Standing up at the start of the open house of a panel discussion some weeks ago, the editor of a local language newspaper in
This Konkani position that we hear being articulated today stems from the ideological posture that Konkani is THE mother-tongue of all Goans. This position conflates being Goan with speaking Konkani, and this assertion is deeply troubling. It is troubling because it cuts out of the equation those groups living in
This whole idea of a single language for communication stems from the now outdated notion of European nationalism. European powers before they began their overseas colonization began an internal colonization. This internal colonization involved the suppression of multiple identities and the cultivation of one language that was then labeled ‘mother tongue’. In truth, the idea of a ‘mother tongue’ does not fit the experience of most peoples across the world, including those in
One route toward cultivating plurality would be to gain some familiarity with the languages mentioned above. In
If there is a challenge to this situation coming into being, then it is the intolerant ideology that discussions must happen in one language alone, and to speak in the language other than the one dominating the discussion is shameful. To be fair, this shame is felt largely by those speaking a language other than English. There is without doubt a certain arrogance that the English speaker brings to the public sphere. However, most of the time the complaints that discussions are conducted primarily in English are made by those familiar with English, and speaking in English. The burden of creating this polyphonic public sphere therefore falls first on those Konkani activists capable of articulating in Konkani. To them the advice would be, speak in Konkani even if the debate is being conducted in English. While there is no obligation to speak in Konkani, there should be an obligation to at least understand Konkani, Marathi and Hindustani. Once the stalwarts of the Konkani language movement make this move to make public discussions in Konkani, one assumes that the common man, that these stalwarts are so concerned about, will themselves begin to speak and debate in their tongue of choice, regardless of whether the debate is in English or not.
It seems to me though, that the problem lies with these stalwarts, who need to display, in English language dominated settings that they are capable of speaking in English as well. In such a case, what are we to do?
(First published in the Gomantak Times 26 May 2010)