Hindi as the Uniting Language of India? Dr. Ram Puniyani explains

Ram Puniyani

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Modi 2.0 has
emerged as a very powerful government. It not only has numerical majority; it
is also facing a weak and divided opposition. That is one of the reasons for it
steam rolling over people’s opinions and imposing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh- Bharatiya Janata Party (RSS-BJP) agenda of Hindu nationalism in a
blatant way. On one side, it has brought in a law banning triple talaq, on the
other it has revoked Article 370. Encouraged by these easy successes,
now it seems to be unfolding it’s other agendas one by one.

Speaking on
the occasion of Hindi day, BJP President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah went
on to speak his party’s mind on Hindi as the national language. Mr. Shah said,
it was necessary to have one language which could represent India in the world
and that Hindi was widely spoken and could be the language to keep India
‘united’. “To preserve our ancient philosophy, our culture and the memory of
our freedom struggle,…there is at least one language, Hindi, that the nation
knows. If Hindi is taken out of our freedom struggle, the entire soul of the
struggle is lost,” he said. To emphasise his point, he tweeted this, “I want to
appeal to people to promote their native languages but also use Hindi to make
the dream of Bapu and Sardar Patel of one language come true.”

The
intentions behind this statement were not hidden, though the language is very
clever. The idea is to relegate English and regional languages to the margins
and to give more prominence to Hindi all through.

Sensing the
intentions of Shah, many a leaders from South India, M K Stalin, Shashi
Tharoor, Pinarayi Vijayan and Kamal Haasan have openly come against his
statement. All of them see this as an attempt to impose Hindi on these states.

Vijayan put
it bluntly through his tweet,

“That
language (Hindi) is not the mother tongue of majority of Indians. The move to
inflict Hindi upon them amounts to enslaving them.”

While Kamal
Haasan, in a video where he can be seen standing next to the Ashoka pillar and
the Preamble, says India became a republic in 1950 with a promise to the people
that their language and culture will be protected. “No Shah, Sultan or Samrat
can suddenly break that promise. We respect all languages but our mother language
will always be Tamil… The battle for our language will be exponentially
bigger…,” he says.

As such our
country has been very diverse in all the matters related to language, culture,
religion and ethnicity. The freedom movement was the real reflector of this
diversity. People cutting across all these considerations stood as a single
fraternity, respecting the diversity and the rich heritage coming from
different religions and languages in particular. In all the languages, India’s
aspirations of becoming a single nation got expressed. Hindi, along with other
regional languages, has inherited a rich lineage for becoming the mirror of
Indian society. Though English was introduced primarily as an administrative
language, it soon became part of Indian culture, and all these also became a
mirror of Indian society and aspirations.

In contrast
to the national movement for freedom from British slavery, which stood to
reflect all the languages, the communal forces had different ideas. Muslim
communalism came up with the slogan, ‘Urdu, Muslim Pakistan’, and on parallel
lines Hindu nationalism threw up the slogan, ‘Hindi, Hindu, and Hindustan’.
When Pakistan was formed in the Muslim majority areas (East Pakistan and West
Pakistan), their languages were very diverse. Muslim League’s insistence that
Urdu should become the national language of Pakistan did precipitate the
feeling of separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan leading to the
formation Bangladesh with Bengali as the major language.

Interestingly,
the makers of Indian Constitution concluded that “Hindustani, written
either in Devanagari or the Persian script at the option of the citizen, shall,
as the national language, be the first official language of the Union. English
shall be the second official language for such period as the Union may, by law,
determine.” The three language formula envisaged English, Hindi and
regional language as the fulcrum of education.

During the
1960s, there was an attempt to introduce Hindi in the southern states, and this
led to massive protests all over, following which the policy was put on hold.
Again, the New Education Policy under consideration wanted to
make Hindi as mandatory. The argument continues that Hindi is the language of
the majority of Indians. The latest data shows that it is the mother tongue of
25% of Indians and 44% people say they know Hindi. The massive opposition to
this language part of the New Education Policy yet again led to holding back of
Hindi as mandatory.

One recalls
that even during 1940s, when Congress government came to power in Tamil Nadu
(Madras at that time), an attempt was made to introduce Hindi there. The
resistance to this was articulated by Periyar Ramasamy Naicker, who raised the
slogan ‘Tamil Nadu for Tamilians’ and accused Hindi of being a tool of the
Aryans for infiltrating Dravidian culture.

How does one
deal with the complex language issue. The country has been running well with
English, Hindi and regional languages being used in different proportions at
different levels. While there have been conscious efforts to spread Hindi to
the southern states, there are no parallel steps to popularise regional
languages in Hindi speaking states. One must say Hindi has definitely made long
strides in spreading into southern and other states all over the country, but,
this task has been achieved not by impositions from top but by the spread of
Hindi films, and popular Hindi serials apart from the efforts of organisations
promoting Hindi.

The issue of
Urdu being the national language contributed to the split of Pakistan. In
contrast, India has managed a remarkable balancing act in matters of languages
so far. With Amit Shah unfolding their agenda of imposing homogeneity all over,
one hopes present diversity, sentiments and aspirations of southern states will
be given due weightage in deciding the national language policy.

Dr. Ram Puniyani

Topics – Hindi Issue, National language, One Nation One Language, Indian Constitution, Regional Languages, National Language Policy, Amit Shah, RSS, BJP, Hindutva agenda, New Education Policy, Southern Indian States, Tamil Nadu, Hindi Imposition, Article 370.

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