Hindi is common property, no party can appropriate it: Mrinal Pande (IANS Interview)

New Delhi, Sep 16 (IANS) The recently-concluded World Hindi Conference in Bhopal was conducted by people with “obvious party affiliations” which left out noted Hindi writers, Hindi media persons and students, says a veteran journalist and noted writer.

Mrinal Pande, who chaired one of the sessions at the event, feels the Narendra Modi-led NDA government had “erred in not inviting Hindi writers who could have contributed much” to the conference. The conference was aimed at “shuddhikaran” (cleansing) of the Hindi language.

“Language is a common property and a party cannot take a broom and sweep it clean. The writers and the specialists operating on the ground — the media and students of media — were kept out by the organisers, she said.

“The whole thing was handled by people with obvious party affiliations, whose writ was ‘Hindi ka shuddhikaran’. What shuddhikaran will you do? If you do shuddhikaran, nothing will be left (of the language),” Pande told IANS in an interview over the phone.

The former head of Prasar Bharati said the notion of cleansing the language was “absurd”.

She said most of the Hindi “as we know and speak it today is based largely on dialects like Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Brij Bhasha and Haryanvi. Only 20 percent is based on pure Sanskrit.”

The rest, she added, was based on Persian, Portuguese, Arabic, English and other languages that came in with various traders and armies over the centuries.

Pande said that if the government was serious about promoting Hindi and helping its cause, it should stress on creating proper hardware and software that are compatible with the various kinds of spoken Hindi, taking into account the phonetics and nuances of the language as spoken in different regions.

Pande says a single word in Hindi is pronounced differently in different regions of the Hindi-speaking areas, and the government should work towards developing search engines for Hindi users, keeping all the regional variants in mind.

“The linguistic problems, the word sense, disambiguation and phonetics — all this can’t be done by RSS pracharaks who are not academicians. They were there boasting that Hindi is our matribhasha… I have spent a whole lifetime and burnt the candle at both ends to try and do my bit to professionalise the language,” said Pande.

“At the sammelan, most of the emphasis was on selling Hindi as a source of India’s pride, and on sanitising Hindi – playing it off against English, and also monetising the large numbers of Hindi users in the global market,” she added.

She said as editor of Hindi daily Hindustan, which would bring out 17 editions and many sub-editions, including in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and western UP, she found that readers of different regions protested whenever they felt imposition by the central office of a kind of Hindi they did not speak.

The proposals at the event on two counts of looking at Hindi language as a tool for mass communication and on developing requisite software, Pande said, “seemed wishy-washy and watered down and dominated by verbiage”.

According to Pande, at the 9th World Hindi Conference in 2012 in Johannesburg, held under the UPA dispensation, a resolution was passed that the government should work towards total standardisation of Hindi and development of dual keyboards, making it mandatory for all computer companies to make such keyboards. It was also decided that the World Wide Web should be made friendly to Hindi.

She said her friends who had attended the Johannesburg event told her that the proposal had been sent to the government of India. “Nobody knows what happened to the proposal,” she added.

She also felt that the Narendra Modi government was laying out the red carpet for foreign IT companies, but it was not clear if it had been ensured that they would do enough to help Hindi and the other regional languages or acquire the same kind of user friendly hardware and software that English and other European languages enjoyed.

She said Modi, who is going to Silicon Valley later this month, should talk “seriously and knowledgeably” to the foreign IT firms about all this.

“This is a serious professional matter, not an emotional one, and for thousands like me who are living and working in Hindi, we need professional tools, we don’t need the use of Hindi to be made into an emotive issue.”

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at ranjana.n@ians.in

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