CHAPTER III: POST-INDEPENDENT ISSUES WITH HINDI
Protests against Nagri Hindi Imposition
Attempts of Hindi imposition in non-Hindi speaking areas have been actively opposed since independence. These oppositions have sometimes taken violent turns and acquired secessionist colors especially in the southern states. Many prominent southern politicians like CN Annadurai viewed Nagri Hindi as an artificially standardized regional language with no special merit compared to their rich classical languages such as Tamil and Telugu.
As the 15 years waiting period (under Article 343 of the constitution) for Hindi imposition came to an end 26 January 1965, the opposition gathered pace in South India and the leaders therein gave stringent warnings to the central government that Hindi imposition in South would not be taken kindly. When the Brahmin PM Lal Bahadur Shastri decided to go ahead with the plan of fully replacing English with Hindi, it was met with total shutdown and rebellion in South India. Alarmed by growing discontent and resignations, the government finally gave in and assured that English would continue as long as people want and that States would be free to choose their language. Since then the government never dared to replace English totally with Hindi though it has resorted to subtle and clandestine means to pursue its agenda of Hindi imposition but has not been effective and successful except in some northern areas such as UP, MP and Bihar, etc where standardised and Sanskritised Hindi has completely consumed the much older and classical regional dialects such Brajboli, Awadhi, Maithili, etc. Note that Punjabi and its literature are newer compared to the vast literature in Brajboli and Awadhi, yet it could maintain its autonomy as a distinct language probably because of the greater awareness and organization amongst Punjabi speakers especially the Sikhs to that extent.
Over the years after Independence, the Indian Government has resorted to extreme Sanskritisation of Hindi through the Central Hindi Directorate (CHD) under the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) so much so that Hindi used in the official communications of government seems to have become completely disconnected from the Hindi spoken by a majority of Hindi speakers. There appears to be a manifest division of Hindi into formal and colloquial Hindi to the extent that the heavily Sanskritised one is now known as ‘Shuddh Hindi’ (Pure Hindi). This is despite that colloquial or spoken Hindi has largely been influenced by Persian and other languages than Sanskrit. Clearly, the Brahmanical mindset of purity and pollution has pervaded Hindi as well and Bahujans must reject such nefarious attempts because Sanskritised Hindi cannot get rid of its casteist Brahmanical associations, given the latter’s monopoly over it. It is not surprising given the pervasive presence of the minority Brahmins and OUCHs (other upper-caste Hindus) in the post-independent dispensation to the relative exclusion of the vast majority of Bahujans who have been manipulated to toe the Brahmanical viewpoints on such discursive issues. Readers must also note that all directors of the Central Hindi Directorate since independence have been either Brahmins or OUCHs.
Misappropriation of North Indian Dialects
Certain North Indian dialects such as Brajboli, Awadhi, Maithili, etc are older and much accomplished literarily as well as socially than standardized and Sanskritised Hindi which developed literarily only in the late 19th and 20th century with writers such Bharatendu Harishchandra, Premchand, Maithili Sharan Gupt, etc (all upper-caste Hindus). On the other hand, excellent literature existed in Brajboli, Awadhi, etc much before the switch to standardized Hindi and they were written by people from all classes. For instance, ‘Prithviraj Raso’ in Brajboli was written by Chand Bardai in the 12th century. In Brajboli, Amir Khusro too composed many folk songs that are popular even today. Aurangzeb is reported to have been eloquent in Brajboli by Audrey Truschke in her book ‘Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth’. Hindustani classical music also developed in the colloquial Brajboli. Similarly, a plethora of folksongs, literary masterpieces exist in Awadhi-the language of Awadh region of UP. Compared to the standardized Hindi, these languages were means of both literary and colloquial expressions by common people at large. But nowadays, these areas have switched over to standardized Hindi for literary and formal expressions even though they continue to speak the local dialects in their homes. Sanskritised Hindi has not only inferiorised these beautiful languages but also rendered their speakers as illiterates and rustics. In my own experience, I have seen the generation of my grandparents struggling to understand and comprehend the standardized & Sanskritised Hindi.
