homeviews NewsThe language debate: Hindi deserves respect, but imposing it on all is a bad idea

The language debate: Hindi deserves respect, but imposing it on all is a bad idea

The language debate: Hindi deserves respect, but imposing it on all is a bad idea
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By Vijay Kumar Gaba  Oct 8, 2019 6:42:37 AM IST (Updated)

It needs to be unconditionally accepted that in India it is totally undesirable to impose Hindi, or any other language, on people whose mother tongue is entirely different.

The role of a language goes much further than mere communication. The language we use for communication defines our personality, thought process and confidence level. The language gives wings to our imagination. It is widely acknowledged that if we use a language we are not comfortable communicating in, our personality might get diminished, thought process may be frequently interrupted, confidence may be little lesser, and imagination curtailed.

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Therefore, choosing the language for education, working, thinking and communicating is no less important than the knowledge, thought, skill, processes and the methods themselves.
Lack of innovation
It needs to be unconditionally accepted that in India it is totally undesirable to impose Hindi, or any other language, on people whose mother tongue is entirely different, like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. But by making it a political contention, our leaders have ensured that North Indians and South Indians would never love to learn each other’s languages and hence be devoid of extremely rich literature, culture and knowledge base of each other. The apathy to each other’s language has reached a level, where most non-community affiliated private schools in North India offer French, German and Mandarin as an elective, but none offers any Indian languages as elective. I am sure the same is true for the schools in other parts of the country also.
Last year, I conducted a survey of the students in Mumbai and Delhi. None of the students I spoke to could even name all the North Eastern states. None of the 10th class Delhi students was aware about a region named Rohilkhand in India (located just 160 km from Delhi). Students from UP, Punjab, Bihar and Rajasthan were mostly ignorant about Tukaram, Thiruvalluvar, Subramanya Bharti, Eknath, and Chandidas. I am sure, the students in South India will not be too familiar with Tulsidas, Kabir, Ravidas et. al.
A deeper scientific study may confirm my belief that the general lack of innovation and ingenuity in modern Indian youth may be stemming from the limitation of not thinking in ‘own language’.
Another casualty could be traced in comparative degeneration in contemporary literature and other art forms. Literature played a critical role in our freedom struggle. But now the stories and novels do not stir people. Despite so much corruption, unemployment, crime, nepotism and discrimination, we do not see people leaving their comfort zones and taking to streets for a common cause; even though there are some localised spontaneous sporadic protests which die on their own in a few days. The film songs are generally not poetic these days.
Therefore, in my view, the recent debate over adoption of Hindi by the non-Hindi speaking states must consider this dimension also. I believe it is of foremost importance to convince the larger part of the population, whose mother tongue is Hindi, to accord a respectable status to Hindi.
The first president of independent India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, who was also a key member of the Constituent Assembly, which was given the responsibility to draft the Constitution, famously said, "A country that does not take pride in its language and literature can never progress". Strongly emphasising the universality of Hindi language, he reminded the nation that "Hindi has always been such a language that it never boycotted any word just because it's of foreign origin". As a Hindi speaking native, I can vouch that Hindi as a modern language truly reflects the quintessential Indianness - Openness, adaptability, progressiveness, tolerance, modesty, simplicity and brilliance. Inherent ability to adapt to the continuously evolving socio-economic and cultural conditions, and embrace all the foreign developments with brilliant ease, makes it one of the most dynamic languages in the world.
'English-knowing’ elite
Despite having the constitutional status of India's national language, Hindi has not been accorded the prestige it deserves. As a resident of National Capital Region, I can confirm that it is not uncommon to find instances where Hindi-speaking people are subjected to derision and face discrimination. To the contrary, English-speaking people are held in high esteem in most of hinterlands. A walk through the main market of any tier III town in UP, Bihar, MP or Rajasthan would be enough to see the eagerness of people to be included in ‘English-knowing’ elite group. Tens of coaching centres running ‘English Speaking Courses’ could be easily located in any town. Last year when I visited Varanasi, it took me almost five hours to find a Sanskrit school. The following pictures of Varanasi tell the story better than my words.
Fortunately, a silver lining is that in the recent times a wider awareness about the issue is developing. The youth is breaking the stereotypes. They are ignoring the commands of so-called language purists, and devising a new form of language that is primarily based on their respective mother tongues but borrows liberally from all other languages. The expression thus created is free, innovative, attractive and without any prejudice. I hope this innovation does not stay confined to the precincts of social media and gets wider acceptance in offices and schools.
Vijay Kumar Gaba explores the treasure you know as India, and shares his experiences and observations about social, economic and cultural events and conditions. He contributes his pennies to the society as Director, Equal India Foundation.
Read his columns here.
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