14 Sept 2009

Wither Hindi? Part-I

This series of posts got selected for BlogAdda's Spicy Saturday Picks. Click here to read a mini-review of this series by the BlogAdda team.

This is the first part of a two part series on the occasion of Hindi Diwas.

Today is Hindi Diwas (Hindi Day). 60 years ago on 14th September, 1949, Hindi was accepted and adopted as the official language of the Union. Recently, while filling an application form for an examination, I was required to mention my mother language. Ofcourse, I mentioned Hindi. However, just a couple of days before that, I had also appeared for a Hindi exam as a part of some other civil services exam. As expected, I was miserable in it.

That raises the question, is Hindi really my mother language?

First of all, I'll delineate my brand of Hindi. In everyday life, I use Hindi as the medium of verbal communication. However, is it really Hindi? The base might be that of Hindi but inadvertently so many words from English, Punjabi and Urdu creep in that if I sit down to decipher a sentence just spoken, I'll realise that it is no where close to the 'pure' Hindi. That raises the question that is the 'pure' Hindi really desirable?

Ofcourse it is, I realised while giving that exam. I found that my vocabulary in Hindi is so weak that I should be ashamed of myself. However, if I had given the same exam during my school days, I would have definitely done a lot better. Infact, my Hindi was so fluent back then that I was called Shastriji (Learned of Shastras) by my school friends. 8 years of just English education has indeed adulterated me.

But am I really adulterated? What is the desirability of the purity beyond that exam?

Recently, an Indiblogger started a discussion in the forums. He asserts that,

We are here to promote Hindi as language and want more use of it at Blogs. Some of the Hindi News Blogs and portals do not write Hindi but Hinglish which hurt us. It is our National Language and everyone must respect it.

If a person wants to promote any language, he has the fundamental right to do so under Article 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution meant for the linguistic (and other) minorities.

So what about Hindi as it is not a minority language? Well, there are special provisions for development of Hindi as an official language of the Union Government under Article 344 and as medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India, i.e. a pan-Indian language under Article 351.

In this context, first of all let me clarify that India has no National language (Rashtra Bhasha) as asserted above by the initiator of the debate on Indiblogger. Constitutionally there are two types of languages - Official languages and Scheduled languages. According to Article 343, India has two official languages (Rajya Bhasha) - Hindi (in Devanagari script) and English. The States can declare their own official languages apart from English.

Talking of Scheduled languages, we have 22 of them under the Schedule 8 of the Indian Constitution. Originally there were 14 - Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malyalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Sindhi (21st Constitutional Amendment Act, 1967), Konkani, Manipuri, Nepali (71st, 1992), Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhili (91st, 2003) were added later. If you might have noticed, 15 0f them are visible on the Indian paper currency while others which were added later still do not find the place there. Entry into this scheduled list has become more of a political affair, a way of appeasing particular minority linguistic sections.

Hence, to claim Hindi as the national language is a big misconception of not only this gentleman but many Indians. Moreover, though it was envisaged as a pan-Indian language by the framers of constitution, Hindi could never rise to that level because,
  • It was not easy for states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or Bengal having rich traditional linguistic culture to accept any such language forced from above, and
  • It was necessary for the Central Government to see beyond pan-Indian to global communication. In that respect Hindi could never surpass English.
Hence, Hindi has not been accepted as an official medium by the non-Hindi speaking states and English though actually envisaged to be an official language only till 1965 under the Article 343, still carries on with that status thanks to the Official Language Act of 1963 and hence will remain there till eternity.

In this context, in the above mentioned debate on Indiblogger, the initiator further asserts,

If you speak French or German mixing with English, I am sure its not going to be liked, then why make Hindi the scapegoat. Its not only my mother tongue, its a very developed language, why not use it properly.

Well, comparing Hindi with French or German is sort of a faulty analogy. For that matter, Hindi is also one of the least developed language of India if you compare it with the rich linguistic heritage of Tamil, Telugu or Bengali. As long as a person wants to use Hindi properly, he/she is most welcome to do so. Requesting (and not demanding) the others to do so is also his right. However, to give wrong assertions like Hindi is the National language or illogical assertions that Hindi is very developed language, so use it properly; totally fails his/her wider assertions.

Article 351, mentioned earlier with regards to development of Hindi as a pan-Indian language, also clarifies that it is the duty of the Union Government to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule.

In short, Hindi has been developed as a medium for pan-Indian communication. In that sense, it is very important that rather than claiming its purity, it intermixes with other languages. English has actually enriched itself by adopting vocabulary from other European languages like French and German and even Asian languages like Arabic and Hindi for that matter.