Socio-Economic perspective of Sanskritised Hindi
Most of the literature and writings in Sanskritised Hindi are written by Brahmins and OUCHs and are often very narrow, jingoistic, illiberal, anti-global, casteist and communal in their approach and styles even though they appear to be preaching otherwise. One of the common themes running through most of them is the extreme eulogization of ancient India based on Brahmanical whims and fancies. Sanskritised Hindi in Devanagri, therefore, is a secure means in the hands of Brahmanical forces to propagate their peculiar viewpoints and manipulate public opinions accordingly. They cannot do the same propaganda in any other language especially in English, Hindi (Nastaliq/Urdu), Persian, Arabic, etc because they do not hold a monopoly over them and would be easily negatived by qualitative and substantive criticisms. Probably Brahmanical forces were aware of the repercussion and dangers to their hegemony due to the development of Hindi in Nastaliq as the common tongue of Muslims and Bahujans of the sub-continent and that’s why they sowed the seeds of the division of Hindi first and the subcontinent later by sanskritising the Hindi language. They were well-aware that Muslims at large would not accept or submit to rampant Sanskritisation and would retaliate and get segregated in the long run. Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Indian Supreme Court has profoundly stated that Sanskritised Hindi was artificially created by this hatred for Muslims, by purging even those Persian and Arabic words which had passed into common usage and by replacing them with Sanskrit words unknown to the common public.
Since a Sanskritised Hindi in Nagri script cannot get rid of its casteist and Brahmanical mindset, Bahujan writers generally prefer English as a medium of writing as it is a language with a global outlook, writership, and readership.
In 2010, a division bench of Gujarat High Court (while rejecting a PIL contending Hindi to be the national language) stated that the Constituent Assembly while discussing the Language Formula noticed the recommendation of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights, which recommended the formula as per which, “Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Persian script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union and English shall be the second official language for such period as the Union may, by law, determine” however, in the constitution, Hindi was declared as an official language and not a national language.
UP Hindi Sahitya Sammelan v State of UP 2014 SC
In this case, the appellants had challenged a 1996 order of the Allahabad HC upholding the Uttar Pradesh Official Language (Amendment) Act, 1989 by which Urdu was made the second official language for seven specified purposes. The issue was whether it was constitutional for UP Legislative Assembly to declare Urdu as a second official language through the 1989 Amendment Act once it had declared Hindi as an official language in 1951 u/a 345 of the Indian Constitution. The court while dismissing the plea held that Article 345 empowers the State Legislature to make law for adoption of one or more of the languages in use in the State and there is no indication that the power can be exercised by the State Legislature only once and that power gets exhausted if the State Legislature adopts Hindi as the official language of the State. In the words of the court, “The State Legislature is at liberty to exercise its discretion under Article 345 from time to time for a specified purpose. It does not appear to us that Hindi once adopted as an official language of the State in the exercise of its power by State Legislature Under Article 345, the State Legislature ceases to have any law-making power Under Article 345.”
The Gujarat University, Ahmedabad v Krishna Ranganath Mudholkar 1962 SC
In this case the question that arose for determination was whether under the Gujarat University Act, 1949, it was open to the University to prescribe Gujarati or Hindi in Devanagri or both as an exclusive medium or media of instruction and examination in the affiliated colleges, and whether a legislation authorizing the University to impose such media would infringe Entry 66 of List I, Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.
The court held that it is not necessary that legislation prescribing the medium of instruction in higher education and other instructions must fall within Item 11 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. The use of the expression ‘subject to’ in that Item clearly indicates that legislation in respect of matters excluded by that Item could not be undertaken by the concerned State Legislature and since imposing of a regional language was excluded by it, the State Legislature was not competent to impose it.
Vishalakshi Goel v Union of India 2019 Delhi HC
This case pertained to a direction by the Delhi HC regarding the use of simple words instead of Urdu and Persian words while recording the FIR by Police. Delhi Police defended the usage by saying that the public is familiar with many of the words due to long and continuous usage in police documents. While analyzing a list of Urdu/Persian words submitted by the Police Commissioner, the court categorically asked the police to stop using Urdu/Persian words. It stated that Urdu/Persian terms are being used mechanically by the Police without knowing the meaning thereof and without proper application of mind. In the words of the court-“FIR should be in the simplest language possible. It should be in the words of the person lodging the FIR. There is no need for Police to show their knowledge of Urdu and Persian words and these words should not be used by them mechanically without knowing their exact meaning. Moreover, public at large may not be able to understand all these Urdu or Persian words, therefore with every copy of the FIR, the aforementioned list is required to be supplied to a person seeking a copy of the FIR so that he/she can himself/herself see the translated version of Urdu and Persian words used in the FIR and understand the contents of the FIR. The aforementioned list may not be exhaustive as there can be other similar Urdu and Persian words being used in the FIR which are not mentioned in this list. The practice of using these words in the FIR ought to be stopped by the Police.”
