Local is the New National Language?
Well, I love my country very much. I mean to travel and work and live in all the states before I retire. I wish to be able to live for at least a year in every state before I finally decide where I wish to settle dwon, grow old and die.
However, to do that it looks like am going to have to learn all the 28 languages of my country. Just knowing English the lingua franca, or knowing the National language Hindi is not really going to help.
All States have changed shop display boards, road signs, and boards at airports and railway stations to the local language. Every State insists that all public transaction be done in State Language. Like writing an FIR or applying for an address proof or getting a house rent Agreement – it is all done in the local language.
All public utility signs have also been changed to local languages from Hindi, the common National language. Earlier all public signs used to be in Hindi all over India, or in English, so that anybody travelling from any part of India could easily find their way about in a different city, in a different State. Language was not a barrier.
However, the current scenario is that, the National language Hindi, is no longer used nationally. Local seems to be the new National Language now.
The three language formula was introduced in schools after Independence in order to make life easy for citizens functioning in a multi-language environment. It was understood that it is humanly not possible for everybody to learn all the languages to remain mobile and move from State to State.
Hence, a common language Hindi, was chosen and demarked as the National Language. And another – English – was universally recognized as the common official language for all – both Indian Nationals and Foreigners coming in.
Accordingly, Hindi was (and still is) compulsorily taught to every school going Indian child. Every Indian speaks at least three to four languages almost from birth – one is the mother tongue, the second is the local language of the place where the child might be growing up, and the third is Hindi, the Rashtra Bhasha, or the National Language. The fourth is English, a major subject in the school curriculum.
For example, I speak Bengali(mother tongue)- Assamese(grew up there) – Hindi (National Language) – English (School).
Somehow things changed in between, in the last five years. Language is no longer a tool to be used to make life easy, to build community, to forge ties or to transact. It has acquired a new status – albeit a very political one. Now Language is a matter of Identity. I speak Gujarati so am a true Gujarati. In order to be a true Marathi, I must speak Marathi. I cannot love my State enough if Ido not speak Bengali.
Love of one’s State is measured in terms of whether we speak the State language or not! Cultural awareness, participation in the developmental activities of that State no longer signifies ‘love’ for some strange reason. If I speak the State language, even while sucking it dry and funneling all its resources to my own, it is still alright!
The point of this post is to raise this question: if the National Language no longer serves to unite or help, why not do away with it? Let’s give up Hindi, and make all 28 languages compulsory in the school curriculum. I know it is difficult – a child would end up learning only languages if it was done. But there the alternative is being rejected at every step!
If Language is such an important identity issue, let us do this systematically? Let us start with the National Anthem. Then let us take up National Language. Then let us fix the school curriculum. And then let us change boards in our states to our beloved local languages.
1) Let us have the National Anthem translated into all the 28 State languages, first. Let us sing it in Gujarati in Gujarat, in Marathi in Marathawada, in pure Kannad in Karnataka and in Ahomiya in Assam and so on.
2) Then, let there be no National Language. I mean, if I have to write an FIR in Gujarati (I had to, when I had lost my PAN recently) when am in Gujarat, in Marathi when am in Mumbai, let us teach all languages in school as “compulsory”.
3) Let us amend the THREE LANGUAGE FORMULA in schools and make it COMPULSORY 28 for all. So that when we grow up and travel for work, or for change, we are not lost in our own country.
Let us at least give people a chance, before we take drastic steps – like suddenly changing all signs in local language expecting 20 crore Bhartiyas – to know my State Language! And as soon as they enter my State too. I mean changing public signs like Bus routes, numbers etc implies that, doesn’t it? Since some people think it is humanly possible for everybody to know everything, let us at least do it systematically.
Since knowing Hindi and English, is not enough when am in Gujarat or Maharashtra – or in Karnataka, I think it is time we found a new solution for the GREAT INDIAN LANGUAGE BARRIER.
PS: I am not saying let us have Hindi, am saying let us have one COMMON language. Or let us teach all 28 and then change signs and documents. The census report here shows, 41% of Indian population speak Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi come next in that order.