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Defining the Indefinable: Delimiting Hindi


Edited By Agnieszka Kucziewicz-Fras

The nine extensive essays of this volume are by specialists on South Asia whose research focus includes the extremely complicated problematics of the linguistic situation there. It is devoted to the broadly understood problem of defining Hindi as well as indicating the different ranges of its use. The authors of the included texts come from Europe, the USA and India, and grapple with questions such as what Hindi is, how it functions in the social, political and cultural dimensions of present-day India, and how it is being used by authorities and various influential actors at different levels of Indian reality. The volume should be important and useful for all those who are interested in Hindi, its official and non-official status, and in Indian linguistic policy and politics generally.
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Defining Hindi: An Introductory Overview Rahul Peter Das

Defining Hindi: An Introductory Overview

Rahul Peter Das

At that time [after the Revolution of 1789] the longstanding and previously unremarkable existence within the French polity of substantial subcommunities who neither spoke nor understood French came to be viewed as unacceptable. The unity of the new revolutionary state was henceforth to be expressed via a common language, replacing the linguistic heterogeneity that in the revolutionary view had served the purposes of a discredited monarchy by preventing various segments of the country’s population from making common cause with one another. The Alsatians, the Basques, the Bretons, and the Occitanians would come to feel their national unity and would express it, according to revolutionary tenets, by adopting the use of the French language. Certain characteristically European ideological positions were given expression in the implementation of this policy. A single language variety associated with people of high social position (the king and his court, in this case) was accorded fixed form and unique authority through standardization, and a monopoly of legitimacy and prestige was conferred on that single form. In the resultant linguistic hierarchy, the unstandardized language varieties of politically and socially subordinate peoples within the state underwent a parallel attitudinal subordination and were subjected to what has been termed an “ideology of contempt” (…) (DORIAN 2006: 441)

1. Both the importance of language in India and the potential for conflicts based on language are very evident from the fact that many of the Indian states have been created on the basis of language, and from the developments which led to their creation. In keeping with this, a Bengali publication over twenty years ago opined (BHAĀCĀRYA 1990: 21; translated from the original Bengali):

Just as in religious matters nowadays morning’s rumour, becoming noon’s riot, turns to heaps of corpses at night, so in the field of language too has that calamitous danger been prevalent. Still, religion has one advantage compared to language in this country. For, however many riots there may be, this is nevertheless not a country of religious diversity. The proportion of only four religions is over 1 percent here. And the proportional majority of the Hindus is seven times more than that of the second-placed. Hindus are here 82.6 parts, Muslims 11.4, Christians 2.4, Sikhs 2 (the source of the data is the 1971 census), but there are fifteen languages over 1 percent. The diversity of India within which we seek unity is mainly linguistic and cultural diversity. According to Grierson’s calculations there are 723 languages and dialects in ← 11 | 12 → this country. (…) Discussing language policy in an essay twenty-eight years ago, Annada Shankar Ray1 said, “A multilingual country will become many states,” “If India disintegrates, it will be on the very issue of language.”2

The numerical data given do make it theoretically probable that any given conflict will be more likely linguistically motivated than religiously. Whether the history of conflicts in independent India actually substantiates this needs looking into, but that language has long been regarded as problematic is borne out by the statement of a scholar visiting India over forty years ago (SASAKI 1971: 93):

The problem of language is really one of the most severe headaches in modern India. Everywhere I visited, whether universities or government offices, I found officers, teachers and traders who were complaining of the complexity of language and criticizing the final decision of the Government to establish one official language. According to them, the question of official languages (…) was decided at a time when the wounds of the Indo-Pakistan partition had not yet healed and the communal disturbances following it had created conditions in which sober thinking was impossible.

Here particularly the issues of “one official language” and “official languages” are highlighted as problematic.3 Indeed, this is described as a major problem even today by the succinct enunciation of a recent study (ANEESH 2010: 93):

In twentieth-century India, language is spoken of in terms of a crisis. It emerges as a “problem.” Debates on language attain a centrality in cultural concerns, previously unseen in history. (…) The question of language chiefly relates with three problems: first, “a” language was required to take birth in order to fulfill growing nationalist aspirations; second, this future language was to carry out an impossible task of binding an emerging nation together, of taming the cultural profusion of more than 100 languages and a whole spectrum of religious practices; and third, the above tasks were to be performed without coercing the already existing linguistic subnationalisms informed in turn by the cognitive frame of total closure.

