ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Linguistic Majoritarianism in South Asia: is India following in the footsteps of Pakistan and Sri Lanka?


Swenden Wilfried - University of Edinburgh, Politics and International Relations, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


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


 Linguistic nationalism has been a long-standing phenomenon in South Asia, but it has long been argued that India, in comparison with Sri Lanka and Pakistan has been more successful in pacifying linguistic tensions following the adoption of linguistic federalism and the three-language formula in education. In this paper we question the stability of this arrangement in view of the rise of Hindu nationalism and its associated efforts to promote Hindi, mainly at the expense of English. We illustrate how the BJP-incumbent national (and several BJP-controlled state governments) have increasingly promoted Hindi in their internal and external communications and in the formulation and adoption of the National Education Policy. We assess the implications thereof for states with dominant regional (non-Hindi) languages and linguistic minorities therein. Finally, we compare and contrast the rise of linguistic majoritarianism in India with Pakistan and Sri Lanka and assess what this means for the functioning of democracy in the subcontinent.