India - An Unnatural Nation

Aug 2017
189
USA
#13
Germany had exactly the same issues and is now reasonably united. Before the Modern Era it consisted of 300 independent nations. India wasn't united until a century later so is simply further behind in the integration process.
There are still around 35 dialects spoken in Germany today. In the Middle Ages there were hundreds of languages and dialects.
Both. The greater the distance, the more distinct the language.
Is this the consensus of linguists? By one set of standards, India has 100+ major languages and 1500+ minor languages but the numbers will vary depending the nature of the distinction made between dialects and languages. In any case, India is widely considered by linguists to be among the most linguistically diverse places in the world (beaten out only by a couple of African countries and Papua New Guinea). I do not think the same has been said of Germany even historically, though I welcome any information that says otherwise.

Besides the languages in Germany are primarily of the Germanic branch. Though the current country was historically quite fractured, this was primarily on a political basis than on significant linguistic, ethnic, racial, etc factors as was the case in India throughout history.

India, as Naomasa pointed out, has significant cultural and linguistic differences especially between North and South India. Dravidian languages are of an entirely different language family. While many of the modern languages of India have developed along similar timescales to modern European languages (since the first couple centuries CE), India has had a longer history of state formation and organization than many places in continental Europe and at times where the languages spoken were more remote to modern Indian languages. This contributed to the ossification of regional linguistic distinctions and identities.

Though the quotes of certain people I provided in my OP are perhaps not the most rigorously justified ones, it reflects the fact that even to foreigners like the British, the differences between the peoples of India were more striking to them than the differences between those of different European nations. I do not think they were off the mark in this respect.
 
Mar 2013
1,019
Breakdancing on the Moon.
#14
Linguistic diversity is considerably higher in India, yes. All the languages spoken in Germany derive not just from Germanic, but from West Germanic. Well, discounting Sorbian (which was Slavic, is it even still spoken???). Obviously there are divisions within the West Germanic group (we're typing and reading in a West Germanic language right now!), but that's a different kettle of fish to India.

Naturally you have Indo-Aryan. But this is more akin to the broader Germanic family generally with its division into West and East. Then there's the confusing aspect of how Dardic relates to it (derived from Old-Indo-Aryan? Parallel development from Proto-Indo-Iranian?). Then there's Dravidian: An unrelated language family with its own impressive literary culture and history. Munda is also present (Austroasiatic). There's a Sino-Tibetan language or two. God knows what the Adivasis might have up their sleeves.

Insanely different to our Europe which is mainly IE with some Finno-Urgic and an isolate (Basque). A linguists paradise really.

Going back to this:

I'll play devil's advocate here to an extent.

SNIP
.
Truly, there's nothing said here that anyone can argue against. My rebuttal would be, how much does that stuff matter in the long run? I think India is considerably more diverse than the usual nation state, yes, and the historical parallels are...interesting, but it seems fairly unified so far to me.

Taking another angle: the individual states of the union seem closer to one another than they do to surrounding states. That can be a driving factor in uniting. That and a shared history despite ethnolinguistic and religious plurality. In a real sense, the separate Indian peoples have basically experienced a good amount of the same history and that seems to be a unifying factor.

Maybe the question isn't how similar/different are a Punjabi and a Tamil so much as how have their cultures developed utilising shared concepts/experiences such as dharma, mughal rule, British rule etc?
 
Likes: EternalWay
Aug 2017
189
USA
#15
Truly, there's nothing said here that anyone can argue against. My rebuttal would be, how much does that stuff matter in the long run? I think India is considerably more diverse than the usual nation state, yes, and the historical parallels are...interesting, but it seems fairly unified so far to me.

Taking another angle: the individual states of the union seem closer to one another than they do to surrounding states. That can be a driving factor in uniting. That and a shared history despite ethnolinguistic and religious plurality. In a real sense, the separate Indian peoples have basically experienced a good amount of the same history and that seems to be a unifying factor.

