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Hindustan or Hindistan – which one is it?
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There have been reports in the media which suggest that the Centre intends to promote the use of Hindi in the official/government circles.

While the fine print of such reports may be contested, the MoS Home Shri.Kiren Rijiju is on record saying the below (courtesy India Today):

“Hindi as official language doesn’t mean we will discourage regional languages. All languages will be given due importance.” Rijiju said that it was wrong to say “if we promote Hindi then we discriminate other languages”. He said “Hindi is our Raj Bhasha”.

There are various bones to pick with the above statement. First and foremost, it conveys a very regressive stand towards linguistic diversity and respect for various languages spoken all across the nation.

The bogey of ‘regional languages’:

The problem begins with viewing Hindi as some sort of a national language as opposed to those other languages which get condescendingly castigated as “vernacular or regional languages”. What is Hindi if not a regional language in itself in that it is spoken in specific regions and not in others?

So if all languages are specific to regions, then one wonders how Hindi does not get grouped as a regional language but assumes national proportions.

If the argument is that Hindi has the maximum number of speakers and hence it should be the national/official language of the Central Government, then one may have to remember what Shri.Annadurai uttered about the ubiquitous crow having to be made the national bird simply because it is far more numerous than the peacock.

Promotion of one is discrimination against another:

To say, as Shri.Rijiju is supposed to have said that promoting Hindi does not mean discrimination against other languages is an argument that is laughable to say the least. The moment the Centre puts its might behind promotion of one particular language, it is automatically discriminating against other languages.

The promotion of Hindi as the language in which the States must interact with the Centre or as the language in which the Centre will conduct its affairs is grossly discriminatory to speakers of other languages who have as much stake in the government as Hindi speakers do.

To suggest that a Kannadiga or an Odiya who does not know Hindi must communicate in it to speak to his own government is downright insensitive and chauvinistic. The alleged exemption given to only Tamilnadu as the only state which need not communicate with the Centre in Hindi makes matters even worse. Is it because there were violent protests in Tamilnadu earlier and that it could go on the boil once again?

In that case this is an incentive being offered to ready rabblerousers of other states to raise a din and get an exemption for their own language. The “Hindi is our Raj Bhasha” line does not wash well either morally or practically with a country where even many enlightened Hindi speakers acknowledge linguistic diversity and the dangers to this home-grown diversity in imposing Hindi onto the nation.

In general, there is a need to move out of the national-this or national-that approach which reeks of a faux overarching collectivism rather than any meaningful reflection of the weltanschauung of a deliciously diverse nation.

Message to Hindi speakers:

Hindi is a language which many non-Hindi speakers sometimes use out of their own interest and continue to use it informally to communicate with Hindi speakers at times, given the large influx of Hindi speakers into cities not in the Hindi-speaking belt.

Non-Hindi speakers also watch and enjoy the odd Hindi movie or song. Most others have a high regard for Hindi as a beautiful language with a great body of literature and popular culture. The stand here is against the State imposition of Hindi and not against Hindi itself.

Hindi speakers would, I trust, empathetically understand the mistreatment being meted out to other glorious languages of our civilization as opposed to Hindi being made a de-facto national/official language and speak against the Centre’s purported move in this regard.

Moreover, a lot of us would rather like to be on agreeable terms with our Hindi speaking friends than with a Karunanidhi.

After all this is Hindustan and not Hindistan, isn’t it?