This is the second part of a two part series. The first part was published on the occasion of the Hindi Diwas three days ago. Click here to read it before proceeding.
Before, I take up the main theme of this post, I must share an important piece of information that I inadvertently missed in the previous one. Talking of Constitutional or legal categories of Indian languages, beyond the Official and the Scheduled languages, The Government of India declared a new category - Classical Languages - in 2004. Since then, Tamil(2004), Sanskrit(2005), Telugu and Kannada(2008) have joined the elite group.
The eligibility criteria pertains to the antiquity and originality of the language and a rich body of ancient texts, amongst others. However, inclusion of Telugu and Kannada in 2008 started a new political row epicentred in Kerala, upon Malayalam's exclusion. In short, such irrational categorisation has done nothing good for the languages but only given a chance to political parties to rake up the sentiments of the general public, reminding us the Anti-Hindi agitations of the 1960's.
Such problems stem from the fact that despite initial rejection by the Dhar Commission (1948) and JVP Committee (Nehru, Patel and Sitaramayya, 1949); Government of India was forced to follow the linguistic reorganisation of states after the popular agitation and the death of Potti Sriramulu, for carving out Andhra Pradesh out of Tamil Nadu in 1953. Following this development, States Reorganisation Commission was appointed which upheld the language as the basis of reorganisation of states in 1955. Rest is history.
Hence, somehow other socio-economic or political grievances of the states also get mixed up with the language as well as ethnicity issues, creating an unhealthy concoction for the appetite of the Indian federal structure.
Recently, Union Human Resources and Development Minister, Mr. Kapil Sibal started a new debate by calling for compulsory teaching of Hindi in all the Indian schools and hence, create it as the link language between the different linguistic regions of the country.
As such there is nothing new about it as it is in consonance with the provisions under Article 351 of the Indian Constitution discussed in the previous post. You may recall that according to this article, it is the duty of the Union Government to develop Hindi as the medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India, i.e. develop it as a pan-Indian language or a link language in other words.
Moreover, Hindi has been an integral part of the Three language formula evolved by the Union Government in consultations with the states and enunciated in the National Policy Resolution of 1968 and National Policy on Education of 1986, though implemented variedly by the state governments.
According to Mr. Sibal,
Now the lingua franca is English for professionals. When we become producers of knowledge then we can set our language as the lingua franca.
Mr. Sibal is the alumni (infact, belonged to the very first batch) of my school, a prestigious Christian missionary school of this region. He studied in that school when my father used to attend a government school. So, in short, he is generationally one step ahead of my family. It is not difficult to guess what kind of education he must have provided to his children and how proficient they must be in the language that Mr. Sibal desires to make the link language. I might be totally wrong in my assertion about the proficiency of his children but the question I am asking here is, why such hypocrisy?
Secondly, why do we want Hindi to be the link language at the first place? Moreover, will it be fruitful to make such a try?
According to Mr. Sibal,
We should ensure greater emphasis on Hindi. All children are not fluent in Hindi as they are in their mother tongues. Hindi is necessary for students to integrate with the rest of the country. The same students integrate with the rest of world through English.
Well, today I find myself highly integrated with the people around the country. My blog survives thanks to the visitors from places like Madras, Calcutta, Bangalore and Bombay (sorry, Chennai, Kolkatta, Bengaluru and Mumbai, it should read!) and I am sure many of them do not understand Hindi properly. It is English that is binding us. So why should we reserve English for only global integration? Why cannot it be a source of national integration as well?
What is the point in denying our history? British ruled us and gave us English. We cannot deny that it is this English which has made us globally competitive.
English is accused of being elitist. Yes, it is. Who is stopping the Government to make it reach all the sections of Indian society. Mr. Sibal plans to teach Hindi in every school. Is it feasible? Efforts required for making a good Hindi teacher available in a primary school of rural Tamil Nadu or Kerala will be more tedious than making a good English teacher available there. Kindly correct me if I am wrong in this assertion.
Further, talking of the integration with the different regions of the country, the specific region which is having the maximum need for it is the North East. States like Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh have stuck to English as their only official language. So why not promote English as the medium for both official and cultural exchanges with such regions?
English education will have the added advantage of making the students more competitive in this era of globalisation. In this respect, idea of English as a pan-Indian language though revolutionary, holds more logic than Hindi.
But is this suggestion really revolutionary? On the ground level, it is English that is being used for communication between a Hindi and a non-Hindi speaking population during cultural exchanges. This is not just limited to the so-called educated elites like us but even to the non-English as well as lesser educated sections who use simple broken English when it comes to crossing the language barrier in a foreign state. Why not promote and improve the standards of English in the Indian schools of all hues and colours rather than aspiring to do the same with Hindi?