Hence rather than purifying Hindi, there should be an effort to make it easier to understand. In this context, Article 351 should move beyond just the Eighth Schedule and include English within its ambit too. Rather than creating new words for common English terms, those terms should be assimilated as has been done all these years.

Why should I call Hindi as my mother language if I am not able to understand the official Hindi documents which use the rarest possible vocabulary. In this context, the Committee of Parliament on Official Language, 1957; constituted under the Constitutional provision (Article 344) under the chairmanship of the then Union Home Minister Govind Vallabh Pant also recommended that proper encouragement should be given for usage of meaningful and simple Hindi words.

Hindi was developed as the language for the common man just as Pali (Buddhist literature) and Prakrit (Jain literature) were developed centuries ago when Sanskrit was regarded elitist and was confined to the Brahminical learning. So why should we emphasize on purifying or in other words complicating Hindi?

In the next part, I'll touch upon the need for a pan-Indian language and the language that should qualify for being the one. Click here to read it.

Image Courtesy:

http://thumbs.dreamstime.com (edited)


Unknown said...

I still dont understand the idea or concept of promoting a national language. And as you said there is a lot of difference between the everyday Hindi we speak and pure Hindi. I learnt Hindi when I was in delhi.. not fully... but for 5 days time..I learnt a lot.. actually its a very good language and it feels really good when i was able to speak few lines in hindi.

I feel except for exams, interms of communication, there is nothing wrong in mixing english with hindi or tamil or whatever..

but does it really mean that its your mother language only if you do good in exams??

Vipul Grover said...

..but does it really mean that its your mother language only if you do good in exams???
Shankar, that was just an introspective question.
The debate here is what is the need for purifying Hindi?
And as I assert, there is the need to loosen it up rather than purify it.

Anonymous said...

hmm! nice post. Till now i was also one of those ignorant people who think Hindi is our national language; thanks for a good piece of information. Will be waiting for your next post..

Shruti said...

Wow, a neat post by you!
Usually Hindi is written in Devanagri script or not?! But I know we use that for sanskrit!
Even i don't know hindi, i mean pure hindi!
""Hindi could never rise to that level because,
It was not easy for states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or Bengal having rich traditional linguistic culture to accept any such language forced from above""
Very rightly said! I found many of my friends struggling hindi though it was our III language!

Very well written Vipul!

Pramathesh said...

Nice Post! I was also quite good in Hindi, when I was in school. I recently realized that I don't know a single language properly.Which is actually very bad. But, I comforted myself by saying that i am only contributing to the development of a new language. :P

Anonymous said...

Hey that was a very nice post.. it's not just hindi, it's true for all the languages.. They do get infiltrated.. I dont know Kannada properly even though it's my mother tongue but my parents managed to master both English and Kannada.. they vocabulary is much better than mine in both.. They say that it is because of the emphasis for literature that they had in their generation which is kinda lacking in ours.. I cannot speak a single sentence in any language without using English.. :)

Sugandha Gupta said...

oki no questions attached this tym :P
I agree :) n believe in the above post:)

Siddhesh Kabe said...

हिंदी की यह जानकारी मेरे लिए नयी थी. हिंदी दिवस की शुभकामनाये.


Anonymous said...

it was a very informative post I must admit....
and I second Shanker in saying that there should not be any problem in mixing other languages with hindi..
I think it is a part of development of languages...
many words of hindi are also accepted in english literature.

Dhiman said...

Vipul we should not be so critical about purity about a language because there is something called colloquial but yes while writing we should try to be more refine but every language evolves with time....I don't know the Bengali that was written by yesterday year literary geniuses infact I won't be able to speak a para in 'pure' Bengali...today a person knows multiple languages so its bound you mix up... its happened in every language even Tamil that people use is not what their literary classics are written in...one more thing I believe we must have a common language pan-India specially in a country like India it helps a lot if you are out of your home state... One more thing Tamilnadu govt. doesn't prefer other languages because they fear with onset of other language their language will be extinct...

Vipul Grover said...

@shilpa and sid.. I am happy tht I could provide you with this information:)

@Shruti.. Hindi is indeed written in devanagri script. Which othr script its written in um not sure.. can search for it.. bt too lazy to do it right now ;)
Ofcourse wn most of d ppl cannot do justice to evn our I an II language in school, wat cn b said about III lang!

Vipul Grover said...

