Sunday, June 22, 2014

Imposing Hindi in social media

சொன்னால் விரோதம்இது, ஆகிலும் சொல்லுவன் கேண்மினோ!

The BJP has once again demonstrated its uncanny ability in giving re-birth to those parties that have been shown the doors by the people of Tamilnadu. This time the lucky to be resurrected party is the DMK! The technique used by the BJP is Hindi imposition. A shrewd politician that he is, the no-age-barred Karunanidhi can be expected to steal the lime light and hearts of Tamils in the coming days on anti- Hindi plank – at a time when he most needed an issue for resurrection.  

Assuming that readers are informed of the nuances of the current issue, I am straight away going into basic points.

# Hindi is in use in many, may be all Governmental transactions. But to make it the language of the social media is nothing short of imposition. The initial reaction from the Govt side was that the two circulars under issue were prepared by the previous government. 

So what? What prevents them from taking a re-look at them? While they think it necessary to re-look at the credentials of the PAs for Rajnath or Smriti Irani, what makes them think that these circulars don’t need a re-look, particularly when the countrymen are under the belief that this govt is totally federal in functioning, keen on taking along all the States? 

# The next reaction from the Govt side was that the circulars pertain to Hindi-speaking States only. 

What does this convey? Are the information conveyed through social media meant for Hindi speaking Indians only and not to all Indians? Don’t they want all Indians on social media know of the Govt’s views and rules? What kind of Governance is envisaged by this? 

# The follow-up reaction was that this is being done to promote Hindi in Hindi speaking States.

Isn’t that the job of the respective States? Why such selective care by the Central Govt for Hindi for the sake of Hindi speaking States? 

# Then came a justification that Hindi is a mix of Tamil. Telugu, Malayali, Gujarati etc...
So they want to promote a language that is not distinct on its own. Such a language can be promoted as a major language of the country where all the constituent (!) languages of that language that are distinct and more ancient than Hindi can be allowed to decay! 

# For this, they say, no no we wont allow the other languages to decay; we respect all the Indian languages. 

What do they mean by this? Sending their circulars in all the languages? What a waste of time, manpower and money this pertains to! 

Instead send your information in the already established link language namely English. English is already established as a link language within India and outside India. The framers of the Constitution did recognise the relevance and predominance of English throughout India even at that time and particularly acknowledged the inevitability of English in legal matters. They did concede that Hindi was insufficiently developed to cater to the needs of official purposes. In other words, Hindi like other regional languages had to be developed with new vocabulary for a plethora of English words that convey legal and official matters. For the first 15 years after Constitution came into being, English was to be used as official language. By then Hindi had to be developed and must replace English. This is the opinion of the Constitution writers at that time.

But did the Govt of the day develop Hindi sufficiently by then? Mr Naqvi is waxing eloquent  that Gandhi, Nehru, Lohia et al wanted to develop Hindi as a link language.  But what really happened at that time? They divided the country on the basis of regional languages and allowed the regional languages to develop. Whatever the Constitution-writers wanted for Hindi was developed for languages, say, like Tamil in such a way that official Tamil has grown well with lot more vocabulary. And the country has come very far in these 60+ years. The so-called purpose for a common language is no longer being felt now.

In the process, the non- Hindi speaking regions have developed well in English as can be seen in the growth of IT-savvy people coming from South India than North India. The Nobel winning people or other such people achieving great heights in the world have come from non-Hindi speaking regions with English as their language of occupation. 

In contrast only the Hindi speaking people of North India still continue to be averse to or incapable of learning a language other their own. Not many of them know English or any other language. I wonder whether this measure to promote Hindi is a kind of favour to them as their votes matter to any party to form the Govt. They cannot be asked to learn another language. Is it why they are asking us to learn their language? 

I remember in the late 80s how the ‘angrezi hatao’ campaign was carried out in North India. Fear of English as a colonial vestige is absurd. There are so many things that are colonially inherited. The very form of Government, of governance, law etc are vestiges of colonial era. They are all intruding our lives whereas the language (English) has had the least bad effect on us. I am posting below the mail I sent to The Hindu at that time.

