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The legacy of French rule in India (1674-1954)

Animesh Rai

Chapter 4. The Contemporary Period

One language or a multitude?

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  • 1 Robert D. King, 1997, Nehru and the Language Politics of India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi (...)

1According to the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis, our view of reality is conditioned by language. In the absence of any demonstrated proof, this remains a hypothesis. Our perception of the world is filtered through language. Different versions of the hypothesis qualify the manner in which this filtration occurs. At one end of the spectrum, the hypothesis claims that behavior patterns are affected by language. For example, people react differently to stimuli from two different languages. This is the weak version of the hypothesis. The most extreme version of the hypothesis states that language dictates behavior. In this version, people are helpless victims of the structure of a particular language in that they have no control over the way they see, perceive and feel.1

2The language of the colonizer can be viewed as a variable of considerable importance in the process of cultural interactions. I will call it a variable because at various levels language can be viewed as a catalyst for the induction of cultural elements.

3The degree of the catalyzing effect can vary in different circumstances. In the context of the former French territories, the induction of French into the multi-lingual Indian environment plays a subsidiary role in relation to the dynamics of the other languages already manifested there. Nevertheless, according to the weak version of the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis, even if French plays a minor role its very presence would still have a filtering effect and people would be affected by the stimuli of the language and by extension to the cultural elements which it represents. The French speaking Indians of French nationality are perhaps an illustration of the extreme version of the hypothesis. They are French nationals. They speak French. They have French tastes: eating habits, manner of thinking and so on. They also speak Tamil, Malayalam or Telugu. The tilt is towards French.

4The process of examining the impact of French can be viewed in various ways. We could create sets and subsets. The French nationals of Indian origin could constitute the core subset. This subset could be part of the larger subset of people of Indian origin, which would include largely Indian citizens, but not exclusively as we could also have Indians of other nationalities as well. The largest set could be Indians who do not speak any French at all. While keeping other variables constant, each subset could be the gauge of a certain degree of francisation, which would disappear completely as we reached the largest set containing the preceding subsets.

5The impact of French could also be viewed through its ripple effect. In the wave theory of light, the light waves move out from the center in concentric circles. The induction of French into this environment would have a ripple effect on the inhabitants of the territories. The ripples would subside as they reached the non-French speaking Indians. Nevertheless, the waves would still hit them and according to the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis the people would be affected by the stimuli of the language even if in this case, it may so happen that the waves might just bounce back. However, even if they just bounced back they would still have had an impact. Furthermore, the concentric circles of waves could also be the previously mentioned subsets.

6According to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the act of observing a subatomic particle changes its momentum due to the light wave bouncing off the particle. Carrying the analogy of the light wave one step further, one can say that the induction of French into the former French territories has changed its momentum. This momentum would be a function of the cultural dynamics of India in general and of these territories in particular. For the purposes of the present analysis, let us isolate the language variable in the cultural environment and look more closely at the dynamics of interaction of languages.

  • 2 Robert D. King, Chapters 3 and 4.
  • 3 Robert D. King, p. 90.
  • 4 Robert D. King, p. 3.

7In British India, political boundaries were determined at random in order to constitute economic and administratively viable units. Divisions based on linguistic considerations were usually put on the backburner. In post-Independence India, Prime Minister Nehru’s initial priority was to foster the spirit of a nation. In this effort, he was of the view that there should be one national language, namely Hindi, which would presumably unify the nation. English would continue to remain an official language for a period of fifteen years for the purposes of assuring a smooth transition to the new nation but would then give way to Hindi. Gradually, however, regional factions began making demands for the re-organization of state boundaries along linguistic lines. Starting with the constitution of the state of Andhra Pradesh, which wanted a state with the Telugu language as its unifying factor, Nehru gradually gave in to the demands of the regional factions. Furthermore, the southern states were against the imposition of Hindi as the national language.2 Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam had long literary traditions which were older than Hindi which had a relatively young literary tradition and Tamil is thought to be nearly as ancient as Sanskrit.3 So while Hindi remains the national language, it is not mandatory to know it in the southern states. English continues to remain the link language in India even though it is spoken by only 2 to 3% of the population.4 The language dynamics in the former French territories are largely determined by the interplay between the local languages namely Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam and English.

  • 5 Robert D. King, pp. 73-74.
  • 6 Robert D. King, p. 80.
  • 7 Robert D. King, p. 81.
  • 8 Robert D. King, p. 90.

8Even though the Constitution of 1950 designated Hindi as the official language of India, in post-Independence India and in contemporary times the only language which is understood by the educated élite from all parts of the country is English. For all practical purposes, the lingua franca of India was and is English. English is, in a sense, a double-edged sword: the language which is used on a daily basis in various fields such as government, academics and business and at the same time being the language of the former colonial masters which has left deep scars in the collective unconscious. There was opposition to Hindi as the national language in varying degrees starting from the southern states, in particular the Tamilians, and to a slightly lesser degree by the non-Hindi speakers of northern and central India. The non Hindi speakers would, for one thing, become less competitive in the job market vis-à-vis the Hindi speakers.5 When the national identity of a country is threatened, it is a universal phenomenon to react by moves to preserve the national language.6 However, in India’s case, this pervasive fracture along linguistic lines seems to be an aberration in this law. B. G. Tilak, who was one of the first Indian political leaders to advocate for Hindi as the national language as well as for the creation of linguistic provinces had said that the most effective way for drawing a nation together was through language.7 With respect to English, it cannot be said that it was evident that it would be rejected as the national language even though it was never really on the cards either. Former British colonies such as Singapore did resort to the use of English even after becoming independent. But in India, English symbolized very deeply the traumatic experience of India with Britain.8

  • 9 Robert D. King, p. 91.
  • 10 Robert D. King, pp. 126-127.
  • 11 Robert D. King, p. 127.
  • 12 Robert D. King, p. 131.
  • 13 Robert D. King, p. 197.
  • 14 Robert D. King, p. 204.
  • 15 Robert D. King, p. 219.
  • 16 Robert D. King, p. 220.

