India is a multilingual country. Despite constitutional safeguards to all languages linguistic discord is rampant. In large number of cases the linguistic discord is due to an imagined grievances. The speakers of regional languages often protest against “Hindi Imperialism”. “Hindi Imperialism” is a myth.
Impartial linguists of international fame like Acharya Vinoba Bhave and Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterjee have exploded the myth of “Hindi Imperialism”. Moreover economists tell that the Hindi speaking states of India are less progressive. Educationist tell us that the percentage of literacy is less than fifty per cent in the Hindi speaking states. The percentage of female literacy may be even lower. It is unbelievable that in a country where illiteracy and corruption are rampant can at the same time force Hindi as the national language of India.
Hindi was never forced upon the Indian people. Dr BR Ambedkar, a jurist of international fame, was the Chairman of the Committee which drafted the Constitution of India. Dr Ambedkar in spite of his vast acumen of jurisprudential and religious learning was not an expert linguist. He was himself aware of it and frankly admitted it. When he was called upon to draft the Constitution of India, he summoned the best Indian and foreign linguists to advise him in the linguistic aspect of the Constitution of India. He made subcommittee for languages with the best linguists of the world. Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterjee was the head of this subcommittee.The subcommittee recommended Hindi in Devanagri script as the national language of India.
The subcommittee also recommended adequate safeguards for the regional and minority languages of India. Dr Ambedkar, being a lay man in matters of linguistics did not interfere with the recommendation of the experts. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel supported the decision of the experts. In passing it may be mentioned that Dr Ambedkar, Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterjee and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the supposed villains and originators of “Hindi Imperialism” were non -Hindi speakers. Dr Ambedkar came under fire.
The western powers wanted to leave rearguards to defend their interests in post colonial India. They conspired with one of their Indian agents, in the corridors of power to summon Dr Ambedkar to pressurise him to make English as the national language of India. This agent tried to intimidate Dr Ambedkar. The contest was as unequal as the contest between David and Goliath. At first sight Dr Ambedkar looked like a pigmy before his gigantic adversary; but the gigantic adversary had underestimated the hidden strength of his pigmy adversary. The gigantic adversary had chosen the wrong man to fight with, therefore he was badly hurt.
It is said that one must not halloo till out of the wood. Dr Ambedkar was not yet out of the wood. One more formidable, with greater spiritual power ambushed Dr Ambedkar. This formidable adversary, too, summoned Dr Ambedkar and directed him to make Hindustani, in two scripts i.e. Devanagri and Urdu as the national language. This was a ploy to appease one particular minority community. Dr Ambedkar refused to quail. He thus killed two birds with one stone and saved India from a great catastrophe.
The western powers have at least succeeded in one matter. They have successfully left the hangover of colonial megalomania of the superiority of the English language upon the minds of Indian people, particularly those Indians who are from the lowest rung of the society. They believe that speaking degraded English within the family is a short cut to gain command over the English language and to do social climbing. There is a craze for speaking untutored English with total disregard for grammar, usage and no knowledge of English culture. They consider the study of grammar as unnecessary because they speak degraded English within the family so they believe that they are on par with White Anglo Saxons.
George Bernard Shaw was a native speaker of English, but he took great care to keep within the limits of grammar. Our pseudo ‘native speakers’ of English speakers, on the other hand make a virtue of their vice by claiming that they being ‘native speakers’ of untutored English speak posh spoken English and any knowledge of English grammar will make their English bookish and contaminate with Indian English. So they live happily hereafter in their own fool’s paradise.
The hangover of the colonial rule and the power and the glamour of United States has deranged our mind. We believe that English is the only global language. A UN survey dispels this wrong notion. The UN survey is based on the antiquity of the language, the wealth of its literature, the area over which it is spoken and the number of people who speak it. The finding of this survey revealed that Chinese is the number one language of the world. It is followed by Spanish, English, French and Russian.
Any language in the world, cannot be learnt by the learners, merely by speaking that language untutored within the family. The learner must learn that language scientifically from native speakers who are also trained teachers. Today’s IT revolution has made it possible that the learner can learn any language of hislher own choice from native speakers, anywhere in the world, in the privacy of his/her own room at any hour of the day or night suitable to the learner. The learner has only to equip himself/herself with the humble HAM Radio and computer with accessibility to internet. This applies to all languages whether Indian or foreign. Expert advice for learning foreign languages and Indian languages is available at the Central Instititute of English and Foreign Languages, near Sanskrit College, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, or at the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Manasgangotri, Mysore, Karnataka State.
In order to combat the myth of ‘State Sponsored Hindi Imperialism’, speakers of Hindi have a special onus cast upon them. Firstly speakers of Hindi should actively engage themselves to improve the literacy rate in their own local area. Secondly they should learn at least one Indian language preferably a South Indian language, Kashmiri, Urdu or anyone of the languages spoken in north-eastern India. Thirdly speakers of Hindi who have migrated to non-Hindi areas may learn the local language. Lastly, a knowledge of Bengali, Urdu, Pushtoo, Dari and Arabic will enable the learner to render assistance to our counter jihadi intelligence outfits.
(The writer can be contacted at 32 Sagar Tarang CHS Ltd. 15/A Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan Marg, Worli Seaface, Mumbai-400 030)