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Acche Din: Regional languages under threat

Bhasha Smriti Stambha, Kolkata

Bhasha Smriti Stambha, Kolkata

Ever since the BJP came to power, there have been several attempts by the Government – overt and covert – to impose Hindi on the people of India. BJP has always been known as the Baniya party of India. And even in the recently-concluded polls in India, BJP rode to power based on the mandate it received in North/Central India – the Hindi belt. Clearly, the Achhe Din sarkar has no love lost for the language wrongly considered as the National Language.

From orders (which were later denied or blamed on the Congress) like using Hindi on social media or responding to official memos/notes only in Hindi, to asking States to communicate with Centre in the much preferred language of the PM, the BJP has now come under fire over the UPSC issue. Thanks to its brilliant propaganda skills, and with the help of a section of the mainstream media, the Government of India has turned the whole debate into English Vs Hindi.

In a landmark order in 2010, the Gujarat High Court had clarified that Hindi is not the “rajbhasha” of India. In fact, only 25% of Indians have Hindi as their mother tongue. If you then divide Hindi speakers into the local dialects, the percentage goes down further. In such a scenario, to put the language on the pedestal of National Language would be extremely insulting to other 22 languages listed in the 8th Schedule.

There is a growing (and alarming) trend among the current youth of shunning the mother tongue to look cool. I remember reading a column by Shiraz Hassan where he asks, ‘am I a ganwar for speaking in Punjabi?’ The so-called cosmopolitan class is happy to let go of their culture and one cannot blame them. The Government is only too happy to impose Hindi as the “link language” as English is “foreign tongue”. There is a ploy to create a false wave of majoritarianism; love and respect for one’s own mother tongue is parochial and regressive, thanks to the marketing bandwagon.

And not merely is this a question of ethnic pride. By projecting English/Hindi as the coveted media of communication, the government is selling dreams to the populace at large, making them feel inferior because they do not speak the “lingua franca”. In a society already divided, elitist fissures appear because of linguistic differences.

India, at the end of the day, is a federation of States. Every language in this country should be treated equally. If an aspirant of the civil services wants to appear for the tests in a language of his choice, he should be allowed that choice. Aptitude surely cannot be measured on the yardstick of proficiency in a language. 1+1 is 2, in whichever language you write it. As for mode of communication, a prospective IAS officer can well be trained in the language of the area he will serve, during his training sessions.

Proponents of Hindi as Rashtra Bhasha should remember a nation was born when Pakistan imposed Urdu on East Bengal. 21 February attained the stature of ‘International Mother Language Day’ because 4 students of Dhaka University loved their mother-tongue more than their life.

মোদের গরব, মোদের আশা – আমরি বাংলা ভাষা

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