Everybody agrees that for making a nation strong and firm, some form of cultural unity is required. Language and script of a nation is important for cultural unity of the nation. Khalida Adeeb Khanam had spoken earlier that the Turkish language was responsible for unity of Turkey as a nation and a society. It is true indeed that you cannot think of a nation without a national language. Until India has a national language, we cannot claim nationalism.
It is possible that in ancient times, India was one nation. The fall of Buddhism, however, led to the fall of the Indian nation. Though there was cultural unity, differences of languages facilitated disintegration of the nation state. And even though Muslim rule did lead to political integration, nationalism did not exist in those days. The fact is that the feeling of nationalism grew in the world only recently – in about the last two hundred years.
In India, nationalism took birth with the onset of British rule, and is growing with its expansion. At the moment, however, except for being under foreign rule, there is no other bond that binds different organs and elements of the country or makes them one nation state. If British rule is lifted today, then the unity that we currently see among these different elements may assume a form of division and opposition.
On the basis of languages, there may be birth of a federation of states that have no relationship with each other. It may lead to a situation of pulling and pushing, such as that existed before British came in.
For the life of a nation therefore, it is important that there is a cultural unity. Unity of language is an important pillar of such a union. It is critical then that India has one national language, which is understood and spoken across the country.
The question that arises is what should be the form of such a national language? Different languages that are in existence in different states are not eligible to become the national language, since they are limited to specific regions. There is only one language that is spoken in large parts of the country and is understood in even larger parts. This language can become the national language. There are however, three forms of this language: Urdu, Hindi and Hindustani.
We have not been able to decide yet as to which among these is most acceptable and can be promoted most easily. There are proponents and supporters of each of the three forms and they keep fighting among each other. This difference of opinion even assumes a political colour. We have become incapable of thinking about this issue with a calm mind. Despite these obstructions, it is essential for us to objectively discuss and deliberate on this issue.
There is no paucity of people who do not want to come in the way of independent and separate growth of Urdu and Hindi.
They believe that though there might have been commonalities at the time of origin of these two languages, the different paths that they have taken subsequently make it impossible for them to converge. Every language has its natural affinity. Urdu has a natural relationship with Arabi and Faarsi and Hindi, with Sanskrit and Prakrit. Even using all our might, we cannot change this affinity. Then why should we waste our energies in trying to bring the two together, and bring harm to both?
If Urdu and Hindi were to be restricted to their place of origin and initial promotion, then we would have no objection to their course of natural growth and development. We do not have any concern about the growth of Bangla, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and other regional languages. They have the right to decide how much of Arabi, Faarsi or Latin they wish to incorporate. Writers of these languages can decide it themselves.
The case of Hindi and Urdu is different though. Both of these claim to be national languages of India. In their individual forms, they cannot fulfil needs of a national language. That is why on their own, they have started converging and a combined form, that we rightfully call Hindustani, has taken birth.
The truth is that the national language of India cannot be Urdu, which is weighed with unfamiliar and uncommon words of Arabi and Faarsi, nor can it be Hindi which is laden with difficult words of Sanskrit. If the proponents of these two languages stand facing each other and speak in their pure, literary form, they may not be able to understand each other at all.
Our national language can only be that whose basis lies in an understanding by common people.
Why should it bother about leaving out a particular word because its origin lies in Faarsi, Arabi or Sanskrit? That language judges itself on one parameter alone: Does a common person understand it or not? And in common people are included Hindu, Muslim, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati.
If a word or a phrase or an idiom is prevalent among people, then it does not bother where it has come from. And that is Hindustani. As English is the language of the British, Japanese of the Japanese, Irani of the Iranians and Chinese of the Chinese, similarly calling the national language of Hindustan Hindustani is not only appropriate but essential. And if instead we call our country Hind instead of Hindustan, then the national language can be called Hindi. However, we can never call it Urdu, since we know that we will not call our country Urdustan, that is clearly not possible.
In ancient times, people would call the language of the land Hindi. Khusro, while creating Khalikabari, laid the foundation of Hindustani. In creating this epic, he must have intended to teach the words of common usage in both languages, so that they could conduct their daily affairs with ease. There is no consensus as to where and when Urdu originated.
