School children in India are required to mug up a lot of stuff about ‘unity in diversity’ from their school textbooks. Most of it is in Social Studies textbooks. The intention is to help children imbibe a sense of affinity with everyone overcoming barriers of identity and promote the idea that the one identy that binds them all together is the inclusive national identity-they are all Indian.

 Sashi Tharoor, India’s candidate for the post of the Secretary General of the U.N., holds the view that "we are all minorities in India". (Sashi Tag: Shashi Tharoor)

In his latest column in the Hindu he repeats his favourite argument again and cleverly uses the example of linguistic diversity in India to affirm his belief. The denomination of a rupee note is printed in eighteen Indian languages (recognized by the Constitution of India), each in its own script, on the back of the note so that any Indian from any region of India can feel proud of reading the denomination of the note in his language. A fine example of inclusive representation.

Although Hindi is India’s national language, the notion that Hindi enjoys majority status is false.

"The Constitution of India recognizes 18 languages today, but in fact there are 35 Indian languages that are each spoken by more than a million people — and these are languages with their own scripts, grammatical structures and cultural assumptions, not just dialects (and if we’re to count dialects, there are more than 22,000. over 35! Dialects 22,000!"

But when two educated Indians meet somewhere "it is in English that they establish each other’s linguistic identity"!

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