‘Languages give people a sense of identity’

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Ashok N Aklujkar, 61, Expert on Indian Studies

Why is Sanskrit a dying language in India?
Incorrect educational policies are primarily to be blamed because they are aimed at taking Sanskrit out of the mainstream. We should create more space for languages in general — regional as well as languages of historical importance such as Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit. Even Hindi is slowly being rooted out. This is because we emphasise on English way too much.

Why do you think Sanskrit, in particular, should be focussed upon?
For over 1,000-1,200 years, all Indian languages have drawn their sustenance from Sanskrit. Our vocabulary is based on Sanskrit. It cemented India when it was politically divided. Each individual needs a sense of identity, which is built through philosophy, religious teachings, ethics, and all of this is rooted in Sanskrit. This is why we need to promote it.

What problems do you foresee if we do not focus on languages?
If we do not pay enough attention to languages and humanities in general, our social problems are going to increase. Each language has a view of the world embedded in it and suggests different ways of solving social and scientific problems. So if we give English precedence, we are impoverishing the world of other points of view. It is a well-known fact that a child learning in the mothertongue learns much faster. It is a myth that children are overburdened with language education in India. The problem is not that too many languages are taught, the problem is that we teach them badly.

What, according to you, is the future of the humanities stream?
The policymakers as well as the public at large need to be educated. The people of India are restless because they are realising that their dharmic roots are being taken away and are being destroyed in the name of globalisation and westernisation. This will lead to a loss of truly creative people. All languages, properly taught, will give us better citizens and reduce communal strife. With the advancement of technology, we will need flourishing literature, philosophy and social thinking to serve as an alternative platform for employment. The gains in promoting science and technology are rather transitory.

Priyam Bagga

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