Social Scientist. v 23, no. 263-65 (April-June 1995) p. 108.

Graphics file for this page

Christopher R. King One Language, Two Scripts: The Hindi Movement Nineteenth Century North India, Oxford University Press, Bombay, 1994, pp 232, Rs. 375.

In the recent past several studies have been published which question the orthodox opinion on different aspects of nationalism in South Asia.1 These studies also seek to re-evaluate the historiography of the national movement in India. King's book should be treated as a part of the new wave. It suggests an alternative to the received opinion on nationalism and communalism in colonial India.

King differs from the 'mainstream' in that he does not believe that the villains in the act of the partition of British India are to be found among the protagonists of the Urdu language. His book proposes instead that the Hindi movement motivated a Hindu communal consciousness in pre-independence India. It emphasises that the movement 'not only expressed but reinforced' a communal awareness which can be seen as culminating in the birth of Pakistan in 1947. King, naturally, challenges the positions of Suniti Kumar Chatterji and Amrit Rai in regard to Urdu2. He does not find it necessary to look for elements of divisiveness in the Indian society, its religion, and its language in the eighteenth century3. On the contrary, he asserts that the Hindi movement in the nineteenth century consciously distinguished people in terms of religion and language - and language was determined by its script and vocabulary, not by its actual linguistic configuration.

King seems to be a little puzzled by the modem Jndian nation where extraordinary cultural and linguistic diversity continues to exist within a single political system. However, he observes that events like the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the inauguration of linguistic states in 1956, the anti-Hindi agitations in South India in 1965, the emergence of a Punjabi Suba in 1966, and the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 confirm the view that religion and language have had, and continue to have, enormous influence on developments in southAsia. Like Paul Brass, he too therefore applies the somewhat obsolete and clearly inadequate theory of Karl Deutsch to nationalism in India4. He thus produces

Department of History, Allahabad University, Allahabad

Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page

This page was last generated on Wednesday 12 July 2017 at 13:02 by
The URL of this page is: