A few months ago, I wrote an article about the fate of regional language literature and this post was eventual, though late. Today I’m writing this post because after prolonged musings, I have come to a conclusion that we Indians have an identity problem. (As Dr. Subramanian Swamy rightly points out) If it was a few years ago, I would have given a flat NO to that statement, arguing that there is Unity in Diversity (as we are “taught” in school) and even if you go outside India, people identify you as an Indian and not as a Punjabi, Tamilian, Bengali or a Bihari. Well, that may be right but the identity problem I’m concerned about is not international. It is within India, asking for a common denominator. Ours is a secular state (though not really in practice), so it cannot be a religion; or the now obsolete Sanskrit (the mother of all Indian languages) which was a driving force that united (in a sense) different parts of ancient India.
Come on, let’s face it. We are one among the least patriotic countries in the world (or on the way of becoming one). And the reason is the missing common denominator. A while ago there was a really debatable post on Facebook (public link here). It argued that Hindi should not be used on passports, post offices or any other government offices in the Southern states. When I entered the debate with a strong NO, my pride as a Kannadiga got the bashing. I’m a proud Kannadiga alright, but to me India comes first. I back the three-language formula in the South Indian states because we as a country need a national language to reach out to our countrymen. It cannot be English(yet) because more than half of the country cannot speak it well enough. If Sanskrit was alive today, I would never have given a second thought about a language to reflect our culture and the heritage nationally. Even today, it is the devnagari script that’s used on passports which belongs to Sanskrit, not not just to Hindi. I would have been half as proud with only English on my passport. At least one Indian language has made it!
Regionalism is good only if it fights for its own existence and not for something else’s banishment. In Karnataka (I’m sure everywhere in South), the local language is used in almost all names of the buildings/offices. Only there is Hindi as well, on the buildings owned by the central government (which is fair). I’m proud that we Kannadigas have been tolerant enough to permit that unlike in Tamil Nadu. And to demand the removal of Hindi from South India? That’s equal to asking for a separate country.
We have a very few potential common denominators like Hindi (thanks to a few Muslim rulers of south and the Independence movement) and it would be foolish to turn away from it. Let’s put India first.