Regional Language v/s Hindi: Worth A Debate?

Posted on January 25, 2010 in Society

Sahiba Singh:

Sena accuses Hindi channels of defaming Maharashtra

Lalu wants Bihar MPs to quit over MNS row

Deshmukh to ask Railways to hold exams in Marathi

Maharashtra bans non-Marathi Taxi Drivers

These kind of headlines have become regular in our daily newspapers. Does language create barriers? Is the regional v/s hindi debate justified? As for our politicians the “language” seems to be the most important issue till the next general elections. Many of them prefer to vent out their frustration by writing and some resort to extreme measures like violence.

But what does the Aam Aadmi think of this issue? “It’s just a vote getting cheap-trick played by the local leaders, who wish to be at the national front. I’m a born Marathi, I don’t have any problem with non- Marathi taxi drivers. Even we Maharashtrians go to other states to earn our lively hood, they don’t stop or beat us, and then who are these MNS’s walas to stop anybody. The new Maharashtra is not my Maharashtra, it is the one created by the Thackeray clan. The common people do not think like them”, says Varun Phule, who works in a Bangalore based IT firm.

It’s not just a Maharashtra based problem. State Governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had insisted on putting up hoardings and billboards in the local language, instead of English or Hindi. This step had created a lot of problem for the immigrants. The Gorkhaland movement in West Bengal often accuses state government of forcing Hindi and Bengali on them and not promoting their local language enough.

“This whole debate about regional v/s hindi is just sheer waste of time. Our mother tongues keep us rooted to our culture; they form a very integral part of our being. But resorting to violence against non-locals is totally uncalled for”, says Suja Joe.

Stand of Constitution

The Constitution of India accords Hindi in the Devanagari script as the official language of India (English being the subsidiary official language). It is also one of the 22 scheduled languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.

Hindi and National Integration

When Vallabhbhai Patel set about integrating 562 kingdoms and numerous provinces into what we know today as India, our leaders were keen to identify, and establish opportunities for national integration. This was a time when secession from the Union was a real threat, thus prompting the likes of Nehru and Gandhi to try and integrate the country in spirit, and not just politically. This, and the urge to uproot all things colonial, spurred the efforts to replace English with an Indian language. Gandhi pushed for Hindustani -the utilitarian blend of hindi and Urdu- as the national language. Even Rajagopalachari was in favour of establishing Hindustani as the national language. Nehru, the eternal democrat, proposed that linguists evolve a simplified version of Hindustani that South Indians could learn with ease.

Post-partition, however, the Jana Sangh and other Hindi groups pushed for the ‘purification‘ of the language by ridding it of its Urdu influences.

Eventually, after the violent protests in Tamil Nadu in 1965, Lal Bahadur Shastri, himself an advocate of hindi, permitted the use of English alongside hindi for conducting business in India. In addition, states were left free to conduct their business in the language of their choice.

Post 2000

Apart from secessionary tendencies in some North-Eastern states and J&K, India is largely a united nation. While the motive of designating a national language made sense in a volatile and brittle post-partition India, the current obsession with establishing a “common link” stems from a puerile notion of national integration. National integration is not about making Tamilian children learn hindi, teaching Malayalis to do the bhangra, or forcing Gujaratis to eat maacher jhol. National integration is about tolerance; about peaceful coexistence of culturally diverse communities; about every Indian acknowledging every other Indian as an equal citizen.

Our languages may make us different from each other but they don’t separate us. Whether we are a Malayli or a Punjabi, we must not forget that we are Indians first. Speaking in hindi doesn’t make you more Indian or speaking your local language any less Indian.

The writer is a Delhi based correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz