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The Story of Hindi


Mrinal Pande


How far in the past should one go to assess the growth and importance of Hindimother tongue to nearly fifty million and understood by an estimated 88 million Indians? Where does the story of mode Hindi begin In 1860 when John Gilchrist of the Fort William College at Agra, and a few other officials identified Hindi written in the Devanagari script as the language of the masses, hired four Indians (Munshi Sadasukhlal, Syed Insha Allah Khan, Lalloo Lal and Sadal Mishra), to create a standardized Hindi as a tool for the British army commanders and pastors for communicating with the natives? Or did Hindi as we know it now, emerge out of the newspapers launched first by various Hindu princes and then by several stalwarts of Indias freedom movement: Gandhi, Tilak, Madan Mohan Malviya, in early twentieth century What we do know for sure is that in 1950, after a long debate, the makers of Indias Constitution finally agreed with Gandhi, that Hindi should be the official language of Independent India, with English continuing as an Associate Official language for another 15 years, and that many disagreed. On 25th January 1965, a day before the mandated fifteen year period for English was to end, widespread antiHindi riots broke out in Madras Presidency. Students and DMK leaders led Indias nonHindi speaking states into opposing what it saw as an imperialist design of the Hindi speaking North, to subordinate all other linguistic and ethnic identities. The ruling Congress government hastily amended the orders allowing English to continue indefinitely till Hindi became acceptable to all states, thereby guaranteeing a virtually indefinite bilingualism. But the damage was done. The Congress Party never regained political power in Tamilnadu. There were reasons for a deep sense of unease over Hindi. The first five Prime Ministers of India were all from the demographically dominant Hindi belt, also in the Parliament, the combative supporters of Hindi such as P.D. Tandon and Dr Raghuvir had put off many. Then there was the Sangh Parivar whose xenophobic support for Hindi Hindu Hindustan, seemed to many another conspiracy to use language for dividing the nation along caste and communal lines. But there were many others who chose to ride the antiHindi bandwagon for less concrete reasons: little politicians with big political ambitions, bureaucrats who did not wish to leave their own English comfort zones, mediocre IndoAnglian writers and acdemics sweating with embarrassment when quizzed by ...


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