Language is a medium that allows us to communicate, identify, and express ourselves. However, this kind of expression, along with other social identities, usually results in systemic prejudice against particular communities. Whether it’s the language’s fundamentals, which reflect and reinforce gender binary norms, or its intersection with an individual’s religion, nationality, or place of belonging.

Religion, gender, and language are often categorised as the building blocks of an individual’s identity. Each of these factors influences a person’s beliefs, values, and perceptions of themselves and others. Often, discrimination based on religion, gender, or linguistic choices is seen independently; nevertheless, the confluence of gender and religion, as well as linguistic preference, has a significant influence on individuals and communities. While religion influences a person’s moral and ethical ideals, gender incorporates social and cultural expectations, and language both reflects and reinforces gender binary norms in society.  

Religion & Language:

Language has always been a fundamental tool for portraying a religion. Whether it’s Arabic for Islam, Sanskrit for Hinduism, or Hebrew for Christianity, all of these affiliations stem from sacred texts written in these languages. Harold Schiffman in his book, “Linguistics, Culture and Language Policy’ explains that “One of the most basic issues where language and religion intersect is the existence, in many cultures, of sacred texts […]. For cultures where certain texts are so revered, there is often almost an identity of language and religion, such that the language of the texts also becomes sacred…”) 

However, with the need for a separate identity, this linkage of languages tied to certain religions mutated over time. The shift in language of South Asian Muslims to Urdu, Hindus to Hindi, and Christians to English is an important example of this. This language shift describes how linguistic choices change as the need for a separate identity grows. 

However, these linguistic freedoms quickly devolved into systemic discrimination against minority populations. Massive protests erupted at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 2020 over the appointment of a Muslim associate professor in the faculty of literature of Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan (SVDV). Protesters argued that a Muslim professor would be incapable of teaching Sanskrit, a Hindu language. NDTV writes, “The administration backed the professor. The panel that selected him, which includes Professor Radhavallabh Tripathi, one of India’s most eminent Sanskrit scholars, repeatedly said he(the appointed Muslim professor) was the most qualified candidate.”

Not only that, but hate campaigns and violence erupted in various parts of India in light of the use of Urdu in advertisements for ‘Hindu festivals.’ Nivedita Menon, a professor at the Centre for Political Studies at JNU, told Al Jazeera, The Hindutva project sees Urdu as a ‘Muslim’ language. And invisibilising Urdu is part of the larger project of marginalising the Muslim community, in fact, physically eliminating it.” Linguists and historians contend that Hindi and Urdu evolved from ‘Khadi Boli,’ a dialect of the Delhi region, and are profoundly influenced by Persian, Turkish, Arabic, and Sanskrit. This hatred of a language because its identity is associated with a minority religion, despite its origins in India, highlights how segregation and systematic hatred towards minority religions are carried out through the use of languages.

Gender & Language:

Languages reflect and reinforce gender norms and the gender binary. This has an intricate connection with the culture, religion, and history of the language. In recent years, queer activists and linguists all over the world have advocated for the necessity of gender-neutral terms. While some languages incarcerate gender in binaries, others prove gender’s presence outside of binaries by not gendering inanimate objects. While individuals assert that gender-neutral language is a Western concept, many Indian languages dispute this claim. Languages like Bangla, Assamese, Bhojpuri, Kannada, Angika, Maithili, and others do not limit gender into binaries, while Sanskrit uses masculine, feminine, and gender-neutral terms to refer to inanimate objects.

However, the most widely spoken languages, such as Hindi and French, do enforce binary. So, why are certain languages unable to use gender-neutral verb conjugation? While extra research is needed, basic efforts by native speakers of these languages may increase the possibilities of making these languages inclusive for everyone.

“On my first day of my bachelor’s degree, when I addressed myself as ‘hum’, my professor asked me how many people I am addressing with myself.”- Chandan Kumar, in an article by Youth ki Awaaz. This linguistic rigidity is a result of the Hindi belt’s class superiority. Hindi teachers must stop such rigorous pronoun implementation, and textbooks should be revised to include a discussion of gender outside of binaries. Another source of optimism is the use of second-person pronouns in Hindi. The usage of ‘aap’ while speaking to elders or as a sign of respect, regardless of gender, supports the idea that ‘aap is neutral and assuming someone’s gender is disrespectful.’ Aside from this, we can make our language more inclusive by not strictly categorising non-living things as masculine or feminine.

