Linguistic bridge

Linguistic bridge
Hindi textbookImage copyrightGetty Images
Image caption The regional divide in India can be overwhelming when it comes to the country’s many local languages

India has 22 officially recognised languages, although hundreds more are spoken. The politics of language since Independence has been fraught with tension. But one state’s efforts to integrate migrant workers from elsewhere in the country is being hailed for its positivity, writes BBC Hindi’s Imran Qureshi.

Launched by the Kerala State Mission Authority (KSMA), the book titled Our Malayalam (Hamari Malayalam in Hindi) could help ease language-based tensions and barriers in Kerala even as anti-Hindi protests take hold in the rest of India’s south.

“In many parts of south India, Hindi is a foreign language,” Satish Deshpande, a professor of sociology at Delhi University, told the BBC. “In recent cases where a state has tried to cater to Hindi-speaking people over the regional population, there has been uproar because language is a part of their identity – it’s a strong marker of boundaries in India.”

Last month, activists in Karnataka furiously blackened sign boards displayed in Hindi on the walls of a metro station. In March, the state of Tamil Nadu saw a spate of protests when it replaced English with Hindi on its road signs. “Language has held a historically important space in India, often linked to feelings of patriotism,” explained Prof Deshpande.

“By holding about a dozen classes wherever they live, we are trying to socially integrate them into Kerala society,” said Dr PS Sreekala, chief executive officer of the KSMA. She added that many did not know Hindi either as they came from various parts of the country. “That is why we have introduced teaching Hindi as well.”

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