@Pramathesh.. Buddy same is d case with me.. Though my comfort level has increased wn it cums 2 english bt thn thrs no denying the fact tht it is more of the Indian sorts, distinct frm British and largely distinct frm American english.. Bt thn as u say we r contributing to the development of a new language :)

@Avada Kedavra.. Ofcourse its true about evry language. Its also true about english itslf. the diffrnce is tht english has happily adopted French, German, Spanish, Arabic and Hindi terms which has indeed helped it in bcuming the global language.

Vipul Grover said...

@Suga.. Um relieved :p

@RSV.. Yup u r right.. nd as said above replying to Avada Kedavra tht it has indeed helped English in bcuming d global language.

@Dhiman.. Its nice tht u agree with evrything i wrote here:)
Change is constant as we say.
Yes, we must have a pan-Indian language and we already have one though we may deny it. I'll take tht up in d nxt post..
About Tamilnadu govt. I really don't blame their fears. They have a brilliant language. Why should hindi b forced upon thm?

Prashansa said...

Of all the 15 languages why only mention three as having wonderful inheritance? Marathi also has a good inheritance for that instance! Panjabi and Urdu are also rich ! What about sanskrit? If it is only the matter of false pride for Hindi vs English then it is true for tamil vs hindi or Telugu vs hindi or bengali vs hindi as well. English is also a forced language on us all. We accept it then why not Hindi? I also thought that hindi is our national language.You are right!If we want hindi to survive then we have to be broad minded about it.But little bit emphasis on pure hindi doesn't matter.

Vipul Grover said...

Hey, Pra as far ur frst cncrn goes, the list of Tamil, Bengali and Telugu was just indicative and not exhaustive, in short, i was jus giving examples..
just like u missed 2 mntion marathi vs hindi while talking of matters of false pride:)
Now cuming 2 english as the forced language.. well i'll take it up in d nxt post. Its not about forcing sumthing, its about feasibility. anyway lets wait for tht post.
Finally, broad mindedness is sumthing tht is required in evry issue and is not limited to this one. Thnx 4 supporting tht point:)
Ofcourse, a little bit emphasis on pure hindi doesn't hurt but the problem rises wn we r not able 2 dcide tht wat exactly this 'little bit' shud b!

Indian Pundit said...

Ambedkar suggested that we make English our national language........a very sensible suggestion. But cong. screwed it then

Indian Pundit said...

This debate is not necessary actually.

We need to focus on things that UNITE US.NOT DIVIDE US.

Lets respect one's language(mother tongue) at an INDIVIDUAL LEVEL!!

and follow Ambedkar's idea.

Anonymous said...

I like IP's opinion...
English is an international language..

BK Chowla, said...

We seem to get politically emotional about some irrelevant issues.In my opinion,any language is good enough which is accepted to all.Is Hindi accepted as the national language in the South?Will any political party take the risk?
Who in power has worked towards promoting Hindi?Can our netas converse in Hindi?
English is the language of the world.

Vipul Grover said...

@IP, Rahul and Chowlaji.. Really gud to read these views. Well, the next post talks about this very aspect. Um just resisting my index finger frm pushing the Publish post button:)

Vineeta said...

Thanks for bringing this topic as this has been going on in my mind for a long time!

Language is just a medium to communicate..be it any language. Hindi in simple words if understood by other person suffices the sole purporse.

I just hope to see ppl seeing a language as just a medium and not start judging ppl based on the way they speak a language. Good you brought this out :)

Shruti said...

I have something for you vipul!
Visit my blog!

Lakshmi Rajan said...

Splendid reflection ! A language has to be dynamic , learn , adapt , encourage, add , modify to keep itself alive. Any language that fails in this will find itself extinct in due course ..

And the idea of Hindi as a national language is dangerous , we are a multi cultural, multi linguistic, multi religious nation and enforcing will cause a doom. You can encourage someone to learn but not impose..

Prashansa said...

Hey Vipul, I thought Marathi has no problem with Hindi! Some exceptions are there ofcource but they are minor at the moment!:-)
Got your point! Waiting for your next post! Why the delay?

Roshmi Sinha said...

A good read and quite insightful too!

"It was not easy for states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or Bengal having rich traditional linguistic culture to accept any such language forced from above"

I beg to differ. I say this 'coz I have seen all the three states mentioned above... quite closely.

People of Bengal (majority of them, that is) do not discriminate on the lines of language, culture, states, regions, etc. They are willing to embrace new things, accept them as well as learn from them.

The poets, writers, intelluctuals, etc of and from Bengal always had a world view... they travelled widely/read extensively/interacted immensely. Hence, the bengali culture and literature is like an ocean... all encompassing and with a lot of depth.

The same cannot be said of AP or TN... or for that matter the southern states and to an extent Mah. But... this is more pronounced in TN.

