IDENTITY, POLITICS, AND THE MOTHER TONGUE

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by Ananyaa Bhowmik

“Do you think mother‐tongue is a patriotic idea?”

“Of course it is”

“How?”

“Well, we happen to live in a state where the regions were divided according to language. Can you feel patriotic towards your region in a country like India? Patriotism is an inclusive concept, while mother‐tongue gives you identity when identity politics is played. It isolates. It is a constant struggle between feeling proud of your mother‐tongue while being included. By the way…”

“Yes?”

“‘Mother’ Tongue is a Patriotic concept. A conundrum, don’t you think?”

In light of recent events in JNU, and being part of a University (Jadavpur) that is one of the greatest supporters of those “anti‐nationalists”, it is perhaps amusing to note that I am attempting to discuss as patriotic – or nationalistic, even – an idea as mother‐tongue, in occasion of UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day. The University ground is a battlefield as each group tries to define what being a patriot actually means. Cries of “Vande Mataram” (All hail the Mother) ring out. In a country that has forever been portrayed as the Mother Goddess ‐ an object of devotion that is inaccessible, idolized, rigid and unchanging; a mere bearer of children, stripped of any other form of identity, in a burning country where youthful souls struggle to establish individual identities and right to choice, I sit writing on mother‐tongue. Mother‐tongue, which made me a Bengali, all because of a mere genetic accident. And where it all really began.Continue Reading