While language has the potential to bring people together, it can also be used to isolate and oppress them. While individuals argue that changing language to incorporate gender-neutral terminology is impossible since language represents history and culture, the development and shift to new languages by religious communities as the need for a separate identity emerged rejects this notion.

Read Also: Language and Patriarchy: The Case of Gendered Language

Featured Image Credits: Deccan Herald

Dhruv Bhati

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What is necessary – cultural unification or the recovery of culture? Read ahead as the writer weighs these arguments with her Sindhiyat experience.

“May I, a grandchild of Partition, be able to walk the streets of Anarkali…”, read a postcard addressed to the city of Lahore at an exhibition based on Partition held at the National Gallery of Modern Arts. Ghar, Zameen, Jaidad of millions, all lost in the wake of a tragedy that still largely engulfs our nation. Apart from the daily vendetta, what engulfs us more is the culture, and that, for me as a writer, is the language.

So while answering questions arising from confusion over my surname, the dialogue outside is overtaken by the dilemma inside. Sindhi? But how? Just because of the surname? Because the river after which the entire community was named is almost on the verge of drying up and the place called Sindh was left almost 75 years ago. So what’s left of all is the language, the shores of which are drying up quickly.

Even if you go somewhere empty-handed, you will take your language with you”, said my Urdu Professor.

In the case of Sindhi, I guess it travelled too long, losing its tids and bits on the way, where it got disintegrated to the extent that we only got Johnny Lever in almost all movies adding Sai at the end of each sentence in the name of cultural representation and cracking some chindi jokes. So it does make one sad when you realise the collective damage that so many of such communities have suffered at the altar of history, at the hands of those who tried to shape it according to their whims? Such whims today talk of “our” heritage, culture, and its preservation; funnily such, “our” does not aim at identifying the dynamic and diverse reality of this land but rather in the imposition of one culture, one language. That’s how politics is, the language used by poets and lovers to carve out confessions of love can be shaped fluently at the behest of ideologies to spew hatred in disregard of those very languages.

Linguistic hegemony has been a major tool for controlling the narratives, be it the attempt to impose Urdu on Eastern Pakistan– later Bangladesh, a Bengali speaking region that became a major reason for the partition of Western Pakistan and Eastern Pakistan– or the unannounced but underlying duel of Urdu and Hindi that goes on amidst the deemed “champions” of Linguistics.

In this fight for hegemony, no language appears to be a winner. Hindi imperialism does no good to Hindi with its negligence in academia or the ignored writers in the publishing scene, whose achievements are not even appreciated by these very “champions of Hindi”.

A lot has been lost already. Recovering and preserving what remains can’t be done with the imposition of one language. Attempts to promote linguistic diversity should be made with utmost necessity, not just with language centres but with the sharing of what is “ours”, rather than the imposition of what is being termed as “ours” on a national level.

Kashish Shivani

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Language is being altered to bring change, create conversations among people, and include certain communities. The effectiveness of the same, however, doesn’t enjoy consensus.

For centuries, women have been on the receiving end of objectification, racism, and sexism. Waves of the feminist movement have attempted to minimise the gap between genders across the world. Amid these efforts, some activists and linguists realised the role of language in perpetuating the existence of harmful sociological patterns. A tool as basic as language, they believe, has the power to bring about change by breaking the normalcy in the lives of people.

The term ‘womxn’ is an alternative term for the English language word ‘women’ which have been used occasionally to explicitly include transgender women. Scholars of English have used terms like “wimmin” and womyn”, as an alternative to rejecting the folk etymology of ‘woman’ allegedly being ‘of man’. While the cause behind the usage of this word is noble, the very idea of altering the language to bring change has failed to invite consensus from people.