No doubt... they too have a rich traditional linguistic culture apart from literature. But... these are more focussed on the people found within their physical boundaries. I perhaps will liken this to a "Kupamandup".

People here speak in their mother tongue... even though the dialect differs from one area to another. They refuse to learn or understand the cultures which are "alien" to them. There is no culture of reading... unlike in Bengal.

Most of the folks making an issue out of "language"... be it the medium of education or criteria for jobs or that of living in a particular state... are primarily from these states.

They themselves have very little knowledge of their own literature/culture or history... and by "their own" I mean their region or state. Everything is discussed vis-a-vis their state or evn their caste... unlike that in Bengal. Even education... this has come about majorly in the last 15-20 years.

I agree Bengal has many drawbacks too... a lack of work culture... being the most debilitating.

Hindi has all the potential and can become a 'national' language... but we should not expect that the hindi spoken throughout the country will be 'uniform'. There will be influences of the local language... and that is very natural. Infact, the 'urdu' spoken in Karnataka or in Hyd in AP is not urdu at all. It is a corrupt form of hindi... which has heavy local influence.

Vipul Grover said...

Roshmi, thanks for giving such detailed insights :)

"It was not easy for states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or Bengal having rich traditional linguistic culture to accept any such language forced from above"

In this sentence i've praised the rich traditional linguistic culture of these states and nowhere mentiond that these states (not just Bengal) discriminate on the lines of language, culture, states, regions, etc.

Rather I am talking about their minority linguistic rights.

However, there is no denying the fact that in states like TN and Kerela , such issues have been fuelled for getting political mileage but people at large are not responsible for it.

Hence, we both are on the same side!

Anyway this is an extract from a wikipedia article which i searchd rite now -
In late 1964, an attempt was made to expressly provide for an end to the use of English, but it was met with protests from states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Karnataka, Pondicherry and Andhra Pradesh. Some of these protests also turned violent. As a result, the proposal was dropped,

However, the references given in it point to a couple of reports pertaining to southern states like this CNN report. Thrs no reference supporting any kind of agitation in West Bengal.
And well, I nvr mentiond any in my post too. U just misinterpretd my wrdings.

Well, talking about rich culture that u mention, u basically support my assertion. Anyway, the rich linguistic culture i talk about pertains to antiquity of the language - Officially, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are Classical languages.. Bengali doesn't find place there.

Anyway, coming to national language or better to call it pan-Indian language, u'll get to read my views in a short while:)

Vipul Grover said...

@Vineeta.. Thnx thr.. yup, u r spot on to call language as a medium of communication.. nuthing less, nuthing more. All these problems stem from the fact that Indian states have been created on linguistic basis. Hence, somehow, differnt issues get mixed up with the language.

@Rajan.. Those r beautiful thoughts man.. You can encourage someone to learn but not impose..

@Pra.. Its cuming:)

Bharathi said...

want to give a detailed comment. will come back when I am little free.

Roshmi Sinha said...

Thanks Vipul... for your comments. Unfortunately, I could not respond earlier than this. Anyways...

I do not intend to prove or disprove your points. I'm merely stating my point of view.

This whole issue of 'language' is a political issue. There are strong vested interests which thrive on it and other factors related to it... 'sons of the soil', 'reservation in educational institutions and employment based on language'... etc.

The more these kind of political forces... the greater will be the difficulty in forming policies that will help the nation as a whole.

As far as language is concerned... I have no knowledge of any language ever being an issue in Bengal. I do not think there was ever any lang. riot in the sixties or at any other time... in Bengal.

When I quoted what you have mentioned: "It was not easy for states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or Bengal having rich traditional linguistic culture to accept any such language forced from above"... I'm merely talking about the point I mentined before. Also, the mindset prevailing in all the 3 states are very, very different. I have explained that in my prev. comment.

"However, there is no denying the fact that in states like TN and Kerela , such issues have been fuelled for getting political mileage but people at large are not responsible for it."

In TN and Kerala... there is wide spread support among the general populace too. Even in AP. The general feeling in the south is that the 'North Indians' look down on the south Indians. And by North Indians they mean everyone who is not from the southern states.

The people of the south have primarily been agriculturists. Education... esp lots of school/college and prof. courses have come up in the last 15-18 years. The 10th and 12th Board syllabus is comparatively weaker than in most of the other states.

But due to the proliferation of the edu insti... students from other states came down to study here and many stayed back to work. The general feeling among the southern people is that the Northern Indians are taking our jobs, buying our land, getting their culture here and corrupting us. The north Indians boys and girls smoke, drink, visit pubs and discoes... which is a bad influence on us and our kids... etc.

