Memoranda for Submission to the Chief Ministers of the Two Telugu States.


Language as Unifier?


Dt:  16/11/21

Language as Unifier?

Dr T.H.Chowdary*


First let me give some interesting facts.

·         There are 7100 languages currently spoken in the world  and the number is going down.

·         Mandarin is the  Chinese language which is spoken by the largest number of people in the world but only  in 3 countries  - China, Taiwan and Singapore.

·         In  India,  Hindi is spoken by the  largest number of people  -  528 mln out of 1300 mln . It is spoken in a compact and contiguous area  in North India. 

·         English is spoken by  260 mln people in India.

·         In the United Kingdom, English is spoken by 67 mln people.

·         In India, the language spoken by the  second largest people is Bengali at 97 mln

·         Konkani a variant of Marathi and Kannada is spoken by 2.3 mln people

·         In India Sanskrit is spoken  by 25,000 people but is known  and cherished by millions  of people – Intelligentsia, especially academicians across the world hold it in high esteem as a treasure house of knowledge.

·         English, French, Spanish and Chinese  are the official languages  in  the  United Nations. Anyone speaking in any language is translated into these 5 languages simultaneously.

·         North and South Korea speak the same language, are of same race but are deadly divided and are  mutually hostile .

·         Egypt and Syria of same language , religion and race united to form the United Arab Republic (UAR)but parted very soon .

·         Austria and  Germany speak the  same language have the same religion and same race but are two different states.



2. What unifies people and for what purpose :


·         Arabic is spoken by 17 member nations  of the United Nations. That has not united these 17 into one  political  nation state

·         There are  62 nation states in the  Organization of  Islamic Co-operation (OIC)  where people and the states profess   Islam as their  religion. Islam has not untied them into one  federal nation state.

·         Iran & Saudi Arabia  have the  same religion. But  they are  divided both by  race and sect ( Sunni Saudi Araba  and Shia Iran) . They are  not united but are in fact, deadly adversaries.

·         US and  Canada are  both Christian and  the people speak English. Neither Christianity  nor the  English language has untied them as one  political nation state.

·         There are several Spanish speaking Christian  nation states  in the two Americas (Mexico in  North America & the rest in South America).  But they are not united into one state.

·         People in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have the same language .They were separated . One group living in the Madras province and another in the Nizam’s state  were untied  in 1956 into Andhra Pradesh but separated in 2014. Language did not keep them united.

·         There are two Tamil speaking states Tamilnadu & Puducherry.

·         People in West Bengal and  Bangladesh speak the same Bengali language but they are divided into separate states by religion.

·         England and Scotland were two different states; they were united in 1707 .  There is  recently a movement in Scotland to separate from England (United Kingdom)

·         Quebec province  in Canada is French -speaking. There is a separatist movement  as the French speaking people are not wanting to be dominated by the English speaking Canadians.


3. It is clear that  neither religion nor language nor geography is  the sole factor  for unity in the people. Several factors influence  the unity of people for different purposes  - civilizational  inheritance, geographical location,  faith and beliefs, culture, political ideology and  language. Each one of  them has different value  for forming  and prevailing   view of unity. Unity for what purpose is the  question.


4. Most languages in India excepting Tamil are   derived from Sanskrit . Although Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam  are different languages, about 80% of their words are  from Sanskrit  and their structure is similar to  Sanskrit just  like for Guajarati, Bengali,  Marathi or Hindi.  It was Sanskrit which  acted as the  common language of the intelligentsia of India  and it conduced to the cultural  and civilizational unity  of the country.  India was  thus a nation by culture  with Sanatan Dharma and its  derivatives acting as  glue . The core value of the  Sanatan Dharma is unity in diversity. Diversity  is characteristic of  nature.  Diversity does not mean contending or mutually opposed differences; but   coexistence  for the preservation  of  creation  -  Loka Sangraha.


5. To illustrate cultural unity in diverse expressions   take Deepawali festival. In the North it is celebrated as  Rama’s coming back  to Ayodhya from his fourteen year vanavas .   The same is celebrated in the South as  Naraka Chaturdasi  - the  killing of the demon Narakasura  by Satyabhama, a consort of Krishna. Rama is fair in the  South but is blue   in some parts of North India.

