‘Linguistic states doing more harm than good’

The Marathi-speaking councillors of Belgaum City corporation recently conspired to pass a resolution not to honour the Jnanpith Award winning Kannada author, Chandrasekhar Kambar. Kerala and Tamil Nadu have gone to virtual war over the Mulla(i)periyar dam.

The veteran editor, author and columnist T.J.S. George writes:

“It is becoming clearer by the day that the linguistic reorganisation of states has done more harm than good to our country. Instead of welding the nation into a functioning federalism like Canada or Switzerland, it is reminding us of the Austrian and Ottoman empires that came to grief because they could not turn their multicultural diversity into a viable unity….

Ambedkar was among those who warned of the dangers ahead. Nehru had his reservations too. Distinguished foreign pundits cautioned that linguistic division could encourage secessionist forces (See Selig Harrison, India, The Most Dangerous Decades, 1960). The chief argument was that India was different, from Canada and the Ottomans and every other case in history because in India “linguism was only another name for (caste) communalism,” as Ambedkar put it.

“Proving his point, new States became battlegrounds for Marathi Brahmins and Maratha peasant-proprietors, for Kammas and Reddis, for Lingayats and Vokkaligas. D.R. Mankekar, a prominent editor of the 1950s, said: “We find once again, on lifting the linguistic cloak, casteism and love of office grinning at us”.

Read the full column: Choices for linguistically warring India

Also read: Does Kambar deserve Jnanpith ahead of Bhyrappa?

Kambar and Karnad, Bhyrappa and Puttappa & Co

Everybody loves his own Jnanpith winner

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31 Responses to “‘Linguistic states doing more harm than good’”

  1. Vasant Says:

    Before Karnataka was formed, almost a dozen provinces in north karnataka were ruled by Peshwas of Maharashtra directly or indirectly. The administration language was marathi but people in north karnataka region whose language was Kannada were finding it extremely difficult to interact with the system. This was one of the primary reasons for people of north karnataka to fight for Karnataka’s unification under the leadership Aalooru Venkatarayaru so that they can become a part of a state whose administration language is Kannada and where they and their language is treated with dignity n respect. It was people’s aspirations that led to the formation of linguistic states. Coming to B R Ambedkar’s take on Linguistic states, Dr. Ambedkar was very well aware of examples in the world where multi-lingual states had been the source of constant troubles, and believed that India would be “blown up” if its states were multilingual. So, for him the question of carving out states on any basis other than language was ruled out. He held the opinion that ” The reasons why a unilingual State is stable and a multi-lingual State unstable are quite obvious. A State is built on fellow feeling. What is this fellow-feeling ? To state briefly it is a feeling of a corporate sentiment of oneness which makes those who are charged with it feel that they are kith and kin.” He emphasized that a fellow-feeling in the citizens of a state is crucial for the success of democracy, and opined that such a fellow-feeling is difficult to attain unless the citizens of the state spoke one language. He argued that it is not because of any “natural antipathy” between them, but because of bringing them together in “juxtaposition” and forcing them “to take part in a common cycle of participation, such as Government” This is precisely what would have happened if small number of Kannada speakers were made to join a largely marathi speaking Maharashtra. TJS must know that if India is united today, it’s because of a wise decision of creating linguistic states, else, by now, India would have blown up into a medieval India consisting of a variety of States indulging in rivalry and warfare.

  2. Priyank Says:

    The issues that the author has brought up are real.
    However, the source of the problem does not look like the existence of linguistic states but the semi-federal setup that we have. Author seems to believe that the sole-reason for these issues are the linguistic states that we have.
    Any effort to merge the states formed on linguistic-lines will pose greater challenges:
    1. What language shall be used for administration?
    2. What language-policy shall the state adopt?
    3. What education-policy shall the state adopt?
    If the author believes that the answer to all these questions is ‘English’, then it will be in violation of the universal linguistic rights acknowledged by UNESCO.
    History tells us that USSR tried to iron-out the wide-diversity that existed in that particular geographical area. We know what state USSR is in currently.
    Any effort to merge or redraw the linguistic states which needs forcing down a language-policy through (unwilling) people’s throats, might lead to, touch wood, USSR-like situation.

