“In another ten years, Hindi and other Indian languages will see revival like never before. It took 150 years for Britishers to destroy our legacy of languages. We should give ourselves at least a decade to restore things,” said Santosh Choubey, Chancellor of Rabindranath Tagore University and Director of Vishwarang, a festival celebrating Indian literature, art, culture since year 2019.
The fifth edition of Tagore International Literature and Arts Festival – Vishwarang 2023 was held from 21-24 December in Bhopal at Rabindranath Tagore University. Santosh Choubey emphasized the potential for Hindi to evolve into a global language, the importance of extending equal respect to all Indian languages and urged a reconsideration of folk languages, local dialects and references in indigenous languages. He said that technology presents a great opportunity to be a “force multiplier, creating a critical mass to start a chain reaction of sorts and make networking easier.” Technology has enabled the access to regional language fonts even on mobile phones and laptops.
“Hindi’s competition is not with other Indian languages but rather with the English language,” said Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, former Education Minister of the Government of India, who was the chief guest for this event. Today Hindi is not the medium of communication in the corporate sector and studying it does not enhance your chances of employment. “The dominance of English in employment, and its scarcity in higher education, lack of originality in translated writings and the limited use of Hindi in scientific and medical education, low level of government grants are some of challenges in propagation of Hindi,” said Dr. Khem Singh Dehariya, Vice Chancellor of Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi University. Also, there are disproportionately low number of individuals pursuing IAS, CA or any professional course in key Indian languages.
But what is so special about Indian languages? And why Hindi? According to Dr. Siddharth Chaturvedi, Co-Director of Vishwarang,” Hindi is not just a language of employment but a repository of values. Hindi is one of the richest languages in the world with the most vibrant vocabulary and the maximum number of words. It is the language of Bharat which has a history that runs into thousands of years, perhaps 4,000-5,000 years. It is also the best tool to bring the global community together. We have actively undertaken the compilation of Hindi literary works by NRIs who have a big role in expanding the reach of Hindi. Currently we have representation from over 50 countries in Vishvarang out of whom many are People of Indian Origin (PIO) or linguistic scholars and researchers. We are now doing white papers on status of Hindi in 54 countries such as the history and current status of Hindi in France, Australia, Singapore and many countries. We are also setting up a secretariat or an international centre of teaching and learning in Hindi, one in this Tagore campus in Bhopal and a secretariat at Delhi.”
The National Education Policy (NEP) recognizes the diversity of Indian languages as a strength, marking a significant milestone after 60-70 years of efforts to establish Indian languages as the medium of study. “Macaulay’s objectives have come out in the open today and he stands exposed. He said that if we want to enslave the Indians, we should take away their language and break their mindset. For this, he made a sustained campaign over 200 years. But the new education policy is bringing the mother tongue and regional Indian languages back to the schools. No doubt that children are becoming westernized but even so, many are inquisitive to know about Indian heritage and traditions,” said Santosh Choubey and advised parents to lessen the impact of western culture and encourage the learning of our own languages first and others later.
“The only way we will remain relevant in today’s day and age when there has been an onslaught of technology, AI is our connection to roots, to languages and to our ‘gaon connection’,” said Neelesh Misra, India’s most loved storyteller, Bollywood lyricist and founder of Gaon Connection, India’s biggest rural media platform.
The session of the Bhasha Utsav on the theme “Our Linguistic Diversity – Our Strength,” featured writer and thinker Pawan Verma who emphasized the need for a profound discussion on Indian culture, particularly among the younger generation. These languages, developed over ages, are spoken by millions of people, and Verma urged pride in this linguistic heritage.
The use of vulgar expressions and abuses is marring the beauty of the language when used in mass media. JNU professor Dr. Garima Srivastava expressed concern about inappropriate words being used to popularize Hindi on the Internet, emphasizing the need for thoughtful consideration to preserve the language’s health and Indian tradition.
Many overseas Indians made presentations during this festival. Jaya Verma, the first speaker from Nottingham, shared her experiences of launching the Mother Tongue Study Project in 1988 through the Nottinghamshire County Council. Professor Shiv Kumar Singh of Lisbon University, Portugal, chaired the session on teaching Hindi abroad and highlighted the need to make Hindi more flexible and emphasized increasing its global employment opportunities for faster dominance. Shivani Bhardwaj, actively involved in Hindi teaching in Switzerland, established a Hindi school through the Sunday Hindi Teaching Association. Notably, during the Covid-19 pandemic, she also provided online Hindi education. Pragati Tipnis reflected on the historical context of Hindi instruction in the Soviet Union and Russia. Highlighting the initiation of Hindi teaching after the dispatch of an Indian translator team to Russia in 1957, Tipnis noted that today, learning Hindi is seamlessly accessible in Russia. The popularity of Shailendra’s song “Sir Pe Lal Topi Rusi” and Raj Kapoor, along with the current popularity of Hindi actors in Russia, has contributed to the increasing interest in Hindi. Abhishek Tripathi, promoting Hindi in Ireland, stressed the importance of teaching spoken language along with bookish language, considering the diverse population of Hindi speakers among 50 thousand Indians in Ireland. Jyoti Sharma, serving as a visiting professor of Hindi, she highlighted her significant contributions to promoting Hindi education among students in Switzerland, where a genuine eagerness to learn Hindi prevails. Pramod Sharma, representing Hungary, shed light on the challenges and successes encountered while teaching Hindi in Hungary, underscoring the pivotal role of translation in Hindi education. Rakesh Dubey, sharing his experiences from England, discussed his initiatives in promoting Hindi and the establishment of the Vishwa Hindi Samman in Britain in 2006.
“Learning in Indian languages will be effective through poems, stories, and plays,” said Dr. Varun Kumar, Director of Official Language, Ministry of Railways. Delhi University’s faculty member Kumud Sharma, who is the Vice President of Sahitya Akademi emphasized the use of technology in incorporating literature, emphasizing its relevance today.
Presiding over the session on the teaching of Hindi in primary and secondary schools abroad, Dr. Madhuri Ramdhari General Secretary of World Hindi Secretariat, noted a decline in student enrollment in these institutions- “Oral skills and conversational Hindi need to be given top priority. We must adopt the sequential learning approach—listening, speaking, and then writing. Uniformity in language, is crucial for linguistic equality.”
Finally the four-day event and discussion concluded with a concrete action plan for devising a uniform global-level Hindi teaching curriculum, its standardization, and certification.