I am tempted to say that an average North Indian is lazy to study a new language that can be used as a link language with others in India. Look at the literacy rate in the Hindi belt. They have to do a lot more on making them study. That is why they stick to Hindi and ask others to use it as a link language!

The funny part of this propaganda in other parts of India, particularly in Tamilnadu is that by learning Hindi one can increase the chances of getting employment in North India. As though every Hindi speaking one has got employment because of Hindi or jobs are waiting to be filled in North India! The basic point is that wherever one gets a job, he or she will automatically pick up the language of the place. Just a spoken level of language will do. But there again there is a glaring difference. South Indians going to North India somehow pick up Hindi to speak to them. But North Indians coming to South India won’t pick up the language of the region. They form a coterie within themselves, speak their own language and make us feel that we have erred in not being able to talk to them in their language. This is very common in colleges and work places in Tamilnadu. If the current steps in Hindi imposition continue in stealth ways, be warned that trouble will erupt as North- South Indian clashes helping in the resurrection of Karunanidhi.

One of the refrain from a BJP spokesperson is that, “It is not a crime to work in Hindi.... what objection is there if we work in Hindi?” 

What a clever use of words! In fact it is a crime under the present law to impose Hindi; but by asking them not to do that, we are being made to appear as though WE call it a crime. What objection do we have if they use Hindi?  Only that, we will be secluded from knowing what is happening. For that they would say, ‘that is why we ask you to learn Hindi”. What a clever ploy! 

At a time the nation has come too far from language issues and is doing well with the plethora of languages as they are now, at a time the people are impatiently waiting to realise their goals of good education, good job, more money etc, in what way this Hindi- only attitude is going to give value addition? 

BJP leaders are quoting redundant Chinese and Japanese examples. They don’t know the recent trend there. An English instructor is the much sought after person and one of the highly paid persons in China and Japan. Particularly the Chinese are anxious to grab the education and employment market globally through English knowledge. 

Let people not be lured by the Chinese or Japanese premier talking in their mother tongue. Everyone feels comfortable speaking in their mother tongue. A Chinese speaks in Chinese and Japanese in Japanese language. Same way, a Hindi speaking person prefers to speak in Hindi and a Tamilian would prefer to speak in Tamil only! Why the non- Hindi people of India should be expected to speak or learn a language that is not their mother tongue. Modiji spoke – only when he had to come to national scene and to reach out to the Hindi belt. He had other advantages too as Ashok Malik points out. Necessity is the deciding factor for whether a language must be learned or not or where to use it.

 When we already have English well established in India and particularly in a far advanced State like Tamilnadu which is in no way inferior to any State in nationalism, this kind of imposition of Hindi is outdated and lacks credibility.

Today no one thinks that Hindi binds. Learning that language or any other language is one’s choice depending on one’s own reasons. It must not be forced in to their lives like this. Once it was said that Hindi movies did what Hindi imposition could not do. But recently a “Kolaveri di” song did what no Tamilian wanted to do intentionally. The entire India learned the meaning of sparse Tamil words in that song.

That song itself is a reminder of what the present generation wants – it is English! Even a coolie wants his child to be educated in English. This is not English- mOham. As a language of communication, command over English gets one better jobs. 

Learning a language must begin as early as possible in life.  There is a scientific reason for it. Learning a language happens best between 2nd and 4th year of one’s life. That is when Broca's area is developing that helps in learning languages. A child is able to pick up the mother tongue effortlessly because of the growth in that part in brain in its formative years. Though that area is intact, I have read a research article in the 90s that says that language learning aided by Broca's area is high during the growth of that part in childhood but not so high afterwards. That means learning a language a little later is also a difficult task for a child. Though it is possible for some people to learn many languages even at later times due to the level of activity of their Broca’s area, not all can accomplish it.

This is a fact checked with any parent of school going kids. Many kids struggle to learn a new language or develop skills in a language which can be attributed to the stoppage of  growth of Broca’s area. Other cognitive abilities can be developed and sustained by practice at any time later.
சித்திரமும் கைப் பழக்கம்,
செந்தமிழும் நாப்பழக்கம்
கற்கின்ற கல்வி மனப்பழக்கம்

The second line in this beautiful old Tamil verse tells about learning of Tamil verses by heart and not language skill. In other words, repetitive nature that develops a skill is spoken in this verse. Learning a language is not a repetitive or rote learning exercise.