In October 2018, a programme of events at the Welcome Collection, a museum in London, ‘Daylighting’ used the term ‘womxn’ and triggered a national controversy in the United Kingdom. While some supported theidea, many others outrightly rejected it, with a belief that the word is ratherexclusive, and portrays transgenderwomen as being different. The intersectionality that the word seeks to achieve fails to achieve unanimity. A few days later, Welcome Collectionapologised publicly, owing to thebacklash received by it on Twitter and elsewhere.

There are multiple views regarding the same. A Twitter user, Sam Baxter, asked, “Who exactly is this meant to include? Trans women call themselves women, non-binary people don’t call themselves women at all. The only thing that comes to mind is that this could be to include both ‘woman’and ‘women’, which implies there are women who identify as plurals.”

Priyanshi Banerjee, a student of Lady Shri Ram College for Women said, “Languages and linguistics are not isolated from psychology and society, these are overlapping concepts. The introduction of ‘womxn’ as a term would be fruitful. Even if one person bats an eyelid over the term and googles about the word, one would come across the word- ‘woman’ and realise its etymology- ‘of man’, that would mean the realisation of deep- seated patriarchy which exists without realisation. That realisation is a victory.”

While there are harder conflicts regarding the inclusion of different genders, most people are on a consensus regarding the patriarchal nature of the word ‘woman’. Women, the most importantstakeholders of this issue, are not at one with each other, when it comes to doing away with it. Some of them believe that altering language isn’t fruitful, and the conversations that it might bring about are restricted to the privileged class, who are not victims of the same kind of oppression. The inclusion that this word aims to achieve, they think, is both tokenistic and unnecessary.

But there are others who believe that language, as a tool is effective to bring about change. Terms like “wimmin” and “womyn” were introduced to normalise the pronunciation of words employed by certain communities. They think that something as basic as language can create powerful conversations around the norms of patriarchy, and the exclusionary nature of certain words.

In the end, certain questions linger. Is language effective enough to bringchange? If it is, should it be used at all? Are we, in order to create conversations, willing to appropriate the lives of certain genders, who might or might not agree with the usage of such words?

Feature Image Credits: Rukshana Kapali, Transgender Activist

Kuber Bathla

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Whether single or taken the new age dating lingo is an attraction to all of us. With many of us unaware of these new age terms we feel uncool in our gang of buddies, who discuss about their baes with millennial slang terms. Keeping this in mind we have hereby compiled a list of the uncommon, hip enough dating terms that will make you shine and grab the coolest place in your squad.

1. Nonversation– All the boring mainstream conversations on dating apps beginning from Introducing one another awkwardly and finally ending for a strange proposal for a video call are termed as nonversations. These banters lead to one common destination — nowhere.

2. Orbiting– Having an origin from the linguistic register of space research and astronomy makes this term even more ‘lit’. Just like the planets orbit around the sun the same way an orbiter despite of breaking all the contacts with you keeps hovering and orbiting around your social media. Whether commenting on your recent post or liking the picture you uploaded months back he or she does it all.

3. Layby – Tired of your present relationship? But, yet have not made it clear and are attempting to lay grounds for the girl or guy you want to date next ? This is what makes you a laybyer. Just like a person before leaving a current job gives interviews in new companies the same way a laybyer before breaking up starts investing in his or her future girl or guy. A complete ass isn’t it ?

4. Breadcrumbimg– This involves the category of people who texts and talks enough to make the other person fall for them but never follows through any plans or making any kind of commitments aka the whole loaf of bread. It is synonymous to the usage of ‘time pass’ for people.

5. Sunday night fever– this term is in reference with those young, lonely and single guys or girls who in an attempt to make their weekend interesting every sunday night flirt with dozens of people and propose them for a meet up. Such a pity !

6. Zombie-ing– When a wicked tries to enter your life usually after orbiting for a bit of time it is referred as zombieing. However, unlike actual zombies they even have a mask of humanity owing to which they begin their conversation with a ‘Hey’ followed by a ‘wassup’.

7. Dating down – When a person dates with someone inferior to him/her in terms of general attractiveness or intellect he or she is often said to be dating down. It is synonyms to the ironical usage of the quote ‘Love is blind’.

8. Fizzling – The cunning utilisation of the message technology to display ones lack or loss of interest in someone by responding inappropriately to a potential love message is called fizzling. This technique also saves one from the ugly and guts requiring face to face break up as the partner feeling undesired himself or herself starts maintaining a distance. Indeed a clever approach for a break up !

