By Professor SP Bhattacharyya
We all know that the one line definition of Science is the systematic study of the physical and tural world through observation and experiment and the application of scientific knowledge for practical and useful purposes is called Technology. (The words Engineering and Technology are often used interchangeably). Now, in spite of man being known as ratiol animal, Darwin’s theory of ‘struggle for existence’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ suggests that every other man is instinctively a rival and a possible threat to his security. However, in the face of exterl threat or aggression — men, cutting across all divisions, show a unity of purpose which generally lasts as long as the threat lasts. Once the struggle is over, the fear of the other man syndrome reappears and the spectre of interl enemies in the guise of regiolism, sub-tiolism, commulism of every conceivable hue starts haunting him, in which ratiolity takes the back seat. Because of diversity there are many seams and joints in society, any of which can burst open under interl pressure turally or otherwise. It is here that Technology can act as a powerful glue to make the society seamless or near about that. This is a lesson we ought to have learnt long ago from the technologically developed tions of Europe which are far more stable and unified than us. Of course, they did fight between them for hundreds of years in the me of language and religion before they learnt to live together peacefully as citizens of the same State, respecting each other’s language, religion and culture. Maybe the industrial revolution of Europe also played a crucial role in it.
As already mentioned, our diversity or plurality primarily manifests itself through our religion, language and culture. Compared to other parts of the country, the socio-cultural diversity is far more complex in the North-East due to its varied ethnicity. However, before delving into the role of Technology in building tiol unity and identity, it will be worthwhile to remember the distinguished linguist Late Suniti Kumar Chatterjee (1890-1977) and quote from an article ‘A Roman Alphabet for India’ written by him almost 80 years ago in 1935 - ‘Unity in Diversity’ - this is the key-note of India as much as it is of Humanity. We in India are all conscious of our various provincial entities; but as a background of that consciousness there is always present a sense of the fundamental Unity of India. The diversity that is in Indian Life is brought home to us most forcibly by the presence of various provincial languages. I shall not mention religion, for bigots and enthusiasts might attempt – and attempt successfully, to disturb the peace of Indian Life, the masses are on the whole sound, and Hindu or Muhammadan or Christian, they share in a common Indianism or Indianness – in what may be called ‘Bharatiyata’ or ‘Bharat-dharma’, that is in a common Indian attitude, an Indian way of thinking and acting which forms the firm bed-rock below the surface upheavals’.
From above, it is clear that Late Chatterjee considered language as a greater divisive force than religion in our country at that point of time (1935). (He too, possibly, could not foresee at that time that the country was going to be divided on the issue of religion just 12 years after that in 1947). And, to counter this force of linguistic division and chauvinism, he advocated that all the scripts of different languages may be written in Roman alphabets only (as it is now being done in case of Bodo, Khasi, Garo, Mizo etc. languages) which will not only strengthen our oneness on a pan-Indian basis but also give many other advantages. His logic was — in that case only 26 characters of the Roman alphabet would be all that will be necessary to write in anyone’s mother-tongue whereas it requires about 400 characters (including the changed patterns and looks when the letters are conjunct and vowels are added) to write in any Indian language.
The benefits of using Roman alphabet in almost all the states of Europe are there for us to see. This is perhaps one of the main reasons which brought them together in a practical way and acted as the prime mover for the scientific and technological advancement of Europe as well as America. Unfortutely, such a practical and scientific proposal made by the great linguist was rejected by the learned section of society by a process of majority vote at that time (1934) for reasons only known to those who stalled it. The result has been that even after the lapse of almost a century since then, an Assamese cannot understand anything written in Odiya and an Odiya cannot understand what is written in Bengali because the alphabets are altogether different.
Now Technology, particularly Information Technology - the mother-board of ‘Digital India’ has changed it all. Technology has forced us to use Roman alphabet in SMS, Facebook, Twitter, blog, chat etc. which are the basics of e-governce, e-commerce and other internet-ebled services, by means of which it is possible to establish instant connectivity between any two points on the globe. And this only requires a rudimentary knowledge of the vocabulary of each other’s language to understand one another so very necessary for the unity of thought and purpose. Going a little back in history, we shall find that the spread of all the Indian languages had to wait for the printing press — another gift of Technology, to come to India from Europe some 250 years ago in 1778 at Srirampur Christian Mission in West Bengal and only after that, books and periodicals gradually began to be published in the regiol languages which ushered in a sense of unity of thought and outlook till then unknown even amongst the speakers of the same language. Though apparently it seems to divide mankind into two halves – the technologically advanced and the technologically backward along with the risk of its misuse by the evil mind, yet we must agree that technology unites more than it divides. We can hear the same echo in the poem by an English poet who, after train services, another marvel of Technology, was introduced in England (1830), heralded the same in the following lines — ‘Where are you time and space/ The earth is a little place/Your reign is over and gone/You are one.’
(Prof. S.P.Bhattacharyya is Retd. Principal, Assam Engineering College, Guwahati. He can be contacted at 9435301416)