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The Census of India had listed 1652 ‘Mother Tongues’ in its 1961 language report. In 1971, this number was brought down to just 108. Where did the remaining 1455 mother tongues disappear? This lecture will present the story of the epic search for those ‘silence’ languages and the people’s movement which emerged out of the search. It will present the changing profile of India’s language diversity and the need for preservation of the diversity for safeguarding our federal structure.
This episode of BIC Talks is an extract from the first of a series of four masterclass lectures by Prof. G N Devy, titled Memory, Culture and The Being of India that took place in the BIC premises in early February 2022.
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Ganesh N Devy
G. N. Devy, a thinker and a public intellectual, initiated and led the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, covering over 700 languages with a team of nearly 3000 volunteers. The PLSI resulted in the publication of 91 titles, divided in 50 volumes in English, Hindi and several Indian languages, bringing to notice some 35000 printed pages of valuable data on the language diversity of India.
Devy initiated a series of international conferences of the indigenous communities from all continents resulting in 12 published volumes of perspectives of the indigenous on culture, ecology and politics.
Currently, he is engaged in producing a People’s Report on Indian civilisation and its history of the last 12000 years with the help of a large international collective of scholars in Human Genetics, Archaeology, Linguistics and Anthropologists.
Devy describes himself as a cultural activist. He writes in three languages—Marathi, Gujarati and English. His first book in English, After Amnesia (1992) received the Sahitya Akademi Award, which he returned in protest after the assassination of Dr. M. M. Kalburgi.
He has been an institution builder and a Professor of Literature. He has received many awards and honours including Padmashri, the Linguapax Award and the Prince Clause Award. He writes in Marathi,Gujarati and English and has to his credit 99 books written or edited by him.
His recent publications include, Being Adivasi (co-edited, Penguin, 2021) and Mahabharata-the Epic and the Nation (Aleph, 2022).