9. Megadating – This term is used In reference with a true dating pro who at a particular time juggles and has fun with a number of non-exclusive relationships and has a calendar booked with girls or guys.

10. Ghost– The act of abruptly ending all the conversations with someone special without giving any explanation or reasoning is called ghosting. Just like fizzling it’s an artful way of permanent separation from your spouse.

So, the next time your boyfriend or girlfriend messes with you, you know the appropriate word to describe your situation to your buddies. And if you are the sassy single, you can enjoy understanding and listening to the stories of your taken friends in their trendy lingo language.

Featured Image credits – Onlineprofilepros.com

Kriti Gupta

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A recent online wave in Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR) highlighted a silent setback in the campus. Many students raised voices in unison, against the cancer of discrimination.

Lines along the Indian landmass were demarcated years ago, along linguistic isobars . Years later, linguistic lines lurk around the corridors of LSR, a difference which stands – one language pushes others to the shackles of exclusion. Language – a tool of communication fails its capability when the very tool of communication becomes the tool of division. A virtual pedestal is set in many minds, merely based on an entitled proficiency in a certain language.

The heavy words of empowerment, solidarity and strength lie as empty rhetoric while the ‘superior’ language is garlanded with appreciation. October witnessed an online ‘mini-movement’ when Overheard LSR drew light upon the issue of inclusivity in LSR. The initiative got a great response from students; turning out to be like a litmus test for the impending superiority which reigns supremacy in the campus. As the discussion progressed, a sharp turn took it towards language barriers. Overheard LSR asserted – “Life in LSR is complicated, to say the least. From the outside, it looks great. It shows you woman power and solidarity and makes you feel like you’ve found a place to belong in… However, for so many people LSR is exactly what it supposedly fights against… Everytime we convert a class of 18-year-olds into groups, into ‘us’ and ‘them’ – look around. What is it that’s right in front of us each day and yet we consciously choose to look right past it?”

Students, specially from the Department of Hindi and Sanskrit face a lot of problems in this regard. Simple activities turn out to be a huge weight on one’s bosom. A student from the Department of Hindi who did not wish to be named said, “I come from a very small town in Uttarakhand. At the very beginning I was excited about LSR, but eventually, language turned out to be a great barrier. Even when I got my subject for General Elective, I had to change it because my teachers used English as the medium for lectures which made the task of understanding very difficult. Eventually, I opted for Sanskrit as the language is not an issue in this case,”. She further added, “If I wish to talk to people from any other department, then English has to be a must; also  listening to them speak in English makes me feel that I thought of talking to the wrong person. Here, English is a ‘status language’ but I do face a lot of problem – whether it comes to the administration or professors. I feel like only talking to people from my own department”

Anjali Jha, another student from the Department of Hindi said, “I think our professors sometimes ignore students from the departments of Hindi and Sanskrit. We never said that we have any problem regarding the usage of English as the medium. However, our professor speaks in Hindi whenever she talks to us, it feels ‘weird’. Just because someone opts for Hindi or Sanskrit does not mean that she does not know English, it is only the fact that someone wants to pursue a specific subject.”

While alienation cannot be a neglected fact, a peaceful coexistence does find a place . Anusha Khan, a first-year student pursuing English Honours who has keen interest in Hindi and Urdu poetry had something to say, “I recently participated in the inter-college Hindi/ Urdu Poetry competition which was an overwhelming experience. It made me realise  how exquisite any language can be. No means of expression need any kind of validation from anyone.”

A student from LSR who wanted to remain anonymous said, “I am not sidelining the fact that discrimination is the harsh truth. But being a part of the college magazine, I must say that diversity is acknowledged. Recently, we shortlisted Language Editors- Assamese, Bengali, Kashmiri, Telegu; we have editors for many languages. An inclusive space is not absolutely obsolete.”

Thoughts have been highlighted but an emphasised change is awaited.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives


Priyanshi Banerjee

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A demand to introduce Maithili as one of the languages offered by the University has been raised by a section of teachers from the University of Delhi.

