Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Language Terrorism

Today again was one of those "Hindi Meri Jaan" days which led to unfortunate acts in the Maharashtra Legislative assembly. Violence is anytime not so good and should be avoided.

This incident was enough to keep our media busy the whole day. Among the numerous personalities our media interviewed, I came across two sensible and neutral comments from Kumar Ketkar of Loksatta and Advertiser Bharat Dabholkar. Both went on to say that the scene MNS created in the assembly was severely condemnable. I agree. Dabolkar went on to say, what big thunder would have stuck had Mr Azmi uttered those couple of sentences in Marathi, since he knew what was coming. I am sure he could have easily managed to speak that. But he did not and will not – sheer reason being - he believes that Hindi is our national language. Legally he is allowed to take the oath in Hindi, but the legislator was quoted as saying that Hindi is our National language (Which itself is completely lame) and no one can insult it. In what way is asking him to take the oath in the state’s official language an insult to Hindi? When Mr Azmi is a member of the legislative assembly of Maharashtra, he can definitely make an effort to speak out two sentences in the state’s official language. MNS is not against outsiders. Mr Yadav rallying in Sivaji Park talking about “Tamaam Muddhey” and the rights of outsiders in Mumbai is what triggers anger in the MNS. Then they choose the wrong path to settle it out.

Every time this topic comes up, I have heard a lot of people ignorantly say "But Hindi is India's National Language." Pity! In fact today couple of very senior Indian politicians, who are also founders of a national political party got their facts wrong. Mr Yadav, a three time Chief Minister from India's most populous state, was quoted as saying "I would like to congratulate Azmi for maintaining the honour of the national language Hindi".

That Hindi is our national language seems to be one of the most successful rumors spread in our country - The rumor with the widest reach - that probably gave birth to this Hindi arrogance.
I wish these leaders and crores Indians realize the fact that India does not have a National language. There is no such thing in our constitution. The national language of the United States is English and that of Ireland is Irish. The national language defines the people of the nation, culture and history. India is culturally so diverse, there are so many languages spoken that there cannot be any one such language that defines the culture and history. As of 2009, the Indian constitution recognizes 22 scheduled languages.

Neither the Constitution of India[1] nor Indian law specifies a National language.
Article 343 of the constitution specifies that the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script.
But it was decided that
till 1965, the proceedings of the courts, the services, and the all-India bureaucracy would be conducted in English.
In 1965, attempts were made to introduce Hindi by force, sparking widespread protests in Tamil Nadu. Then the Union Government extended the use of English in inter-State communication.

An article also says that every state has the right to choose its own official language.

Article 354 specifies that the legislature of a State may by law adopt any one or more of the languages in use in the State or Hindi as the Language or Languages to be used for all or any of the official purposes of that State.

Communication between the States:

Communication from a Central (Union) Government office to a State or a Union Territory in shall, save in exceptional cases (Region "A") or shall ordinarily (Region "B"), be in Hindi, and if any communication is issued to any of them in English it shall be accompanied by a Hindi translation thereof. Section 3 of G.S.R. 1053, titled "Rules, 1976 states Communications from a Central Government office to State or Union Territory in Region "C" or to any office (not being a Central Government office) or person in such State shall be in English. Region C covers Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

English is the authoritative legislative and judicial language. In fact, one can say that English is the official language of India for all practical purposes. But from time to time, the chauvinists of Hindi tried to press their case.

Yesterday Mr Azmi further said "Atleast I did not talk in Angrezi". English is perfectly fine, Mr Azmi.

The 1965 amendment to the Official languages act[2] permitted the use of English for all official purposes. It also said that communication between two Non-Hindi speaking states or between the center and a non-Hindi speaking state has to be in English unless otherwise agreed upon.

In the National Policy Resolution of 1968 and 1986, the Three Language Formula[3] was proposed. But as of now this policy is hugely successful in very few states like Kerala, West Bengal and Maharashtra.

Personally, having lived in five states, I always make sincere effort to learn the state’s local language. As an outcome of this I can now manage to speak 7 Indian languages. I often get irritated when outsiders expect the localities to speak in Hindi, be it in Bangalore or Hyderabad. The expectation is justified only above Jabalpur. Adding to this they complain that people don’t understand Hindi. Have you seen a Keralite who has migrated to Noida speak in Malayalam to the fruit vendor? Even a Tamilain would learn Hindi when he goes to Noida. [Sadly he doesn’t learn Kannada in Bangalore:-(]. But why doesn’t a Hindi speaking outsider never make any effort to learn Kannada, Telugu or Marathi? Hindi Arrogance probably.
Recently I got thoroughly irritated when I came across a stranger in Bangalore who came up to me and started talking in Tamil, with an assumption that anyone in Bangalore will know Tamil. (I am a Tamilian :-D) There’s nothing wrong in talking in Tamil, but that assumption that everyone in Bangalore will speak Tamil and the resistance to learn the local language is what that’s not so good.

This reminds me of a very interesting and famous exchange between Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and E. K. Nayanar, the late Chief Minister of Kerala. Both were chief ministers at the time. Not complying with the above section from the Indian Constitution Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav wrote a letter to the Kerala CM in his language Hindi. EK Nayanar replied back in his language Malayalam. In response to the letter, Mr Yadav replied that Nayanar should learn Hindi. Referring to UP’s literacy rate, Nayanar came back with a devastating response. “You teach the people of UP Hindi first, and then ask me to learn it.”

An apt response to the Hindi terrorism.

[1] http://lawmin.nic.in/coi/coiason29july08.pdf
[2] http://www.rajbhasha.gov.in/dolacteng.htm
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-language_formula
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