Ethno-Linguistic Conflict In India

©Lucio Mascarenhas.
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All Indians Are Equal
But Some Indians Are More Equal

The Times of India, Bombay Edition, June 1st., 2004, page 1

"State Language Can Be Made Compulsory: Indian Supreme Court"

Times News Network. New Delhi: The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that a state government can make learning of its regional language compulsory even in linguistic minority schools in order to strengthen national integration and cement the gap between different cultural segments in society.

If a government decided to make the state language, like Marathi in this case, a compulsory subject in the school syllabi of a Gujarathi school, it cannot be said to be violative of the fundamental rights of the minority community to establish and administer schools.

It was appropriate for the linguistic minority in a state to learn the regional language, the court said. "The resistance to learn the regional language will lead to alienation from the mainstream of life, resulting in linguistic fragmentation within the state, which is anatehma to national integration," a bench comprising Chief Justice S. Rajendra Babu, Justices A.R. Lakshamanan and G.P. Mathur said.

The bench rejected an appeal by a Maharashtra state based Gujarathi shcool challenging the state's decision to make learning Marathi mandatory in its schools. The petition said that the imposition of Marathi as a subject in the syllabi violated the fundamental right of the minority community to set up and administer a school of its choice. "The learning of different languages would definitely bridge the cultural barriers and contribute to the cultural integration of the country," the court added.

It was a policy decision of the state government which "is in the paramount interest of the students who are living in the state and also in the larger interest of the country," the bench said.

Comments by Lucio

An extremely extraordinary decision, demonstrating a complete absense of even the most elementary notions of common sense.

In the Indian Union, the provinces were reorganised on linguistic basis, but not exclusively and definitively so, with the result that there still remain large areas of dispute.

In many cases, smaller national groups are clubbed with larger ones - such as, for example, the Kutchi with Gujarathi, Kodagu with Karnataka, Kamtapuri with Bengal.

In other cases, the homelands of ethnic groups are divided by two or more provinces or states. Thus for example, the large Bhojpuri country is partly in Bihar and partly in the U.P. The Konkan is partly in Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat, besides Damao and Dadra & Nagar-Haveli. The Khandesh is divided between Maharashtra and M.P. The Gond Country - Gondwana - is partly in Chatisgarh, Andhra and Maharashtra (Gadhchiroli, etc.)

In every of these disputed areas, the newly sanctified and reinforced policy of linguistic imperialism by particular minorities is going to become worse...

In a book on the history of Mizoram, which I recently read, the author, who served in the Indian Occupation there during the insurgency, tells of how the then Assam province imposed the majority Asom language on all... with the result that sentiments in the non-Asomese areas exploded; finally, as a result, the Indian government was forced to cut out Mizoram, Nagaland, "Meghalaya" from Assam and make them into new provinces.

With Karbi-Anglong, a compromise was effected. However, the Bodo-Cacharias were not provided for, and kept on fighting.

It looks like some people never learn from history!

I would suggest that the Indian Supreme Court have these words inscribed over its main doors, in letters three feet deep and in gold:


Lucio Mascarenhas
Source: Mizoram by Animesh Rai. ISBN 81-237-0470-4. ©Anirban Rai, 1999. Published by the Director, The National Book Trust of India, A-5, Green Park, New Delhi, India. PostCode 110 016. (Re-edited by Lucio Mascarenhas to conform to English usage. Notes prefaced "L.M." added.)

Page 159 fl.

In Assam politics, the conflict between the hill and plain peoples was suddenly intensified with the introduction of the Assam Official Language Bill in 1960 by which the Asomese language was sought to be made the sole official language of the province.

The leaders of the hill districts met in Shillong on 6th and 7th July 1960 under the chairmanship of J. Hajgir, the Congress Member of Parliament from the North Cachar Hills District constituency. As an outcome of this meeting a new political organisatin came into being. It was called the All Parties Hill Leaders Conference or APHLC. All the political parties of the hill districts of Assam province federated into the APHLC. At a meeting of the APHLC held at Haflong on 23rd November 1960, it was resolved that the the Hill Districts should be separated from Assam and formed into an Eastern Frontier Province.

The Assam Official Language Bill became an Act in 1961. In protest, the ministers hailing from the Hill Districts — Sangma, Khyriem, Thanhlira and Lalmawla resigned from the provincial government of Assam.

The third general elections were held in 1962. The APHLC contested the elections and won most of the seats in the Hill Districts of Assam, including all the three in the Mizo Hills District, where the APHLC members, the Mizo Union, won two seats and the Eastern India Tribal Union or EITU won the third seat.

The APHLC observed Demand Day on 24th October 1962 when all the APHLC Legislators were asked to resign from the Assam Legislature. The two Mizo Union legislators resigned but the EITU legislator did not.

In 1963, in the bye-elections held to fill up the two vacancies, the Mizo National Front candidates, John F. Manliana and Lalmawla Jr., won the two seats of West Aizawl and Lunglei.

