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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Anonymous said...

Fair points and I would agree to most of them.

Few things about yesterdays incident -
One MLA actually had taken oath in english already and MNS did not do any protest against it because the person actually could not speak fluent or even half cooked marathi. where as mr azmi speaks marathi fluently and still decided to take oath in hindi because of arrogance and his own lame politics. I am happy that MNS took a stand against in it. violence only happened after mr azmi showed his footware towards protesting members and his sown started using abusing language from viewers area. Though violence should be avoided at any cost - but hey our dear congress and its members were involved in killing and beating up brahmins in maharashtra after Gandhiji was assasinated! So voilence unfortunately has become part of our socy

Anonymous said...

Grow up kid. there is nothing like Hindi arrogance in this country. Abu Azmi is a small leader. He is no one who represents 5-6 states. Hindi people are much more tolerant than the people down south. Specially Tamilnadu. Tamilians have problem with every one including their neighboring states. If they are very tolerant people why they were kicked by shiva sena 10 years ago. Was that Tamil arrogance. Get your facts right and do not forget that a Tamilian killed Rajiv Gandhi and that was terrorism not the one what Abu Azmi did and if some one says Hindi Meri Jaan why you are getting ant in your pant. Stop spreading hatred and keep yourself clean first.

Bharath said...

My dear 2nd anonymous:

My comments inline:

there is nothing like Hindi arrogance in this country.

It is there.

Hindi people are much more tolerant than the people down south.

That's the image they have up-north because they are have never faced problems from outsiders. Someone from the south doesn't go to Delhi and talk about Tammam Muddhey. The go, work and mind their own business. If they go to Delhi/ Above Jabalpur and start talking in Malayalam/Telugu/Tamizh/French/Kannada to the fruit vendor, lets see how tolerant are the localities. The real tolerance can be checked when the people down-south go to Delhi and complain that the localities don't understand Tamizh, Telugu, Kannada. I have heard outsiders come to Madras and complain "Abey Yahaan Dukaan wale Hindi BHI nahi Samajhte" and then a dumb laughter over that. Please note the Auto wala here understands English and he has no business to understand Hindi.
People from down-south have enough sense that they WILL learn and talk in the local language.

If they are very tolerant people why they were kicked by shiva sena 10 years ago.

Siva Sena did not have problems just with Tamilians. Noth Indian basically think South means "Madras". My dear,there are many more states in South India. The problem then was the jobs in Mumbai were being taken away by south Indians.
Above all, If Siv Sena kicked someone, does that mean "that someone" is not tolerant. So what do you mean to say? If Shiv Sena kicks then the victim is non-tolerant (because the victims were South Indians) and if MNS does it MNS is not-tolerant. (because the victim is Hindi Meri Jaan). Why don't you think for yourself before you say something?

Get your facts right and do not forget that a Tamilian killed Rajiv Gandhi and that was terrorism

What a comparison dear :-D Of course I know that is terrorism. But I know your intention here. You wanted to highlight that a "Tamilian" killed Sri Rajiv Gandhi. Superb thought:-) What does that have to do here? A Sikh killed Smt Indira Gandhi, a Maharashtrian killed Mahatma Gadhi and an American Killed Abraham Lincoln. Do you draw any patterns? If so please explain. Would love to hear.

>Hindi Meri Jaan why you are getting ant in your pant.

Say Hindi meri jaan. No issues with that. But after being in Mumbai for 25 years, don't say that I "respect" Marathi and shall learn in soon. At least have the guts to say that I am arrogant and a Hindi Chauvinist. Since I am illiterate and don't get my facts right, I believe that Hindi is our national Language. I wont learn Marathi. After saying this take a long jump and cross Jabalpur.

Anonymous said...

Hindi Meri Jaan, yes !
Tamil Meri Jaan, yes !
Kannada Meri Jaan, yes !
Telugu Meri Jaan, yes !

But if you stay in Mumbai for 25 years, if you are elected to the assembly by Marathi speaking people to the Maharastra assembly and if you are facing a language issue, you back off and don't make a attempt to speak in Marathi, then yes, we have a problem, we all have a problem in Maharastra, we all have a problem in India.......

No wonder whole of Maharastra has lifted Raj Thackeray to great heights...

Anonymous said...

dude.. aside from the focal point of the post, ppl talk in tamil in bangalore, but they don't necessarily expect a reply in tamil.. you can actually communicate with one person speaking in kannada and other guy in tamil (maybe not very well)..

Unknown said...

Hi, Historically Bangalore was a twin city, one part belonging to the natives called 'pete' administered by the Mysore King and another part called 'cantonment' separate from it built and administered by the British. Both were separated by a 11.5 km open stretch of land. The British settled predominantly Tamils in the cantonment area which was built by them. Slowly the city grew and the space that was separating them disappeared and then Bangalore became the capital of Karnataka. Because of this historic reason that the cantonment area was separate and originally a Tamil populated area, Tamils still form around 30 percent of Bangalore's population and they feel they have as much rights in Bangalore as the Kannada speaking people do. That apart, I don't think any Tamils who have been living in Bangalore for a reasonably long period don't know Kannada.

Coming to Chennai, historically Chennai had a large number of Telugu speaking people as many had migrated there and even Andhra was part of the Madras Presidency then. But the Telugu speaking people had no problems in assimilating with the local people and the local people too did not discriminate against them. In fact even some roads and famous areas are named after Telugus - example T.Nagar is named after Thyaragaraya Chetty. And most importantly, the greatest figure of the Dravidan movements, Periyar was originally not Tamil but a Kannada. We have to keep in mind that even though these people were not Tamil, they had great passion for the Tamil language and culture.

