On the occasion of Hindi Diwas yesterday, the usual suspects proceeded to create the usual noise about alleged Hindi Imposition. Hindi was accepted as the Rajbhasha (mind you, Rajbhasha ie Official language not Rashtra Bhasha or National Language) of the newly independent Indian nation on 14 September 1949. In 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Godfather of all those who are screaming Hindi imposition today, started celebrating Hindi Diwas officially.
Former PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s love for Hindi was, however, as superficial as it could be, considering he did not do anything substantial to ensure that the Hindi language flourishes. Instead, he introduced a provision that English may be used as an official language until the system is ready to fully adopt Hindi as Official Language. Well, 72 years have passed since then.
Being a North Indian born in a Hindu family, with roots in Uttar Pradesh – I till very recently, always believed that Hindi is indeed the national language and that it is the national duty of every Indian to learn and speak Hindi. Reason for this notion can be that I belong to the core area of the so-called cow belt. The only language that’s spoken in our family is Hindi. I have lived all my life in Delhi, so have learnt only Hindi.
Gradually when first due to my association with Sangh, then my education and work, I began interacting with people from other parts of the country, I realised how narrow my thinking was! These interactions actually gave me a new perspective on national integration. Then in the last 6 years, my social media interactions with people from South, East and even the West have transformed my thought process completely.
There are 22 languages mentioned in the Indian constitution. Every language has equal stature. Hindi is the official language, accepted in the constitution but it is not our National language. Rather I would say, each one of the languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Assamese, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Bengali etc is our national language and should enjoy equal stature. Why should we impose Hindi on a Kannadiga, or Maratha or Assamese? When Marathi supremacists insist people to speak in Marathi or when Kannada Rakshan Vedike people destroy Hindi signboards in Karnataka, the feeling is that of indignation. Why do we then think that someone living in Chennai or Mangaluru or Kochi should not feel the same about Hindi being imposed on him?
Despite all propaganda and confrontation, Hindi has not only thrived but has grown manifolds across India in the last 70 years. Cinema has played a great role in it. Also, the large size of the Hindi speaking population has compelled advertisers, marketers, companies, publication houses to use Hindi in a big way to cater to a wider audience. Even people in South Indian states are learning Hindi as it’s increasingly becoming an important medium of communication across India. This is happening voluntarily, without the so-called imposition. The question thus remains – do we need a national language?
One important argument that comes in this discussion is that as a nation, India needs a national language in which people from different regions can communicate with each other. In my view, there can be arguments both in favour and against this notion. India is culturally a nation but it has hundreds of cultures thriving inside. We are a culture that celebrates diversity. People travel with Gangajal from Gangotri and worship Sri Rameshwara in Tamilnadu and the seawater from Kanyakumari is used to do Abhishek of Bhagwan Kedar in the Himalayas. Mandir, Mutt, Festivals join us like none else. It has thrived without a common language and I believe that it will continue to thrive in the future.
On the other hand, it’s true that having a common language will expedite the process of national integration by manifolds. Can Hindi be that language? Maybe, maybe not. The hatred for Hindi based on which most of the South Indian parties have thrived till date, won’t let that happen easily. It will lead to a huge confrontation.
One has to ask then – which other language has that capacity? Maybe Sanskrit? Most of the South Indian languages have originated from Sanskrit, just like Hindi. Many other languages of India like Marathi, Gujarati have a close connection with Hindi and Sanskrit. All languages spoken in North like Awadhi, Magahi, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Rajasthani, Marwari are more or less dialects of Hindi. So Sanskrit has a connection with most Indian languages.
The argument, however, that will be made against Sanskrit being a unifying language is that Sanskrit is a ‘dead language’ and nobody reads or learns it anymore. But if the ultimate goal is as big and pious as national integration, least we can do is giving it a serious try! If a completely lost language like Hebrew can be revived, and Kamal Ataturk can create a totally new language Turkish to get his nation rid of Arabic, why is it that India cannot revive a language like Sanskrit?
We ought to be proud of Hindi. It is a beautiful language spoken by a vast number of people in India. But at the same time, languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Odia and their other native languages are also dialects to be proud of.