9The attitude of Indian intellectuals towards English has always been ambivalent. While they realize the indispensability of English, at the same time they make of it a convenient scapegoat. Nehru was no different in this respect. He did not believe that it was going to become the lingua franca of India except in the case of the elites. He did think that it would be of great practical value in as much as it would be the language of science, technology, business and for international dealings. But he was of the view that other languages such as French, German, Russian, Spanish and Italian should also be taught at Indian universities. In the final analysis, English is the antithesis of all the ideals that India’s Independence leaders had espoused. Hence, it is natural perhaps that it could not be endorsed wholeheartedly to be what India stood for.9 Nehru, however, was convinced that English would be the language for official transactions as well as a harbinger for the future as it would be the language of science and technology which is what would take India forward.10 Furthermore, he also realized that there was an innate danger in abolishing English altogether in favor of Hindi as this would lead to inbreeding and isolation from the outside world. Hence, there was a need to stay in touch with English as well as with other foreign languages.11 Nehru has been credited for making English acceptable in India on these terms and it is owing to his efforts that English is likely to remain indefinitely in India.12 But he was also clear that English could only be the language of the elite and not of the masses. The education of the latter, according to him, should be in the regional languages but modernized and developed with respect to its scientific and technical vocabulary.13 However, in spite of the great advantages of English, according to Nehru, it could never take the place of any of the native languages.14 In this respect, he wholeheartedly approved the desire of the constitution makers to regard all Indian languages on an equal footing which meant that Bengali or Tamil were no less Indian national languages than Hindi.15 As if this was not enough, he also believed that a language develops not only by its use but by its contact with other languages. Thus, according to him, the interaction of English and other foreign languages with the native Indian languages would have a healthy effect on the latter. His reading of Indian history made him aware that India had lived for hundreds of years in a closed, inbred environment and that this had led to stagnation not only in Indian languages but in all other aspects of Indian culture. He attributed this partly to the introspective character of Indians. He believed that the British colonization of India changed the insular character of Indian culture and its languages by making them more open and dynamic. For example, different literary genres such as the novel, drama and short stories were introduced as well as scientific and technological ideas.16

  • 17 Robert D. King, p. 210.

10Hypothetically, if India had been unfortunate enough at the time of Independence to have as its leader someone who was completely anti-British arguing in favor of the complete abolition of English from India or by someone who did not have enough political clout to argue for the retention of English, India would today be a very insular society without any significant links to the outside world which it now has owing to English being an international language. Furthermore, if English had been abolished there would probably not be one India but two or several. For the South Indians would never have resigned themselves to having Hindi as a national language and would, in all likelihood, have seceded from the union. In other words, the elimination of English in India would have led to balkanization of the country.17

  • 18 Robert D. King, pp. 210-211.
  • 19 Robert D. King, p. 212.
  • 20 Robert D. King, p. 212.

11The consequence of the drive to make Hindi the national language reinforced the demand not only for the use of English but also for the creation of linguistic provinces with their own regional languages. The forced imposition of Hindi meant that there was a corresponding assertion by regional factions to create their own administrative units with full discretionary powers to use their own languages. The neutral character of English vis-à-vis the other Indian languages made it the ideal candidate for being the language of the central administration. No one would ever be convinced that Hindi could be an impartial language at the center.18 History demonstrates that effective governance in India in the time of Asoka, Akbar, the British Raj, Nehru and today has meant “light government in strong hands.”19 Decentralization, far from being a threat to India’s unity, in fact fosters it. It is perhaps an axiom that giving full sovereignty to different regions over their culture and language is the best way to avoid controversies and disputes about the determination of the culture and language at the center.20 It is through their different languages that different parts of India develop their separate identities which do not have a single root but in fact are divided into multiple layers.

  • 21 “Carry on Doctor Singh” by N. S. Jagannathan, The New Sunday Express Magazine (The New Indian Expr (...)

12The current Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in an acceptance speech at his alma mater, Cambridge University, very aptly stated that English in India was seen as just another Indian language.21 While not entirely condoning the impact of British colonialism, he admitted that one of the beneficial aspects of the British Raj was Indians’ accessibility to English language and literature even though the English spoken in India may not be recognized by the former British colonizers as it is an indigenized version of the language. He also stated that many other countries in the world had also adapted English to their milieu. In an article analyzing Manmohan Singh’s speech, N. S. Jagannathan states that Macaulay is not well perceived among patriotic Indians due to his ill-informed denigration of Indians’ literary and intellectual heritage. However, Jagannathan admits that Macaulay was instrumental in inducting English into the educational apparatus of Indians as much as he was in the codification of civil and criminal law and the law of evidence. Jagannathan says that the beneficiaries of English range from world-class creative writers to the personnel in call centers. Jagannathan says that before Independence, Indians were justified in being hostile to English even though he admits that the most prominent fighters against British rule were English-educated, among whom Gandhi and Nehru were notable masters of English prose. Jagannathan also says that this issue becomes hazier when English is viewed as a hangover from the days when it was the language of the oppressor and from educational theories which state that the best mode of learning is through one’s native language. Jagannathan, while admitting the conclusions of the latter theory, says that nothing should prevent one from learning English as a second language which can be integrated into a well-structured syllabus starting from primary school. He says that children are by nature polysyllabic and hence are adept at learning other languages. Jagannathan also points out that there is a very materialistic twist to the command of English in the world today. He illustrates this notion by pointing out that in the profession of Business Process Outsourcing which is significantly adding to the Indian Gross National Product, India has an edge over China which, he says, is setting up crash courses in English to make inroads into the global market for this skill. Jagannathan also says that in the nineteen forties, D. F. Karaka, the editor of a popular weekly magazine, had a humorous column called “Boycott British Language” that made fun of anglicised Indians which is in sharp contrast to the fact that “every new edition of the Oxford English dictionary lists hundreds of new words of Indian origin.” He also points out that many English language newspapers liberally introduce Hindi stock phrases into their columns which amuse and even annoy non-Hindi speaking Indians.

  • 22 Robert D. King, p. 209.
  • 23 Robert D. King, p. 82.
  • 24 Robert D. King, p. 82.

13One can empathize with the leaders of India’s independence movement and subsequently with newly independent India’s leaders in the difficulties which they would have encountered in formulating adequate language policies for the emerging Indian nation. As Robert D. King points out in Nehru and the Language Politics of India, he did not know of anyone in either India or the West who, in 1947, was clear about how language issues are tied up to society, class, caste or religion.22 He even suggests that the architect of India’s independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi, may have been naïve in his assessment of the nature of India’s language issues. For example, he says that Gandhi was unwavering in his view that Hindustani should be the national language of India. He preferred Hindustani to either Hindi or Urdu thereby underlining his desire for Hindu-Muslim unity and, more particularly, Hindustani was defined as a “resultant of Hindi and Urdu, neither highly Sanskritized nor highly Persianized and Arabianized.”23 Robert King suggests that Gandhi’s view that allowing the development of other languages would be a threat to India’s unity was too simplistic in terms of the reality of the situation. Gandhi’s view was that the subservience of other languages to Hindustani would be “a sacrifice and not a suicide.”24

  • 25 Robert D. King, p. 53.
  • 26 Robert D. King, pp. 76-77.

