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A Manysplendoured Debate

Abhay Kumar Dubey

The debate on contemporary Hindi modernity is marked by a plethora of meanings and arguments with an array of Marxist, liberal and other ideological formulations speaking to each other. The terrain is contested and complex. Social scientists and researchers fear to tread the ground but publishers dont. At least the last three years in the Hindi world have been phenomenal indeed. Hindi publishers have reissued and freshly anthologized a select group of languagestrategists. A little probing into the background of this seemingly innocuous publishing episode reveals a pattern of cultural intervention in the modernity debate by a significant dimension of printcapitalism. To count only the major ones, Rajkamal and Vani have published between them not less than 25 thick volumes of Vajpeyee and Ramvilas Sharma, two mutually admiring epochmaking scholars. If we add to this the reissuing of the works of Hazari Prasad Dwivdi and writings on and by Ramchandra Shukla, the number can go beyond fifty. Despite their internal disagreements, this set of four greats is mainly responsible for linking the origins of Hindi modernity to a period of history much before the advent of colonialism. In their own inimitable manner they explored the society and literature of the cultural zones that belonged to sixteenth and seventeenth century North India. Indicative of a larger project the purpose of their enquiry becomes clearer when they reach a somewhat common conclusion that the cultural force of Bhakti poetry and socioeconomic forces of merchant capital had evolved a variety of social mechanisms to create a transformative ambience under the influence of which traditional cultural structures may be seen to be giving way to the feeble signs of early Indian modernity. However, in a sphere heavily populated by partisans the sheer innovativeness of this endeavour is bound to be counterbalanced by a set of adversarial arguments that mostly read Hindi modernity as an idea received through and ravaged by coloniality. It seems that the industry has largely refused to participate in the balancing act by just avoiding publication of or reissuing the works of Shivdan Singh Chauhan, Rangeya Raghav and other radicals who never felt comfortable with the emerging postcolonial frames of literature and cultural politics. Even the works of someone as eminent as Rahul Sanskrityayan and his middleofroad position were mostly ignored by the industry. Indian and foreign scholars working on Hindi and writing mainly in English would surely be intrigued by these ...

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