2. As the above also makes clear, language as such is rarely at the base of language related problems; rather, it is the factors associated with language which cause these. One of these is clearly the issue of group identity. Of course, group ← 12 | 13 → identity need not depend upon language;4 not only have numerous political entities since the dawn of known history been multilingual,5 and continue to be so, but this is also true of smaller entities such as families.6 Indeed, in one classic study, that of the Lue of Northern Thailand, the researcher found that criteria such as language, culture, polity, society etc. were no dependable identificatory factors, and concluded (MOERMAN 1965: 1222): “Someone is a Lue by virtue of believing and calling himself Lue and of acting in ways that validate his Lueness.”7

Similarly, there are South Asian scholars who hold that, traditionally, in the heterogeneous South Asian setting belonging to a particular language group was, and mostly still is, of little importance, of primary import being, rather, the sense of being part of an areal organic unity, for which Lachman M. Khubchandani utilises the term “sociolinguistic area,”8 explicating this through the Sanskrit term ketra-, which he explains in detail as (KHUBCHANDANI 1992: 99–100)

a traditional Indian concept focusing on the patterns of organic unity emerging in an area in the midst of a wide spectrum of linguistic and cultural variation in everyday life. (…) This concept of kshetra is markedly different from the modern western model of region defined as ‘a cohesive and homogenous area’ created by arbitrary selection of transient features such as religion, language, history. During the Independence struggle, it was rather naively assumed that the states based on the principle of linguistic homogeneity would provide a common bond among citizens and a convenient measure for better administration. This assumption goes contrary to the sociolinguistic realities signified by kshetras as a characteristic of Indian heritage.9 ← 13 | 14 →

Nevertheless, it would be a severe negation of reality to say that language plays no role at all in identity formation; indeed, language awareness has been called an elementary component of the search for identity (HAARMANN 1999: 91–92; translated from the original German):

If language awareness is an elementary component of the establishment of identity, then all humans in all cultures possess an awareness of the significance of their language or—inasmuch as several languages are involved—of their functional differentiation for the interaction in the cultural environment familiar to them. Language awareness is a timeless phenomenon and no “invention” of enlightenment thought of the 18th century, when the attention of the Europeans was drawn towards recognising and valuing national singularities such as the mother tongue.10

As Jaswant Singh points out (SINGH, J. 2012: 31), Jamaluddin (al-)Afghani, before he turned to pan-Islamism, in the latter half of the nineteenth century stressed the need for having a nationality, holding that this intrinsically depends upon language, the unity of language being more durable than that of religion.

3. This does not, of course, imply that such language awareness must come to the fore as a dominant factor in all contexts, as the examples in § 2 show; after all, different sorts of identity can be at work at different levels.11 “All civ ← 14 | 15 → ilizations have language but societies do not put this universal implement to the same use” (KAVIRAJ 2010: 127). This gives rise to a complex situation, which a researcher, writing on German nationalism, points out, combined with a warning not to project later developments backwards in time (SCHNEIDMÜLLER 1995: 85; translated from the original German):

A convergence of nation- and language-formation therefore does not seem to exist. To wish, as a conclusion from this, to understand the beginnings of German history quite without the history of the beginnings of the German language would, however, be fallacious, since language undoubtedly engenders identity. But the connexion between political group- and language-formation should not be viewed on the basis of the primacy of the modern cultural nation.12

This problematises the formation not only of German identity, but also of the concept of the German language. That is indeed necessary, as the concept of language communities as given constants is widespread (BLOMMAERT 2005: 214):

Technically, ethnolinguistic identity is a complex notion covering both linguistic and ‘ethnic’ features. (…) Obviously, (…) every ingredient of this complex of features represents a major empirical problem as soon as we start investigating it in practice. Notwithstanding this complexity, ethnolinguistic identity is perhaps one of the most stable and most widespread notions in the study of language, as well as in the politics of language. Language policies almost invariably take an explicitly or implicitly defined notion of ethnolinguistic identity as their point of departure: ‘since our people are French, the French language shall be used in all aspects of public life.’

4. Analytical attempts to grapple with this problem have resulted in a distinction being made between a “language community” and a “speech community.”13 This distinction, which is steadily making headway as an analytical tool, has been handily explained in summary as follows (DONG 2011: 69):

The rise of language ideology as a separate field of enquiry in linguistic anthropology facilitates the understanding of the concept of speech community by drawing in key insights from the social-scientific study of ideology (…). In a language ideology approach, Michael Silverstein (1998) distinguishes speech communities from language communities, arguing that language communities are ideological constructs; they entail people’s allegiance to a shared denotational code of language known by names (e.g. English, French and Chinese). In contrast, speech commu ← 15 | 16 → nities are practical constructs, comprised of speakers that display joint orientations towards ‘presupposable regularities’ and such sharedness of indexical values can result in the construction of identities and communities (…). Therefore, a language community is a specific kind of speech community, in which people display a shared orientation towards the presupposition of normative usage resulting in ethnolinguistic identity associated with the denotational code, for example, ‘I am a native speaker of Chinese,’ or ‘I speak Mandarin.’

