The question is: To learn Hindi or not to learn Hindi ?
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns

The question is: To learn Hindi or not to learn Hindi ?

September 18, 2019

“Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha” was established in the year 1918 by our beloved Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi with the sole aim of propagating Hindi in southern States. The first Pracharak was none other than Devadoss Gandhi, son of Mahatma Gandhi. “Hindi Prachar” was a movement that emerged as part of Freedom Movement. Mahatma Gandhi was its President till he breathed his last.

A couple of days back Union Home Minister Amit Shah ignited a Nationwide debate with his statement that Hindi should be popularised all over India because the language would unite the country. The immediate reaction came from South India, particularly Tamil Nadu and, of course, from Karnataka as well. There was strong objection to what the Home Minister had said. The Opposition Parties immediately declared that it was the Centre’s attempt to impose Hindi on other States. 

Using slogan-like language, media screamed that Amit Shah pitched for “One Nation, One Language.” How is it rational even for a Hindu fanatic and feasible in India with many languages? Purpose of learning any language is for ease of communication thereby ease of understanding our country men. Problem begins with too-much of politicising.

After Independence, India was geographically reorganised on the basis of language thus creating linguistic States with each State having its own principal language. However, English has been accepted as the link language for the Central Government as also between different States for administrative purpose. 

The protest against the idea of making Hindi the National Language and making it compulsory for all educational institutions to teach had led to violent protest even during Nehru’s days. However, once the Central Government dropped the idea, so to say, of imposing Hindi, peace returned to non-Hindi speaking States. 

The objection seems to be for imposing Hindi on non-Hindi States as a compulsory subject in Schools and Colleges. The earlier education policy was to teach three languages — namely, the principal language of the State like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam etc., along with Hindi and English. It is said when Hindi was literally thrown out of Tamil Nadu, there came up what was known as Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha run by private individuals and organisations.  

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I have lived outside Karnataka for 14 years where apart from the local language Marathi, Hindi was the language spoken among the business and trading communities. English too was used. As a result, I being from Karnataka, without spoken or written knowledge of Hindi, was very much handicapped, both in my office and outside. The only saving grace was in the 1950s when I was in the High School, Hindi was an optional language. Somehow, I had chosen to take it primarily because it would enable me to get some grace marks for my total. Indeed, it had helped me then. And, when I was in Bombay with my smattering knowledge of Hindi and my ability to read the alphabets did help me to manage my days. Of course, English was the strong point.

I have found during this period many South Indians with employable skills like knowledge of shorthand, accountancy and industrial skills struggling to improve their career due to their lack of knowledge of Hindi, not so much the local languages like Marathi or Gujarati. I have observed that those with knowledge of Hindi were able to get into the mainstream of their professional fraternity and come up in their career while others without knowledge of Hindi or making an effort to learn it, fell by the wayside. In retrospect, I too belong to the latter class. 

Be that as it may, the present focus on Hindi has resurfaced not because of what our Home Minister Amit Shah said a few days ago but because of the Report of the Committee for Draft National Education Policy chaired by Dr. K. Kasturirangan. It was constituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in June 2017 during the first term in Office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

The Committee submitted its Report on May 31, 2019 and once again there were objections galore for the Report. The Draft Policy provides reforms at all levels of education from School to Higher Education. It had many dimensions in it for a National Education Policy. 

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However, what created a storm was what was written in one paragraph of the Report which said, “…the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi-speaking States would include the regional language, Hindi and English.” 

Immediately, DMK leader M.K. Stalin raised a flag of protest and warned the Government not to throw stones at the beehive. A news magazine published an article where the Report was described as the work of Hindi fanatics forgetting there are so many other positive aspects related to education in that Report. 

One article had said that by imposing Hindi on all parts of the country, the Hindi fanatics are planning to achieve their goal of Hindu Rashtra etc., etc. I learn that a young boy in his impressionist age can easily learn three languages simultaneously. Swami Vivekananda had said, “Knowledge is Power” and I believe knowledge of more than one language,  including the mother-tongue, is surely a great acquisition of power. Practice of these languages, depending upon the requirement of the situation, is the key to success — the key that will open the lock of the treasure chest and provide job opportunities.  

