Indian Institute of Technology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, All India Institute of Management Studies

Do Unto Hindi Speakers What They Do Unto You

T. Ganesan

TAMIL TRIBUNE, February 2008 (ID. 2008-02-01)
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OUTLINE

1. Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai (Madras) and New Delhi 

2. Indian Government Operated Television

3. Indian Parliament

4. Indian Government Cabinet Meetings

5. Don't Misunderstand Me

6. Message to Hindi Speakers

Feedback-1: Kerala and Tamilnadu Chief Ministers on Hindi Arrogance

Feedback-2: Hindi Arrogance in Chennai City

Feedback-3: Hindi has a Special Place in Indian Institutions


1. Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai (Madras) and New Delhi

Many years ago, in the 1970s, I was talking with two friends--one was a graduate student at Madras Indian Institute of Technology (IIT, Madras) and the second was a graduate student at Delhi Indian Institute of Technology (IIT, Delhi). (Chennai was widely known as Madras at that time.) The Delhi friend was complaining that they screen Hindi movies at the hostel every Saturday night even though many students there could not understand Hindi. My Madras IIT friend said with some pride and bravado that Tamil students at IIT, Madras would never let that happen. He added, "We screen only English movies". (More than three decades have passed; I do not know what the situation is today.)

On hearing this, I thought that there was something wrong with the whole equation. We, here in Tamil Nadu (Madras IIT), were fair and screen only English movies so that all students could enjoy them, whereas IITs in Hindi region screen local language (Hindi) films knowing very well that there were many students who could not understand Hindi. We need to give back what Hindi speakers are giving to us. We need to do to Hindi speakers what they are doing to us. Let us screen Tamil movies, Telugu movies, Kannada movies and Malayalam movies at Madras IIT and see how Hindi speakers would react to it. Let us see how they feel when they could not enjoy those movies. I bet that they would scream and shout that it was unfair, and I agree it is unfair. 

This type of arrogance that "if you come to our region to study at central government institutes you should watch Hindi movies but if we come to your regions to study at central government institutes we will not put up with your language movies" prevails at many levels.

2. Indian Government Operated Television

You need not have to go much further than watch television. The so-called national channels (seen all over India) show almost always Hindi movies, with may be a few English movies thrown in. After some pressure from non-Hindi movie industry, some years ago in the 19990s, authorities at the Indian Government operated television broadcasts (Doordarshan) agreed to screen an occasional non-Hindi movie, but only non-Hindi movies that have won some award would be screened (best picture award, best director award, etc.). See the arrogance. Any two bit Hindi movie will be broadcast but for a non-Hindi movie to be broadcast it should be an award winner. This is a slap on the face of non-Hindi movie industry; it is an insult to non-Hindi film artists and producers.

Since non-Hindi entertainment shows, current event shows and news had no place in the "national broadcasts" of Doordharsan, a few regional channels were started. For example, there are a few Indian government operated broadcast channels in Chennai (as opposed to privately owned cable channels) that can be seen in and around Chennai (Tamil Nadu). Obviously we expected that these channels would broadcast only local language programs. That was not to be. Hindi movies and news are shown in these regional channels also. They have so many "national channels" showing Hindi movies and news, why encroach into the few regional channels also? In fact, little by little, more and more Hindi programs were added in these regional broadcasts seen only in Tamilnadu. As of now, Doordarsan regional broadcast in Chennai screens more Hindi movies than Tamil movies during Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights; Hindi news is broadcast at a more choice time slot than Tamil news. See the arrogance. Same arrogance shown by IIT, Delhi students in the 1970s. Such arrogance prevails even at very high levels of Indian government.

3. Indian Parliament

A few years ago Indian Railways minister presented the annual railways budget in Hindi, although he knows English well. Non-Hindi ministers could have retaliated. Current Indian finance minister is a Tamil named P. Chidambaram. He should present the annual budget in Tamil. Why not? If a Hindi minister could present the railways budget in Hindi, why can't a Tamil minister present the budget in Tamil? In the same way the Hindi budget was translated to English, the Tamil budget could also be translated to English. What is good for the goose is good for the gander too.