Whatever it is, one thing is clear – that the language of India is neither Hindi nor Urdu. It is Hindustani which is understood in almost all parts and spoken in large parts, but is written nowhere. Whenever somebody attempts to write it, Urdu and Hindi litterateurs oust them. In fact, what restricts the growth of Hindi or Urdu is their exclusive love for their own language. Whether we write in Urdu or in Hindi, we do not write for common people, and that is the reason why common people do not like our creations.
It is also true that in any country, form of language in which people write and in which they speak are not same. The English that we read in books or newspapers is not spoken anywhere. Educated people also do not speak the form of language we find in books and newspapers. The English of common people, of course, is even more different. It is, however, expected from every educated person in England that they understand the written language, and when required, are able to use it. We also want this in India.
And what is the situation now? Our Hindiwallahs are adamant that they will not let any words of non-Hindi languages enter Hindi.
They love manushya but hate aadmi. Though darkhast is commonly used and understood, they want to only use prarthana patra, which no one understands. They cannot accept isteefa at any cost, but will gladly accept tyaagpatra. Hawai jahaaj may be easily understandable, but they only want to travel in vayu yaan.
Urdu lovers take this absurdity one step further. They believe in khuda but not in ishwar. They can commit many qasurs, but never an apraadh. They like doing khidmat, but they despise seva. That is how we have created two camps, and want to restrict entry of people from each other’s camps with all our might. In this sense, Urdu is even stricter than Hindi.
Hindustani wants to break these boundaries and create harmony, so that the two can roam around freely in each other’s house, and that too not as a guest, but as equal house-owners. According to Garson D’ Stacey, you cannot draw a line between Urdu and Hindi and claim that one language lies on one side, and the other, on another. The English language also has many forms. In some, Latin and Greek words are used more often, in others, Anglo-Saxon. The two are, however, English.
Similarly, differences in Urdu and Hindi words cannot make for two languages. Those who dream of Hindu nationalism and want to strengthen the cultural unity, to them is our sincere request – please accept the invitation of Hindustani, which is not a new language but a national form of Urdu and Hindi.
In the United Province, this is the language taught in upper primary, till class four. The difference lies in scripts alone. There is no difference in the language. It must have been the intent of departments of education there that students develop a good foundation in Hindustani in early childhood. Once familiar with commonly used words, they would start using the language early. The other benefit is that only one teacher can impart such an education. Advocates of Hindu and Urdu have started complaining that this mixed language does not impart any literary education, and students do not understand even elementary books after upper primary.
Those who favour this division have their own arguments and logic. For example, proponents of Hindi say that by deflecting towards Sanskrit, Hindi comes closer to other Indian languages. It gets ready to use words to express itself, and the writing assumes a literary form, etc, etc.
Similarly, those carrying the flag of Urdu say that by coming closer to Faarsi and Arabi, Urdu can draw upon the treasure of ancient knowledge. There is no other language of expressing knowledge as well, they say. It also brings a majesty and seriousness in the writing style, etc, etc. Why should we therefore, not allow the two languages to progress side by side, on their own? Why should we create hurdles in their path of progress by trying to converge them?
If we agree with this reasoning, there would be no headway in trying to find a national language for India. That is why it is essential that by dispelling the differences, we create a situation whereby we are slowly able to reach something close to a national language. It is possible, then, that our dream is converted into reality in next decade or two.
Muslims are present in some numbers in every province of India. Outside the United Province, they have adopted the language of the land. The Bengali Muslim speaks and writes Bangla; the Gujarati Muslim speaks Gujarati; the Mysore Muslim, Kannada; and a Muslim from Punjab, Punjabi. Not just that, they have also accepted the script of the region. They may have a religious and cultural affection for Urdu, but in daily life, they never need to know the language.
If the Muslims of these provinces can learn and adopt their regional languages unhesitatingly, why do Muslims of the United Province and Punjab hate Hindi? Muslims living in the villages of our provinces speak the villagers’ language. Many Muslims who have moved to cities from their villages also continue to speak that language. Neither of them have any problem in understanding the commonly used Hindi, or Hindus, the commonly used Urdu. Commonly spoken Hindi and Urdu are somewhat similar.
There are only about 2000 Hindi words that are not commonly used, but are found in newspapers and sometimes, in speeches of pundits. There would be roughly an equal number of words in Urdu that are drawn from Faarsi, and are used only by newspapers or scholars. Can we not expand the Hindi vocabulary to include two thousand words from Farsi, and, similarly, add two thousand words of Hindi to the Urdu dictionary? Cannot we thus create a mixed dictionary? Will that inflict much burden on our memory?