  3. Amarnath Says:

    If the leaders haven’t welded the functional federalism properly in India, that’s the issue in the administration and not with the reorganization of states based on the languages spoken.
    Today, we see that countries like Germany, Japan, France, Israel have all been doing fantastically in all streams as their foundation lies in the language they learn, they speak and they live..

    A large country like India should be divided into states based on some metric or the other, and the most scientific approach was to divide on the basis of the languages spoken.

  4. A Journalist Says:

    I fully agree with TJS George

  5. Chetan Says:

    If the country was not reorganized into states on the basis of language, I think we would have faced more consequences that we are facing now. Though few points raised by TJS George are relevant, but I think it is the failure of the governments for not handling the issues diligently and extra care. Till today the relationship between Center and states are not federal in true sense.

  6. Satish.R Says:

    If linguistics states were not formed, can anyone assure there would be no fight between linguistic groups! The situation would have been more severe…!

  7. Faldo Says:

    India is such a diverse country that trying to find common threads among people is not such an easy task. While language might be a unifying factor in some states especially smaller ones, it gets much trickier when it comes to larger states. Some states historically have had regions that belonged to different kingdoms or administrative units before they were integrated into one state, so it is natural that some fissures remain. People from regions within a state which have not seen much progress or do not enjoy a lot of political power are bound to feel dissatisfied even after linguistic reorganization. Over time it might be better if some of the larger states are further reorganized to ensure better administrative efficiency and reducing the possibility of some states getting special treatment due to their size.

  8. Satish.R Says:

    It is OK to have smaller states, provided all states are having equal representation at centre. All states have same number of LS & RS MPs. Otherwise voises of smaller states will never be honoured!
    In a dispute between two states, generally centre tends to support the one which has more MPs/ probability of winning more seats!!
    look at Karnataka-maharashtra, karnataka – tamilnadu, karnataka andhra disputes. Always centre stood in favour of bigger states.

  9. Anand G Says:

    The logic of George can be verified by looking at the princely state of Hyderabad, where the state was ruled by urdu speaking Nizams. During Nizam’s era, the condition of kannada speaking people is an example of – what happens if the adminisration language and people’s languages are different. The same in case kannada speaking parts of Mumbai presidency, where Marathi was the official language. The meaning of democracy itself gets defeated, if the administrative language is different from the one spoken by common man.

  10. DoddiBuddi Says:

    With due to respect to ole Georgie boy he is wrong! Karnataka came into being only because of Kannada unification. I shudder to think what existed after Marathas and various Palegars masquerading as Kings looted the land. A few transient Malayalees can flit in and out of States but not the Kannadigas. I think the States have done fairly well. It is the Congress and its anti-work culture that have stymied the States and their development.

    Look outside India and you see Sri Lanka. Tamils cornered most jobs under the British, almost disenfranchised the native Lankans and there was a bloody blow back lasting 40 years! That is the practical result of disturbing the natural language order in a country (state?).

    Organization as States based on language is the most practical thing. Nehru was wrong on many things and IMHO he fails spectacularly again! A worthy great granddad to Rahul G!

  11. dr ramesh Says:

    Unity in diversity is under great threat . Linguistic harmony of india is being destroyed bit by bit by forceful hindi imposition. If this is not stopped,there is great risk of balkanisation of india.look at namma metro,it is shameful to hear announcements in hindi. Nehru foresaw the possible adverse effects of a homogenous india,so he played a great visionary role in creating a multi-lingual india. But short-sightedness of pseudo-nationalists is destroying the very foundation of india.

  12. Rohith Says:

    A ridiculously wrong ’cause’ finding of an otherwise rightly perceived ‘effect’.

    If dividing people of one language into different states is eventually what TJS is subtly referring to as the ‘choice’ here, that would be the most horrendous thing to happen to this nation given its current condition in terms of material development & rate of progress.

    Come to think of it, what’s more important – happiness of societies living together since centuries or retaining a 64 year old nation together alleged of dwindling material benefit? TJS’s choice seems to be pointing in the wrong direction!? Come on, organization of people into linguistic states is the best way to make use of the natural fact that people of the same language flock & get together well and when people get together well they end up doing great things towards mutual welfare and thereby build a strong & united nation. Any short & near-term fluctuations appearing to be upsetting the system are but the challenges one will have to face in a linguistically diverse country such as ours. Why fear that and end up correlating a wrong cause to the right effect?

