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Tea Leaves

Politics of language loom large in India

Time is running out for India's English-speaking minority amid Hindi-based mass culture

Children look out the windows of a school bus at an English-language school in New Delhi in December 1995. Only 0.02% of Indians speak English as their first language, yet English is the language of the supreme court, elite business, much of government and the national media.   © AP

India is among the world's most linguistically liberal states. It has 22 official languages and almost as many mother tongues as gods. According to the 2011 census 19,500 distinct tongues are spoken.

But there is only one linguistic fault line that really matters -- between English and non-English, and especially between speakers of English as a first language and the rest.

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