If we can remember thousands of English words for a temporary need, then can we not remember some additional words for a permanent objective? On their own, Hindi and Urdu languages at the moment are neither expansive nor firm. Often we do not find appropriate words for expressing even simple thoughts. By expansion of the vocabulary by including words from each other, this problem will also go away.
Most of the languages of India have directly or indirectly emerged from Sanskrit. Even the scripts of Bangla, Marathi and Gujarati resemble Devnagri. Though the scripts of southern languages are very different, they also have quite a few Sanskrit words. Many regional languages have also incorporated words of Arabi and Faarsi origin. So it is probably correct to assume that a Hindi that has quite a few Sanskrit words can become popular in large parts of India.
Muslims of other provinces, who speak the language of their region, can also understand such a language. For a Urdu laden with Faarsi and Arabi however, there is no place except for those living in the United Province or in the cities and towns of Punjab and Hyderabad. Though there are eight crore Muslims in India, those speaking and writing in Urdu are less than one-fourth.
In that case, is it not appropriate that by bringing in some required changes and expanding, it is merged with Hindi? And Hindi is also expanded and merged with Urdu? And this new language is strengthened so much that it can be spoken and understood in the entire country? Whatever then the writers of this new language will write will be for an entire country, and not only for a specific province.
The Sindhi language is a good example of this combination. While the script of Sindhi is Arabi, it has incorporated all elements of Hindi. There is such a seamless intermingling of Sanskrit, Arabi and Faarsi words that you do not find any dissonance. For Hindustani also, a similar mingling is required.
Those who want to keep Urdu and Hindi separate argue that while you can write stories and plays in the mixed language, you cannot write and express theories of science and other forms of modern knowledge. This argument stands to reason. For writing on science and other modern knowledge, it is important to use appropriate words for definitions. And for those words, we will need to borrow words from expansive word-treasures of Arabi and Sanskrit.
At this time, each of the regional languages is preparing their own definitional words. The Urdu language is also creating its own words to express scientific definitions. Will it not be better that rather than creating their own words, different regions and institutions come together and collaboratively fulfil this difficult task?
I would think that rather that start preparing definitional words from scratch, we should adopt the commonly used English words for this purpose. These definitional words are common not only in English but also in other developed languages. It is said that Japan followed the same principle, and so did Greece, with minor modifications. When so many foreign words such as button, bicycle and lalten can easily mingle in Hindi, what stops us from incorporating definitional words as well?
Even if each region manages to develop its own definitional words, there will never be one national language for modern knowledge and science. Bangla, Marathi, Gujarati and Marathi may be able to manage by borrowing words from Sanskrit. Similarly, Urdu may be able to get over this problem by borrowing words from Faarsi. These words however, would be even more unfamiliar than the currently used English definitional words.
Aain-e-Akbari, by using Sanskrit definitional words for Hindu philosophy, music and mathematics, has set a good example. For Islamic philosophy and theology, we can adopt the prevalent definitional words from Arabi. Modern sciences have carried their own definitional words from the western world. We will not be deviating from our historical tradition by adopting those words.
It can be said that this mixed Hindustani may not be as sweet and soft. The metric of what is sweet and soft changes with time.
Some years ago, the English hat on an achkan was considered funny. Now you see it everywhere. For women, long hair was always a sign of beauty; but now cropped hair is preferred. And then, the main value of a language lies not in its sweetness but in its power of expression. Even if we need to sacrifice some sweetness and softness for forging a national language, we should not hesitate.
We are currently laying a foundation of a federated republic in our political world. Why should we also not establish a federated organisation in the linguistic world where representatives of each regional language come together for a week every year and deliberate on forging a national language? In such a debate, we should analyse our experiences and, in their light, identify and find solutions for the foreseeable difficulties in doing so. When everything about us and around us is changing, often without our volition, why should we be stuck on centuries old thoughts and points of view?
The time has come to establish an All India language and literature assembly or organisation, whose job would be to create a national language that can become popular in every province. It is not for us to dictate what the objectives and goals of such an organisation would be. It would be the job of the members of such an organisation or assembly to define them. Our only submission is that there is no time to delay this anymore.
Translated from the Hindi by Pavitra Mohan.