  13. Krishna Says:

    Dadda Buddi,

    Hardwork is the mantra in this generation. You cant keep on blabbering on the same tamil issue again and again quoting different countries. Try to dominate your state based on hardwork, intelligence rather than forceful ethnic cleansing which will result in mass graveyards.

  14. sanjeeva Says:

    Mr. George is talking through his hat. There are tens of reasons for the differences between different states. Language is not one of them. Mostly the differences are political in nature. I am a Kannadiga and have resided for more than 6 years each in three different states in the course of my transfer. I was neither discriminated nor faced any sort of inconvenience or obstacle during my stay and have always enjoyed the stay. Mr. George’s reasonings are weak and unfounded. There are differences even within the states where a common language is spoken.

  15. Amarnath Says:

    Mr George is one of the most respected journalists around us, but he has cleverly underplayed the division of country on the basis of linguistic rights.
    The real solution lies in having strong border rules between states, having proper river water sharing regulations which will help one and all.
    Only commonality amongst people to be mapped under a single umbrella is the language they speak.
    If India wasn’t scooped into many different states now, the pseudo nationalists would have passed rules and regulations and orders to make sure that Hindi is made the compulsory language throughout the country through their wicked motive saying that Hindi will help in National integration.
    Thank god..I am safe in Karnataka today and I still speak my own language Kannada instead of speaking some alien language which none of my ancestors spoke..

  16. ಗುರು Says:

    ಜಾರ್ಜರವರು ಎತ್ತಿಗೆ ಜ್ವರಬಂದಾಗ ಎಮ್ಮೆಗೆ ಬರೆ ಎಳಿತಾ ಇದ್ದಾರೆ…

  17. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    Make economic justice prevail everywhere. Problems, whatever they are, will take care of themselves.

    If qualified Kannadigas can find the kinds of jobs they want in Karnataka, the KRV and its sinful imitations will be gone in no time.

    Yet another Kannada jaathre at Yellamma’s cost. Same old chants. Did CPK say Kannada can withstand any assault? The reality is otherwise.

  18. maisuru Says:

    I feel re-organization of states had a hidden agenda . It was the first step at abolition of the Princely order. Till than the post of Rajpramukh was a heredity post guaranteed by the Art-363 (21) of the constitution. For example who ever was recognized as the Maharaja of Mysore would have axiomatically become the Rajpramukh of the state. It was true of all Part-B states.

    By a clever bogey of Re-organization of the states on Linguistic basis this constitutional guarantee to retain the monarchical heads of the states in Mysore, Hyderabad and other merged covenating states like Madhyabharat etc was effaced once for all !

  19. dr ramesh Says:

    In bangalore, software head honchos, pvt sector companies have branded kannadigas unfit and useless for skilled jobs. People who speak about merit and big stuff, discriminate on language.this is the darker and cruel facet of software industry in bangalore. Kannadigas are denied access to some of the posh apartment complexes coming up in bangalore and mysore. This brings back memories of aparthied . In north east indian states,people are paying 20-25% more for petrol,gas and other daily needs. There is clear cut discrimination. But no one cares. What should people do after decades of protest,plead and compliance, naturally krv and likes ,which honestly take up the cause and fight for justice ,will gain credibility and grow. Arm chair nationalists in their ac room comfort ignore realities.

  20. Pulikeshi the Last Says:


    Excellent analysis, but where is the local talent? Why can it not assert itself?

  21. Nastika Says:

    Just like Hindi is forced upon Karnataka students’ throat, Kannada is being coerced in Tulunadu. Tulu is being bulldozed by Kannada. Proof being there isn’t any Tulu newspaper and hardly any Tulu literature !

    Tulu speakers must form separate state in the interest of Tulu language and free from the clutches of Kannada.


  22. Vinay Says:

    Dr. Ramesh:

    What exaggeration!!

    “Software companies have branded Kannadigas unfit” – where did you get that from???

    Lots of Kannadigas work in IT here. Maybe this perception has come because in absolute numbers, non-Kannadigas are more. But that is expected anywhere in the country, simply because there are not enough number of qualified people from one particular state/community/language.

    Tomorrow if a few IT companies open offices in Cochin, you will see that Mallus will be in a minority there, and there will be staff from all over, including Bangalore and Mysore. Same if someone goes to Patna.