Moreover, constitutionally too, English is the official medium of communication between the Union (or Hindi speaking states) and the non-Hindi speaking states under the provisions of the Article 346. English is also the language used in the Supreme Courts, High Courts and for Acts and Bills under the provisions of the Article 348. So why should we emphasise on Hindi as the link language when it comes to the Article 351?
For that matter, coming back to a question raised earlier, that what is the logic behind developing Hindi as the pan-Indian language? As has been elaborated in the previous post, such an idea has failed miserably all these years thanks to the disinterest (rather protest) shown by the various linguistic regions and the importance of English as the global language.
Does Hindi qualify to be the link language because it is spoken by the majority of Indian population (41% according to the 2001 census)? As already elaborated, the actual pure form of Hindi is only spoken in certain areas of the Hindi belt. Infact, the official Hindi used by the Government and taught in the schools, better known as Khari boli (or Khari dialect) is limited to the Western Uttar Pradesh region, originally a rural language, developed only after 18th century.
Within UP itself, there are various dialects of Hindi other than Khariboli which include Brajbhasa, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Bahgeli and Bundeli. Infact, a person like me cannot understand Bhojpuri or other dialects which are part of Hindi as per the 41% figure mentioned above.
When, there is so much variation within just one state, you may figure out the variations in the complete Hindi Belt including regions like Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh and New Delhi. This will also open the eyes of those non-Hindi speaking Indians who see the complete Hindi belt as a single unit bounded by a single language.
Moreover, asserting a majority language (Hindi) upon others is against the basic tenets of democracy. Some may call it as the false pride of the minorities but then that doesn't change the ground reality that there is resentment against it (valid in some cases, politically motivated in others) and hence, problems in its acceptance.
Such resentment is not just limited to the overt manifestations like the Anti-Hindi agitations in Tamil Nadu, back in 1950-60's which actually played an important role in bringing DMK to power; but also in the recent times can be seen in the form of Maharashtra Governments decision to extend Marathi as a compulsory subject in all the schools of the state, including the ones affiliated to ICSE and CBSE from 2007-08, basically expressing disapproval to the imposition of Hindi on its natives.
However, as shown above, the official Hindi (khariboli) is infact a minority language like all the other languages and dialects; so the resentment is bound to increase.
However, there is no denying the fact that we do need a pan-Indian language. As already elaborated above, English seems a better option for the same. There is no need for making any official pronouncement for the same as it is infact developing as a link language on its own. Yes, officially the stand on Hindi can be given up and in fact it should be allowed to get 'adulterated' in the different regions.
There is no point in making Mumbai out of Bombay or Kolkatta out of Calcutta as you may try to run away from the British legacy but it will keep haunting you. Its better to accept the truth and in this particular case of languages, the truth comes with the added advantage that
- it will have higher acceptance by the various linguistic groups, and
- it will make us globally more competitive.
Lastly, Mr. Kapil Sibal should concentrate on some concrete educational reforms at the basic primary level rather than taking the easier route of superficial reforms in the form of doing away with the Board exams (read Mou's brilliant post with regards to it) or proposing Hindi as the link language just like the Reservation policy (read my take on Reservations) of his predecessor.
The Right to Education though getting the status of a fundamental right under Aricle 21A, back in 2002 by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act and finally, after intense debate and opposition, its provisions (for free and compulsory education to all the children of the age of 6 to 14 years) being passed by the Parliament and getting the Presidential assent a couple of weeks back on Sep 3, 2009; will face a lot of hurdles when it comes to the implementation stage. The energies of Union HRD Ministry should be concentrated here. Moreover, talking of higher education, even the proposed Bill for the opening of our frontiers for the Foreign Universities, may look promising but has a lot of scope for going wrong. Let us keep all these issues for some other day.
This is to clarify my stand on a particular aspect about which I have received a couple of comments - I have no where claimed that English should be our National Language. Infact, I have specifically mentioned - There is no need for making any official pronouncement. There is difference between pan-Indian language and National language; former is by the virtue of its feasibility and convenience while latter is by virtue of its declaration by the Government. India should have no National language.
This was the concluding part of the series 'Wither Hindi?'. I must thank Pra, Roshmi and others whose comments to my previous post helped me in developing this post further. Leave your honest opinions on the same in the comments section.
- Do not miss my latest movie review and recommendation of Resurrecting the Champ on the adjoining side bar under The recent Movie I Liked upon Reflecting widget
- Also, I must thank my blog buddies Shankar, Shruti, Vineeta and Bharathi for the recent Blogging awards. I have displayed them neatly on the adjoining sidebar under the Fellow Bloggers' Affection Reflected widget.
- You can now star-rate my posts by the new rating widget that is visible at the end of each post.