4. Indian Government Cabinet Meetings

At Indian government cabinet meetings also some Hindi ministers choose to speak in Hindi although they know English well. (We would have no cause for complaint if a minister who does not know English speaks in Hindi.) Non-Hindi ministers should retaliate by speaking in their mother tongues. Let the government hire couple of dozen translators to translate them to English. If India is my country and I am equal to Hindi speakers, ministers from my state should have the same rights as Hindi ministers.

5. Don't Misunderstand Me

Don't mistake me that I am for using Tamil everywhere I go, be it New Delhi or Mumbai (Bombay) or Kolkata (Calcutta). That is not my point. In fact, I lived in New Delhi for couple of years. I learned Hindi and conversed in Hindi in the buses, shops, railway station, etc. That is the right thing to do. But if Hindi people are arrogant and insist on using Hindi in places common to all Indians (for example, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) or All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMSc) or All India Institute of Management Studies (AIIMS) located in Hindi states), we should hit back by using our own languages when these institutes are located in non-Hindi states. Let Hindi speakers understand how we feel.

Central government institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology are funded by all Indians and common to all Indians. Students, teachers, research scholars and employees from all states come to these institutions irrespective of in which state they are located. Screening Hindi movies week after week in an institute just because it is located in a Hindi state is an act of arrogance. So let us screen northeastern language movies at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, southern language movies at Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. Let us see how Hindi students at these institutes would react.

Indian parliament is common to all Indians, irrespective of what language they speak and where they come from. If Hindi ministers insist on speaking in Hindi, then Tamil ministers should make it a point to speak in Tamil, Bengali ministers in Bengali, Telugu ministers in Telugu, ... 

Ministers from all regions of India attend central government cabinet meetings. I am sure each minister loves his/her mother tongue as much as Hindi ministers love Hindi. Either keep cabinet discourses in English or allow everyone to speak in his/her mother tongue. Why should there be a special privilege for ministers from Hindi states? Let the government hire translators for each language. I would have no complaint if a minister does not know English enough and has to speak in the mother tongue. Most likely there is another minister who knows the language and could translate it to English. Else, I am sure there is an employee who could translate to English. The problem is that some Hindi ministers insist on speaking in Hindi even though they know English well. That is arrogance. That should be met with arrogance of the same kind. That is my point.

Some readers may think that I am taking a rather aggressive and belligerent attitude toward the use of Hindi at Indian government offices and institutions. Yes, I am. Hindi arrogance should be countered with aggressive retaliation. That is the only way Hindi arrogance could be countered. I am not going around throwing my language at others but if someone throws his/her language at me, I want to give it back. If we are docile and submissive, some Hindi speakers will walk all over us.

6. Message to Hindi Speakers

If Hindi speakers love their language so much and want to use it all the time, I say, "I applaud you but keep it in your states and in your institutions". Do not throw Hindi at others in their states and in central government offices and institutions common to all Indians. Screen Hindi movies week after week in state colleges and state universities in Hindi regions. Do not screen them at central government institutes unless other language movies are also screened proportionately.

If you love Hindi, great. Use it in legislative assemblies in Hindi states. Do not use it in the Indian parliament unless other languages can also be used in the same way. Currently any member of parliament (MP) can speak in Hindi at any time in parliament but an MP wishing to speak in another Indian language has to give advance notice and obtain prior permission. It is not fair.

By all means, speak in Hindi at state government cabinet meetings of Hindi states. Do not insist on speaking in Hindi at central government cabinet meetings unless others also have the same right to speak in their mother tongue.

EDITORS NOTE: Some writers spell the name Chidambaram as Chithamparam, Chidamparam or Chithambaram. They are the same.

