By ANSHUMAN BHARGAVA :
The whole politics of language is an unwarranted imbroglio that only divides the country and rakes up tension between communities. Even though all languages must be respected and there is need to protect the cultural identity and ethnic richness of every language.
Naidu suggested that students from non-Hindi speaking States should learn the language and those from Hindi speaking States should learn one more Indian language such as Tamil, Telugu or Kannada to increase goodwill, love and affection among the citizens.
VICE PRESIDENT M Venkaiah Naidu has recently called for according equal respect to all languages emphasising that no language should either be imposed or opposed. Addressing an online event organised recently, the Vice-President said all Indian languages have a rich history and people should be proud of the country’s language diversity and cultural heritage. Noting that Mahatma Gandhi had founded the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha in 1918, the Vice President emphasised that Hindi and other Indian languages should be seen as complementary to each other.
Naidu suggested that students from non-Hindi speaking States should learn the language and those from Hindi speaking States should learn one more Indian language such as Tamil, Telugu or Kannada to increase goodwill, love and affection among the citizens. Expressing happiness over the importance given to mother tongue in the New Education Policy-2020, the Vice President called for providing education in mother tongue for inclusive learning. “This helps the children in learning and understanding the subject better and they can express themselves better,” he said.
Noting that education in mother tongue would necessitate the easy availability of good books in Hindi and other Indian languages, Naidu said publishing houses will have an important role in this. Underlining the need for all Indian languages to grow together, Naidu called upon the publishers and educators to work for enhancing dialogue between languages. The whole politics of language is an unwarranted imbroglio that only divides the country and rakes up tension between communities. Even though all languages must be respected and there is need to protect the cultural identity and ethnic richness of every language, especially regional languages, there should not be ideological reservations when it comes to learning to speak new languages, especially Hindi, just because it is spoken by another community or North Indian communities. Linguistic handicap is not an intellectual virtue because it breeds more alienation and disconnect with other language groups and hence divides people on a superficial level, which can be avoided if we are a little more accommodating and accepting.
We must face it upfront; the truth is, yes, people in many parts of India have a deep aversion to adopting Hindi seamlessly as part of their cultural ethos. People of South India in particular hold Hindi as impure and outcaste which they don’t want to allow to contaminate their language, which they hold as the purest. This is a baseless and regressive mindset which only comes out of ignorance and lack of empathy for others. Hindi is and will be the lingua franca of the country, if not anything, then at least by the sheer number of its speakers, no matter how much we abhor it or how insecure the Hindi-speakers feel at the perceived threat to their languages’ existence. Nearly 50 per cent of India has Hindi as their first language and we cannot deny or negate this demographic fact by force of argument.
Even if nothing is done to promote Hindi, it will still be the dominant language of the country— hence the question of ‘imposition’ is also a flimsy premise of the argument. Nobody can or need to impose anything which already has an overbearing influence in all our cultural mores. This is an unfounded fear certain language communities live in; no one is going to displace their language and replace it with Hindi. As the V-P said, it is a question of living together, complimenting each other. No language is good or bad or alien. It is only a matter of perspective because language is objective, a linguistic truth, which has no colour or creed or affiliation. It is a field of knowledge like science or history and must be seen as so. Anyone who speaks a language or reads, writes or understands it, owns that language like anyone else. Hindi can be mine as well as yours just as Tamil or Bengali or Urdu can be mine as well as yours. There is no propriety over language. This basic understanding that many of us lack lead to a fractured India.
A culture flourishes only in as much as it assimilates the cultural motifs of different cultures. This synthesis holds for language too. Hindi is an amalgamation of Persian, Urdu, Arabic, Sanskrit and even English. Who are we fighting against? People are proud to speak English but detest Hindi as provincial. We adopt a foreign language so easily but hesitate to culture the most popular language of our own country. No regional language can replace Hindi because they form small percentages of the population and no one language can claim the spot to the top. The largest language group after Hindi is Bengali, which is spoken by hardly 10 per cent of the Indian population. The other languages are further down the order with some language groups forming hardly one or two per cent of the population. The wisdom, hence, is in adopting a language which is most widely spoken and can thus serve as not only a unifier but a convenient tool of communication.
Bengali and South Indian film directors have made successful films in Hindi, cashing in the utility of the medium to reach a larger populace. All the best books in regional languages are ultimately translated into Hindi for a wider audience. Singers and musicians and lyricists and actors of different language communities, sit in Maharashtra capital Mumbai, speak and know Marathi and work for Hindi films. This is a brilliant example of national integration and how a healthy cultural exchange can bring out the best creativity. The most famous names of the industry, be it Lata Mangeshkar or Kishore Kumar, AR Rehman or Arijit Singh, Shyam Benegal or Mani Ratnam or Bimal Roy — have excelled in Hindi and gained from their understanding of the language and the cultures associated with it. Our great freedom fighters from Mahatma Gandhi to Subhash Bose, from Bhagat Singh to Lala Lajpat Rai didn’t have Hindi as their mother tongue, yet they saw prudence and practicality in using Hindi generously to unite people and communicate better with them. We cannot live without Hindi because apart from its demographic position, it also has a rich literature and folklore and is a treasure trove of myths and legends and history which have found a way in all our respective native cultures through centuries of co-living and shaped all our individual cultural histories. Conversely, there are also several instances of Hindi speakers who have leant other regional languages and worked in them.
It is this cultural give and takes that has made India rich. Hating or quashing Hindi is like hitting out at a ghost in the dark which is not there, because Hindi itself is a sort of a big language family with diverse ethnicities speaking different inflexions, variations and dialects of the language, which keep changing every few hundred miles and percolate down to influence our thoughts and character in some way or the other. By the way, Hindi itself is a great assimilator and continues to evolve by freely borrowing words from other languages. We are all part of India and must behave as Indians, and not as separate language communities grinding in our bigoted cocoons of security