14One can perhaps defend Gandhi’s stance by pointing out that countries with only one national language are more politically stable than multilingual ones. Belgium, eastern Canada, Sri Lanka, many of the former Soviet Republics as well as African countries which gained independence after the second world war are cases in point. In all these countries, two languages are spoken by large numbers of the population and, consequently, political stability is harder to achieve over a longer period of time.25 Furthermore, even though the literary tradition of Hindi is relatively young dating back to 1800 with respect to the literature of Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu or, for that matter, almost any other Indian language, the candidacy of any of these languages for becoming the national language was never seriously considered for the very reason of their pride and exclusivity. Exalted as they may be, they were nevertheless very local and regional in character and, hence, they could not acquire a pan-Indian character of the nature of Hindi.26

  • 27 Robert D. King, p. 88.
  • 28 Robert D. King, p. 89.

15Questions about the national language were put on the backburner, without really disappearing from the scene, once India became independent. This is a very touchy issue today especially among those who belong to the Hindi speaking belt: what had been a key unifying factor during the Independence Struggle was likely to become a divisive factor. It was for this reason that Nehru did not dwell too much upon this issue after independence.27 But it can be said that Hindi is the lingua franca of northern India. It is spoken more widely than before outside the Hindi heartland. Outside India, more people study it now than during the colonial period. The Hindi language has evolved into a much more modern language with a greater literary strength. Outside India, Hindi is akin to being India’s national language: symbolically, we can see this in the Hindi lettering on Air India airplanes.28

  • 29 Language, Education and Society, 1998, Bh. Krishnamurti, Sage Publications Inc, New Delhi, pp. 30- (...)

16Bh. Krishnamurti describes the bicultural nature of ethnic groups defined by a language. According to him, these integrate tradition with modernity. Their languages have a very traditional base but at the same time they display properties of being able to adopt and to assimilate features of a modernizing Western language. He alludes to sociologists’ definitions of a ‘Great Tradition’ and of many ‘Little Traditions’. In the domain of languages, he does not believe that in India there is one ‘Great Language’ at the national level and other ‘Little Languages’ at subnational levels. His view is that the pace of modernization of the national language of India is the same as that of the other major Indian languages. He has formulated a list of historical features of language development, both positive and negative, which state that “(i) they all have literary traditions of varying degrees of antiquity, (ii) the prose style among other genres developed under the influence of English, (iii) they all have flexible, modern, standard varieties and there are different degrees of distance between the emerging standard and the other social/regional non standard varieties, (iv) almost all modern Indian languages borrow from Sanskrit as a learned language and each has Perso-Arabic vocabulary in some domains (especially in judiciary, revenue and administration) and (v) all lacked politico-economic expressions before 1947.”29

  • 30 Robert D. King, p. 27.
  • 31 Robert D. King, p. 27.
  • 32 Robert D. King, p. 42.

17Language plays a crucial role in defining ethnic unity and cultural identification even more so than geography or religion. A case in point is that of the nation of Bangladesh. The Bengali language defines the identity of the Bengali people who are divided between the state of West Bengal in India and the country of Bangladesh, the population of Bangladesh being over one and a half times the number of Bengali speakers in India. When Bangladesh was constituted in 1971, it took the name bangla referring to Bengali and desh referring to country to make up the name Bangladesh. Bangla refers neither to the Bengali people nor to the territory of (East) Bengal but in fact to Bengali as a language.30 In similar vein, the Arabic language defines the identity of the Arabs and the French inevitably associate their culture with the French language.31 Furthermore, it can be said that language is a highly conservative form of cultural behavior and is resistant to enforced change even more so than religion. Referring back to Bangladesh, formerly known as East Pakistan, which shared with (West) Pakistan the common religion of Islam and a common struggle for independence from Britain and partition from India, language transcended religion and a common history in making it secede from Pakistan and becoming the new nation of Bangladesh the land of Bengali speakers. Governments, when they intervene in language issues, walk on treacherous ground due to its highly resistant nature.32

  • 33 Nehru and the Language Politics of India, 1997, Robert D. King, Oxford University Press, New Delhi (...)
  • 34 Robert D. King, p. 177.

18To what extent has language been a unifying or a dividing factor in the multi-lingual mosaic of India? More so than even language, Brahmanical ideology has played the most important role in unifying India. Brahmanical ideology includes the standard features of Hinduism namely caste, cow worship, religious ceremonies and cremation but it also includes the intellectual authority emanating from the wisdom of India’s great classical texts such as the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Brahmanical ideology was able to penetrate itself into the Deccan and South India by means of the Sanskrit language and the sacred texts which were written in Sanskrit.33 For Nehru, the theme of the unity of India, which was the central guiding factor of all his actions, was symbolized by the Sanskrit language.34

  • 35 PONDICHÉRY DE 1954 A 1963, de la République française à la République indienne, histoire d’une tra (...)

19One aspect of the evolution of Pondicherry was concern about the future of the French language, about which some Pondicherrians seemed to have expressed some worries. Since February 1955, the Trait d’Union was reminding one that “French as the official language of this territory should continue to remain the standard language for all correspondence.” In August of the same year, it vented its opinion in an article called “Why abolish the French language?” as there had been a vote in the assembly against the use of the French language. The article stated that at the time of printing it had learnt that the assembly had voted unanimously a motion asking for the progressive suppression of the French language. They were surprised by this motion directed against the spirit of the Franco-Indian agreements and against the interests of the youth of the state of Pondicherry which, they believed, should conserve its character. They could not, above all, understand how a great number of their representatives formed by French culture had allowed themselves to be swayed to vote for a motion which would not benefit anyone.35

  • 36 Piesse, pp. 90-93.

20The fact was that the use of the French language in the former French establishments was, in effect, losing ground. Nehru’s view in favor of the preservation of French culture in Pondicherry had always been clear. But all the civil servants of the Indian government did not share the same conception of the cultural future of the establishments, as is demonstrated by a position which was made known by the jurist Alain Coret in 1957. Article 27 of the 1954 Treaty had created a joint commission for education: “The equivalence of degrees and university grades awarded to those originating from French India: baccalauréat, brevet élémentaire, brevet d’études du premier cycle, with degrees and university grades awarded by Indian authorities, will be established after a comparative examination by a joint commission named by both governments…” The issue was therefore, as was pointed out by Alain Coret, “not about a competent cultural commission to sort out all cultural questions after the de facto transfer, but on the contrary, of a commission whose competence was very specialized.” The author added that the work of this commission was “made more difficult owing to changes occurring continually on the Indian side and of the inflexible attitude initially adopted by the latter.” It is, in fact, exactly this attitude which is of interest. The Indian delegation suggested the initial suppression of French and of its replacement by Tamil, a suggestion which was to become the subject of a referendum proposed by students’ parents, but which was finally abandoned. The question of the development of the use of the French language was a central concern of Pondicherrians loyal to France. In January 1958, two Pondicherrians, Mr. Pierre and D. Richard, sent a paper to Paris in which they criticized the parliamentary report by Devinat (which was the first report prior to ratification). The aim of the two authors of this partisan paper was to bring out what they called the “violation of the agreement of 21 October 1954 by the Indian government,” which was concerned with, among other things, the place of the French language in Pondicherry.36

  • 37 Piesse, pp. 90-93.

