A debate on Hindi

A DEBATE

An Angry Hindi Speaker Speaks Up,
A Tamil Nationalist Responds

K. Agarwal and Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2007 (ID. 2007-11-01)
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I am really perturbed to see so many articles written in your magazine against Hindi as India's official language. I pity people having such a weird thinking. They should realize that more languages a person knows broader his outlook becomes. I do not know why people from other southern states have no problem with Hindi except people from Tamilnadu. No doubt Tamil Nadu politicians are responsible for inciting this hatred.

In India it must be made compulsory for people to learn at least three languages.

1. Local language of the place you are living
2. Hindi (national language) [Editor's Note: Indian constitution makes Hindi the official language, and not the national language.]
3. English (international language)

Many of my Tamil friends feel bad that they cannot speak Hindi. They say that it was difficult to learn Hindi in Tamil. They regret it because if they do not know Hindi or English, life becomes difficult whenever they travel outside of Tamil Nadu. In India only a few people know English whereas Hindi is spoken by more than 50%. I have seen people speaking five or six languages fluently. I do not think anybody would become less of a Tamilian by learning Hindi. Being proud of ones own heritage does not stop you from learning other languages. The earlier we realize this the better it is.

Hope you will take in good sense and do not publish article from such fanatic people in your magazine.

Response (by Thanjai Nalankilli)

1)

K. Agarwal: "More languages a person knows, broader his outlook becomes".

Thanjai Nalankilli: True, but it need not have to be Hindi. We will decide what languages we want to learn. Some people may be happy with two languages--Tamil and English. Some may want to learn Malay because they may want to work in Malaysia. Some may want to learn Arabic because they want to work in Arab countries. Some may want to learn Hindi because they want to work in Hindi states. Some may want to learn Bengali or French or Chinese for the pure pleasure of it. It is up to the individual. We are not opposed to anyone learning Hindi voluntarily but we do not want it imposed on us directly or indirectly.

May I suggest that you preach what you preach us to fellow Hindi speakers? Why don't your fellow Hindi speakers learn more languages? We are not asking them to learn five or six languages (which you seem to think is a good idea), not even three languages that you want non-Hindi peoples to learn compulsorily, just one more language other than Hindi. Let Hindi speakers learn English, then we can all communicate in English. Where is the need for Hindi? What you want is for everyone to learn Hindi (as a compulsory third language) and talk to you in your language while Hindi speakers will not even learn a second language English. It is not acceptable to the people of Tamil Nadu. We will not bow to anyone. We will not be servile to anyone.

2)

K. Agarwal: "I do not know why people from other southern states have no problem with Hindi except people from Tamilnadu."

Thanjai Nalankilli: I am not so sure if people from other southern states have accepted Hindi. If, in fact, they have, more power to you. It makes implementation of Hindi as India's official language easy. Let Tamil Nadu become an independent country and you can do all your business in Hindi throughout India without interference from Tamil Nadu.

3)

K. Agarwal: " No doubt Tamil Nadu politicians are responsible for inciting this hatred."

Thanjai Nalankilli: Let me make it clear that we do not hate Hindi but we hate making Hindi the official language of India. You can bury your head in the sand and hold on to your belief that it is the Tamil politicians who oppose Hindi imposition or started the opposition. President of the first organization in Tamilnadu against Hindi imposition (1938), the "Anti-Hindi Command", was Somasundara Bharathiyar. He was not a politician contesting any election or planning to contest any election. The very first Anti-Hindi Conference held at Kodampakkam, Chennai (Madras) in 1938 was presided by the great Saivaite scholar Maraimalai Adikalar (Marai Malai Adigalar); he was not a politician either. Here are some numbers you may want to know.

Number of people participating in the very first Anti-Hindi March from Thiruchirapalli (Tiruchi, Trichi) to Chennai (Madras) in 1938 was over four times as those who participated in Mahatma Gandhi's Dhandi March. Dhandi march is depicted as a great march in Indian history. Surely it is a great march but the Anti-Hindi march attracted four times as many people. Such large numbers of people do not participate in marches unless there is popular discontent with Hindi imposition. By the way, I do not hear anyone saying that politicians like Nehru were responsible for inciting hatred against British rule because they wanted to become Prime Minister. Then why do some Hindi people say that politicians like Annadurai and Karunanidhi incited anti-Hindi imposition agitations to gain political power?

I will just give one more statistic. If you add all the people who participated in demonstrations against British rule in Tamil Nadu during all those years of British rule, they would be less than those who demonstrated against Hindi imposition on January 25, 1965. Please read Reference 1, if you wish to know more about anti-Hindi imposition agitations in Tamilnadu.

4)

K. Agarwal: "Many of my Tamil friends feel bad that they cannot speak Hindi."

Thanjai Nalankilli: If those friends are living in Hindi states for some time and have not yet learned Hindi, they should. If they are living in Tamil Nadu and feel bad that they do not know Hindi, these people have low self-esteem. I have nothing else to say about them. By the way, do you or any of your Hindi friends living in Hindi states feel bad that you do not know Tamil or Telugu or Bengali?

5)

K. Agarwal: "I do not think anybody would become less of a Tamilian by learning Hindi."

Thanjai Nalankilli: I do not think that you and other Hindi speakers would become any less of a 'Hindian' by learning Tamil. Why don't you all learn Tamil compulsory in school and communicate with us in Tamil. What is good for the goose is good for the gander too! [Let me make it perfectly clear. Tamil people do not want to impose Tamil on anybody. I made that statement just to make a point how you and other Hindi speakers would feel if Tamil was imposed on you.]

6)

K. Agarwal: "In India only a few people know English whereas Hindi is spoken by more than 50%."

Thanjai Nalankilli: I do not agree with the 50% figure. It is about 30% if you consider Mythili as Hindi too. Irrespective of whether it is 30% or 50%, may I ask that these Hindi speakers take your advice to heart and learn at least a second language, English? Then Hindis and Tamils can communicate in English instead of a third language (Hindi) thrust into Tamil throats through Indian government Hindi imposition. (I am referring to your advice that people should learn more languages because "more languages a person knows broader his outlook becomes". Also your statement, "Being proud of ones own heritage does not stop you from learning other languages." So learn English and speak to us in English.)

REFERENCE

1. A Chronology of Anti-Hindi Agitations in Tamil Nadu and What the Future Holds (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2003 (33 KB) (h)

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