This comes into light after the Delhi Government had announced the proposal of having Maithili as a subject for the students whose mother language is Maithili. It will be taught as an optional subject for classes 8 to 12 in Delhi schools.

In a letter addressed to the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Yogesh Tyagi by Associate Professor Rajiv Kumar Verma  from Satyawati College, the latter puts forward various reasons for introducing Maithili as a part of the subjects offered by the University. 

He brings into light that during the academic session this year, Maithili Elective/Core were included in the language subjects. Further strengthening his stand, he said that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) also introduced Maithili as an optional paper in which many candidates have been successful. 

Mr. Verma has been a former Academic Council (AC) member. 

The action has been perceived as a welcome move throughout the University.

Mr. Rajesh Jha, a member of the University’s executive council quotes, “Maithili is spoken in areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar. This year, around 50,000 students had applied from UP and 15,120 from Bihar for admission in DU.” 

As of now, the University of Delhi’s Department of Modern Indian Languages offers courses in languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Assamese, Bengali, Kannada and Gujarati amongst others but not in Maithili. 

It is therefore expected that having the language would grab the interest of a large number of students studying in the University.

Delhi University Student’s Union (DUSU) President Mr. Akshat Dahiya also said that the introduction of Maithili will be a great inclusionary step for the students from Purvanchal and encouraged the move. 

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives.

Amrashree Mishra

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In this age of globalisation, how much importance is given to English? Is it justified to let go of your mother tongue for the sake of your colonizer’s language? 

In the English Communication-Ability Enhancement Compulsory Course (AECC), as I sat cursing my life for having to study the same, a random statement by a student made me think deeply about something as basic as language. India has traditionally been a country of Multilingualism aka, a nation with a plethora of languages, ranging from the discourse of Hindi domination to the slow death of tribal languages; India is a land of languages. An average Indian has the fluency to converse in their mother tongue, their colonizer’s tongue and the apparent ‘National’ language of the country. This tradition has been prevalent through generations as families converged into different communities and castes, exchanged their languages and thus, gave birth to what we popularly call as khichdi.

Our generation is perhaps the only generation that speaks the tongue of the colonizer better than their own. The superiority complex, elitism, and classism surrounding the English language take us centuries back in the revolution of social change and diversity. The dominance of English and pursuing other foreign languages such as French, Spanish, German, and Japanese in schools run on the assumption that the student is familiar with ‘at least’ two-three languages. The dying roots of Indian languages arise because of the invisible discriminatory lines between English elitism and the regional ‘lower-class’ mentality. Sardar Patel Vidyalaya in Delhi promotes students to take up regional languages in their middle school instead of international languages. What’s the point in learning French when you cannot even understand your mother tongue?

Nouresha, a student of Kamala Nehru College whose mother tongue is Mauritian Creole and is well-versed with 4 other languages says, “Being born and bred in Mauritius, I was able to read, speak and write English, French and Hindi fluently from a young age. Sometimes people wonder how we are able to speak more than two languages, this is due to the country’s roots in a complex history of immigration and colonization. I can tell from personal experience that, be it in the business context or a social one, the ability to speak various languages fluently has never failed to attract attention, admiration, and awe.”

Gone are the days when people were well-versed with a multitude of languages and could sweep one off with their multilingualism, today, a heavy English word, would get you all the appreciation. With the rising trend of losing our language, we have given birth to, kya kehte hai, Hinglish; the perfect mixture of not having a proper command in either of the languages. The failure to communicate in a particular language, mostly a regional language is seen as an ‘achievement’ and comes with a sense of entitlement and reeks of privilege. But, the failure to communicate in English, comes with a sense of shame and feeling left out.

How ironic is it that I am writing this in English. The rise of Hinglish prevents an individual from not only trying to enhance or expand their linguistic aptitude but also makes them proud of their privilege.

Forget International languages or other regional languages, on an average, every Indian is well-versed with English as a first language and their mother tongue as a second language. How blinded are we to notice that we are going wrong? The ‘global language’ credit surely floats with English, but where does the supremacy come from? In the media industry, the prominence given to English news channels and English newspapers is unparalleled to the recognition and prominence of regional platforms.