This also describes, in a nutshell, the formation of the modern “language community” of Bengali during colonial times, seemingly the first such in colonial South Asia and giving the template for other language communities. Of this, it has been aptly stated that, though it had “a sense of political community around language or speech, it was anything but a community of the same speech” (KAVIRAJ 2010: 147).14 Similarly, Arthur Dudney has recently pointed out (DUDNEY 2013) that the idea of there being clearly demarcated and standardised language communities, and that the language of written works served as the template for actual oral communication, is a modern fallacy transposed into the past to create narratives of identity.

5. It is no secret that the prominence which language awareness attained during the age of modern European nationalisms played an important role in the nationalist phase of identity formation during colonial and postcolonial times in South Asia: “If India had to function as a nation, it had to have a ‘national’ language, for is this not what the historical experience of Europe suggested?” (RAMASWAMY 1999: 345).15 And this awareness was focused overwhelmingly on the “language community,” as clearly enunciated in a landmark speech delivered—in English—by Bal Gangadhar Tilak at Benares in 1905;16 he calls for

a National Movement to have a common language for the whole of India; for a common language is an important element of nationality. It is by a common language that you express your thoughts to others; and Manu rightly says that everything is comprehended or proceeded from vak or language. Therefore if you want to ← 16 | 17 → draw a nation together there is no force more powerful than to have a common language for all.

This echoes a common European theme (HROCH 1994: 25):

A new concept of the nation as a personalized body emerged, (…) and this metaphor was soon transformed into a basic conception, whereby the ethnic group was internally defined as “us.” When seen as a personality, the nation could therefore naturally only use one literary language, just as it could only incorporate one common past into its “memory.” The life of this personality-nation and its dissimilarity and differentiation from other nations, logically depended on the successful spread of the national language; if that failed, the personality-nation would “die.”

But in the South Asian context, that was problematic (KAVIRAJ 2010: 149–150):

Precedents of European nationalism, through which Indian nationalists initially sought to understand and think their own world, presented an immediate problem. Successful European nations created, in most cases, culturally homogeneous states based crucially on the unity of one language. Indian national identity seemed to ‘lack’ one of the main prerequisites of a modern nation, a feature which helped them to weather periods of political adversity. Indian nationalism and its state inherited from its inception a ‘language problem:’ i.e. the problematicity of its cultural formation in the absence of a single unifying language.

6. Theoretically there was, of course, an alternative to striving for a monolingual solution, all the more so since this latter seems not to have been based on an indigenous model anyway.17 For instance, instead of the idea of “one state, one nation, one language,”18 one might have followed an older European model of nationalism, as exemplified, for instance, by Switzerland. Indeed, this model did not remain unnoticed,19 and has, in fact, been realised in Nepal, whose present Constitution designates each autochthonous language a national language.20 There even seem to have been post-independence high-level deliberations in India in this regard, for in 1995 Shankar Dayal Sharma, President of India from 1992 to 1997, drew attention to a statement by Indira Gandhi on 10.1.1975 that ← 17 | 18 → each Indian language is the “national language” (rabhāā),21 Hindi among them all being the “language of national connectivity” (rīya sapark kī bhāā) (ŚARMĀ, Ś. 1997: 91) and “language of administration” (p. 93: rājkāj kī bhāā). Today the matter seems to be becoming topical again, as the following excerpt suggests (OOMMEN 2005: 181–182):

There is a widespread tendency to conflate the state and the nation, but they should be kept separate, for analytical purposes. (…) Nations and states have always existed but they came to be linked only recently (…). The linking of the state and the nation is inherently productive of tension because they pull in two different directions. (…) To be clear and honest we must recognise that India is a collective of nations, under one political roof; a multi-national state.

Obviously, a multi-national state having just one national language would contradict its own character.

