‘I checked the books. None said Hindi was our national language’

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By Jyotsna Khatry

Illustration: Sudeep Chaudhuri
Illustration: Sudeep Chaudhuri

HAVING GROWN up in North India in Jaipur, Rajasthan, I did not think twice before condescendingly asking my friends, who were studying filmmaking with me in Bengaluru, “You do not know Hindi? What a shame!” I received my first reality check then.

Joseph, a friend of mine, pointed out that Hindi was not our national language. How ridiculous! Of course, that was not true. I was not ready to take my staunch Tamizhian Christian friend at face value. He always held the belief that north Indians tried to assert themselves when it came to race, food and language.

I immediately checked online and realised that my friends were right. How then did I get that idea into my head? I checked some of the primary school textbooks. None of them proclaimed Hindi to be the national language. Then where did I get that idea from?

It was during the same time, in 2007, that I was introduced to the idea of Hindutva, when I read an issue of TEHELKA. That was when I first heard about the Gujarat carnage. I had remained oblivious to the 2002 riots in Gujarat till then. That is how ignorant I was.

Isn’t Hindutva the same as Hinduism, the religion my mother taught me to follow? I realised that it was not. Curious, I read more about it. I came across some pictures of men clad in khaki shorts. Wait a second. That is what my Nanaji (maternal grandfather) used to wear sometimes! What did that uniform signify? How is it related to Hindutva? And, most importantly, why was my grandfather wearing it? He possibly could not have anything to do with it. I had to ask him about it.

Nanaji proudly told me that we belonged to the Sangh Parivar. He told me a lot more, which I find hard to absorb even now. He expressed his hatred for the minority communities, especially Muslims. They don’t belong to this country, he told me.

My Nanaji was a strong supporter of the BJP and had worked with the RSS chapter in Adipur in Gujarat, where he lived. I began to understand the importance of the geography of it all as well. Adipur was one of the places where resettlement camps were established during Partition. The horror stories that some of the Partition survivors had brought back could easily spur right-wing Hindutva ideologists like my grandfather.

Our elders usually want us to follow the same ideology that they believe in. We are often not allowed to take a different stand. But I could never bring myself to follow in my Nanaji’s footsteps. I could not cultivate that hatred.

After finishing my studies in Bengaluru, I went ahead and interned with a minority rights organisation based in Delhi, and later joined them as an employee. This, of course, shocked my family. My uncle even called me a deshdrohi (traitor). They asked my mom to correct me. But fortunately, she angrily told them to keep their ideologies to themselves and let her daughter be. Since then, I have worked with a lot of minority rights activists and also assisted an excellent filmmaker working extensively on minority issues.

It has been four years and I am still in the process of understanding the hatred that stems from both region and religion. As for me, it is in Bengaluru that I felt a sense of belonging, which even New Delhi, where I now live, did not give me.

Joseph is still one of my best friends despite his dislike for north Indians and Hindi. It perhaps does not strike him that he is friends with one of them. He, like me, perhaps does not realise that even all of North India does not speak or even like Hindi. But I still wonder how the idea of Hindi being my national language got inside my head.

Jyotsna Khatry is 26. She is a documentary filmmaker based in Delhi.

2 COMMENTS

  1. My father works in revenue department and has worked previously as bureaucrat in finance ministry in Maharashtra.
    He once told that millions of rupees from US, Europe and distant countries like Argentina,Austria,Mexico etc are being sent o India for NGOs in Pondicherry, Trichy, Chennai etc. These most of the donations are done to Christian NGOs. These organizations are forcing their version of history on Indians claiming that North Indians and South Indians are totally different entities and we should oppose any of their effort to come close.
    What you have heard from your friend Joseph was told to me by many one of my friend who was working on Afro-Dalit project. Their aim was to liberate Dalits in India by bringing them close to Western civilized world to make them Secular.
    The next step for making them civilized was to bring them close to Jesus.
    Most of the people who oppose Hindi in South today are Christians because they do not want North and South to come together.

  2. previously sanskrit used to be the lingua franca of india, though it was spoken by educated classes, the masses spoke a courrupt form of it called prakrit. later prakrit gave birth to many of the present day indian languages. coming to urdu. hindi and hindusthani, the three got birth by the mixture of sanskrit and other languages brought by outers/invaders like persians, central asians, arabs. hindusthani during 1900s got divided in to hindi and urdu on basis of its script and words. present tamil script also originated from ancient brahmi script which was used by the ashoka in north india and afghanistan. so joseph hating hindi is because of the impact of dravidian secessionist movement in tamil nadu. every nation will have some culture, language, dress. everyone who lives and who aspire to live in that nation should abide by those things. denying those things in the name of human rights and liberty is nothing but being anti-nationalistic. what if nri/pio dont respect american flag in us, saying we have liberty of not to salute or respect american flag. indians need a common language to become a nation, as hindi is spoken by 40% people in ind and can be understood by 60% it was made our national language. but others are given freedom to develop and propagate their regional languages. so dont get carried by secessionist propaganda. be nationalistic, being non-nationalistic is like life without aim.

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