The failure to comprehend even one language in its entirety is rather seen as a self-pity thing instead of something to be worked upon. The rate at which we are proceeding, it seems to be a close reality that the future generations would prefer Hinglish or a mixture of other languages (English + another regional language) instead of gaining proficiency in various languages. The entire point of learning diverse languages is to ‘diversify’ your skills, not create a mixture or let go of your roots.

Sarah Susan Varkey, a student of Jesus and Mary College who is proficient in 4 languages says, “I feel the invaluable cultural teachings and traditions can be transferred successfully only by learning the mother tongue; which is extremely important to preserve in the current scenario where everyone is getting influenced by the west. However, learning a foreign language provides a competitive edge in career choices. In a way, multilingualism improves knowledge of one’s own language.”

Feature Image Credits: Indian Institute of Legal Studies

Anandi Sen

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What makes India India, is its composite nature, its many cultures and languages which is why imposing one single language on all the people is problematic, at the same time the alternative is continuing with a language that was once imposed on us (quite ironically, the language used in this article as well).




In the current political context, this is a word we don’t feel shy throwing around. We may add a suffix such as ‘hyper’ or ‘anti’ at times but the root word remains. But what really does the word indicate?


Unlike what many believe, nationalism is not simply the love for one’s country, it is the contempt for all others, it is the belief that one’s nation is superior to all other nations. Nationalism also appeals to the identity of the person, a sense of belonging or one force that binds everyone together to the nation.


When Indian nationalism developed during the freedom struggle, it was based on the territory of India that constituted the entire population despite their diverse backgrounds. It was anti-colonial nationalism aimed to create a sense of patriotism with the purpose of attaining self-governance.


After attaining Independence, it was the need to rid ourselves of colonial elements that Hindi was proposed to be the language of administration and governance. Due to protests in the southern states, a compromise was made that there will be a fifteen-year period to transition from English to Hindi but as temporary provisions go in India, this transition was never made.


After seventy-three years, the language debate still continues. This year, for instance, the National Education Policy draft recommended mandatory Hindi classes in all schools, even in non-Hindi speaking areas. This clause was met by protests in the south and was thus removed but it nonetheless proves that ‘nationalists’ of this country have not given up on the hope of having one language that would unify all the people of the nation.


While this idea seems promising and also gives us a sense of letting go of our colonised past, the need to implement Hindi as the common language of the country is not driven by anti-colonial nationalism as much as it is by cultural nationalism. Cultural nationalism is a form of nationalism in which the nation is defined by a shared culture, it focuses on the identity of a nation and its people shared by common language and traditions.


Those rooting for the imposition of Hindi are not rooting against English or the west, in fact, a lot of them can be seen celebrating Donald Trump’s birthday in Delhi, but it is their need to create a homogenous cultural identity that makes them make such demands. This imposition is especially felt by those from South and North East India, students coming from these states to Delhi for higher education are faced by casual comments like ‘this is why they need to teach Hindi everywhere’ when they can not comprehend the language.


At the same time, what is the alternative?


English was also an imposed language, Lord Macaulay in 1835 decided for us that English should be the language of education, instead of other ‘Oriental’ languages. It is the language of the colonisers and even when English is said to have been appropriated by Indians as is evident in postcolonial literature, the truth still stands that as long as we continue to give English the importance that we do, we diminish the importance of our own culture and languages.


Then, of course, there is the three-language formula, one that says that each state should teach English, Hindi and any other non-Hindi language. The issue with this is that while almost all students receiving formal education in India learn Hindi up to a certain grade, those living in the Hindi belt do not reciprocate the same respect to other regional languages. You will not find many students in Delhi learning Tamil or Manipuri in their schools, instead, their school would offer German or French (thus furthering the ‘west is best’ idea).


Both Hindi and English are languages that one cannot sustain without while living in India, and it is these languages that show up, front and centre while engaging in the language debate, but in the midst of it all, it is our regional languages that suffer the brunt of English and Hindi tyranny.


