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

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Hindustani in India

The decline of Hindi in India and abroad is a well established fact. Ironically this downtrend became faster in independent India. The growth of cosmopolitan, westward looking India has worsened the situation. English is pushing out Hindi among the elite. But the knowledge of philosophy of a society cannot be developed in a language which 90 per cent of the masses do not understand.

Article 343 of the Constitution of India states that the ‘official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script’. Article 344 provides for a commission to periodically recommend the promotion of Hindi to the president of India. Among the various duties of this commission is recommending ‘the progressive use of the Hindi language for the official purposes of the Union’. To celebrate the golden jubilee of this constitutional status of Hindi a seminar was held at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) on November 16-17, 1999. The seminar was appropriately called ‘Bharatiya Ganatantra mein Hindi – Dashaa aur Dishaa’ (Hindi in the Republic of India – Status and Future). A seminar of this kind was organised by the NMML probably for the first time. This might appear strange because scholars in NMML rarely hold long conversations in Hindi. Usually, the language heard in that centre of academic excellence, beside English of course, is Bengali. That may be because Delhi’s academic-intellectual elite is dominated by Bengali scholars who are normally not ashamed of expressing themselves in their mother tongue. Considering this predicament of Indian languages this seminar can be described as an incident of some import.

The supporters of Hindi or Hindustani, including this author, must thank the director of NMML, O P Kejariwal, for initiating a fruitful debate on Hindi whose future looks increasingly uncertain in its heartland. Almost all the speakers, of whom many are famous scholars of Hindi like Namwar Singh, Gunakar Muley, Rajendra Yadav, Mrinal Pande and Vishnu Khare, utilised the occasion to raise a productive debate on the subject although the tune of the seminar turned out to be pessimistic. Considering the conemporary status of Hindi this did not surprise anyone. Almost everyone present agreed that in India and abroad the decline of Hindi is a well established fact. The various papers explained why and how this has happened despite ostensible government efforts to the contrary.

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