Therefore, in a multi-lingual country like India, the whole of North India, though has different local languages like in Punjab, Bengal, Bihar, North-Eastern States etc., also speak Hindi. Of course, in many cases their mother-tongues are similar to Hindi. As a result, according to 2011 census, the number of people speaking the Indo-Aryan languages, similar to Hindi, is 78.05 percent. And the percentage of people speaking Dravidian languages (South Indians) is 19.64 percent. 

Probably, Amit Shah thinks, based on his reading of Dr. Kasturirangan Report, that it would be good for the people who are industrialists, traders, even educationalists if they also know Hindi along with their mother-tongue and English which in case they are learning. 

My experience tells me that the bottomline for learning another language, apart from your mother-tongue, is bread, butter and whiskey. Which is why, I see youngsters learning Japanese, German, French and Russian languages to seek greener pastures and succeed. 

Jai Hind !

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6 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The question is: To learn Hindi or not to learn Hindi ?”

  1. H says:

    Sir, maybe the Dravidian parties in tamilnadu wanted to keep all other parties out of their state to further their dynastic pursuits and local control. What better way than to cut of the mode of communication? Well but one thing is there for all to see, south Indians are capable of learning other languages better than their north Indian counterparts.

  2. NMS says:

    If knowing Hindi brings such major advantages, then isn’t it same as bestowing huge reservations in jobs and promotions to Hindi natives? I can understand using Hindi as a common language in the army or in jobs where it’s vital. But, if Hindi is required for clerks and accountants in Karnataka, then that’s a major flaw in our system and we should address it asap.

  3. strengeworld says:

    Looking from afar,from outside India, the need of the hour is not the creation of a language crisis, but improving the economy and ensuring that the galloping population rise is halted.
    You conveniently forgot to mention what the PM in early 1960s: Lal Bahadur Shastry assured when language riots broke out in Tamil Nadu and to a limited extent in other South Indian states. That assurance was: there would be no imposition of Hindi in any form. That assurance is flouted by this BJP government. There is asymmetry in the 3 language formula as for as North states are concerned. They should be required to learn: regional language, one south Indian language and English. That will promote national integration too.
    Unlike your time in N India, author, Bengaluru has become the place which creates most jobs-being the tech city and hence, most professional and IT jobs are sought after by North Indians there. If the education sectors in North India for example use the 3 language formula: Regional Language, Kannada ( a south Indian language option) and English, that will go a long way in ensuring that a symmetry in the formula is established up in the Northern states. Otherwise, the slogan: ” one nation, one language” rings the tone of Hitler (” Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer ” whose ramifications were well known.
    BJP ‘s end will be through this madness which make North Indians feeling superior because they gain the advantage if this asymmetrical formula gets adopted.
    Erstwhile Jan Sangh, rose from the RSS, and it was well known that RSS wanted Hindi as the sole national and official language. When footloose Modi travels abroad, he always presses for more employment visas for Indians. With a plethora of Indians applying for jobs abroad in English-speaking Western countries and facing the English language tests in which many fail and have to retake them, this 3 language formula does no good. If this formula is forced, one can see, the demise of BJP, if Congress recalls Lal Bahadur Shastry’s assurance, and promises to abide by that assurance. Modi will be foolish to adopt the report and let Amit Shah loose.It is now left to Yeddy or Yedy to advice Amit Shah to desist from his pronouncement. BJP will lose Karnataka too.

  4. dr.shanthakumar says:

    amit shah is right promotional hindi sused in any party o india.

    we should learn inlike tamilians against it

  5. What a World! says:

    @dr.shanthakumar What kind of “doctor” are you? Your poor English shows that you have not grasped the issue at all! Learn English first, and then comeback for posting your opinion ,which does not seem to amount much at the moment !!

  6. ram says:

    In 1947 India got divided and one part decided to adopt one religion and one language to achieve unity, most predicated India with several languages culture and diversity will be torn into pieces. When mighty USSR collapsed everyone was still wondering why India is still one country, many Russian scholar tried to understand the secret of India being united. We are united by our common goal not with language or culture.

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