Unknown said...

a link about bangalore -

Check the colonial period.

Vishal said...

"Hindi terrorism"?

We can argue about the intensity but linguistic chauvinism does exist *both* in the North and the South. But calling the latter "Hindi terrorism" is extreme.

'National language' can be interpreted in several different ways, it's 'official language' that you want to look out for in the Constitution. And, like it or not, but Article 343 does state it clearly that "[t]he official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script."

Of course, provisions are made to that Article, but denying the status of Hindi that the Constitution has granted it, is a falsity.

Having said that, imposing Hindi (or any other language) on the people of any region is, in my opinion, simply wrong.

Your efforts (and success) to learn various local/regional language is laudable. I think people should do that - but not necessarily as an expression of respect to the vernaculars. If learning local languages helps an individual economically and socially, I see no reason to resist it.

People's expectation and preference for one language over the other is, I think, justifiable. Their insistence is not.

Arun said...

Leaving the Azmi incident and constitutional decrees aside, the real problem is ego, intolerance and lack of respect to others from all sides. What is really needed is to treat each other with respect. An immigrant from elsewhere must treat locals and local languages with respect instead of trying a separatist, egoistic attitude. At the same time, a local must understand that everyone may not be able to talk or learn the local language, especially people who are around for a year or two. India is just too diverse to draw stringent lines, but at the same time one can't try to impose themselves on locals wherever they go.

But then, tolerance and universal fraternity are for a utopian world.

Nita said...

Good to have posts which state the facts. You are right, India is a diverse country and has many languages. It is a pity that even the media is ignorant. Thank god for blogs.
I am not for the MNS but in this case I think Mr. Azmi was wrong. I agree with Arun, who says it is was an ego issue with him. I think people, specially politicians, should be humble and try and reach out to the people, particularly people of the place they are elected from. This is so basic, but then our politicians are all crap anyway.

Amit said...

Nice, thoughtful post. I do agree with quite a few things, and then again, don't agree with a couple of others.
Had a lot of views/thoughts to share, so wrote a post of my own :)


Amit said...

At the same time, I must say it's really laudable that you know/speak 7 languages!

Keshav.Kulkarni said...

well said. You have told what I wanted to tell in a better way!

This article shoul be in TOI front page in every city edition.

- Keshav

sagar said...

Good work man, in the era when everybody instead of putting their points forward and listen to anyone else just shout in their political interests and create a scene by themselves such work is much appreciable.
The issues are always misinterpreted in media as well. Non responsible media is a big problem of this country. Firstly we criticized doordarshan for being favorable to government but now there are so many players in the market each one having their own loyalty and loyalty to public is always taken for granted.
Speaking of official language of state in state assembly is one point and respecting/disrespecting Hindi is another. This is always being mixed. Same is with crowds in city of Mumbai. Everybody agrees that people are beyond the capacity of infrastructure of the city. But no one wants to stop it anyhow. Why this social issue is being turned political. Just for easy votes?

sagar said...

again regarding the Azmi issue..
yes violence is not acceptable but violence is also medium to express feelings, oh then it is kind of language. Now people like Azmi who doesnt follow marathi or any other language, can only be communicated in the language which he understands, yes language of violence. funny but true (he has said he is prould of not talkign in english, if has learned any other of 22 languages no idea but chances are minimal as he couldnt learn 2 sentences of marathi after staying in maharashtra for 25 years)

Sultan of Samarkand said...

Hi Bharath,

I would only contest your statement about northern Indians not making any attempts at learning the vernacular language. I know loads of people who can converse, if not fluently, in Kannada and Telugu. And I know loads of others who absolutely loath the local languages.

You would be aware that South Indian languages belong to a totally different language family - a person from the northern part of the country would find Bengali or Rajasthani a lot easier to learn than say, Telugu or Malayalam. I believe this is what keeps us from picking up these languages, though I would like to be proven wrong.


Anonymous said...

oh shaan...

periyar is pure tamil...i dont know where u guys reading abt him wrongly

Anonymous said...

An american visited india and went back to america

where he met his indian friend who asked him

how did u find my country**

the american said it is a great country

with solid ancient history

and immensely rich with natural resources.

The indian friend then asked

how did u find indians?**


Who indians?

I didn't find or met a single indian

there in india

what nonsense?**

who else could u met in india then?

The american said

in gujarat i met gujarati

in kashmir i met a kashmiri

in punjab a punjabi

in bihar, maharastra, rajasthan, bengal, tamilnadu, kerala

bihari, marathi, marwadi, bengali, tamilian, malayali

then i met

a muslim,

a hindu,

a sikh

a christian,

a jain,

a buddhist

and many many many more

but not a single indian did i meet

think how serious this joke is

the day would not be far off when indeed we would

become a collection of nation states as some

regional anti-national politicians want

fight back

always say i am Indian.

Few people do not understand, and can never understand. But I hope, this message will help them understanding something.....

Bharath Ganesh said...

How does it matter? What the foreigner said is the truth.. And there is nothing wrong in it.,. Just like France, Netherlands, Germany have different culture, traditions and language so does Gujrat, Kashmir and Kerala and I don't see any issue in saying I am a Keralite or I am a Kashmiri. There is nothing wrong in saying that - rather there is nothing "Anti-Indian" in that :-D