Featured Image Credits- Deccan Herald


Gauri Ramachandran

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The British have left our country but have left their superiority behind. Should we see regional language speakers as any lesser than us?
English language is considered to be essential for us in educational institutions, jobs and even all around the world. It holds importance and is one of the most spoken language all over the world. But does this mean it is better than other languages? Why is the ability to speak in English seen to exceptional? Why are English TV shows and poetry cooler than that regional ones?
While the importance of English as a language is indisputable, what becomes wrong is seeing English as superior and other languages as inferior, these feelings of inferiority thereby get associated even to the person speaking in that language. For instance, a friend of mine was trying to describe how the crowd in her college was and said, “The crowd is good and all, like people can speak proper English”. This is just an instance of how people, including yours truly, are guilty of using this skill as a metric to judge many people we come across.
Vidhi Arora of Kamala Nehru College commented, “In my opinion, the dominance of English language not only creates a class divide, but also harms the indigenous cultures and traditions, i.e. that aren’t “cool” enough because of the language they are performed in. People are disincentivised from the anything native : folk art, old story telling or even the Indian celebrated authors like Rabindranath Tagore and Premchand are sidelined because of the language that they were written in”.
A few weeks back I went to Zakir Hussain College for a Parliamentary Debate. A part of that event was a performance by a few shayars. Their performance got no applause and no recognition, to break this palpable awkwardness they made jokes and said “Slam poetry ka zamaana aa gaya hai, ab yeh shayariya kaha pasand aayegi”. The world has become a place where shayari, Sufi nights , ghazals and poetry in Urdu or Hindi no longer are appreciated.
It has become evident how this hierarchy is created by the virtue of speaking a language.

Opinions of people, their potential, the general idea of what is “cool enough” is based on this simple, but unfair idea. These ‘sophisticated’ spaces, where the elite are allowed to exist. Let us look at the flip side of this. In the film often in India cinema this beautiful foreigner is a character (Lara from Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani) speaks broken Hindi and is still seen as “cute” and adorable.

Devanshi Khatter provides a unique point of view, “I feel the reason activities like shayaris or dohas, something that us even taught to us in school, is getting faded away and being overshadowed by slam poetry is because of the fascination western culture and huge influence of social media. I also feel slam poetry in essence is more relatable in today’s day and age in contrast to dogas which becomes rather “too deep” or “philosophical” for one to understand”.
These regional languages that one has should be kept close to oneself, they define us. While the British have left, what has not left us are their standards of beauty or intelligence. Understand how we can link this idea to different languages now dying down all over the world.

Instead of being embarrassed of speaking our own language we should feel pride in it. While we can talk English, our inner emotions will always remain in our own tongues. Famous Bollywood dialogues, the cuss words we use on our friends, old 90s Hindi music can never be placed at a lower pedestal or be replaced with any other thing.

Image Credits: The Whiteboard
Shivani Dadhwal
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While the TV news in India frequently fails in providing relevant information to the citizens and rather becomes an arena for incessant shouting, it also operates in subtler ways. The mere language of headlines, hashtags and names of shows should raise eyebrows.

American linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky, theorised the ‘propaganda model’ of the mass media in his book Manufacturing Consent, wherein he talked about five filters of the media: ownership, advertising, sources, flak, and creation of a common enemy. In a nutshell, media institutions are part of big conglomerates who sell their products to advertisers, and whose sources of information are also the elites; those who oppose these elite interests face flak from the system, while a common ideological enemy is created to spread propaganda.

Yet, it doesn’t take a renowned philosopher to observe elements of this model operating on a daily basis; most Indian news shows seem to be following it to near perfection in some or the other way.

Those dramatic headlines coupled with theatrical music and imagery need to only be slightly observed to understand the suggestive undertones of the programmes. Not only biases, but provocation can also be seen. Sentimental and emotive elements are consciously used to shape narratives and capture viewers. News edges closer to the genre of entertainment. Apart from the more conspicuous displays of these elements as seen in the debates and the role of star-anchors, much subtler mechanisms also seem to be at play – headlines, hashtags, and even the names of the shows are culpable.

The most visible examples of this can be seen during critical situations. Since Thursday, following the Pulwama attack, news channels focused almost exclusively on the incident – and rightly so. Yet, the gravity of the situation was used by the channels to draw in audiences with their theatrics. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with drawing audiences, because that’s what news channels literally run on, but the problem arises when the techniques used for this purpose pose harms.

