My dear Pranav,
You know that in India we have many regional languages, hundreds of
dialects, besides English and other international languages. Each
language group has its own beauty and script. In addition to this,
it has a great possessive feelings amongst the people. After all,
language is a very great emotional bond. It is a basis of fellow
feeling and togetherness.
India is blessed with several languages. Each group claims to be
superior to the others. Literature and the cultural traditions of a
society are expressed through its language.
English was the official language of the British and it was thrust
on the various peoples of our country from 1835. As a common factor
of oppression, it was a point of hatred during the freedom struggle.
But due to its rich cultural heritage, it also became a link
language between educated Indians. As transportation acquired speed,
people started freely moving about in the four corners of the
country. English became a strong link language, and it continues to
be so even today. But we should not forget that it still is a
language mastered by only about 5% of Indians. The rest of the
people transact their business in their regional languages.
With the advent of democracy it was but natural that the people
wanted their government to function in their own language. In
democracy it cannot be otherwise. In every nationality, language is a
major factor. The new India was divided into various linguistic
states before 1960.
Vinoba organised his bhoodan padayatra during those turbulent days
when people rose in great agitation in favour of their language and
of linguistic states. All the major Indian languages are rich in
their cultural heritage. Most of the Indian languages have a strong
association with Sanskrit. They include Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.
The real distinction is with Tamil, but that too is studded with
In America there are several states but one language, "American". So
is the case in other European countries, USSR, China, and Japan. To
have one common language for India is very difficult. English and
Hindi are the two official languages. How does one bring about
Vinoba suggested an idea. He said that while in Europe each language
exists in a separate nation, India is one nation with several major
languages. Many Indian languages are spoken by many more people than
languages in the European countries. Vinoba considered this diversity
as an asset and not as a problem.
He made another suggestion. He said that all Indian languages should adopt
Devanagari as an addional script. Please note, Pranav, that Vinoba is
not talking of a common script in place of the existing ones. He
said, that Devanagari should be used as an additional script. He
suggested some changes in the present Devanagari script and called it Lokanagari."
I will write more about it in my next letter.