. In the original Indian constitution issued in 1950, fourteen languages were listed in the eighth schedule. Eight more languages (Bodo, Dogri, Konkani, Maithali, Manipuri, Nepali, Santhali and Sindhi) were added as time went by and thus there were 22 languages listed as of August 2009. Thirty eight more languages were asking the Indian government to include them in the eighth schedule.

Therein came the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). UPSC conducts competitive examinations for many Indian government jobs. Once listed in the eighth schedule, these languages will most likely demand that UPSC examinations be held in their languages too. According to UPSC it is impractical to hold examinations in 60 languages (22 languages currently listed in the eighth schedule plus the 38 requesting inclusion). So the Indian government is reluctant to add more languages to the eighth schedule of the Indian constitution.

This raises an interesting question. Is India too big a country with so many languages where language speakers (even with a population of several million people each) have to sacrifice (forego) their language rights in the name of "practicality"? While speakers of languages with smaller population enjoy their own country with their mother tongue used in government affairs, why should minority language populations within India forego such language rights? I see a ways of solving the problem.

Give people of the 60 languages the option (1) to give up their language rights (for example the right to receive question papers and write competitive examinations in their mother tongue), or (2) leave the Indian Union and be a separate country. They can have trade and defense pacts with India if they so choose. Those who stay part of India would have no reason to complain of language discrimination because they choose to be part of India on their own free will.

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