However, a perusal of many of the Sanskritised Hindi words submitted by the Police to be used in place of Persian words shows that they are also not so simple either. And there are many Persian words easily understood by the common public. Furthermore, many of the translated words are also of Persian origin.
|Persianised Hindi Words||Sanskritised Hindi Words||English Meaning|
|Badniyat||Buri Niyat||Bad intention|
|Gair Kaanuni||Vidhi viruddh||Illegal|
|Jamanatnama||Pratibhuti Patra||Bail Bond|
Such judgments even if given in good faith act as a catalyst and good excuse for fanatics to vehemently seek Sanskritisation. There is no problem with simplification but that does not mean replacing difficult Persian words with even more difficult Sanskrit words. In the words of Markandey Katju (former Supreme Court Judge)-“It is silly to try to remove Persian and Arabic words which had come into common vogue in Hindustani, and in fact, this created an artificial language Hindi, which is sometimes difficult for the common man to understand. Often in Courts, it was difficult to understand the Hindi used in Government notifications.”
Hindi as a language evolved during medieval times when newly Islamicised tribals of North-West India and central Asia became the new rulers of India by defeating the ruling Hindu Upper Castes. With time, there was considerable intermixing of Persian, Arabic and Turkic terms/words with the dialects spoken in and around Delhi such as Khariboli, Brajbhasha, Prakrit, etc thus giving it great power and elegance. The foundation of Hindi is essentially & indisputably Indian supplemented with a layer of Persian, Arabic and Turkic taste. Initially, this beautifully hybridized language became famous as Hindi, Hindavi, Rekhta, Dehalvi, Khariboli, etc and later as Jaban-e-Ordu, Urdu, etc. Over a period of time, it became the medium of poetic and literary expression for great scholars and poets such as Amir Khusro, Mirza Galib, Shah Jafar, etc.
During the British rule, it acquired the semi-official status as ‘Hindustani’ in Nastaliq script. At the same time, Brahmins and Hindu Upper castes began aggressively Sanskritising it in the name of Hindi in the Devanagari script. The underlying motive was to scuttle the development of a common tongue between Muslims and Bahujans whose potential unity might threaten the Brahmanical hegemony in India. It led to the division of Hindi into Urdu and Hindi and the later gained prominence to the relative dominance of Brahmins and OUCHs compared to the Muslims. The mixture of both came to be known as ‘Hindustani’ This Hindustani in both Nastaliq and Nagri script was supposed to become the official language of Independent India but the partition killed its cause completely and Congress got an excuse to impose Sanskritised Hindi. Whereas newly established Pakistan made Urdu (Nastaliq Hindi) their national language, Sanskritised Hindi in Nagri overtook Hindi as the sole official language in large parts of India.
Debates over national/official language in the Indian constituent assembly were long and along communal and caste lines. Whereas an overwhelming majority of Brahmins and OUCHs wanted Sanskritised Hindi in Nagri script to be the national/official language of India, Muslims at large wanted Hindustani in both scripts. The assembly at last adopted Hindi in Devanagari script as the official language of India u/a 343 with continued use of English for 15 years which has been extended from time to time due to protests and opposition from the Southern States over Hindi imposition.
While Article 351 of the Indian constitution does allow drawing vocabulary of Hindi primarily from Sanskrit and secondarily from other languages wherever it is necessary or desirable but it also provides that the same should be done without interfering with its genius, the forms, style, and expressions used in Hindustani. However, in reality, there has been a great purge of colloquial Persian, Turkic and Arabic terms from Standardised Hindi and it has been aggressively bombarded with Sanskrit words probably due to the Brahmanical dominance over post-independent Indian dispensation and the Central Hindi Directorate. Undoubtedly, the kind of highly Sanskritised Hindi that the government imposes or promotes is entirely different from the Hindi as is spoken by the so-called Hindi speakers in the Hindi speaking areas that are full of colloquial Arabic and Persian terms that have entered into common usage due to long and continuous use.
The judicial response over Sanskritised/Devanagri Hindi has been mixed. Sometimes, courts have outrightly refused and rejected pleas of Hindi imposition, upheld and honoured the validity of reintroduction of Nastaliq Hindi (Urdu) as official language in states like Uttar Pradesh but at other times courts have gone an extra mile in giving directions to concerned authorities to purge colloquial Persian and Arabic words from Hindi under the garb of simplification which of course has resulted in covert and over Sanskritisation.
- The Constitution of India 1950
- Constituent Assembly Debates (https://www.constitutionofindia.net/)
- Tariq Rahman, From Hindi to Urdu: A social and Political History, Oxford University Press
- Bipin Chandra, India’s Struggle for Independence
- Ramachandra Guha, India After Gandhi
- Audrey Truschke, Aurangzeb: The man and the Myth
- Rajmohan Gandhi, Punjab: From Aurangzeb to Mountbatten
- A New English-Hindustani Dictionary, SW Fallon (archive.org)
- UP Hindi Sahitya Sammelan v State of UP AIR 2015 SC 1154
- The Gujarat University, Ahmedabad v Krishna Ranganath Mudholkar and Ors 1962