ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hindi Imposition: Examining Gandhi’s Views on Common Language for India

Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement on making Hindi as a unifying language for the country had stirred up a fresh controversy on the issue of a “single” language. In his tweet, the minister appealed to Indians to work towards making Gandhi and Patel’s dream of one language came true. But, such an assertion about Gandhi is not fully correct. Though he wanted a common language for the country, but that language was Hindustani written in Devanagari and Persian script. The present-day Hindi, however, is markedly different from Hindustani, the admixture of Hindi and Urdu, which Gandhi had advocated.

Western Influences in ‘Agyeya’s’ Shekhar Ek Jeevani

S H Vatsyayan “Agyeya,” a pioneer in introducing modern sensibility to post-Chhayawadi Hindi literature, is heavily influenced by Western literary aesthetics, fiction, poetry, and ideology. In his first and most famous novel Shekhar Ek Jeevani (Shekhar: A Biography) the influence of the West is sufficiently evident. The shades, contradictions, and enrichment that is born from this literary union are explored. Also examined is whether the influence of the West on Agyeya leads to assimilation into the mainstream Hindi novel writing, or if this venture by the author leads to a separate/parallel stream created by subverting the former.

Breaking the Chaturvarna System of Languages

The Indian language policy is informed by a pull towards unilingual identity, inspired by the European model of nation state that is predicated on the homogeneity of its people. Language hegemony works at two tiers in India—at the state and the centre. The Constitution fails to pay more than lip service to the linguistic plurality and multilingual ethos of the peoples of India and has created a chaturvarna (four-tier order) of languages, with Sanskrit, Hindi, the scheduled, and the non-scheduled languages occupying various rungs of the ladder. English—the language of the conquerors—being outside the chaturvarna system has emancipatory potential.

Gender Agenda

In grammatical terms there is no gender system in English, as with many other languages like Bangla, Turkish, Korean and Thai--but unlike Hindi, which boasts grammatical gender in all its glory.

The Locations of Hindi

Hindi Nationalism by Alok Rai , Tracts for the Times 13, Orient Longman, Delhi, 2000; pp 138, Rs 150.

Politics of Language

Once a language patronised by the nawabs, Urdu saw a consistent decline in patronage and support. This paper traces its decline, from the era of divisive colonial politics to the decades after independence, when the language became a victim of an increasingly communalised political arena in UP. It also attempts to unravel the paradox that is Urdu today - a language spoken mainly 'at home' in UP; in western India and in West Bengal, instruction in Urdu has in recent years seen a growing popularity.

Reflections on Teaching Urdu in Germany

Although Urdu is taught in German universities, students who opt for it are only those who want to embark on historical studies. To a scholar wanting to study India a knowledge of Urdu is of practically no importance. The concept of Urdu as primarily or even exclusively a literary language, a language of love poetry, of refinement and elegance causes much damage to the way Urdu instruction is designed. It also helps in trivialising Urdu literature, particularly ghazal and qawwali. Urdu needs to be projected as a modern language.

Urdu in UP

Since independence, Urdu has seen a rapid decline. Initially the decline was largely fomented by the adherents of Hindi and opportunistic leaders of the Muslim community. The cause of Urdu had even been well championed by the likes of Zakir Hussain and I K Gujral, but once in power such well intentions invariably ran aground. At present, besides an appeal filed in the Supreme Court by the Hindi sahitya sammelan against the UP government's 1989 amendment granting Urdu the status of official second language, there are more than 16 petitions filed in the high court that seek to challenge the status accorded to Urdu.
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