Hindutva Watch

Land of Hindus? Mohan Bhagwat, Narendra Modi and the Sangh Parivar are using ‘Hindustan’ all wrong

Not only is it not the official name of the country, it doesn't mean what they think it does. Even worse: it's a Persian word.

“Whose country is Germany?” asked Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat rhetorically on Saturday, addressing a crowd in Indore. “It is a country of Germans, Britain is a country of Britishers, America is a country of Americans, and in the same way Hindustan is a country of Hindus”.

That Hindutva, the core ideology of the Sangh Parivar equates Indian and Hindu nationalism is not news. In fact, for some time now, the Sangh Parivar has used this linguistic formulation to supposedly prove its contention. If the name of the country is Hindustan, that means it’s the land of the Hindus, argues the Sangh.

The use of “Hindustan” for India, therefore, is common on the Hindu right. Even Prime Minister Modi, who earned his spurs in the RSS, before moving to the Bharatiya Janata Party, used the word “Hindustan” in his Independence Day speech earlier this year.

Yet, the Sangh Parivar might be disappointed to learn that the word Hindustan has got little relation with the term “Hindu” as it is used today. In fact, it’s not even a native word, being imported from the Persian language – an uncomfortable fact given Hindutva’s fierce nativism on these matters. The word has, in fact, had a few meanings through the ages, all of them geographic with little to indicate nationality as Bhagwat would desire.

Hindustan beginnings

Getting the meaning of Hindustan wrong, Bhagwat might be pleased to know, is a hallowed tradition going right back to the founder of Hindutva, Vinayak Savarkar. Savarkar assumed that the name “Hindustan” traces back to a Sanskrit word “Sindhustan” since the “S in Sanskrit gets at times changed into an H in India”.

This is, to not put too fine a point on it, totally wrong. Hindu and Sindhu are cognates, words with a common root in the Iranian and Indic languages respectively. While the latter was used to name the region of Sindh as well as the Sindhu river that ran through it in various Indic languages, the Iranian languages used theirs to name the people across the river, calling them “Hindus”.

The word “Hindustan” came about by affixing a common Persian suffix, -stan, meaning land. This Persian suffix not only gives us Hindustan, but also Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhistan and so on, all places where once Persian was the lingua franca and language of the state. This “Hindustan”, used by the Persian and Arabs, is – like all premodern terms – hazy but roughly maps to the entire Indian subcontinent today. In 1305, the Iranian scholar al-Biruni, for example, called “Hind”, the Arabic version of “Hindustan”, as “limited in the south by the above mentioned Indian ocean and on all three sides by the lofty mountains, the waters of which flow down to it”.

“Hindustan” is, therefore, what is known an exonym – a name given by outsiders. Exonyms are quite common. For example, the name “Germany” is an exonym, being used by English speakers. Germans themselves used “Deutschland”.

Nativising the word

Yet, what is less common is exonyms being adopted by the people of the land themselves. This happened in India as a series of invasions from Central Asia meant Persian-speakers came to rule large swathes of the subcontinent. They brought with them, amongst other things, the Persian word “Hindustan”.

The word now shrunk a bit in meaning. Since these new rulers – collectively called the Delhi Sultanate – had their strongest base in north India, this now became “Hindustan”. For example, as 18th century traveller Dargah Quli Khan moved from Hyderabad to Delhi he described his journey in Persian as one from the Dakkan (Deccan) to Hindustan. And the British Raj called the common lingua franca of this region “Hindustani”. This historical meaning of the word still exists in spoken Bengali today, where “Bengal” and “Hindustan” are distinct parts of the landmass of “Bharat”. As recently as 1987, Nirad C Choudhary described Ram as “the incarnation of Vishnu who was worshipped as God, particularly as the warrior God, by the Hindustanis”, referring of course to north Indian immigrants in Kolkata.

Under the Raj, however, “Hindustan”, previously one part of the subcontinent, came to refer to the whole. Like exonymy, this is also a rather common linguistic phenomenon, called “pars pro toto”, the most common example of which is the Netherlands being called Holland – strictly, the name of a region in the country – in English. At the same time, the word “Hindu” – which, as mentioned above, started out as a word which the Persians used to refer to anyone across the Indus river – solidified in meaning to refer to a religious community. This change in meaning for “Hindustan” pointed to the role of north India in acting as the core of the nascent Indian nation. In fact, in Bollywood, the Persian-origin “Hindustan” is the preferred name for the country, trumping “Bharat”.

Emerging Hindu nationalists pulled off some linguistic jugglery to conflate the term Hindu and Hindustan, arguing that the latter now referred to a nation of Hindus. Such false etymology as a means of staking claim to history is common in Hindutva, the most egregious example of which is PN Oak, a common writer cited by Hindutva supporters. Oak’s contention that the entire world was once Hindu rests on claims such as “Christianity” descending from “Krishna-Neeti” (Sanskrit for Krishna’s strategy) and that “Vatican” is actually the Sanskrit “Vatika”.

India, that is Bharat

While common in Hindi-Urdu, India’s founding fathers, however, did not accept “Hindustan” as a synonym for India. The Persian-origin Hindustan is not an official name for the country which is restricted to the Sanskrit “Bharat” and the English “India”.

Yet, Hindutva would still use it in formulations such as “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan” in trying to ideologically define India to its liking. In Prime Minister Modi’s speeches, for example, Hindutva terminology often trumps the lexicon of the Constitution and he does use the word “Hindustan”. In fact, a lawyer from Maharashtra has even filed a complaint over Modi’s use of “Hindustan” during his 2017 Independence Day speech calling it an insult to the Constitution.

Even as Bhagwat is historically and etymologically incorrect, unfortunately, his analogies fail him as well when he claims that Hindustan is a land of Hindus much like “Britain is a country of Britishers”. As it so happens, the term “Britisher” is seen as rather offensive in the modern United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Moreover, the modern UK is quite open about being multicultural. It even makes it a point to recognise four countries or nations within the UK: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In fact, the UK even permits countries to represent themselves in international forums. England, for example, has its own cricket team and the Scots are allowed referendums on the question of whether they want to leave the UK. Bhagwat should be more careful about what he wishes the next time.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.