7. However, this theoretical possibility remained just that: a theoretical possibility. A single national language was overwhelmingly deemed necessary.22 But before a language for the “Indian national identity” could be found, the latter itself, as it was non-existent,23 had to be created first.24 This was a complicated pro ← 18 | 19 → cess,25 simultaneously involving strategies of the sort often described as temporal “primordialism” and a spatial “boundary approach.”26 The latter was applied in a manner which Kristin Surak has described as follows (SURAK 2012: 177):

The underlying assumption that a simplistic boundary-approach courts is that all members within a division are functionally interchangeable: they can be transposed with each other without altering the ethnicity construction under investigation. Though other differences may be apparent, they are treated as irrelevant to the boundary relationships of immediate analytical interest. But the image of homogeneity that ethnicity projects may, in fact, be constituted in part through internal heterogeneity.

The inherent internal heterogeneity of “India” was, thus, overwhelmingly conceived as homogeneity, the nature of which latter had, however, to be construed.

8. Apart from the problem of what exactly such an “India” was to encompass,27 Indian nationalism found itself in a double bind: there was a need to create a primordial “Indian” past28 which could not take the colonial present as its starting point of backward projection, and there was equally the need to envisage a desirable non-colonial present to be realised at a future time, without having a settled upon past from which to construct this. In other words, both the desired present and the past needed to be formed.29 It was only through this dual process that there arose the concept of India, which KAVIRAJ 2010 describes as an “Imaginary Institution” in the sense that its parameters had first to be deter ← 19 | 20 → mined; this then formed the template for the aspirations underlying most of the nationalist movement and the subsequent implementation of the model.30

9. An important factor in the process of identity formation, however identity be defined,31 seems to be its need of an opposite, of something allowing distinction.32 This opposite or Other has to be constructed too, though whether this Other must also be “necessarily represented as aggressive and dangerous for the survival of the community” (MONTAUT 2005: 84) is a moot issue.33 However, the history of Indian nationalism would seem to show that the latter characterisation is true for at least one strand of it, which made use of the figure of the Muslim Other, with consequences that have shaped the map of present-day South Asia.34

10. All these factors have also influenced the nature of the search for a national language. That is no wonder, for (RAMASWAMY 1999: 341)

the nationalization of language is never just a linguistic or grammatical project, but is always an ideological one in which old assumptions have to be rethought or discarded, and new meanings assigned to enable the national project at hand.

Or, to put it differently, what happens is “the political production of language along nationalistic lines” (ANEESH 2010: 89). ← 20 | 21 →

11. This could not but lead to the vicissitudes of the quest for the national identity informing the nature of the envisaged national language. One strand of this quest led to a language to fit the putative Aryan origins of Indian culture and hence identity: to an “Aryan language” (ārya bhāā).35 This did not, however, have the same significance as it would have today, for in the days of the most famous proponent of the notion of the “Aryan language,” namely Dayanand Sarasvati (1824–1883), the concept of a separate Dravidian identity, developed after the discovery that Dravidian and Indo-European were different language families, was, though already enunciated, still not widespread;36 rather, “Aryan” occupied the semantic field usually occupied by “Hindu” (which term was considered problematic), as also in the name of the movement begun by Dayanand, the Arya Samaj (Ārya Samāj).37 Nevertheless, this terminology could, because of the ethnic divisions of South Asia, clearly facilitate commingling with another strand of the search for a national language, namely in the language structures of the last great South Asian empire, the Mughal empire, and its colonial successor, leading to a locus in the northern half of the subcontinent. On the other hand, it also facilitated coalescence with the vision of an autochthonous culture and history informing Indian character, without “foreign” elements.

12. In this connection Sanskrit readily comes to mind, but this was clearly not a language on which a mass movement could be built; it was only after British rule had ended that there was a serious effort to promote it, an effort which the Official Language Commission in 1956 labelled “escapism” (RAMASWAMY 1999: 349). Nevertheless, Sanskrit throughout held, and continues to hold, a special place in the ideology of India to this day; the question of the proximity of a New Indo-Aryan language to Sanskrit is, even today, a significant argument in linguistic power struggles in India.38 A telling example is furnished by Ramvilas Sharma (ŚARMĀ, R. 1989: 137; translated from the original Hindi):

Inasmuch as it is the question of borrowing Sanskrit words [into Hindi] from Bengali, there is no fault in this even should it be true. Sanskrit truly is the language of our region (pradeś); you [Bengalis] took words from it, we took them back; Hindi and Bengali came closer to each other; through this, reciprocal love should forsooth ← 21 | 22 → grow, not should [it be] that reciprocal hate be furthered by saying ‘uncouth’ (angah) and ‘canopy bearer’ (khemābardār) to Hindi.39

