A Rumination upon Our Nation’s Language Politics
There’s no mention of Hindi being a national language in our constitution. Judiciary system has made and I hope that it will continue to make assertions that Hindi is not the national language. But the general instruction given to us by majority of Hindi speakers (or from those who had accepted this general, false assumption) is ‘how can you not know your national language?’ (Of course, it is not bad to learn a language). The point of this article is not to berate the Indian governments’ (and Hindi speakers’) alleged status of considering Hindi as India’s language. I want to just point the ways the Central government has commenced its efforts to eradicate the nation’s language (as well as cultural) diversity.
Whenever some politician (Mr. Rajnath Singh last year claimed that ‘because of some weakness on the part of our leadership that it couldn’t ensure making Hindi the national language of India’) makes an erroneous assertion of Hindi being the national language, some opposing voices raise from Tamil Nadu or West Bengal. Rest of the states has either accepted this false assertion or their voices rarely get the limelight of national media. Should we too curtsy and accept the popular indoctrination? What if I don’t want Hindi to be the representing language of my nation? Will I be considered a foreigner or a second-grade citizen? Again, the question will be ‘Hey, what is so wrong with learning a language that’s spoken by lot of people in your nation?’ Yes, there is nothing wrong with it. The problem starts when a language is used as a political tool to annihilate the very diversity we Indians proudly celebrate. We can list out numerous pros about learning Hindi and those will be valid points, but when learning a language gets subtly politicized, it’s high time for us to be aware of the sinistral government policies.
Mr. Modi’s government finds new, copious ways to force upon Hindi and Sanskrit. The so-called Dravidian politicians might say the Central government is trying to strangle the Tamil identity. It would be hypocritical of those Dravidian politicians to make that claim. Since, we the Tamils would ask back, ‘what have you done in these past decades to protect the destruction of Tamil-based learning in Tamil Nadu schools?’ The BJP government thinks Hindi and Sanskrit are national identity. When our Prime Minister addresses Indian diaspora in foreign countries he talks in Hindi; when he goes to represent us in UN, he makes a thunderous speech in Hindi. The message is simple: ‘you could have escaped from learning Hindi and moved to an English speaking nation, but if you want to listen to me, learn Hindi’. There was announcement about celebrating ‘Sanskrit week’ in CBSE schools. The ads for ‘Clean India’ campaign (or should I only say ‘Swacch Bharat’?) in my local theater are played in Hindi. Not only that campaign, all government-related campaigns use Hindi as the language for communication. Central government’s labor welfare board has asked the other domestic boards to ensure that all of government’s message, documents, stats, bills etc are received and answered in Hindi. It was also mentioned that there will be mandatory Hindi classes for officials from non-Hindi speaking states.
Former Minister of Human Resources Smriti Irani called for the state governments to voluntarily teach Sanskrit in their schools. Those interested states will receive funds for teaching Sanskrit. Hundreds of crore (between 200 and 800 crore) is used by our Central government to promote Sanskrit studies. There were claims of starting ‘Vedic board’ to impart ‘vedic education’. What’s wrong in preserving an ancient language of India? The government doesn’t actually want to update the Sanskrit language (to modern terms) or apprehend the language’s richness. It just wants to propose the out-dated, biased values that are inherently built to Sanskrit. Vedic times and its education had some great, defining characteristics, but let’s not forget how these educational methods preserve and defend the values of the upper castes. The gentle forcing down of Hindi and Sanskrit is never about politicians offering general public to learn a new language; it is about obscurely waging war on our values, identity and culture. There are also talks about Sanskrit being the older language than Tamil (the numerous foreign researchers have repeatedly claimed this being the fact). But there is plenty of archeological and research evidences (mostly suppressed) that Tamil is as or more older and profuse language than Sanskrit. That might sound like an insipid statement of pride. But I love my language and feel that it is my duty to be against the crafty pseudo-intellectuals, who promote languages for political gains.
Now, naturally we need to point the finger upon us and ask ourselves what we and our state politicians did to promote Tamil language, apart from ranting against Hindi and Sanskrit. Tamil Nadu’s education system after the 1970’s have helped the matriculation, English medium schools to flourish and instilled the thought that Tamil-based learning has no gains. The underpaid teacher in private school of Tamil Nadu (or rest of India) builds a student machine that will eventually work for hours in private, multi-national company, earn lot of money to lead a materialistic, empty life. The masterstroke of the private school education is that no one teaches politics or the nightmarish side of the globalized world. Yes, the media teaches politics. But, it is the politics of stupid fights; bjp vs congress, DMK vs ADMK, etc. The corporate funded, religious foundations-funded schools will never talk about the politics of oppression or the politics behind environmental pollution, etc. Funny that in this ever connected digital era, many students are not aware of the politics that let’s them memorize something for the sake of a ridiculous standardized tests. Our Tamil Nadu politicians or the prideful Tamilians (including me) have rarely raised their voices against this hostile take over of education. CBSE schools (in Tamil Nadu) offer ways to move up to high school education without ever studying Tamil as a subject. Soon, we will have an education policy that’s same all over India. Tamil kids will no longer learn ‘Thirukurral’ or Bharathi’s fierce, stimulating poems (already generation of Tamil matriculation students aren’t able to read and write well in their mother tongue). This future education policies will propose a different Indian identity; one that is totally devoid of diverse political or cultural thoughts. The state (as well as Central) government would delightfully enjoy the eradication of political thoughts in a young mind. When they easily attain that through private education facilities, forcing down of Hindi and Sanskrit or total destruction of the rapidly waning Tamil-based learning would seem an easy act. Then, who knows they will next declare Hinduism as the national religion.
It doesn’t make sense, isn’t it? What does the rise of private educational institutions, de-politicized students, and globalization has to do with the forcing of Hindi and Sankrit language? The answer is simple: to make India a better market place for the thriving capitalists. Of course, the one language part is one of the bigger agenda for the ruling party to create exclusive national identity. In this globalized world, every political move to overturn, castigate an identity or language is related with making better markets for capitalist bigwigs. It is very clear on how the installation of nuclear plants, GAIL project, etc in Tamil Nadu or the banning of Jallikattu withholds layered & baleful political and economic motivations. The same conniving approach goes for the Central government’s hidden proposal to have one language for India.
India can never have one language and one culture. And, a superficial pride won’t help us to confront these smart political moves to compress the diverse identity of India. First, we need to learn our real history and culture (its darker sides too). Most importantly, we should withhold a broader political viewpoint. Forget the politics of those bickering, elected people, spewing controversies in media. Let’s be aware of the ways of cunning individuals within the system, who calmly continues their destruction of India’s diversity.