I am saying this to show how it is not easy to learn a new language other than their own by all people. Only a few are gifted with an active Broca’s area. In such a scenario, making our kids learn a language merely for a reason that it is going to “integrate” the child with rest of India, is it a strong enough reason to tax the children? Are they not better ways to make them integrated with Indian Oneness? 

To all those people who have been defending Hindi in those circulars, I am asking them to sit with their kids through their study years. Like millions of parents of this country, let them sit with their kids, struggle with them through their learning and preparations for exams for languages and other subjects. Let us see what they will say for this language-fuss.

Give our kids what makes them empowered and employed. Certainly Hindi is not going to get them their next meals. 

But the languages must be safe guarded. The language policy of the Govt must focus on creating facilities or Universities in all States for minimum 4 to 5 languages of which Sanskrit must be one and regional language must be another. Apart from them other language departments must be there to encourage cross- language studies. This would encourage language studies and exchange of language scholars between States.

As far as I can know, Tamil is the oldest language that contains proofs and hints for linking the past with the present day India and the world at large. It holds the key for unraveling the past of the world.  Along with Sanskrit it had influenced other languages of India. An impetus to cross language studies in the above mentioned ways will open a new chapter in knowing Indian past that is not yet probed. The Govt’s efforts must be aimed at working towards that goal by offering enough support, respect and reach for such studies. Such studies done in every state concentrating on the State and its surrounding languages, would truly help in integrating all the regions as they would show how there had been a give and take between different Indian languages. Such revelations can even blunt language chauvinism in the long run. 

(PS) I deliberately avoided giving the meaning of the two popular verses in Tamil in this article. An avid reader into this topic will feel disappointed in not being able to know what they convey. This is done to drive home the point that language is for communication and conveying an idea. It can not be used to “integrate” or “Unite” India, or enrich a language. There are other better ways to unite India. As far enriching the language, let it be taken care of by its speakers and respective governments.


Sheela said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nirnaami said...

Extremely well written. By far the BEST unmasking bjp's hindi fanaticism.

I came across a Japanese Professor married to a Malayali Hindu. Both are well read & well travelled. Living in Canada. They said unequivocally that it was English learning that opened up a lot of new opportunities for Japan contrary to what hindi fanatics of RSS & BJP & their coterie of columnists bludgeon on our heads.

jayasree said...

@ Nirnaami.

I object to your words //hindi fanatics of RSS & BJP & their coterie of columnists bludgeon on our heads. //

'Fanatic' adjective suits persons like Karunanidhi. In the current topic, it is not fanaticism that was the cause for pushing Hindi. The BJP and the RSS think that a common language would help in integration of Indians. I think English which is already in use and useful globally serves the purpose better.

Nirnaami said...

There is a reason for my using the word hindi fanatics.

As when I pointed out hindi ought not to be imposed on non hindi speaking people I was at once branded a "Tamil fanatic".

Not just that the hindi pushers called me dmk/dk/ psycho/ and so on.

I have suffered a lot due to this hindi being made compulsory. So did my child. What is the need for bjp to bring back the same issue?

jayasree said...

I am shocked to find that the comment by Ms Sheela has been removed by 'a blog administrator'. I am 'the' blog administrator. There is no one else other than me handling my blogs and has access to my blogger dash board. I didn't remove this comment. And I can not remove it even by default because there is no need for me to access the 'Published comment' page in my dash board. I didn't come to this blog page either until I received the comment from Nirnaami.

I google searched for the blog administrator and on probable ways that a comment can be removed by someone else other than me. What I found out was shocking, chilling and frightening.
சொன்னால் விரோதம்இது. அதனால் சொல்லவில்லை.

This reminds of a computer age totalitarian regime - something that we read in one of the science fiction novels of writer Sujatha.

Sujay Rao Mandavilli said...

this paper calls for reviewing India's language policy completely
This has been published in a peer-reviewed journal

Sujay Rao Mandavilli