ASSOCIATES OF MAHATMA GANDHI > VINOBA BHAVE >MY DEAR PRANAV > Devnagari Script - 1
16th December, 1990
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 Sanskrit words.
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 national cohesion?
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.
L. N. Godbole