On 5th October 1963, the Prime Minister of the Indian Union, Nehru, came out with a formula called the Scottish Pattern, for solution of the crisis in Assam. The plan envisaged that a Committee of the MLAs from the hill areas would be formed. The ministers for the hill areas in the Assam Cabinet would be appointed on the recommendations of this Committee, which also would advise on legislations and administrations of the hill areas. The APHLC accepted this suggestion.

For working out the details of the plan, on 16th March 1965, the Indian government appointed a Commission with H.V. Pataskar as its Chairman. The Mizo Union boycotted the Pataskar Commission as it wanted a separate Mizo Province consisting of the Mizo Hills District and surrounding Mizo dominated areas. The Report of the Pataskar Commission was rejected by the APHLC as it fell short of their expectations of autonomy.

In the Mizo Hills, large scale disturbances began on 28th February 1966. Armed volunteers of the Mizo National Front simultaneously attacked different government installations at Aizawl, Lunglei, Vairengte, Chawngte, Chhimluang and other places.

On 1st March 1966, the Mizo National Front declared Mizoram an Indepedent Nation-State — the Republic of Mizoram. The declaration was signed by the MNF's President, Laldenga and sixty others.

In June 1966, a Cabinet Committee of the Indian government, under the Minister for the Interior / Home, Gulzarilal Nanda, visited Shillong. He formulated the sub-provincial plan, under which the hill areas would have a separate Legislature and Council of Ministers, but would remain within Assam. The suggestion was rejected by the APHLC which decided to boycott the 1967 general elections and to launch a non-violent direct action movement.

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi vsited Shillong and had a series of discussions with hills and plain leaders.

On 18th January 1967, the Government of India announced a reorganisation plan for Assam, to be reorganised as a federated province. To work out the plan, on 22nd July 1967, a Committee under the Chairmanship of Ashoke Mehta was constituted.

The recommendation of the Mehta Committee to have a legislative and executive council for each of the hill districts with some measure of autonomy was rejected by the APHLC.

On 11th September 1968, the Government of India announced a plan for the creation of an autonomous sub-province within the Province of Assam, which would cover the Garo Hills District, the Khasi Hills District and the Jaintia Hills District.

The Mikir Hills District and the North Cachar Hills District would have the option to join this sub-province.

There would be a legislature and a council of ministers for the sub-province to which all the subjects excepting some common ones would be transferred.

Indian Parliament passed legislation on 24th December 1969 creating the sub-province, which was given the name "Meghalaya."

In July 1971, the Government of India offered the status of Centrally-administered Union Territory to Mizoram. The Mizo Union's Youth Wing felt that the proposal could be accepted as an interim arrangement, if elevation to a full-fledged province in due course was promised.

By the end of 1971, the Indian government raised "Meghalaya" to the level of a full-fledged province; also the "Union Territories" of Manipur and Tripura were raised to full provinces; and two new "Union Territories" — of Mizoram and of "Arunachal" would be formed.


Animesh Rai uses the term "state", while I use province. Under the British, these were called provinces; under the Indians, they are called "states" in English, but in the official and "national" language, Hindi, the "state" is called a "pradesh" which means "province".

Under the British, the Indian provinces had true autonomy, as much as those of Canada, Australia, etc., therefore, they had their own flags, Prime Ministers, Supreme Courts, etc.

Under the Indians, the provinces have been elevated to "states", but nevertheless they are reduced to glorified municipalities — forbidden their own flags, and other symbols of local identity and pride.

In Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Brazil, etc., and in most of the world, the regions and provinces are permitted their own flags, constitutions, etc., as expressions of democracy and local pride.

For the purveyors of the myth of Indianism, of Indian "nationalism", such thoughts are veritable heresy and blasphemy!

This is the eternal duplicity of the Brahmins: Glorify the shadow and gut the substance!

The Assam plains are dominated near equally by the two nations called Asom and Bodo-Cacharias, the later being the aborigines, with a small minority of Western Thais or Tais, which nation supplied the royal dynasty that ruled until the Burmese and English conquests. To complicate matters, there is a large population of East Bengali Hindus, who came in as refugees in 1947, and of East Bengali Muslims, who largely came in as colonists. In each of the hill areas, a different nationality, or a group of nations, dominated.

The capital of the province of Assam was located in the city of Shillong, in the Khasi Hills District. Today, it is in the city of Guwahati, in the plains.

The British introduced in India a curious new term for provincial legislator: MLA, Member of the Legislative Assembly. The Indian Union continues this tradition.

The Mizo National Front was specifically started as a Nationalist movement, to bring about the independence of Mizoram.

"Meghalayam" is a Sanskrit name meaning "abode of the clouds"; the natives of these areas had no historic connection with either India or Sanskrit, and never knew this name before. The territory is populated by two separate ethnic groups. Shillong is the capital.

"Arunachalam" is Sanskrit for "House of the Sun", the former North-East Frontier Agencies or NEFA between Assam, Tibet and Burma. "Arunachal" is populated by nearly a dozen different ethnic groups. Like "Meghalaya", these people had only a tetchy connection with Tibet, and no historic connection with either India or Sanskrit!
©Lucio Mascarenhas.
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