21In this paper, the two authors said that except for the speech in French by the High Commissioner of the state of Pondicherry for the opening of the representative assembly, French, English and Tamil were used concurrently by the elected members at all the local assemblies. The English language was about to become the official language of the state of Pondicherry. All the official correspondence was conducted in English or in Tamil. Even on the notice boards, English and Tamil had taken the place of French. French primary education had been subjected to a serious infringement. English and Tamil had acquired a prominent position to the detriment of French, which had been relegated to a secondary one. The French language was about to disappear from their territory in the near future, may be in a maximum of two or three years.37

22If such alarmist predictions were made concerning the future of French in the former Establishments, it is that this paper was meant to rouse opinion and especially the French parliamentarians who, after the favorable opinion of the reporter Devinat, had to proceed to the vote authorizing the President of the Republic to ratify the Cession Treaty of the Establishments to which the authors were opposed. Furthermore, Mr. Pierre and D. Richard tried to warn the French authorities about the advance, illegitimate according to them, of the English language. This development seemed, however, to be absolutely logical in the sense that English was nothing more than the only common language of the Indian Union of which the former enclaves were now an integral part. The French authorities, who seemed to be in agreement about this, were not in the least bit concerned about the place which was from now on reserved for French in Pondicherry as is demonstrated by the substance of a note from the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of November 1959:

  • 38 Piesse, pp. 90-93.

23“The French of the enclaves are worried about the future of our language in Pondicherry. They are asking that French remain officially in place during a period of 25 years. Article 28 of the treaty states in this respect that ‘French will remain the official language of the Establishments as long as the elected representatives of the population will not have taken a different decision.’ It does not seem that the apprehensions of our compatriots are well founded.”38

  • 39 Piesse, pp. 168-169.

24As the reporter Boschat stated in 1962, article 28 of the treaty was in effect observed. However, he added that within the administration there existed a certain tendency towards anglicisation. In May 1963, the representative assembly of Pondicherry voted a resolution according to which it desired that French remain the official language of the territory but that the maternal languages of its members such as Tamil, Malayalam or Telugu as well as English and Hindi be considered associate languages of French. For the French authorities, this vote raised the problem of the interpretation of article 28 of the treaty. They came to the conclusion that if article 28 in question guaranteed the continuance of French as the official language in the establishments, it did not exclude the addition of other official languages; however, the text of the treaty did not, in itself, give the elected representatives of the people the right to decide upon this addition. On April 3, 1965 The Pondicherry Official Languages Act, 1965 was finally adopted. This law was in continuation of that of 1963 on the administration of the territories of the Union which, by a conditional clause, upheld in its entirety the status of the French language in the former establishments. The Pondicherry Official Languages Act stipulated that Tamil, Malayalam (for Mahe) and Telugu (for Yanam) could henceforward be utilized as official languages in the Union Territory, as well as English.39

  • 40 Piesse, pp. 166-170.

25In 1965, the participation of Pondicherrians at en event concerning the whole Indian nation and which shook up South India in particular, namely the quarrel of languages, demonstrated that the inhabitants of the former enclaves were oriented largely towards other questions than that of the place of the French language in their territory. In the beginning of 1965, some violent events suddenly put the linguistic question at the forefront of concerns.40

  • 41 Piesse, pp. 166-170.

26According to the Constitution, January 1965 was meant to consecrate the replacement of English by Hindi as the official language of the Union. The Indian constitution had in fact devoted eight articles to this problem and anticipated that at the end of a transitory period of fifteen years starting from its promulgation (26 January 1950 celebrated every year in India as Republic Day), Hindi, written in the Devanagari script would become the official language of the country and would be used by the central administration as well as in the relations between the states and the Federation. The latter, however, had the freedom to adopt, for their internal needs, one or more of the local idioms. The facts of the problem of languages in India were, schematically, the following: according to the official directory of 1964, there were 845 idioms, of which 15 languages were recognized as such and spoken in 1951 by 325 million inhabitants out of a total of 360 million. In the minds of the constitution makers, there was a need to give to the Union a common language and which would not be a legacy of colonialism. The evil thus denounced was that one did not get along from North to South and from East to West of the subcontinent and English was relegated to its position of foreign language, geographically, politically and historically. However, beyond the debate which saw notably the articulation of the argument according to which Hindi would not be adapted to the needs of the modern world and which had led, in the face of insurmountable difficulties of the strict application of the Constitution, to the adoption of a law in 1963, anticipating the maintenance after the setback of 26 January 1965 of English as the “additional official language,” the constitution makers did not seem to have taken into account a fundamental aspect of the problem. The reality was that for the people of South India, there was no question of learning Hindi.41

  • 42 Piesse, pp. 166-170.

27The consecration of Hindi as the official language of the Union set up a spark of violence, even if the date of 26 January 1965 brought about only very slight changes after the voting of the law of 1963. It was the students who protested the most violently. Since January 1965, some bloody demonstrations took place first in the state of Madras, then the agitation spread to the neighboring states of Andhra Pradesh and Mysore, the students of Kerala and of Bengal contenting themselves with starting solidarity strikes. The agitation did not spare Pondicherry, where two people were killed. During the riots of January and February 1965, one could count several scores of victims in the southern states. During these events the authorities of New Delhi accused the separatist Tamil party, DMK, to be the instigator of problems. For Jean-Paul Garnier, the French ambassador in India, if this movement had not been new, its deep cause could be found in the very prickly linguistic chauvinism of the inhabitants of the state of Madras. The violence of these two months, which illustrated the strength of the regional sentiment in the Dravidian South, was thus bringing out the rivalry between the North and the South. But the particular interest of this incident lies in the fact that in taking part in this quarrel of languages and in the anti-Hindi agitation, the Pondicherrians showed that they were very deeply concerned with one of the most important debates that India had known since independence. The impact of this quarrel of languages in the former French enclaves showed that the Pondicherrians before viewing themselves as the eventual inheritors of the colonial adventure of France in India, were integrating themselves in the regional movement which was taking place in the South and which culminated in the rise of the Dravidian party DMK. One could thus witness in their participation in this great national debate the sure sign of a successful integration in the Indian Union and of its diversity.42

  • 43 Jacques Weber, Pondichéry et les comptoirs de l’Inde après Dupleix, p. 353.

