Saturday, September 14, 2002
T A K I N G   N O T E 

Celebration of the national language
Sansar Chandra

HINDI in Devnagari script was declared the national language of India on September 14, 1950. Since then this day has been observed as Hindi Day. It was decided to fix a period of 15 years to make Hindi suitable for official use. It was decided that in the meantime employees would learn Hindi and a glossary of technical terms would also be compiled. The deadline for such recommendations, however, has been extended time and again.

Seth Govind-das, a veteran scholar and Hindi enthusiast, had once said in Lok Sabha that there were so many ifs and buts attached to the designation of Hindi as the national language that there was hardly any ray of hope that it could ever dream of occupying the honoured seat it was tipped for. Had the Seth been alive today, he would have felt sad to see English, an alien language, occupying centre stage and Hindi losing all the glory that it deserved as the national language.

We shall be celebrating the 52nd anniversary of Hindi Day this year. On this day, workshops, seminars, declamation contests, story competitions, etc, are held to popularise Hindi. Eminent scholars, VIPs and linguists are invited to throw light on the varied aspects of Hindi language and literature. Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India and the third most widely spoken language in the world.

Hindi, which is the main offspring of Sanskrit, has borrowed 20,000 words of English, Persian, Turkish and Arabic origin. Similarly French, Russian, Chinese and Portuguese words have also made their way into Hindi. Those fundamentalists who say that Hindi should not import words from other languages are the enemies of Hindi.

Mahatma Gandhi while deliberating on the issue of lingua franca during the early thirties had the following five points before him:

i) Government officials should have no difficulty in learning it;

ii) It should facilitate religious, economic and political intercourse throughout India;

iii) It should be the speech of the majority of the inhabitants of India;

iv) The whole country should be able to learn it easily;

v) Temporary or passing interest should not prevail while choosing the official language.

Mahatma Gandhi was not a linguist but all these points led him to give this issue serious consideration. Since unity in diversity was India’s foremost goal, he realised the importance of an appropriate language which could link the whole country. So he flirted with the idea of introducing a new language, Hindustani, to satisfy all sections of Indian society. He did make a few experiments but it was an exercise in futility. It was not long before wisdom dawned upon him that language was like a stream that springs up on its own and then follows its own path. So he had to declare in unequivocal terms that philologically, phonetically, philosophically, and by virtue of the endless inherited wealth that it carries, there was no language other than Hindi that could reign supreme.

Even more than half a century after being declared a national language, Hindi has not only not been given its due status but is also looked down upon by the elite.

Hindi has suffered much at the hands of politicians. Today’s political leaders talk of Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, etc, but it is rare to find a politician who is wedded to the nation as a whole.

India’s language policy has never been clear-cut. The Centre and states have always moved in opposite directions.

If Hindi is considered the national language, why are the states are in a mad rush to introduce English from the first primary class? Why does a labourer, a Class IV employee or even a domestic servant want to get his wards admitted to English schools? Lovers of Hindi should raise all these questions.