SUMMARY: Author provides several examples of Hindi arrogance and says that it should be met with arrogance of the same kind.

FEEDBACK-1

Kerala and Tamilnadu Chief Ministers on Hindi Arrogance

TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2008 (ID. 2008-04-f1-a-x)

I read your article "Do Unto Hindi Speakers What They Do Unto You" with much interest. I would like to bring to your attention the following incidences.

1)

Many years ago, I read in a magazine (I do not recall the name) that the Chief Minister of Kerala received a letter in Hindi from the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He returned it to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister with a note in English, "What if I replied to you in Malayalam? Where will we all be?" A similar incidence was mentioned in an article in The Hindu (January 18, 2004): Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav sent a Hindi letter to Kerala Chief Minister E. K. Nayanar. The latter sent his reply in Malayalam. Tit for Tat!

2)

Someone asked former Chief Minister of Madras State, Kamaraj, "What will you do if the state government receives a letter in Hindi from the central government?" He replied, "I ask them (state government employees) to tear off that Hindi letter and throw it away". (Tamil Nadu was called Madras State at that time.) That was in the 1960s. Things have changed. I know a Panchayat Chairman (village council chairman) in Tamilnadu who received a Hindi letter from the Indian government. How many Panchayat Chairmen know Hindi? This is the type of arrogance Indian government shows.

P. Karuppannan
February 24, 2008

FEEDBACK-2

Hindi Arrogance in Chennai City

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2008 (ID. 2008-06-f2-a-x)

I live in Chennai and I can attest to the arrogance of Hindi speakers at work place, streets and stores. With the rise of information technology (IT) industry in Tamilnadu, there is an inflow of out-of-staters into Tamilnadu for work. At work, at internal meetings, Hindi speakers sometimes converse in Hindi among themselves leaving others to wonder what they are saying. It is unprofessional and impolite to have their own clique conversations at meetings. More than once the lead project engineer had to ask them to keep their conversations at business meeting in English. You will never see Telugus or Punjabis or Bengalis talking among themselves in their mother tongue at business meetings. (I am not referring to people chatting at the office outside of a business meeting. I have no problem with that.)

While other language groups living in Tamil Nadu obtain a working knowledge of Tamil to interact with people in day-to-day life, most Hindi speakers I know do not learn Hindi even after living here for years. They expect everyone to know Hindi. They do not even speak in English unless the other party refuses to respond in Hindi. Hindi speakers have the arrogance of talking to taxi drivers, bus conductors and hotel staff in Hindi and get annoyed if they do not understand or refuse to respond in Hindi. I have never seen a Bengali or a Maharashtrian attempting to speak to a taxi driver in his/her language.

Hindi speakers own a  number of stores in Chennai. I have noticed that they speak to their Tamil employees in Hindi. I have not seen any other people using their language to converse with their Tamil employees. If a Tamil owns a shop in New Delhi or Mumbai he/she would talk to the employees in the local language, never in Tamil, unless the employee knows Tamil.

S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar
May 20, 2008

FEEDBACK-3

Hindi has a Special Place in Indian Institutions

TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2008 (ID. 2008-07-f1-a-x)

Mr. Ganesan's article "Do Unto Hindi Speakers What They Do Unto You"  is flawed because he conveniently forgets that Hindi is India's official language as enshrined in the Indian constitution. Because Hindi is India's official language it has a special place in all Indian institutions, such as Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian parliament and Doordhashan (Indian government operated television). Tamil people should learn to live with it. Sooner you learn to live with it sooner you become true Indians.

K. Agarwal
May 20, 2008

Editor's Response

Tamil Nadu does not accept Hindi as India's official language. There are two dominant parties in Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kahagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Neither party accepts Hindi. Tamil Nadu State Government has rejected the three language formula and teaches only Tamil and English in its schools.

"Hindi is as much alien to South Indians as English is to Indians". - Pattom Thanu Pillai, Former Chief Minister, Kerala State.

 

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