By Manas Dwivedi
A newborn does not learn a dialect from its mother’s womb. The first knowledge of language any infant gathers is from its parents, in the form of some loving words. In India, most kids hear these words in Hindi. Thus, Hindi words could very well be among the first sounds that a person hears in India.
Language, on a global level, carries a significant importance in examining a nation’s history, culture and heritage. Likewise, Hindi is a vital part of India. A language of honour, dignity and pride, Hindi has given us a unique identity in the world.
Hindi, being the mother-tongue of majority of Indians works at binding all Hindustanis together. Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi also said that Hindi is the ‘language of the masses’. Renowned writer Amir Khusrau used to emote in elementary Hindi. Thousands of other writers too made Hindi their Karmabhomi. But unfortunately, the language, which freedom fighters also believed to be a cause of pride for them, is still only the official language of the country and not the national language of India. Hindi is still fighting for its existence, as many believe.
As to how Hindi emerged as a prominent language in secular India is an interesting story. Following the history on Hindi, India’s Constitution declared Hindi as the official language of India on September 14, 1949. Chapter 17 in Section 343 of the Indian Constitution, part (1), describes Hindi, in the Devnagri script, as the official language of the Union that should be used for its official purposes in the form of an international edition.
Further, upon the Campaign Committee’s suggestions in 1953, September 14 was declared as ‘Hindi Diwas’ in the name of promoting the language in Hindi speaking regions of India every year.
But is it justified to term such a popular language as just an official language? Why can’t Hindi be the national language of India? Different time periods showed different reasons for the issue, most of which were politically motivated.
Long back, during India’s struggle for independence, Mahatma Gandhi first voiced for making Hindi the national language of the country. Chairing the Hindi literature conference in 1918, Gandhi talked about his dream of seeing Hindi as the national language. But in the name of power and politics, Gandhi’s dream was never fulfilled.
Indian Renaissance featuring great leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Keshab Chandra Sen and Maharishi Dayanand recalled the importance of Hindi and also completed most of their literary works in the same language. They were avidly supporting Hindi at that time.
Later in the freedom struggle post 1925, Hindi has played a special role in uniting Indians together. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore although being a Bangla scholar insisted the country’s revolutionaries to use Hindi for communicating with the masses. This shows the effect of Hindi on India at that period of time.
But when India became independent in 1947, Hindi itself became a controversial topic. There were several groups like Kazhagam (Dravidar Kazhagam), Periyar, and DMK who opposed Hindi’s use nationally. There were even several protests in Tamil Nadu and other southern parts of the country against making Hindi the national language. Various groups marked October 13, 1957 as ‘Anti-Hindi Day’.
Lal Bahadur Shastri, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Morarji Desai and several other leaders desired to support Hindi, but their wish remained suppressed after the agitation and riots in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Soon after the demise of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri opted to stick with both Hindi and English as the official languages and decided not to name any national language.
By the time Hindi was declared the official language for the first time in 1949, it was decided that Hindi will be the only official language of the Indian Union after the government’s tenure of 15 years. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had also constituted the ‘Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha’ for promoting Hindi in southern parts of the nation. But all such attempts severely failed when the Tamils denied to accepting Hindi as the national language in 1965. Under strong political pressure, the then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri agreed on restricting Hindi to just the official language along with English.
Hindi was restricted from achieving its rightful place due to politics in the name of caste and language by certain politicians. Fragments of leftover western culture were given a more concrete shape by corporate strategies, which left Hindi as just a language of informal communication. Today, such is the mind-set of the masses that many assume people who use their mother tongue to be less educated and less adept at socializing as they do not have an adequate knowledge of English.
Above all, Hindi boasts of a glorious history and the possibility of a bright future. We just need to assure Hindi’s existence in this rapidly changing global scenario. Apart from India, Hindi is spoken and used in various other part of the world as well; but we should never forget its roots. A language like Hindi needs global recognition. This doesn’t pertain to any competition with English, but proclaims the fact that Hindi should be acclaimed and garner fame on the basis of being a wonderfully rich language and not only because the majority of Indians speak Hindi. So let’s start the wave today. Jai Hind Jai Hindi.