Never mind, that in the south in every galli-nukkad you find numerous liquor shops... no matter what locality it is.

There is a mental block amongst a large chunk of the population... in interacting with people who are not from the south. This lack of comm. has given rise to latent hostility and opinions formed... which has over time taken on the garb of 'truth'... and is exploited by vested interests.

They do not want to think rationally nor understand that everyone who is here is giving back a lot more than they get. The economic activity generated helps even the folks who make paper cups. Also MNCs do not give jobs based on location and lang. They have a clear set of "non negotiables" that have to be adhered to no matter what.

This bias is more pronouncedin TN and Kerala and to a lesser extent in Kar and AP.

Roshmi Sinha said...

'National language' should be equated to a 'pan-Indian language'.

Hindi can serve the purpose... since it has all the potential. But, in every region or state it will take on its own 'flavour'... we should not expect that the hindi spoken throughout the country will be 'uniform'. There will be influences of the local language/region/culture... and that is very natural.

Infact, the 'urdu' spoken in Karnataka or in Hyd in AP is not urdu at all. It is a corrupt form of hindi... which has heavy local influence. The 'hindi' spoken in Bengal... has a lot of 'bengali' in it.

Infact, we should not view english as a 'foreign' language. It is pretty much an Indian lang which also helps us to integrate with the world.

Infact, 'english' was the 'link language' that brought the country closer and helped people from various language background to commmunicate and understand each other. It served to 'bind' the people and in turn the country and thereby played a major role in the 'freedom struggle'.

Why should we look at english differently now... ???

Vipul Grover said...

Hey Roshmi thnx for dropping back to add to this discussion.. I blive u misd 2 read the part-2 of this post. Ur scnd comment gives a nice gist of wat all I've said in these two posts cmbind. so thnx 4 supporting:)

About the frst cmmnt, knowing tht u r jus putting ur point of view nd not refuting my views as sch, i mst still mention, tht in these posts I didn't want to gt into 'they r right or they r wrong debate'. I just tuk a general view; one, because I don't hav prsnl xperience of living in these places (like u have) and two, I don't want to put in any regionalistic touch. Hence I talked of all Non-Hindi belt citizens as one. (I already acknowledged tht I cud find no instance of linguistic feud in WB nd thts highly enlightened nd appreciative.)

As for ur point of view on Southern vision of North, I'v made a reference in d nxt post to a fact about
non-Hindi speaking Indians who see the complete Hindi belt as a single unit bounded by a single language.
Same can be extended to South seeing North or for tht matter even North seeing South. (I still make the mistake at times of regarding 4 southern states as one unit irrespective of their diffrnt culture or so many cultural nd political feuds.)

Ur inputs about ground reality in the southern states jus added 2 my knowledge. Thts d best part of blogging:)

And yeah as I cmmntd in nxt post also - I am sure, if any non-Indian reads this discussion, he'll be amazed to see, how a prsn frm Hindi-belt is asking for Hindi to wither and how the non-Hindi belt guys(u, bharathi, dhiman,pra nd othrs) are refuting his stand.
It happens only in India :)

pawan said...

As an out and out Dravidian and a pucca native of Andhra Pradesh, I tell you Hindi should no be accepted as our language.
Who has the right to force one language into the people?
I loathed Hindi and I loathe it now too. But when it comes to English my choice is different. English is less complex and more uniform (when it comes to the script and all) when compared to Hindi.

My stance is, why choose a national language?
What's its purpose?
The answer is there is no purpose of choosing a national language, its just like boasting.


Vipul Grover said...

Hey pawan gr8 to see u man..
Well, our basic stand is d same. Bt the point of views r diffrnt.
Um sorry but being a dravidian or pucca Andhrite doesn't mean tht u have 2 loathe other languages.
U may loathe unempathic enforcement but loathing a language itself, is a diffrnt thing all together. Sch narrow mindedness feeds the troubles for the country as a whole.
I hop u agree with this stand of mine too.

pawan said...

But as I told u my ethnicity, u must be knowing that I come from a very orthodox family which relies in rich language and literature. So, from childhood I got to respect Telugu more.
This is one possible explanation!

Vipul Grover said...

As long as u agree, any explanation is acceptable. We all hav our prejudices nd passions :)

pawan said...

Congrats on the Spicy Saturday pick!
My post got selected too!

Btw, Vipul, could you gimme the HTML code for the Movies review widget u have on ur blog, please!

Roshmi Sinha said...

Congratulations and Celebrations!!! :D