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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 12 New Delhi March 10, 2018

No Conflict between Hindi and Regional State Languages

Monday 12 March 2018, by Rajindar Sachar

For some time past a misguided effort is being made to castigate India for asking the General Assembly of the UN to include Hindi as one of the languages at the UN. They seem to suggest that English should be recognised as the language of India because Hindi is not understood in the whole of India, but they conveniently forget that Hindi is the language of an overwhelming number of people. Of course, it is not in any way an attempt to reduce the respect given to the other Indian languages which are of equal status with Hindi. It is a question of whether a sovereign India should have its own language just as England, France, Germany are provided at the UN. This would show Hindi in an equal position at the international fora with other foreign languages. So that the demand the country must have one language of its own at the UN international fora for this purpose cannot be objected to.

In presenting Dr Lohia as a Hindi fanatic, even against the other languages of India, is to do great injustice to his philosophy. No doubt Dr Lohia was against the exclusive small number of English-knowing people of about four per cent to represent at the UN. He treated all Indian languages on equal footing. But each country can have only one language to represent it at the international fora. So at the UN one language alone can be recognised. This is why one of the largest spoken languages, Hindi, should be at the UN fora.

Let me explain his philosophy of Angrezi Hatao in his own words:

“It is now impossible to banish the public use of English without the desire of the people. The policy of removal of English gradually, which has been adopted by the Government of India, is proving more dangerous than the policy of retaining English forever. The chief problem is the removal of English and not the establishment of Hindi. This clarification is necessary, for the non-Hindi speaking States like Mysore, Bengal, Tamil Nadu should have the option not to use Hindi at all. They may use their own language but they also must remove English.

“A correct language policy has been evolved. Hindi should be the language of the Central Government immediately after, the gazetted posts of the Central Government should be reserved for non-Hindi speaking areas for ten years. The Centre should correspond with States in Hindi and the States should correspond with the Centre in their regional languages until such time they learn Hindi. The medium of education up to graduate course should be the regional language and for post-graduate studies, it should be Hindi. The District Judge and Magistrate may use their regional languages whereas the High Court and Supreme Court should use Hindustani. The speeches in the Lok Sabha should generally be made in Hindustani but members who do not know Hindi may speak their own language. Although it is a correct language policy, any State or its government which may not like to adopt this policy and wishes to continue with its regional language should have the freedom to do so. It should not be objected to although it will be a regrettable situation. I believe this is a temporary difficulty. Therefore, keeping in view the pernicious propaganda and in the interest of the nation, the chief aim of our movement should be removal of English and not the establishment of Hindi. It is certain that Hindi shall be established on an all-India level in due course. But if in some States or even on the all-India level Marathi or Bengali is established, we should not mind it.”

I can recall his pain when he read about the misunderstanding of his position on languages and which caused a setback to the development of national languages and a correct language policy. It happened sometime in the 1960s when I had the privilege of taking Dr Lohia to a Socialist Party programme in Chandigarh. He stayed at my residence—at that time I was the chairperson of the Socialist Party (Punjab branch).

I remember, however, a very pained Lohia when he was staying with me at Chandigarh. Next morning, news had came that anti-Hindi agitators in the South had burnt Hindi periodicals. I still see him quietly with a sad look on his face sitting in the verandah lawn of my house at Chandigarh and telling me softly: “Rajindar—the movement for Hindi is dead—when it will be revived I do not know.” Dr Lohia was not a Hindi chauvinist. He was for State languages—he believed that the presence of English-knowing minority, of which even now there are only four per cent, will never let the poor become the vehicle of politics. He accepted the supremacy of Tamil and Telugu languages in the States. He was not against the English language as such. He was of the view that in no democratic people’s state, bureaucracy can effectively work for people’s policies unless the administration is carried out in the States—in their own people’s language.

The author, a retired Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, was the Chairperson of the Prime Minister’s high-level Committee on the Status of Muslims and the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing. A former President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), he is a tireless champion of human rights. He can be contacted at e-mail: rsachar1[at]vsnl.net / rsachar23[atbol.net.in

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