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Discussing the Great Indian Language Debate

Verdastelo (@stelo_varda on X/Twitter) is the co-author of this article.



 

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the authors in this article are purely personal and must not be construed otherwise.

 

Months ago, not weeks, I had the opportunity to share some notes and ideas with my friend on X (Twitter), Verdastelo @stelo_verda on the Great Indian Language Debate.


Now, I do not need to reiterate that Hindi is not the National Language of India, and is only recognised as one of the two Official Languages in the Part XVII of the Indian Constitution of 1949.


Considering the kind of vigour we have had in the Language Debate in India, discussions have been going on whether any Language of Indian origin or roots could be legally and in policy pragmatism, recognised as a Link Language, or whether we can have more Link Languages instead of National Languages considering the diversity of our country.


In this discussion article, Verdastelo and I have addressed some questions out of intrigue.


First, let's try to define the scope of the link language. Without this definition, everyone interprets “link” or “national” language as he wishes.


Is it feasible for everyone to use Hindi as a link language?


Verdastelo: No. An Assamese and a Tripuri already have a link language in Bengali.


Abhivardhan: It could be possible, if Hindi becomes a more pan-India link language. The existing political and socio-economic conditions show that Hindi has the potential to become a feasible pan-India link language.


What is the scope?


Verdastelo: The scope is “People who work for the Indian government.” They need a link language for their job.


Abhivardhan: Beyond the necessity to get government jobs, the role of Hindi could be inclusive and holistic, in arenas of national integration, from arts, music, idea sharing to even strategic communication.

 

Picking a link language has a political and a practical side. Let's address them.


The Political Side


Why should we keep a foreign language (English)?


Verdastelo: Choosing Hindi will give an undue advantage to Hindi native speakers.


Abhivardhan: Choosing the current maanak Hindi as we know does give undue advantage to native Hindi speakers, regardless of dialects. However, the potential of making Hindi a more rich and inclusive pan-India language is huge, The same is achievable without any form of politicised homogenisation, which gave rise to the language debates, and the reorganisation of states on the basis of languages.


Practical Aspects


Why choose a language that hasn’t developed to express all nuances of law, administration, and sciences (Hindi)?


Verdastelo: A language develops a precise vocabulary when it’s used. If there aren’t scientists and lawyers communicating in Hindi, then the already-created wordlists aren’t going to be of much help. The use comes first. Then comes the refinement. [I suggest you answer that lol]


Abhivardhan: Hindi has soaked in words and writing ethic of multiple Indic and some foreign languages. Once properly sensitised and democratised as a practice, standard or maanak Hindi can create simple words in technical fields like law, administration and sciences.


A Social Perspective


Verdastelo: Major languages of India are closely linked with a particularl geography and people. Kannada is entwined with Karnataka history and people, Punjabi is part of the identity of the people of the state of Punjab.


As a second-language speaker, you have to love the language and the state. If you speak Tamil but criticize Tamil Nadu, you will find many people willing to accuse you of malicious intentions. Hindi alone has managed to supersede such narrow geographical identities. You can hate UP and be a Hindi speaker. You can hate Mumbai and be a Hindi speaker. You can criticize India without anyone questioning your Hindi credentials.


Red-herrings: These arguments often turn up during debates on Hindi, but are irrelevant to the debate.


They are framed in a way of figuring out logical fallacies in such kinds of arguments.


If there are more crows than peacocks, then the crow should be our national bird.


The analogy refers to this tendency to say that since the population in the Hindi Heartland states in India is technically a 'majority', then declaring Hindi a National Language or considering a Link Language implies an act of promoting majoritarianism in representation.


Here is what Verdastelo and I discussed.


Verdastelo: Irrelevant analogy. Ask the speaker to give concrete arguments against Hindi instead of analogies.


Abhivardhan: Also, this analogy does not recognise the colonial tendency of imposing Hindi even in the ‘Hindi heartland’ states, thereby discouraging the dialects in regions like Awadh, Purvanchal, Bundelkhand and others.


All languages are equal so pick Kannada or Tamil as the national language.


Verdastelo: Ask the speaker to define “equal.” Languages are equal in the sense that they can describe all ideas equally well. However, languages aren’t equal in terms of spread. Hindi is more popular or spread out than any other language in the Indian subcontinent. It makes sense to pick Hindi.


Abhivardhan:


Type 1: To add, if the Tribhasha sutra or the tripartite language formula or recognising Hindi as broad-based does not help, then India could have 4 official languages - English, Hindi, an Eastern Indian language and a Southern Indian language.


Type 2: Have variants of Hindi recognised in multiple states, like those of Telangana, Odisha, Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Andhra. Depoliticisation or a normal approach would help a lot.


[Explicit] Stop Hindi imposition!


Verdastelo: You can always pick a school where Hindi isn’t taught or choose a third language other than Hindi. The central government job isn’t mandated to you. If you don’t want to learn Hindi, then don’t go for central government jobs.


Hindi will kill our languages. Look at Awadhi, Bhojpuri, and Maithili.


Verdastelo: Yeah, it will kill your language if you give up your dialect or language in favor of Hindi. Those people gave up their dialects or languages in favor of using Standard Hindi in written and formal communication. But in colloquial settings, the dialects remain alive. You can pick the alternative model, the one prevalent in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Punjab. Everyone learns Hindi but isn’t willing to give up their literary languages. Marathi is alive and thriving. Punjabi music is popular all over the country. So there is no need to focus on limited data and look at the complete picture.


Abhivardhan: this is why tracking the rise of variants or dialects of Hindi is another fascinating way to understand how dialects can thrive at the same time, and create lingual, socio-economic and cultural ecosystems. Uttarakhand and Himachal-based music ecosystem is also rising steadily, and a regionalised non-Bhojpuri, non-fetishized ecosystem is rising in Uttar Pradesh as well. Examples of artists can be taken and referred to.

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