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Linguistic minorities and strategic mobilisation in eastern India: Bengali-Biharis during the era of linguistic territorialism (1935–57)

Bhattacharya, Medha (2023) Linguistic minorities and strategic mobilisation in eastern India: Bengali-Biharis during the era of linguistic territorialism (1935–57). Indian Economic and Social History Review, 60 (3). 275 - 300. ISSN 0019-4646

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Identification Number: 10.1177/00194646231183347

Abstract

This article analyses how linguistic minorities in the province of Bihar navigated the era of linguistic territorialism, when mainstream political organisations and figures within India largely agreed that specific linguistic communities ‘belonged’ in particular regions. Indian scholarship has tended to focus on the mechanisms that brought about the linguistic reorganisation of states in India, therefore, concentrating largely on the ways in which territory and language became intrinsically connected. This article will examine the link of language and belonging with regard to a ‘community’, which demanded that states remain linguistically and culturally heterogenous. It focuses on the section of Biharis that identified Bengali as their ‘mother-tongue’ and tracks the transformation of Bengali politics within the province/state during the transition from colonial rule to independence. It explores the ways in which narratives of historical Bengali settlement were deployed for different reasons across this period, and argues that Bengalis in Bihar conceptualised the ordering of the Indian nation in a way that was inherently different from mainstream understandings of how the country should be ordered during this period. Bengali-Bihari figures and publications deployed rhetoric that attached much greater value to territorial belonging than to linguistic or cultural belonging. This article demonstrates that contrary to common assumptions, there were large groups of people who conceptualised India not just as a linguistically heterogenous nation, but one that consisted of linguistically heterogenous states that protected minority linguistic communities.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/IER
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: International History
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
J Political Science
P Language and Literature
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2023 13:51
Last Modified: 26 May 2024 03:42
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/120009

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