Bharat’s cultural  and civilizational unity  has been maintained through the centuries not through any one language.  The contents in the Ramayana,Mahabharata, Bhagawata and  otherer Puranas all in Sanskrit  expounding  the philosophy  and spiritualism of Sanatan Dharma ( Hinduism) through the lives  and  deeds of Rama, Krishna, Rishis, Kings, Saints and Sages were retold  in the  myriad language of Bharat, century after century  adding local flavours, some times as translations , other  times as Khanda Kavyas , plays , poetry, prose , ballads, bhajans,  and keertans . For the most learned Sanskrit was the language, for others the local languages.


6. Now let us see what is the position of  Urdu: It is  not a classical  language . It  emerged  during the Muslim rule  in North India. Muslim rulers’ armies comprised of people from Turkey, Persia, Arabia , Afghanistan and  several parts of India , all of different  mother tongues.  In fact in the Cantonments where the Muslim rulers’ soldiers  from different countries and the native converts as well as un- converted  constituting the Muslim rulers’ armies, Urdu developed  as common lingua franca (common language) among them. Then, over a few centuries it has become the language   of most Muslims in the North.  In the South, Muslims mostly speak the languages that their overwhelming  Hindu majority people  speak  and their ancestors spoke     Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada. Only in the old city of Hyderabad and in pockets of some towns in Telangana Urdu is spoken by Muslims.


7. It will not be untrue to say that attempts have been and are being  made to make  Urdu as the language of all Muslims.  Considerable efforts were made to foist Urdu on India, especially Hindus. Md. Ali Jinnah  denounced Hindi as state language that was thwarting the development  of Urdu . He wrote to the  Vice Roy Linlithgow  in 1939 after the  resignation of the Congress Ministries that  Urdu should be declared as the national language of India.    In that letter he also extended full support of Muslim League to war effort . Sir  Mirza Ismail as Dewan of Jaipur  made Urdu compulsory for recruitment  to  that state’s public services .  That  a religion cannot be defined by language  is borne out   by  Islam being followed by different languages speaking people – Persian, Arabic, Turkish,  Pusthu, Punjabi, Sindhi and Bengali…


Answering a question  about Muslim grievances the late Guruji Golvalkar said this about Urdu:  Look at their  stance on Urdu.  50 years ago  Muslims  in various states spoke and studied  the  local languages.  They never thought that they had  a different religious language of their own.  Urdu  is not a religious language of the Muslims . Urdu is a hybrid product  evolved during the Mughal rule. It has nothing to do with Islam.  It was in Arabia  that Islam was born.  The Holy Koran  is  Arabic.  If at all there is  a religious language of the  Muslims it is  Arabic. So why this emphasis on Urdu? It is because on the  strength of one common language Muslims are sought  to be united  into a political force . ..such a  political force is bound to go counter to the  interests of the country”.


            In order to preserve and promote Urdu  the  Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU))  was established  in and located in Hyderabad. The Urdu spoken in  a part of Hyderabad city differs from the Urdu spoken in Lucknow in Avadh area of  Uttar Pradesh.


8. We have a Telugu university. There are  Telugu speaking people in Bengal, Delhi, Orissa and  Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Karnataki . But the Telugu university has no  centers or campuses in those states. Why should MANUU have   centers in Bihar,  Kerala and elsewhere?  Is it  to unify the Muslims all over India by defining Urdu  as the language  of the people whose religion is Islam?  Iran or Turkey  does not promote Arabic even as the Holy Koran is in Arabic.  Kemal Ata Turk  ordered that the prayers in Turkey should be offered in the Turkish language and not in Arabic.  He said if god is great, he would  understand all the languages.


9. If the preservation and  promotion of  Urdu is  prime purpose of  MANUU, why should   it have courses  in Engineering, English, sociology, management  and other subjects   like exclusion studies not related to Urdu  language?  Are the  non-Urdu language subjects offered to students in MANUU   in Urdu or in English?  The Osmania University before 1949 used to have Urdu  as the  language of instruction  for all subjects  including  Engineering & medicine. The graduated students could not be  employed outside the Nizam state . After the  liberation and integration  of the Nizam’s sate with the  rest of India, the Osmania University taught all the subjects in English.  If medicine and engineering  or science are  taught in Telugu, at the degree level can they find  employment in the rest of India? Similarly,  if Urdu  is the medium  of  instruction and examinations  for subjects  other than the language, can they find  employment  and  where  and in what numbers?


