Wednesday 14 September 2016

The language issue

Today, September 14th, is celebrated every year as Hindi Diwas.

When I was a Judge of Allahabad High Court I would be invited by the High Court Bar Association on the occasion of Hindi Diwas which was celebrated every year in a function in the Bar Library. I would tell the office bearers of the Bar Association who came to invite me that I would not like to come to the function because what I would say would create a controversy. However, they would insist and plead that I come and speak.

At the function many speakers would say “Agrezi Hatao”, that is, abolish Hindi from our country. Some would disparagingly describe English as a ‘dasi’ (slave girl).

When my turn came to speak I told the audience that if their children did not learn English they would only be fit to drive bullock carts (Hal chalane layak rah jayenge). I said I, too, love Hindi which is my mother tongue but that does not mean I should behave like a fool. All knowledge in the world is in English. If one went to an Engineering college all the the books are in English, similarly all the books in a Medical College are in English. If one wanted to study history, economics, philosophy, science, literature etc the books are all in English. Even the law books are in English. How could one do without English? It is totally stupid to say “Agrezi Hatao”, and only enemies of their children talk like that. In fact we must spread English more in our country for the country’s progress. So, on the occasion of Hindi Diwas I made the same appeal.

However, the language of the common people is Hindustani or khariboli, not Hindi. Hindi is an artificially created language. For instance, in Hindustani we say ' udhar dekhiye ' ( look there ). In Hindi we say ' Udhar avlokan keejiye ' or ' ' Udhar drishtipaat keejiye ', which is not said by the common man.

When I was a Judge in Allahabad High Court, a lawyer who always argued in Hindi appeared before me with an application entitled ' Pratibhu avedan patra '. I asked him the meaning of the word ' pratibhu '. He said it meant a bail application. I told him he should have used the word ' zamanat ' or ' bail ' which everybody understands, and not ' pratibhu ' which nobody understands.

After 1947 Persian words which were in common use in Hindustani were sought to be hatefully and systematically removed by some bigots, and replaced by Sanskrit words. For instance, ' zila ' ( district ) ' was replaced by ' janapad '.

This policy of hatefully replacing Persian or Arabic words which were in common use by Sanskrit words which nobody understood did great damage to Hindi. It is often difficult to understand the language used in govt. notifications in U.P., as they are in artificially Sanskritized language.
In fact a language grows stronger, not weaker, by adopting foreign words. English became stronger by adopting many foreign words.

Once I travelled on a rickshaw, and offered to pay the rickshawman the fare which I thought was proper. He said ' wajib hai ' ( it is the proper fare ). Now here was an uneducated man using a pure Persian word which had come into common usage. So we should not have hatred of foreign words which have come into common usage.

In Tamil there are many words from Sanskrit which have come into common usage, e.g. ' aacharyam ' ( aashcharya ). For instance, the first verse of Tirukkural says :
" Agar mudal eduttalaam, aadi bhagwan mudattre ulagu "

Here,out of the 7 words 4 are from Sanskrit. 'Agar' is derived from the Sanskrit word ' akshar', ' aadi ' and 'bhagwan' are pure Sanskrit, .and 'ulagu' is derived from the Sanskrit ' Lokam '. So should Tirukkural be altered or banned in Tamilnadu just because it contains a large number of Sanskrit words ? That would be foolish.

However, at the same time I appeal to the people of the non speaking Hindi speaking states like Tamil Nadu to learn Hindi ( or rather Hindustani ), because it is the link language in our country. For instance, Tamilians face great difficulty when they come out of Tamil Nadu, because they do not know Hindi.

When I met the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu some time back I told her that Tamilians should learn Hindi as it is in their interest to do so. She told me that Tamilians were indeed learning Hindi upto the 1960s, and Hindi was spreading in Tamil Nadu by Hindi films and Hindi Prachar Sabhas. But then some North Indians decided to impose Hindi in the South, and this created a strong reaction, and Tamilians stopped learning Hindi. I told her that it was wrong on the part of some North Indian politicians to try to impose Hindi in the South. This is the age of democracy, and nothing should be imposed. However what has happened has happened, and now my appeal to the people of Tamil Nadu is that they should learn Hindi.

Some time back I spoke to students of Anna University in Chennai, and advised them to learn Hindi I have received several e-mails from some of the students, who have said that they have started learning Hindi. However, one elderly gentleman ( perhaps a Professor ) said that there was no need to learn Hindi as English was already the link language in India. I replied that he was mistaken. English is only known by the 5-10% elite, not the common man. For instance, if you wish to take a taxi or auto in Delhi you will have great difficulty as taxi and auto drivers usually do not know English, and speak only Hindi ( or rather Hindustani )

In my speech in Anna University I mentioned that when I was Chief Justice of Madras High Court I was invited to a function in Gulbarga, which is in North Karnataka. I flew from Chennai to Hyderabad where I caught a taxi to Gulbarga. The Prof. of Gulbarga University who came to receive me was a Kannada speaking gentleman while the taxi driver was Telugu speaking, but they spoke to each other in Hindi .I was surprised that two South Indians should speak to each other in Hindi. I asked the Prof. for the reason. He said it was because Hindi was their link language. He did not now Telugu, while the taxi driver did not know Kannada, but they both knew Hindi. This shows that Hindi is the link language in much of India. In fact most people even in the non Hindi belt like Punjab, Bengal, Kashmir, North East, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, etc can speak Hindi. Hindi is even spoken in Pakistan, where it is called Urdu. Thus, knowledge of Hindi makes it easy to communicate in much of the Indian sub continent.

I appeal to the people of India to learn Hindi ( Hindustani ) and English, but nothing should be imposed.

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