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Millennium Post

Some tongue lash

There’s a lesson to take away from the decision by a number of parliamentarians to take their oath in their mother tongues as opposed to English or Hindi, which have been the official languages for all practical purposes. Lutyens Delhi has been ruled by the two languages for the longest period of time and perhaps the linguistic monopoly reflective of north India has been an ingrained part of its political culture, despite the more diverse makeup of the capital city itself. A city of immigrants from all strata of society and all corners of the country, Delhi has, nevertheless, spoken in only a few tongues, that of those who comprise the north Indian majority. Otherwise, the cosmopolitan elite of Central Delhi have always preferred the tongue reminiscent of the colonial past to the hullabaloo of colloquial and vernacular languages. However, with MPs in Lok Sabha uttering the first words in the language of their choice, often their mother tongue, at times not, there is a happy confluence of tongues that mirrors the enormous diversity of this multiethnic, multicultural and multilinguistic nation. While the Prime Minister spoke in Hindi, some like Sushma Swaraj chose Sanskrit, and Maneka Gandhi picked English. We also heard parliamentarians taking oath in Kannada, Assamese, Bangla, Maithili, Telegu, Tamil, Punjabi and Urdu, in a wonderful potpourri of speeches and idioms interacting with the topmost and hallowed legislative space of all. Inasmuch as the traditional elitism of Delhi’s political culture has been systematically punctured by the rise of Narendra Modi and his potent concoction of mixing vernacular style with nationalistic aggression, the phenomenon has penetrated the mighty walls of Parliament, which had been for decades nurturing the ghosts of an arcane and discredited obsession with class and language hierarchies. The triumph of Narendra Modi is also a victory of the margins over an insular centre that basked in the glory of its unreachability, with English, unfortunately, acting as the impenetrable linguistic barrier.
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