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The Issue of Language

S. Srinivasa Rao

By Santosh Dash
Aakar Books, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 175, Rs. 375.00


The issue of language has always drawn attention in social science debates on such diverse themes as culture, nationalism, nationality, education, and social mobility. It is always seen as a divisive force that has the ability to cut across even more divisive features of any society, more so of the Indian society with its characteristic diversities such as caste, religion, ethnicity, or region, which by themselves are more divisive than language. However, the issue of language was rarely linked, if not completely neglected, to explain the caste hegemony or dominance, on one hand, and subordination and submission, on the other on language in educational contexts. However, two important trends of globalization and localization have drawn scholars of various ideological, theoretical and disciplinary standpoints to the issues of language as well as caste in educational exclusions. Particularly, in the context of the recent demands of the dalit bahujans for quality English education in order to attain what they call ‘cultural globalization’ of the socially disadvantaged, on the one hand, and the persisting demands of the English educated, non-dalit bahujan, academia asking for policies of multilingualism rooted in the mother tongue (mostly vernacular) based education. Both these positions are justified: If the dalit bahujans are not English educated, as was the case during the colonial period, they will be left out of the process of globalization that has brought rich dividends for the so-called English educated, middle class, upper and intermediary castes. The division of English and the vernacular is clearly and sharply marked out. On the other hand, the votaries of mother tongue based multilingualism clearly argue that they are giving voice to the voiceless linguistic, vernacular minorities, which are almost at the verge of endangerment or extinction. This position, however, has not cut any ice among the disadvantaged groups who see it as yet another ploy of non-dalit bahujans to exclude dalit bahujans. It is this contestation between the English and the vernacular or the native language that is posited by Santosh Dash in his book in the backdrop of both the history as well as the contemporary. The book is drawn out of the doctoral research by the author, who begins with many claims, of which three may be worth mentioning. Firstly, the author begins the introduction by stating that the book aims to explore an issue which has so far not drawn much attention in the debates on ...

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