The Breaking India Brigade has been propagating the old canards that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) wants Hindi as the only national language and ‘impose’ it on the non-Hindi speaking population of the country. But the RSS has always maintained that all Bharatiya languages are national languages. The second Sarsanghchalak of RSS, Sri Guruji Golwalkar, had shared his views on ‘The Language Problem’ in two interviews with Organiser, published in December 1957 and October 1967. Here is the full interview of Sri Guruji, reproduced from the Organiser Archives:
The Language Problem
(With the Special Correspondent, Organiser, December 1957)
Q: Which should be our national language?
A: I consider all our languages as national languages. They are equally our national heritage. Hindi is one among them which, by virtue of its countrywide usage, has been adopted as the State Language. It will be wrong to describe Hindi alone as the national language and others as provincial languages. That would not be seeing things from the right perspective.
Q: Some time back, Dr C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar ridiculed Hindi publicly. He said Hindi had but two great books – Tulsi Ramayana and the Railway Time Table. Sardar Panikkar repeated Dr C. P. with approval.
A: Only people ignorant of Hindi can ridicule it so. This tendency to mock other languages must stop. Some time back, Ram Ganesh Gadkari, a prominent Marathi dramatist, made one of his characters say: “Southern languages, Put some pebbles in a tin can and shake it vigorously, and you hear those languages.” Now, this was no doubt said in fun. But I think such fissiparous fun is no good for the country.
Q: Some people feel that the rise of Hindi will eclipse their mother tongues.
A: I do not think so. For example, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi and Telugu flourished even under English hegemony. With the rise of Hindi, these languages will flourish further and, in turn, enrich Hindi also. Why should Bengalis fear the Hindisation of Bengali? For the last twenty years, Bengali has been Urduised. For ‘morning’, ‘prabhate’ has increasingly yielded place to ‘phajare’. But I am yet to hear a Bengali protest. Why then should they be allergic to Hindi?
Some time back in Madurai, an advocate told me that Hindi would hurt Tamil. I asked him how, but he could not explain. I asked him why he used English and not Tamil in the district court, which was permitted. Again he had no reply. I told him the enemy of Tamil was not Hindi, and rather English was the enemy of both.
Q: Don’t you think four languages – mother tongue, Hindi, Sanskrit and English – are too many? They consume at least half the student’s time.
A: That is so. But I think the most dispensable of the four is English. It should not be a compulsory language. The present confusion will abate and eventually end if the Government takes a firm decision, sticks to it, and implements it quickly. The present indecision is only strengthening English. Today more children are going to convent schools than perhaps ever before. Some people have begun to openly urge that ‘English should be the lingua franca of India’. The Government will undermine public confidence if it takes a shifty stand on this key issue of State Language.
In the old Madhya Pradesh, the Education Department conducted its business in Hindi and Marathi. But after the formation of bigger Bombay, the Marathi areas of former M.P. have reverted to English!
This is hardly the way to replace English as the State Language by 1965 – the time limit set by the Constitution for complete change-over. There must be some consistency between the declared policy and the programme to implement it.
Q: Rajaji says if Hindi is adopted as State Language, non-Hindi speakers will be reduced to second class citizenship.
A: Nothing of the kind. They pick up languages quickly. What language do South Indians speak when they visit Kashi or Prayag? Is it not some sort of Hindi?
Q: Are not most of these pilgrims Brahmins?
A: No! They are predominantly others, and the puja saamagri of sandal paste, flowers and dhoop offered in Kashi Vishwanath temple every day is supplied by an organization of Nottcotee Chettiars of Tamilnadu.
Q: Rajaji says English is equally foreign to all of us, and therefore its continuation as State Language would be just and fair to all.
A: Since it is equally foreign to us all, it should be equally discarded by all. It is equally unfair and unjust to all.
If these leaders advocated the adoption of Tamil as a State Language, it would be more understandable. They could say it is much richer and much older. There would be some justification for it. But English is a counsel of despair.
Q: What is the explanation for eminent leaders talking like this?
A: Two explanations are possible. Either they are trying to take the wind out of DMK’s sails, or it is bait to appeal to man’s parochialism and capture political power on that basis. In the former case, the attempt cannot but fail. Rajaji is only lending respectability to DMK ideas. Secondly, threatening that if Hindi is introduced, the country will be further sub-divided is political blackmail. By such talk, he is only strengthening the forces of disruption.
Q: Would it be advisable to introduce bilingualism of Hindi and English for some years after Hindi is made the State Language in 1965?
A: No. Let us have bilingualism now, for some years before 1965. Actually, we should have had it by now.
Q: Perhaps some people in the South think that the replacement of English will put them at a disadvantage in the matter of recruitment to services since they are good at English but would take long to be equally good at Hindi.
A: In the first instance, it is not correct to say that the South is particularly good at English. Most of the 1% in this country, who are supposed to know English, speak an English which hardly deserves to be known by that name – and the South is no exception.
I have no doubt that once the Government takes a firm decision in this regard, the South will take less than ten years to pick up Hindi. Already the servants and hamalis have changed over from ‘two pice’ to ‘do paisa’. But what do politicians care for humble folk like that?
Q: But will they be able to speak and write Hindi as well as the Hindi speakers?