10. If Urdu is  said  to be  not only the  language of Muslims but  even of Hindus,  then  why is it that only a Muslim is appointed as the Vice Chancellor ? Muslims are becoming Vice Chancellors  for so many universities  all over India and why cannot  a  Urdu -knowing Hindu  be appointed as  Vice Chancellor  for MANUU or for that matter,  for Alighar  Muslim University and  Jamia Millia  University since all these are funded by the secular state.  For religion there could be exclusive  seminaries funded by the followers of those  religions. For  eg: we have a Sanskrit university in Tirupati. It is  entirely funded by the  Hindus offerings  to  Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala/Tirupati. 


11. If    unity   for national purposes is to be achieved then,   no one language should be  said to be   the  language of a  particular  religion . No secular state should fund a language university which seeks to unite people of a particular religion by establishing centers/ campuses all over the country ostensibly for preservation, promotion and development of a language but which in fact is used for uniting people of a particular religion.


12. Since MANUU is located in the Telugu speaking state of Telangana  why cannot Telugu be one of the  languages for  study  while  foreign languages like Arabic and  Persian  are available  for study as languages  other than Urdu . If  language can contribute  in a small and its own way to understanding  among people  is it not  desirable to have Telugu also offered by MANUU for study  in Hyderabad?


13. Finally, the Constitution of Bharat recognizes that a common  language  for  the whole  of  India is important for promoting and  preserving the unity of the nation. There is  therefore a special directive in Article -351 which mandates the development of  the Hindi language. Hindi  is spoken by 45% of the people  of Bharat  and is accepted as the official language of the  Union of India, though English is permitted to be used for some more time. The Article reads:  “Directive  for development  of  the  Hindi language. It shall be the  duty of the  Union  to promote and spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India  and to secure its  enrichment by assimilating without   interfering  with its genius, the forms , style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other  languages  of India specified in the 8th schedule and by drawing wherever necessary are desirable, for its vocabulary “primarily of Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages”.  It shall therefore be the duty of all of us Bharatiyas irrespective of region and religion  to learn   and gain proficiency in Hindi for preserving and promoting our  nation-hood and the integrity of the  sacred land of Bharat. The Sahitya Akademi  and the Jnanpith of   India  promotes  all the languages without any discrimination . We should all develop respect for  all the languages that are  spoken in India.


14. To conclude, unity is dependent on and for multiple factors and  purposes      cultural and philosophical heritage, ideology, geography, religion,  historical experience, values, economics, visions of future are  of all contributory factor. Unity can be temporary as it was between Hindus and Muslims during the Kilafat movement ( 199-23) and can evaporate  when some other interest prevails, as when  India  was partitioned -  Punjabi and Bengali speaking people were at each other’s  throats, foisting Urdu in East Pakistan denigrating Bengali, led to the break-up of Pakistan.  Bangladesh emerged  as a result of language nationalism . That religion  and even race could not keep a nation united was proved by  East Pakistan that is  East Bengal , now Bangladesh breaking away  from Pakistan mostly   because Urdu was being forcibly foisted on the  Bengali speaking Muslims. The Bengali  language nationalism was so strong that  independent  Bangladesh  adopted its  National Anthem, a lyric  written by Sri Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali.


 Sir Md Iqbal’s wrote Tarana -e-Hindi  before 1906:


“Saare jahan se acha  Hindusitan hamaaraa

Hindi hain ham, Hindi hai ham


In this he hailed Rama as Imam-e-Hind .


In 1910, four years after the founding  of the Muslim League in Dhaka   in 1906, he wrote  Tarana-e-milli :


“Chin-o-Arab hamaaraa, Hindusitan hamaaraa

Muslim  hai ham, Muslim  hai ham,

Vatan hai saaraa jaahaan hamaaraa”


Another Urdu poet wrote:

Na Hindi, na Marathi, apani bolee mieethee  bolee.


Yet another poet, Akbar  Mallihabadi wrote :

Laharonki tarah lado,

Magar ek raho !

This is the best message that language can convey.


15. The views expressed in this paper may not be to the liking  of sectarians  but need to be considered dispassionately so that the secular  state’s funds are not utilized  for accentuating  communal  separativeness.


16. An article titled, “Let the Myriad of Indian Languages Be” by a well-known columnist Harish Bijoor in the edit page of Indian Express of  9-11-2021 may be read for more understanding  of language as a factor for national unity. 


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