28In the ‘Report on education in French India from the 18th century until now’ which he published in 1922, the head of the public instruction service, Valmary, explained why French, which imposed itself in the Reunion Islands or in the Caribbean, remained a foreign language in the French enclaves. In contrast to these islands deprived of a past, of traditions and of literatures and where the Créole “patois” could not rival with the French language, the five establisments bore the imprint of a very ancient civilization, proud of its past and which considers itself to be at least the equivalent of French civilization. Furthermore, as if this was not enough, when it looked for modern or western ideas and when it needed a language which was more international than its mother tongue, this population had at its disposal the English language, the language of business and of science, the language of politics, a literary language which overflew from British India to the humble French possessions.43

29William Miles equates classical French colonization with linguistic imperialism. For France, in terms of its role as an overseas power, the pedagogic imperative of promoting the French language superseded all other aims such as spreading its religion or expanding its economic activity. He says that Pondicherry was the principal francophone point in South Asia. However, in spite of the relatively small size of the former French enclaves, French never permeated them to a significant extent. He cites an assessment by the head of the French Indian public school system in the 1940s about the lack of cultural diffusion of French in Pondicherry:

Who is the French traveler disembarking at Pondicherry for the first time
who does not experience a true disappointment?... Not a newspaper stand, no
dailies, not even a weekly; no café, pastry shop or French hairdresser, and
we’ve been there for close to three centuries!... A Frenchman passing through
feels almost as homesick in this oldest French colony as if he were traveling
in a foreign country.

  • 44 William Miles, Imperial Burdens, p. 109.

30He says that the native languages, in particular both Tamil and Bengali, prevented French from effectively competing against them. Due to their rich and highly developed literary traditions, these languages posed a formidable challenge to French. Like Weber, he points out that this was in sharp contrast to other Francophone territories where French was introduced in an environment where the languages had a rich oral tradition but weak literary ones. He also says that in response to the other great obstacle to French, namely the omnipresence of English, French pedagogues rather than waging a losing battle decided to adopt a practical attitude by introducing English as a medium of instruction in their schools. They even went further by introducing the local languages as a medium of instruction.44

  • 45 Michalon, p. 115.

31Paul Michalon says that the project of assimilation conceived since the first third of the nineteenth century would collide with the competition if not from the English school system (the rivalry in this domain was not significant) at least from the English language, otherwise more widely spread in the peninsula and as “European” as the French language. The “francisation” of India, which the French ancestors had dreamed of, was thus condemned to fail, caught in the grindstone of such powerful cultures whose enormous pressure would be compounded by the pathetic extent and scattering of the French enclaves. The objectives of French educational policies collided head-on (and continues may be to a certain extent to do so) with the values and gestures of the Indian world. It is in fact difficult to introduce scholarly obligations in a world which is moulded by a stratification into castes, the inferior status of girls and women and children’s work. French colonial power, in the face of the impossibility which it encountered in dabbling in these domains-though it succeeded in such efforts in metropolitan France-and thus to bring society into harmony with its plans, had to content itself with merely taking action and being disappointed with its failures in educational matters.45

  • 46 Interview with Mr. Claude Marius, July, 2005.

32Weber, Miles and Michalon have perhaps regarded the prevalence of French in these territories in relative terms and hence pointed out the lack of effectiveness in its propagation due to the strong resistance from the native languages as well as from English. However, it is also possible to view the presence of French in these territories in absolute terms. When that is done, the influence of French cannot be entirely insignificant. Mr. Claude Marius, a Franco-Pondicherrian, said that when he had visited the North Indian state of Rajasthan which has a very large number of tourists, he had met a couple of tourist guides who spoke French. He asked them where they had learnt French. To this the tourist guides replied that they had learnt it in Pondicherry. Mr. Marius then asked them why they had decided to come all the way to South India to learn French in Pondicherry and not in Mumbai or Delhi or, for that matter, in some other town in North India. To this, the tourist guides replied that in the North Indian towns, they would just be learning French in one of the Alliances Françaises whereas in Pondicherry, they were able to reinforce the French which they learnt in the Alliance by practicing it within the town as they could find many more opportunities for speaking and practicing French there.46

  • 47 Interview with Mr. Alain Thomas, June 2003.
  • 48 Interview with Mr. Jean-François Chenin, August 2003.

33With respect to the Alliance Française, its goals in Pondicherry as is the case for Alliances Françaises elsewhere in the world are three-fold namely to teach French language, to promote French language as a vehicle of French culture and to counteract the effects of American cultural imperialism. The current budget of 85,000 euros for the Alliance Française in Pondicherry seems to be rather low given the historical importance of French there. Among some of the activities undertaken by the Alliance in June of 2003 was the promotion of a local Tamil production of an adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Les Mains Sales.” On one occasion, it also organized a musical evening where there was a performance by four groups: traditional Tamil, rock, pop and jazz. The staging of such musical shows would enable the artists to gain recognition and to become part of cultural exchanges between France and India.47 The budget of the Pondicherry Alliance Française was in the middle category of those in India which totaled 15 and in fact, 25 inclusive of all the branches. The budget for the New Delhi Branch was the largest (4,11,000 euros) and the one for Bombay was 3,94,000 euros. A large number of students enrolled in the Alliances Françaises were motivated by their desire to obtain better grades in school. Those in the northern part of India learnt French to facilitate their emigration to Canada. The major problem of Alliances Françaises in India in general is that there are not enough classrooms and not enough qualified teachers to teach the language. In terms of numbers, the Alliances Françaises in India have the third largest number of students in the world after Mexico and Brazil. Enrollments are increasing at a gradual pace. The results of a study published by the British Council demonstrated that French was the most popular foreign language in India in terms of numbers of people learning it. English is not viewed as a foreign language since it is one of the link languages in India.48

  • 49 Interview with Mr. Michel Lemaire, July 2005.

34There are discrepancies in the perception of inhabitants about the prevalence of English in Pondicherry and of its influence on the local language, namely Tamil. According to Mr. Marius, there is a difference in the Tamil which is spoken in Pondicherry as opposed to the Tamil which is spoken in the city of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. In his view, the Tamil in Pondicherry is very pure and unbroken and, hence, he feels that there are more opportunities for speaking good Tamil in Pondicherry than in Chennai. He thinks that because of the influence of English in Chennai, the Tamil speakers there have a tendency to anglicize and perhaps creolize Tamil with anglicisms and English words. The result is that the Tamil spoken there is very jarring and impure. He believes that because the influence of English in Pondicherry is not that great, people are not likely to anglicize Tamil and hence, there are more opportunities to speak and hear pure Tamil. According to a French expatriate49 who grew up in Pondicherry and now lives there, due to the high degree of commercialization of Pondicherry owing to which people from all over come there, the shopkeepers on the Jawaharlal Nehru Street (formerly Dupleix Street), one of the principal arteries of the town, have some knowledge of English. This, he believes, is in contrast to other parts of Tamil Nadu where shopkeepers speak only Tamil and no English.

  • 50 Interview with Mr. Albert Rollin, June 2003.
  • 51 Interview with Mr. Claude Marius, June 2003.