A: Why not? It is erroneous to think that the type of Hindi which is going to be the State Language is the Hindi which is the mother tongue of 15-20 crores. Nothing of the kind. All these people speak all kinds of variants of Hindi. The standard Sanskritised Hindi will be the Union Language. To that extent, everybody can learn it with equal ease. You may be surprised to know that even the students of Hindi from South speak and write chaste Hindi than those from North.
Q: Would you entertain a demand for reservation of jobs for non-Hindi-speakers to allay their fears?
A: Such a course is unnecessary and undesirable. It strikes the unity of the nation. I know they can effectively compete with Hindi speakers. In any case, proficiency in Hindi would not be required of them. Other things being equal, they would need only a working knowledge of Hindi to enter Central Services.
Whatever handicap is, there can be further reduced by adopting a common Sanskrit vocabulary for all technical terms. Also, the adoption of a uniform script for all our languages would bring them closer.
I say they can pick up much more Hindi than English if only they devoted to it half the time they devote to English.
Q: The protagonists of English say that it is the language of international commerce and diplomacy.
A: Not quite. English is the predominant language of only one power bloc. And, anyway, let those who need to learn English on their own. Why should every schoolboy – who will have nothing to do either with high finance or high diplomacy – learn it?
Q: Are they likely to find many supporters in other non-Hindi areas like Bengal and Maharashtra?
A: No. Mostly’ elderly liberals’, who still believe in the beneficence of British rule, will join them. They are too much rooted in their own particular past to outgrow it.
Q: The Prime Minister says the Government must secure unanimous agreement for the introduction of Hindi.
A: But they did not consult anybody when they nationalized life insurance! They are pressing ahead with Gramadan also. But neither the Congress Election Manifesto nor the Parliament enactments say anything about it
(With the Editor, Organiser, October 1967)
Q: What do you think of the language policy of the Centre?
A: I don’t see any policy anywhere. All I see is drift and indecision. The Government seems to be moving in circles.
The other day I was painted to see an article by Shri P. B. Gajendragadkar (vide ‘The Times of India’, Oct. 17, 1967). The last paragraph seemed to endorse separatist trends. He has advocated a ‘militant response’ in the event of Hindi being introduced in the universities and courts.
Q: Do you regard Education Minister Shri Triguna Sen’s formula of education at all levels in the mother tongue as good and reasonable?
A: I do. It is the obvious thing to do. It should have been done long ago. As for the problem of students shifting from university to university, after all, what is their number?
Q: What happens in the case of a state whose own language is not developed enough to serve as a medium for higher education? For example, Kashmiri is not the medium in Kashmir, even for primary education.
A: In such cases, the state can decide whether Hindi or any other Indian language shall serve as its medium. But I have no doubt that all the four Southern languages are developed enough to serve as media for higher education. Much of the trouble will be over if a common vocabulary of technical words derived from Sanskrit is introduced in all the languages. There will be no harm in accepting foreign terms where local ones cannot be easily coined.
Q: Why did Shri E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker of Dravida Kazhagam say Tamil is a “barbaric tribal language”?
A: Only EVR can tell that.
Q: Some say Sanskrit should be the link language. Is it not a welcome suggestion?
A: If all those who oppose Hindi are agreed on Sanskrit, I will be supremely happy. But the trouble is that those people who have suddenly discovered the virtues of Sanskrit are not sincere about it. I am afraid they are using that argument as a delaying tactic.
Q: Shri Annadurai, Chief Minister of Madras, said the other day that Hindi should not be a compulsory subject because not many have occasion to use it when they grow up.
A: That is true, but there is another side to this matter. A little knowledge of Hindi by all Indians will help to foster a sense of integration and a feeling of brotherliness.
Q: Perhaps common textbooks in different languages will also help integration.
A: But even more important is the content of those books. Our history books are particularly deficient in this respect. They centre around Pataliputra and then stick to Delhi – as though the rest of the country didn’t matter. How many of even our graduates know the greatness of Cholas and Pandyas and Pulakeshin? Except for Vijayanagar, very little is taught about the history of the South. Take the Eastern Bharat again. Kharavela was a great king of Utkal. He carried his flag across the seas to Indonesia. But how many Indian scholars have even heard of his name? When you go south and see the huge temples there, you realize the great culture behind them. But how many know anything about them?
Q: One objection to Hindi is that it will put non-Hindi people at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the Hindi people.
A: By and large, this is a misconceived objection. Fact is that Khari Boli, which has come to be accepted as ‘Hindi’, is the mother tongue of only a few million in the Delhi-Meerut area. Most of the other so-called Hindi people do not speak Khari Boli in their homes. They speak a variety of languages ranging from Pahari to Rajasthani and from Avadhi to Magadhi, Braj and Maithili. They all have to learn Hindi as much as any Bengali or Maharashtrian or Andhra, or Malayali.
Q: What do you think of the proposed Official Language Bill? It gives a veto to every state over the change-over from English to Hindi.
A: At this rate, why not give a veto to every citizen? It is a case of tyranny of the few over the many. I am surprised that the English press, controlled by Indian businessmen, should be so hostile to Indian languages.
Q: Could this be an extension of their business collaboration with foreigners?
A: I will not be surprised.
Q: Is there any necessity of making Hindi the national language of our country?
A: Why? Hindi is not the only national language in our country. All the languages of this country, which have expressed the same great thoughts of our culture, are cent per cent national. The only thing is, in such a vast country as ours, we need one Vyavahaara Bhaashaa, a link language, to replace English which is undoubtedly a foreign tongue.