ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July



Chetia Karabi - Jawaharlal Nehru University, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, New Delhi, India


32 – Dynamics of Language Diversity, Multilingual Identities and Linguistic Nationalism in South Asia


 Development of written language describes the process of evolution of a society as described by Parsons (1969). The printing press made an important contribution in arousing the nationalist feeling among the masses and created feeling of oneness amongst people who do not know each other, Anderson (1983) has popularly referred to them as “Imagined Communities”.

Language is a form of power, the use of a particular language for official purpose gives it legitimacy and the speakers of the language have an upper hand over the others. In a multi-ethnic society the voices of those who have the resources to achieve such goals are being given importance. In such cases these elites are responsible in creating the kind of society they desire to live. This paper examines how contestation over language defines the power structure in Assam, a multi-lingual State in India which has undergone severe conflict over the use of language. If we look at Assam’s history especially during the formative years of the British government, the presence of any tribal member is almost negligible in the government and organisations that made an impact in the society. The absence of the other groups in deliberating issues that affects them is an indication of the position of the group in the society. Further, the Assamese-Bengali conflict over language has shaped the politics of the State.