35Mr. Claude Marius also said that the enclaves of Pondicherry were among the oldest of the French colonies but that they were truly French only in the period 1814-1954, as prior to 1814, they had often changed hands between the French, the British, the Dutch and the Portuguese. He said that France generally had had a more pervasive influence on its colonies than the British principally due to its policy of assimilation. He also said that France had followed a policy of equality where it made no distinction between classes. According to him, one of the reasons why French proliferated in Pondicherry was that the Pondicherrians who left to go to Indo-China and so on came back to Pondicherry since it was French territory until 1954 and thus these Pondicherrians were entitled to the economic benefits of a French territory. This is in sharp contrast to Tamils and Gujaratis from other parts of India who emigrated elsewhere but did not come back due to unattractive economic and living conditions in India. According to him, there were strong links between the French policy of assimilation and its educational policies. Take, for example, the proliferation of French in Mauritius, which was a British colony. French, according to him, spread in Mauritius due to the sound educational policies of the French. He also said that at the linguistic level, there had been no creolization of French and Indian cultures in Pondicherry because when the French colonized Pondicherry, there was already a pre-existing, traditional, classical Tamil culture. Mr. Albert Rollin, another Franco-Pondicherrian, remarked that there were a certain number of Tamilized French words such as “l’encre, robinet, cornice and canne.” The Tamil word for ink is pronounced as “tinda.” This, according to him, comes from the word “tinte” referring to this characteristic of ink.50 That was his perception but the reality, in fact, is that it comes from German. Mr. Claude Marius viewed Tamil as the classical language of the South (like Sanskrit in the North) while, according to him, the other South Indian languages such as Malayalam and Telugu were vernaculars. Thus, according to him, there was merely a juxtaposition of the two languages in Pondicherry. People either spoke Tamil or French but not a patois of the two. This is in contrast to the Reunion Islands where the Tamil indentured laborers were not allowed to speak their native tongue and were forced to speak in French.51

  • 52 Michalon, p. 122.
  • 53 Michalon, p. 123.

36With reference to the Franco-Pondicherrian community, Paul Michalon says that at present, the doors of France are open, and studies are perceived as the stepping stone allowing one to have access to it: at least education now gives one the opportunity to explore the culture towards which one is heading… but remains singularly negligent about the one from which one originates. How, under these conditions, can one acquire the indispensable cultural apparatus which is claimed by one’s nationality by at the same time deepening one’s Indian roots allowing one later to confront the loneliness and the interrogations of exile?52 He says that the question of living languages illustrates this dilemma in a rather striking manner. French being, for the vast majority of students, used only in class and during school time (Tamil regaining its rights when the bell rings), English or the native language having the status of “first language” (that is, in practice, of a second language), the youngsters in these schools develop only second languages. The great Tamil poet, Subrahmanya Bharathi, often said that, “those who did not work on their mother tongues would be reborn as monkeys…” Without going as far as this worrying perspective, how does one structure one’s personality on the basis of two or three languages which have been imperfectly integrated and developed? Like the school children who recite: “gymla lapin et chasseur velayard vo!” many children in this world-notably among the immigrants from metropolitan France-live in this condition of “forced bilingualism.”53

37It is clear that measuring the impact of French in these enclaves can be done in a relative manner. The frame of reference must be specified because there are various ways in which one can gauge the pervasiveness of a language. The macro picture of the dynamics of languages in India certainly does not leave much scope for the profusion of French. However, at a micro level, one can perhaps view its pervasiveness. For the purposes of analysis, one can even carry out certain thought experiments which may or may not have a bearing on the actual situation.

38To begin with the interaction of French with its closest European counterpart, namely English. It has been shown that French was always overshadowed by English in the enclaves and that when a non indigenous language was sought, English was readily available for use. Official language policies of the Indian government have favored the proliferation of English not because of a conscious desire on its part but more by default as Hindi would not be acceptable to South Indians. If Hindi could not be the link language in the South, none of the other South or North Indian languages could be the link language for India. Hence, there was no possibility of removing English in South India. English is reviled in India when it is viewed as the language of the former colonizer. However, it is welcome for its practical value and due to its link with the outside world. On the other hand, it is welcome in South India due to the unacceptability of Hindi. Hence, with respect to French in the former French territories, the colonial presence of English has given way to its post-colonial desirability in South India and consequently, in the enclaves. French, as the language of the former colonizer in the French enclaves, does not have a national value and remains a local concern. Pondicherrians can reject French and go on with their lives. They cannot reject English because that would be inviting Hindi in as much as they are part and parcel of Tamil culture in particular and of South Indian culture in general. However, the official apparatus has not removed French and hence, it remains in place as one of the official languages of the Union Territory. Moreover, English, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu are also official languages of the territory.

39As was mentioned earlier, Jawaharlal Nehru had pointed out that the induction of English had administered a shock to the native languages and cultures and as a result, the latter became more open and dynamic. He had said that languages grow not only by use but by interactions with other languages. According to him, the growth of the native languages should be encouraged not only through their interaction with English but also through their interaction with other foreign languages such as French, German, Italian and so on. By extrapolation of the situation with English, one can perhaps surmise that the induction of French had also administered a corresponding shock to the languages and cultures of the enclaves and hence made Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Bengali (in Chandernagore) more open and dynamic. While French can be said to have been as well as remaining overshadowed by English, one can also wonder and determine the implications of the interaction of French with English. This question acquires some significance especially in terms of the North Indians who either visit or live in the former French territories. It can acquire significance also with respect to the non-French foreigners who either visit or live there. For both these categories of people, the likelihood is that they would be communicating in English. Hence the interaction, either in theory or in reality, with what remains of French in Pondicherry.

40We must address issues of dilution, dissipation, diffraction. When languages interact, they are diluted, dissipated and diffracted. However, these processes can also take place at an infinitesimal, microscopic level. The shock effect of English on Hindi resulted in the introduction of literary genres and of scientific and technical vocabulary. In this case, while Hindi may have been diluted with respect to its initial purity, it can also be said to have been enriched due to the novelty of the elements which were introduced. There would also have been the reverse effect of Hindi on English. The transition from purity to dilution can be viewed as creolization, that is, the gradual acquisition of traits from a heterogeneous entity. Atavistic cultures become composite cultures by the process of creolization. Similarly, atavistic languages become composite languages through the same process. However, it must be determined whether these interactions take place discretely or through a continuum.

  • 54 Interview with Mr. Srinivasan, August, 2005.