    And I call BS on your statement about “Kannadigas denied access to some of the posh apartments”. This sounds like a fabrication. Tell me more about this? What exactly are you talking about?

  23. dr ramesh Says:

    Pulikeshi, i am no expert in corporate practices of software industry, but i know about few mid-tier software companies and bio technology companies in jayanagar,basavanagudi where the skilled workforce is 80% non-kannadiga. Inside information is , hiring has got nothing todo with merit as skill quotient is the same in kannadiga or a non -kannadiga, but there is a deliberate effort by managements to ignore kannadigas . They feei if this hAppens for a decade, kannadigas may be totally marginalised in bangalore and mysore, kannadiga voters will be reduced thereby leading to non-kanndigas ruling the cities. I have spoken to newly recruited nonlocalites, and believe u me they are as bad, or as good as a kannadiga engineering graduate from bidar, kolar, gubbi,chitradurga etc. Karnataka govt should realise this and create more govt jobs ( even at the cost of exchequer) and foil the attempt of software and biotech czars to make bangalore,mysore and mangalore non-kannada cities.

  24. Anonymous guy Says:

    Due to freedom of movement within India, over-population and ghetto mentality, this is to be expected in any business/industry in India. Nothing specific to IT.

    Dr.Ramesh, North Indians dominate business, Telugu speakers dominate real estate etc., this has been happening even before Karnataka was formed – what is new about IT in this regard? At least in IT, there is secularism, it is not only 1 group which dominates everywhere.

    Even inside successful industries nepotism rules. Most politicians nowadays are children of politicians, most film stars are children of etc. This is our way – strength in numbers and our tribe/caste system. Will not go away, we just have to learn to adapt, since we cant close the borders of Karnataka. We can take the route of Mallus/Tamilians and make life difficult for non-kannadigas, but that is not in our nature. Anyway is that how we want to be?

  25. DailyBread Says:


    >Tulu speakers must form separate state in the interest of Tulu language and free from the clutches of Kannada.

    More power to your elbow Sir. When you get your state, please build 5-6 world class cities in your state.

  26. dr ramesh Says:

    Exactly, we have to adapt. Bruhat bengaluru mahanagara palike was created merging many villages on the fringes of the city,this way kannadiga population atleast technically goes up. Creation of more govt jobs , increased recruitement of drivers, para medical staff, police constables by state govt will result in more and more kannada families coming to bangalore,mysore and mangalore thereby having a buffering action for the growth of kannada. The most historic judgement regarding language was given 2 days back by a sessions court of junagadh,gujarat which considered hindi a language alien to gujaratis. It was regarding a circular released by a govt authority in hindi in gujarat. Indian software czars make big noise when protectionist trade measures are taken in usa, they forget the discrimination they are doing in karnataka. Its only a taste of their own medicine.

  27. Vinay Says:

    Dr. Ramesh:

    Still waiting to hear examples of how “Kannadigas denied access to some of the posh apartments”.

    I have a feeling that someone is feeding you bs and conspiracy theories, and that is the reason for your resentment against IT industry.

  28. shruthi Says:

    linguistic states had made our india united

  29. sonia Says:

    I agree with that formation of linguistic states have helped in unifying our country as the people are happy with their life.

  30. Indian Says:

    tulu,bodo,maithili,santhali,garhwali,marwari…all are being killed or murdered by Hindi,Assamese,Bengali,Kannada etc etc etc…….teach english and teach the mother tongue..reorganize sates as we see it NOT HOW THE BRITISHERS SAW IT…..over….English helps communicate with the world and Mother tongue with our society…..Dumbasses Hindi fully evolved out approx 200-300 yrs ago and English is in India for the same duration then who says English is a foreign language…just because it came from outside…..then so did persian and so is Hindi….Also Sanskrit came from outside..it is also foreign and so are all sanskritic languages….Duffers..lolzzz!!!

    America is a mixture of all races and they speak English outside and their respective dialects at home..no wonder even half as talented as us Indians yet they are way ahead of us….

  31. PRASAD ROY Says:

    I would personally prefer states with somewhat equal population so that every state has equal representation at the centre and therefore equal voice unlike the present small and large states with unequal population and representation.

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