For instance, consider the headlines during the 9 P.M. Broadcast of Aaj Tak on Thursday – “Ye hamla nahi, jang ka ailaan hai” (It’s not an attack, it’s a proclamation of war), “Surgical strike nahi, seedha prahaar hi raasta?” (Not surgical strike, but a direct attack is the solution?). During situations like these, when emotions of the public run high and a sense of frustration surrounds the masses, the responsibility of providing a calm and measured coverage of the news lies with the media to an even greater extent, especially on widely-watched channels like Aaj Tak. Of course, a sense of anger was present in the public. But by using provocative headlines – those that hint towards a call for war – these news shows not only fuel the fire but also send out a wrong message. Similar headlines were seen in Friday’s ‘DNA’ show on Zee News.

News shows often use problematic headlines and tickers.
News shows often use problematic headlines and tickers. Image Credits: YouTube

Be it ex-servicemen, defence experts, or even many common people, there exists a recognition that war isn’t a joke. Yet it makes for good TV, doesn’t it? The severity of a war, the appeal for revenge, the impending danger – all of it draws the audience. Instead of responsibly analysing the situation and, in fact, making an appeal to the viewers to maintain calm and let the concerned authorities take the necessary steps, such programming tries to capitalise on the emotion to attract audiences by stoking the fire. Drawing in viewers also means pulling in more advertisers. That’s just one example of how the filters operate. Yet, these instances aren’t limited to the coverage of emergency situations.

In fact, the mere usage of hashtags in everyday programming points to a bigger picture. Hashtags trend on Twitter, giving news channels an idea of what type of news pieces would sell. Further, this would allow them to focus more strongly on populist topics, which can potentially sideline some crucial but less market-friendly issues. The style and substance of the news shows is also reflected in the popularity of these hashtags; if a particular style of news attracts more tweets, channels will have greater incentive to keep going with that style.

Furthermore, the language of hashtags is also important. A simple YouTube search entry of “Republic TV debate” presents a multitude of clips of Arnab Goswami’s primetime debate show. Every video thumbnail has a hashtag in it. ‘#RahulFakeNews’, ‘#RepublicBharatVsAMU’, ‘#CongAttacksHindus’, ‘#RahulLieCaught’, ‘#UnstableAlliance’, ‘#ModiVsWho’ – these are just some of the many hashtags that invite questions. The hashtags aren’t only reflective of a singular narrative but also give an idea on the type of tweets they’ll invite. Obviously, it won’t be in the show’s interest to display tweets that go against the narrative it wants to portray. Thus, very selective tweets are displayed, giving an impression to the viewers that what they’re watching is correct and supported by the public opinion as well.

The use of hashtags in debate shows also invites questions. Image Credits: YouTube
The use of hashtags in debate shows also invites questions. Image Credits: YouTube

Sensational issues are picked by many channels. CNN-News18’s weekly 10 P.M. show- ‘The Right Stand’ regularly focuses almost exclusively on issues having a religious angle.

Even the names of these shows should be inspected. Halla Bol, Takkar, and Dangal are also, in fact, names of action movies, almost as if the shows are meant to be a platform for speakers to brawl over issues; ‘Bhai vs Bhai’ and ‘The Great Debate Show’ seem to have an entertainment element inherently attached to them; ‘Arnab Goswami on the Debate @ 9’ puts more emphasis on the anchor than the news.

Obviously, it’s not possible to deconstruct and analyse every debate in a single piece and even these examples are selective. There are innumerable debates that may be deconstructed and analysed, but the aforementioned selective examples are reflective of a larger trend. A look at the substance of these debates glaringly points towards the problems in the media. But the point is- even inconspicuous elements like hashtags and headlines are at play. So, what does the language of news shows tell us? Bias, sensationalism, and irresponsibility, for a start.

Yet, it doesn’t mean that all’s bad. Even these shows sometimes pick real issues and do a good job covering and analysing them. Like the Editor-in-Chief of The Indian Express, Raj Kamal Jha said, “Good journalism is, in fact, growing; it’s just that bad journalism makes a lot more noise.”

Feature Image Credits: Newslaundry


Prateek Pankaj

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