41In terms of the interaction between French and the local languages, the evidence suggests that there was no radical transformation of one by the other. However, when we make an attempt to scrutinize the borders between these two languages, we can notice that there are certain blurrings of the edges as demonstrated by the existence of very few Tamilized French words. According to the extreme version of the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis, the local people would be prisoners of the native languages as for example, Tamil. They would have been minimally affected by the stimuli from French. The re-assertion of Tamil as a result of the threatened imposition of Hindi would have strengthened the influence of Tamil. In the case of the Franco-Pondicherrians there is a continual existence of Tamil alongside French. In this case, the people are simultaneous prisoners of both Tamil and French. Within an atavistic ethnicity, there are two atavistic languages. There is no continuum between the two. The Franco-Pondicherrians are carriers of two cultures but are not middlemen who see things differently from either the locals or the French. Unlike the deformation of Tamil by English among some of the inhabitants of Chennai, the Franco-Pondicherrians tend to maintain the sanctity or purity of both French and Tamil. However, the Créoles leant towards metropolitan culture. At the level of languages, they neglected the local language and expressed some contempt for it. Their Tamil, which was bad, was interlaced with French. They deformed certain words to show that they belonged to a certain category of persons. The whole was not comprehensible to the people of the country. The Créoles occupied a position which came after the metropolitans. They could not occupy important positions and were employed mainly as cooks.54

42The major difference between English and French in India is perhaps, as the current Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out, that English is viewed as just another Indian language. It has become part and parcel of the linguistic makeup of India. While the number of Indians who speak English is relatively low in absolute terms, nevertheless it is much interspersed so that it is spoken in every part of the country. Since India has many centers, each of which with its own indigenous language, the Indian English can further be qualified as Tamil English or Punjabi English and so on. In other words, each Indian state has its own brand of English specified according to the particularities of each Indian language. In the case of French, we could make the same analogy and say that there is not an Indian French but a Tamil French (for Pondicherry and Karaikal), a Keralaite French (for Mahe) and an Andhra French (for Yanam). However, due to its low prevalence and that too only in South India, French could not be viewed as just another Indian language. Hence, the relationship of Indians to English is now not so much a relationship of formerly colonized to the language of the colonizer but to one of its own languages. In the former French enclaves, French is not the lingua franca. It is spoken only by a select group of people who exist specifically in the former French enclaves. French does not, as such, percolate into the rest of Tamil Nadu or into the states adjoining Mahe or Yanam. Hence it is certainly not like an Indian language or a language of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, or Andhra Pradesh. One can perhaps say that it is not even a Pondicherrian language but the language of certain Pondicherrians. Hence we could speak of the relationship of Indians to French, the language of certain Pondicherrians. These Pondicherrians, for the most part, have real links with either France or with other Francophone territories. In that sense, the French which is spoken by these Pondicherrians in India is purer than the English which is spoken by Indians in India. To that extent, English can be said to be more creolized than French. French, however, would be refracted through the particularities of the native Indian characteristics of its speakers.

  • 55 Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Mille Plateaux, Introduction: Rhizome, p. 14.

43Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari say that for a language, there is no ideal interlocutor or auditor. Neither is there a homogeneous linguistic community. They say that language is, according to Weinreich’s formulation, “an essentially heterogeneous reality.” There is no mother language, but a seizing of power by a dominant language in a political multiplicity. Language stabilizes itself around a parish, a bishop’s place or a capital. It becomes a bulb. It evolves by stems and subterranean ebbs and flows, along river valleys, or along railway tracks, it moves along oil stains. One can always engage in internal structural decompositions on a language: this is not fundamentally different from a search for roots. There is always something genealogical about a tree and hence it is not a popular method. On the contrary, a “rhizome” type method can analyze a language only by decentering it on other dimensions and other registers. A language closes in upon itself only in an impotent manner.55

44In Pondicherry, there is a church called Notre Dame des Anges. Every morning, there is a mass in French. It is the only place in India where a French mass takes place. It is a meeting place for French speakers in Pondicherry. The majority of people who attend this mass are French speakers of Indian origin. The priest is a Frenchman who has been in India for over fifty years and in Pondicherry for over twenty years. We can thus say that it is a place from which French is diffused and where it perhaps stabilizes itself also. While there may be several places in Pondicherry where French is available to the local public such as in the Alliance Française or in the Lycée Français where French is spoken, these are institutions where the crowd is specifically learning the language. In the case of Notre Dame des Anges, there is a certain heterogeneity about the constitution of the interlocutors.

45It is perhaps the “rhizomatic” method which has here been used to analyze the language dynamics in India. We have seen that the dominant Hindi language could not seize power in South India as it did in the North. Instead, the Tamil language proved to be an effective counterweight. English, while not a dominant language, seized power by default due to the unacceptability of Hindi in the South. As an aside, it can be mentioned that due to the vast popularity of the Bombay film industry in North India as well as in South India, movie goers in South India watch North Indian films with great relish. As a result, they do become conversant with Hindi through this source at least. While the overwhelming evidence may suggest that French, in this vortex of languages, has very little chance of surviving due to its being swallowed up by more powerful forces, when we go by the definitions of Deleuze and Guattari, one can argue that French can and perhaps has percolated itself in different ways. In that sense, their definition is consistent with the applicability of the wave theory of light to it as was done in the beginning.

46In the Notre Dame des Anges church, the French spoken by the priest is metropolitan French. We can view it as the wave moving out in concentric circles. The interlocutors are diverse. They replenish, if we might say so, their supply of French and diffuse it further to their immediate surroundings. In this way, French is diffused, dispersed, diffracted and so on. The Deleuzian definition of the non homogeneity of the linguistic community is consistent also with the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis which suggests that their may be different degrees by which people are affected by the stimuli of a language. Since the extreme version of the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis says that language dictates behavior we can say that some of the audience members in the mass at the Notre Dame des Anges are compulsively there. These could, as they usually are, be members of the Franco-Pondicherrian community. The dictation of behavior can also here be qualified as the Franco-Pondicherrians are in effect bilingual. The Tamil component of their personalities would give them a choice about whether or not they should attend the mass.

  • 56 Interview with Dr. Sourindhrin in Pondicherry, July 20, 2005.

47Language is the central unifying element which bonds people together. When the colonizer leaves, there is a vacuum left behind which gets filled by elements of the formerly colonized. In the case of Pondicherry, the departure of the Pondicherrians with links to France reduced the chances of French acquiring an important role there. It can be said that French was not tampered with and certainly not in official terms. It just became submerged due to Pondicherry’s integration with the rest of India. When the British left India, the future of English was left in the hands of those who had used it. When the French left Pondicherry, they ensured that the future of French would be determined by the inhabitants of Pondicherry. While nothing was done contrary to this wish, the fact of allowing the local languages and English to become part and parcel of the linguistic make up of Pondicherry meant that French would be relegated to a place of secondary importance. The older generation in Pondicherry is still very attached to French language and culture. It tries to transmit its knowledge and enthusiasm for it to the younger generation. It can be said that the older generation acquired a good feel for French because the French colonizers were interested in imparting a love of French language and culture to the natives. In sharp contrast, the British were mainly interested in governing and hence kept their distance from the natives. The older generation brought up during the time of the British did not really transmit British culture to the younger one. Among Francophone Pondicherrians, the love for France is real. There is a certain sense of pride in knowing the language and culture of the French. The French consulate maintains good relations with the French community.56

