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The great Hindi debate May 23, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Alexandra Hansen

A public call for submissions into the Government’s Australia in the Asian Century country strategies turned into a debate on whether a focus on Asian languages was necessary for improving relations between Australia and our five priority Asian partners. Constituents from the Higher Education sector called for a focus on key Asian languages; Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Indonesian, and Korean, saying it’s impossible to do business with Asia or understand their culture if we don’t speak the same language.


The growth of private English-medium schools in Almora February 28, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India , comments closed

Mark Jones

The Kumaon is the little patch of the Himalaya tucked up where India, Tibet and Nepal all meet in a tangle of green hills, plunging valleys and icy peaks a few hundred kilometres Northeast of Delhi. The geographic and cultural heart of the region is the old hill town of Almora that straggles along a spur at about 1500 meters that runs off from a higher forest clad massif. The icy peaks of the great Himalaya can be seen from many places around town.

Almora is centred on a flagstone paved pedestrian market lined with many medieval buildings featuring elaborately carved wooden facades. Off the market runs a maze of alleys and galleries that bustle with life. Forest and farmland fringe the town. Almora is far from a pristine museum piece, but for those of you who have visited the Himalaya, think of it a miniature blend of old Kathmandu and old Shimla.

I have been lucky enough to be a frequent visitor to Almora over the years and regard it as in some ways my second home. I have seen it grow and change, watched the arrival of cars, satellite television, mobile phones, the internet and felt it move from isolation to integration with the global world. One of the biggest institutional changes I have noticed, particularly over the past decade, is the mushrooming of private English-medium schools. They seem to have sprouted up just about everywhere.


India: Anna and the Dravidian Movement February 15, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Sundaram, Manu , comments closed

Manu Sundaram

Let Tamil be your dream of victory, let Tamil culture be your armour,

Let wisdom be your weapon. Let virtue be your guide and companion.

C.N. Annadurai (Former Chief Minister, Tamil Nadu)

C.N. Annadurai (or Anna for short), regarded by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as one of the country’s finest Parliamentarians, was a stalwart of the Dravidian Movement. To his supporters and followers he was known as “Arignar Anna” (Arignar in Tamil means genius) for his outstanding intellect and razor- sharp wit. He was also the first non-Congress Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu when he led his party to victory in the state assembly alections in 1967. Arignar Anna’s tenure as Chief Minister was all too brief: he died, while still in office, in 1969.  But during this stint, he managed to elevate and embolden the Dravidian Movement like no other leader.

The Dravidian Movement first started as a social reformist struggle against caste-based discriminatory practices in India during the 1920s. After Independence, the Union Government of India started phasing out English and instituting Hindi has the official language. Protesting against this, the leaders of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) took to the streets to register their opposition. Students and activists turned up in great numbers in response to the clarion calls of Arignar Anna and other Dravidian leaders. Renowned for his oratorical eloquence and leadership abilities, Arignar Anna held numerous meetings and demonstrations to fight against the imposition of Hindi on the Tamil speaking population in the South. During one such meeting, Arignar Anna was told of the argument that Hindi should be made the official language due to its “numerical superiority” as it was spoken by the majority of Indians. To this, Arignar Anna responded: “If we had to accept the principle of numerical superiority while selecting our national bird, the choice would have fallen not on the peacock but on the common crow. Why should we then claim the tiger as our national animal instead of the rat which is so much more numerous?” (more…)