Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposition to Hindi imposition. Every now and then, a controversy breaks out about the central government’s attempts to impose Hindi. It is worthwhile recalling an essay written by writer R Narayanaswamy, aka Karichan Kunju, in the publication, Annam Vidum Thoothu in 1985.
Karichan Kunju has written several short stories, landmark novels like Pasitha Manidam, as well as translations. A man who had learned the Vedas, Karichan Kunju was a polyglot and was proficient in three languages: Tamil, Hindi and Sanskrit. Here is an English translation of a few excerpts from that essay.
Only in the beginning of 20th century did Hindi grow and form in Uttar Pradesh. Other languages in the north, barring Bengali, all rose from Prakrit and Sanskrit. During Muslim rule, the Arabic and Persian words that the ruling classes used mixed with these languages. It was at that time that a language called Urdu evolved as a hybrid language in which the script was written from left to right and bottom to top unlike other Indian languages. The word Urdu refers to camp, barracks or Army.
Hindu pundits who were unable to bear the mixing of these words into Indian languages sought to create Hindi as a means of purifying their language. The “distilled”, “uncontaminated” language that they developed was called Kadhi Boli. The ancient literature they cite, such as that of Kabir and Tulsidas, as belonging to Hindi actually belonged to other languages such as Braj Basha and Awadhi of the east.
Tamil, however, is more than at least 2,000 years old with a streak of continuity that persists to this day. This is a special characteristic that other Indian languages don’t have, barring Sanskrit. There can be no difference of opinion in or doubting the correctness of Tamil being called a truly classical language.
Mahatma Gandhi added Hindi as a means of spreading nationalism along with Khadi, village handicrafts and service to Harijans. He was pained that Sanskrit would mix with Hindi. He felt this trend will alienate Hindi from common people. He was afraid that Hindu majoritarianism would spread as a result. Gandhi spoke about this a lot during his visits to Chennai.
The ancient literature they cite, such as that of Kabir and Tulsidas, as belonging to Hindi actually belonged to other languages such as Braj Basha and Awadhi of the east.
Gandhi said that for the south and north to unite and national integration to blossom, southerners should learn the language he called Hindustani. This was the language of the common people, not a purified, new Sanskritic language, he said. He asked that the Hindi Prachar Sabha buildings in Chennai as well as Mysore and Sanskrit be called Hindustani Prachar Sabha, but that never happened. Over time, the influence of Sanskrit has only increased.
The Hindi books that are being published now are not in Hindustani. Much care is being taken to ensure no Arabic or Persian words are used in these books. All central government notices and publications have a heavy dose of Sanskrit words. To say that a majority of Indians speak Hindi is a myth that is based only on Uttar Pradesh. In reality, the language differs from one state to another in the north. The languages are quite different from Hindi, too.
I have over 45 years of familiarity with Hindi. I am trained and proficient in the language. I have translated many books from Hindi. What I am saying is not just empty talk. Written and spoken forms of Hindi are very different. The Hindi that is growing in Allahabad with central support of many crores of rupees is largely composed of Sanskrit words. It is a deception that this language is sustaining and growing. This bookish language is completely artificial. There is no more any meaning in saying that this language called Hindi is a link language between people speaking various languages.
To say that a majority of Indians speak Hindi is a myth that is based only on Uttar Pradesh. In reality, the language differs from one state to another in the north. The languages are quite different from Hindi, too.
I am trained in Sanskrit also to an extent. I am unable to accept that the process of Sanskritisation will help Sanskrit to grow. The central government is intent on making this language the language of governance. But this is just greed. It can never succeed. It is a dangerous attempt that will destroy the unity of our country.