Maybe the question isn't how similar/different are a Punjabi and a Tamil so much as how have their cultures developed utilising shared concepts/experiences such as dharma, mughal rule, British rule etc?
True. For the most part, despite secessionist movements or insurrections here and there, the Indian union remains largely stable. Within a years after the integration of the 500+ princely states, it became difficult to imagine the situation could have been any other way. And within a particular region, it is also true that, broadly speaking, neighboring states are closer to each other historically, linguistically, ethnically, and so on than those in the surrounding areas.

I think the dominant factor here is not just the overt effects of British rule (unified administration, etc) but the indirect effects their rule had in generating nationalist movements. In this respect, I think the British (and many Indians quite frankly) underestimated the nationalist resolve and cohesion in forging a unified nation-state and its ability to subsume other decentralizing tendencies.

Another factor it seems is the emergence of a new historical consciousness that emphasized the political fragmentation and divisions of the past, the loss of autonomy through invasions, and a desire to avoid a similar fate in the future.

Its just interesting to me that (a) unifying factors could have (successfully) emerged in a comparatively minuscule time frame relative to the time scales over within Indian civilization has existed and that (b) the model of unity through diversity has been sustained as long as it has within India. The examples of numerous Indian states forming on ethnolinguistic grounds also show that rather than leading to decentralization, it has enhanced overall Indian unity. On the other hand, there are many other nations that have met these conditions but have nonetheless balkanized. The more I think about it, the more inexplicable the Indian anomaly seems.

It will be interesting to see whether or not this "unity through diversity" model will persist or will be altered under the progressive assertion of a religious nationalism in recent Indian history.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,675
Australia
#16
Truly, there's nothing said here that anyone can argue against. My rebuttal would be, how much does that stuff matter in the long run? I think India is considerably more diverse than the usual nation state, yes, and the historical parallels are...interesting, but it seems fairly unified so far to me.
India is just starting a little later than Germany. In three or four generations, India will be just as unified as Germany is today. They've even gotten themselves a fascist ultra-nationalist leader like the Germans had eighty years ago.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,022
SoCal
#17
@EternalWay: Since you appear to be extremely knowledgeable about Indian history, I figured that I might as well ask you a question about it: Do you think that India would have still gotten partitioned if it wasn't for World War II and/or the Fall of France?
 
Aug 2017
189
USA
#18
@EternalWay: Since you appear to be extremely knowledgeable about Indian history, I figured that I might as well ask you a question about it: Do you think that India would have still gotten partitioned if it wasn't for World War II and/or the Fall of France?
I don't believe I'm that knowledgeable about Indian history, but thank you. I don't have as much knowledge on the whole nationalist/independence movements in British India compared to other parts of Indian history but from what I know, WW2 did indirectly help the Muslim League gain significant traction (in stark contrast to when they had fared poorly in the elections prior) when much of the Congress party leadership was jailed in the aftermath of the Quit India movement. Were it not for the Quit India movement and the Muslim League's support of British war efforts, the Muslim League may not have gained much ground. Its difficult to know if their influence would have been curtailed otherwise but I suspect it may have only delayed the inevitable. But perhaps this is a discussion for another thread.
 
Likes: Futurist
Mar 2013
1,019
Breakdancing on the Moon.
#19
India is just starting a little later than Germany. In three or four generations, India will be just as unified as Germany is today. They've even gotten themselves a fascist ultra-nationalist leader like the Germans had eighty years ago.
Yeah this is more or less my opinion too; It's starting later than states like Italy and Germany and from a much more varied and diverse position, but the seeds of unification are there and one should not underestimate the British framework there.

That said, I don't think we can compare Modi to Hitler quite yet, however much the support base might be similar.
 

Shaheen

Ad Honorem
May 2011
2,559
Sweden
#20
I dont think India having persisted despite its diversity is very surprising, given that most post-colonial nations in Africa and Asia share similar levels of diversity, if not even more more, and the majority of them have also persisted (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news...-most-and-least-ethnically-diverse-countries/ ).
Nevertheless factors that have kept India united in my opinion are:

- Strong administrative foundation laid during the colonial period (including most importantly a lingua franca in the form of the English language).
- Common religion
- Fear of an external/foreign threat (Pakistan)
- Last but not least a strong military which has stopped regions like Kashmir and Punjab from breaking away.
 

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