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Language Policy and Nation Building A comparative case study of Bangladesh and Nepal.

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Presentation on theme: "Language Policy and Nation Building A comparative case study of Bangladesh and Nepal."— Presentation transcript:

1 Language Policy and Nation Building A comparative case study of Bangladesh and Nepal

2 Language Politics in South Asia South Asia as an area of high linguistic diversity South Asia as an area of high linguistic diversity Shift from dominant languages as those of the elite (e.g. Persian, English, Urdu) to mass access and the vernacular Shift from dominant languages as those of the elite (e.g. Persian, English, Urdu) to mass access and the vernacular Massive increase in education and literacy s Massive increase in education and literacy s Continued inequality in terms of access to languages of power (e.g. access to resources and entitlements). Continued inequality in terms of access to languages of power (e.g. access to resources and entitlements).

3 Bangladesh Language Movement Religion as the key aspect of identity invoked in post 47 Pakistan Religion as the key aspect of identity invoked in post 47 Pakistan Urdu as language of governance (a minority elite language in E and W Pakistan) Urdu as language of governance (a minority elite language in E and W Pakistan) Tensions emerged in E.Pakistan that can be explained in terms of a) distribution of power, b) lack of acceptance of Urdu as the language of power. Tensions emerged in E.Pakistan that can be explained in terms of a) distribution of power, b) lack of acceptance of Urdu as the language of power.

4 Let me make it clear to you that the State language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Anyone who tries to mislead you is really the enemy of Pakistan. Without one State language, no nation can remain tied solidly together and function (Jinnah 1948, in Dhaka). Let me make it clear to you that the State language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Anyone who tries to mislead you is really the enemy of Pakistan. Without one State language, no nation can remain tied solidly together and function (Jinnah 1948, in Dhaka).

5 Bangladesh National Identity Nationalist development in Bangladesh over the past half century is a fascinating case of remarkable identity change. The Pakistan movement in the 1940s, the emergence of Bangladesh within less than a quarter of a century of the achievement of Pakistan, and finally the search for a new identity in post-1971 Bangladesh - all these facts point at the volatility of nationalism in Bangladesh (M.H. Kabir 1987).

6 The ruling authorities of Pakistan felt that the Bengali language would ultimately impair the national cohesion of Pakistan. Bengali language is very different from the languages used in West Pakistan and it is identical with the language of West Bengal in India. Thus it was feared that the encouragement of Bengali might ultimately lead to the East wing of Pakistan to develop greater links with West Bengal than with Pakistan. The upholders of the Islamic ideology further argued that Bengali was primarily a language of the Hindus, and the Bengali literature was full of Hindu ideas and ideals. Hence the condemned Bengali as un-Islamic. (from Renaissance and Freedom Movement in Bangladesh by Bhattarcharjee 1973) The ruling authorities of Pakistan felt that the Bengali language would ultimately impair the national cohesion of Pakistan. Bengali language is very different from the languages used in West Pakistan and it is identical with the language of West Bengal in India. Thus it was feared that the encouragement of Bengali might ultimately lead to the East wing of Pakistan to develop greater links with West Bengal than with Pakistan. The upholders of the Islamic ideology further argued that Bengali was primarily a language of the Hindus, and the Bengali literature was full of Hindu ideas and ideals. Hence the condemned Bengali as un-Islamic. (from Renaissance and Freedom Movement in Bangladesh by Bhattarcharjee 1973)

7 Changing basis of E.Pakistan, Bengali and Bangladeshi Identity Bengali Language movement from symbolically significant killing February 1952 of demonstrators protesting for the use of Bangla in government Bengali Language movement from symbolically significant killing February 1952 of demonstrators protesting for the use of Bangla in government Language Martyrs Day (21 Feb) as part of the symbolism of the new State Adoption of Bangla and Urdu as State languages of Pakistan Language Martyrs Day (21 Feb) as part of the symbolism of the new State Adoption of Bangla and Urdu as State languages of Pakistan Bengali language as on of the key aspects of Awami League political agenda. Bengali language as on of the key aspects of Awami League political agenda.

8 Promotion of Nepali Monolingual Nationalism If the younger generation is taught to use Nepali as the basic language, then other languages will gradually disappear, the greater the national strength and unity will result (National Education Planning Commission 1956)

9 Nepal - Contested Monolingual Nationalism in a Multilingual State Nepal as a linguistically diverse country (120+ languages) Nepal as a linguistically diverse country (120+ languages) Recognition of languages as a contested area of State politics Recognition of languages as a contested area of State politics Promotion of Nepali as the language of the State and of development from the 1950s onward Promotion of Nepali as the language of the State and of development from the 1950s onward

10 Language Policy and Conflict Nepali as the elite language (especially in education and institutions of government) - leading to social inequality over access to resources and entitlements Nepali as the elite language (especially in education and institutions of government) - leading to social inequality over access to resources and entitlements Post 1990 (democracy) adoption of multilingualism in the constitution - but resisted in practice by the high court Post 1990 (democracy) adoption of multilingualism in the constitution - but resisted in practice by the high court Language demonstrations in the 1990s (leading to acceptance of right to MT education, and change in broadcasting) Language demonstrations in the 1990s (leading to acceptance of right to MT education, and change in broadcasting)

11 Language Policy, Social Exclusion and Conflict Limitations of monolingual ideology and practice (a European model?) Limitations of monolingual ideology and practice (a European model?) Adoption of monolingualism by dominant groups and those trying to resist (e.g. irony of both Bengali language movement and Janajati movement in Nepal) Adoption of monolingualism by dominant groups and those trying to resist (e.g. irony of both Bengali language movement and Janajati movement in Nepal) Language policy cited in both cases as fuelling social inequality and conflict Language policy cited in both cases as fuelling social inequality and conflict Alternative multilingual approach now being promoted Alternative multilingual approach now being promoted


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