48People never felt any real animosity towards the French. This is in contrast to the British who, as has been pointed out, were reviled and thus English symbolized what was wrong with the colonial relationship. Therefore English plays a contradictory role in India: as an icon it stands for something to be forgotten but as practical value, it is held in high esteem. French, on the other hand, as an icon symbolizes something positive but does not as such, have much practical value. For the Russian aristocracy or the English royalty in the Middle Ages, French was the language of the élite. Hence, in Russia, even today French has elitist connotations. In Pondicherry, the Franco-Pondicherrians belonged to the lower castes of Indian society. Hence, to that extent, there was no elitism about it. In the post-colonial situation in Pondicherry, acquisition of French nationality is a prized commodity because of the financial benefits it is expected to bring. Therefore learning French has also become something to be sought after if only for practical reasons of emigration and not for its use in India as such except perhaps for employment in the hotel and tourism industries. Nowadays, there are cynical reasons also why students opt for French in schools in Pondicherry. One of these reasons is that it is easier for them to obtain good grades in French rather than in the local languages especially Tamil.

49The common perception of India is that it was a British colony and hence one tends to immediately associate India with English. Nevertheless, the French as well as the Portuguese were also there. In fact, the French were there the longest since the former French enclaves became legally part of India only in 1962. The nerve center for French in India is Pondicherry. The French language, which can be regarded as the vector of French culture, has its greatest concentration in Pondicherry. Even though the prevalent language and culture in Pondicherry is Tamil and English, as in the rest of India, can be used as an alternative in general, one can say that French in Pondicherry is not restricted to the four walls of classrooms at the Alliance Française or the Lyçée Français. Nor is it restricted to the many French tourists who pass by Pondicherry on brief vacations. Certainly, the Franco-Pondicherrians are the natives who are its most natural speakers. The term “native” applied to them is filled with ambiguity as they epitomize a certain double-sidedness. In India, the imaginary of languages consists of the North Indian group of languages, the South Indian group as well as languages of former colonizers such as English, Portuguese and French. While English is widely spread throughout the length and breadth of India, French is very local in character. Even within its localness, it is not very evident. The search for French in Pondicherry requires some narrowing down of one’s field of vision. It is there but focused in a dispersed manner.

50French, as we have seen, can never pose a threat to English in India. There is as such no resentment of people speaking French towards those speaking English or vice versa. In the broader global context, the national Indian politics of languages is perhaps not very different from what happens in the rest of the world. Globally, when we think of English in the present age, we often think either of American English or of British English. It is usually more common these days to speak of American English principally because of the economic power of the United States of America. The fact of the United States being such a powerful nation economically and militarily is, apart from other ways, demonstrated in the influence of English all over the world. As for British (Indian) English in India, American English has become the lingua franca of the world not so much due to the numbers but due to the power which it represents. One can also talk about a case of striving for uniformity and seeing how in an age where multilingualism is one of the key issues we deal with two democratic issues which are simultaneously a need for uniformity as well as a need to preserve local traditions. When one deals with issues of trying to retain uniformity, one is inevitably led to the question of keeping one language the predominant one such as English as it is these days with the influence of American English. On the other hand, you also have local traditions which need to be expressed and maintained and in this context it is perhaps interesting to look at a postcolonial society such as India and to see how Indian culture, its literature and its works are modified by its expression in English and to judge in the end whether its modification is in a way an expression of its own intrinsic worth.

51The case of French in India becomes the reverse of that of English. It is surrounded by other dominant languages. The striving for uniformity has made French subservient to all other languages. It becomes difficult to preserve the language of a former colonial power when that language cannot as such serve as a unifying factor in the native context. Fortunately for French in Pondicherry, France was also not the dominant power which caused resentment among the indigenous people. As they are generally viewed with sympathy and a certain sense of nostalgia, it can be said that the language still has some hopes of survival.


1 Robert D. King, 1997, Nehru and the Language Politics of India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp. 190-191.

2 Robert D. King, Chapters 3 and 4.

3 Robert D. King, p. 90.

4 Robert D. King, p. 3.

5 Robert D. King, pp. 73-74.

6 Robert D. King, p. 80.

7 Robert D. King, p. 81.

8 Robert D. King, p. 90.

9 Robert D. King, p. 91.

10 Robert D. King, pp. 126-127.

11 Robert D. King, p. 127.

12 Robert D. King, p. 131.

13 Robert D. King, p. 197.

14 Robert D. King, p. 204.

15 Robert D. King, p. 219.

16 Robert D. King, p. 220.

17 Robert D. King, p. 210.

18 Robert D. King, pp. 210-211.

19 Robert D. King, p. 212.

20 Robert D. King, p. 212.

21 “Carry on Doctor Singh” by N. S. Jagannathan, The New Sunday Express Magazine (The New Indian Express), August 7, 2005, p. II.

22 Robert D. King, p. 209.

23 Robert D. King, p. 82.

24 Robert D. King, p. 82.

25 Robert D. King, p. 53.

26 Robert D. King, pp. 76-77.

27 Robert D. King, p. 88.

28 Robert D. King, p. 89.

29 Language, Education and Society, 1998, Bh. Krishnamurti, Sage Publications Inc, New Delhi, pp. 30-31.

30 Robert D. King, p. 27.

31 Robert D. King, p. 27.

32 Robert D. King, p. 42.

33 Nehru and the Language Politics of India, 1997, Robert D. King, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, p. 11.

34 Robert D. King, p. 177.

35 PONDICHÉRY DE 1954 A 1963, de la République française à la République indienne, histoire d’une transition par Gabrille Piesse-Maîtrise d’Histoire Contemporaine, Faculté des letters et sciences humaines, Université de Nantes, Juin 1999, pp. 90-93.

36 Piesse, pp. 90-93.

37 Piesse, pp. 90-93.

38 Piesse, pp. 90-93.

39 Piesse, pp. 168-169.

40 Piesse, pp. 166-170.

41 Piesse, pp. 166-170.

42 Piesse, pp. 166-170.

43 Jacques Weber, Pondichéry et les comptoirs de l’Inde après Dupleix, p. 353.

44 William Miles, Imperial Burdens, p. 109.

45 Michalon, p. 115.

46 Interview with Mr. Claude Marius, July, 2005.

47 Interview with Mr. Alain Thomas, June 2003.

48 Interview with Mr. Jean-François Chenin, August 2003.

49 Interview with Mr. Michel Lemaire, July 2005.

50 Interview with Mr. Albert Rollin, June 2003.

51 Interview with Mr. Claude Marius, June 2003.

52 Michalon, p. 122.

53 Michalon, p. 123.

54 Interview with Mr. Srinivasan, August, 2005.

55 Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Mille Plateaux, Introduction: Rhizome, p. 14.

56 Interview with Dr. Sourindhrin in Pondicherry, July 20, 2005.

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