13. But if the national language was to be a modern one, which one was it to be? Though the majority of the various strands of nationalist thought cited clearly did not have this in mind, one language already fitted most of the criteria mentioned above, namely Bengali, a language highly Sanskritised in its literary form and serving, as the extract above too shows, as a template for the creation of several other literary languages in colonial South Asia,40 with not only an older, but also a well-developed modern literature serving as a template for several other literatures,41 and associated with an Indian nationalistic ideology, developed in Bengal and largely in Bengali, but in keeping with the parameters referred to. True, Bengali served mass communication only in one part of northern South Asia, but the overwhelming presence, particularly in prominent and official positions, of Bengalis, often stereotyped as more “advanced” than other North Indians,42 could not be overlooked.43 However, Bengali lost this competi ← 22 | 23 → tion to Hindi as the envisaged national language,44 maybe not the least because prominent Bengali intellectuals themselves played “an important and neglected role in promoting Hindi in the Nagari script” (KING 1994: 182).45

14. Ultimately, though, the quest for a national language failed; no national language (rabhāā) could be enshrined in the Indian Constitution, though this stipulates two official languages (rājbhāā), namely Hindi and English.46 Nevertheless, efforts to accord Hindi the status of a national language continue, including the widespread usage, by activists and proponents of Hindi including many high-ranking officials and ministers and even some governmental web ← 23 | 24 → sites, of extra-constitutional terms (i.e. national language and/or rabhāā) to refer to Hindi.47 On the other hand, there were those who consoled themselves by postulating that “language of the Union” (saghbhāā / saghbhāā), which the Constitution calls Hindi, denotes basically the same as rabhāā, i.e. “national language” (e.g. ŚARMĀ, D. 1992: 125).

15. Both official languages have been and continue to be the subject of much debate. In the case of English, the former colonial language, that is, perhaps, not surprising, but the—often violent—debate on Hindi was probably not expected by its supporters,48 although violent agitations against what was perceived as the imposition of Hindi had begun already in 1937/1938,49 and, in independent India, even before the Constitution was passed, charges of the “linguistic imperialism of Hindi” were current.50 Subsequent, and widespread, post-independence agitations against Hindi in various parts of India are too well-known to need comment. Even Suniti Kumar Chatterji, one of the chief experts of the Official Language Commission, in 1956 expressed concern over “Hindi imperialism,”51 and, not so long ago, a professor of the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales of France unabashedly described Hindi as a language of oppression, reminiscent of colonial times (MONTAUT 2003: 137).52 ← 24 | 25 → Two Indian linguists actually refer to “internal colonialism” (HASNAIN/GUPTA 2002: 34).53 Such perceptions are clearly problematic.

16. Furthering Hindi is also criticised as being intrinsically intertwined with a Hindu communalistic agenda;54 the “spread of Hindi was interpreted as Hinduization rather than as Indianization” (PATTANAYAK 1986: 30).55 The nation “commensurate with” Hindi is held to be “Hindu savarna, Brahminical, pure—in fact, another, a Hindu Pakistan” (RAI 2002: 120). One wide-spread characterisation seems to have been coined by T.K. Oommen, referring to hegemonistic efforts of “the Hindi speaking twice-born Hindus.”56 Such perceived enmeshment of language and religion is bound to be contentious.

17. Also, and inevitably, since an indigenous language privileged over other indigenous languages cannot but create an uneven playing field, manufacturing insiders and outsiders in the socio-cultural context (OOMMEN 2005: 147), there were, and continue to be, accusations of the use of Hindi being motivated primarily by the quest, by those having command of it, for obtaining advantages over those not having a similar command over the language, as even the debates recorded in the report of the 1956 Official Language Commission show.57 Indeed, according to Sudipta Kaviraj (KAVIRAJ 2010: 164), “four chief ministers of northern states” once demanded that Hindi replace English on the grounds

not that linguistic iniquity should be ended, but that it should be turned in favour of native Hindi speakers. They should enjoy the privilege that belonged to English users because they constitute the ironic majority of 40 per cent of the Indian population. ← 25 | 26 →

Should such attitudes indeed pertain, then negative reactions become pre-programmed,58 all the more so if it should be true that (KAVIRAJ 2010: 164–165)

[t]he proposals for Hindi majoritarianism, though statistically on somewhat weaker grounds, bear interesting connections with Hindu communal sentiments. (…) Indeed, as some people have argued at different points in recent history, the majority demand of a Hindu state instead of the present one based on ‘Western’ secularism and the majority demand for a Hindi-dominant state can coalesce because the two groups of beneficiaries of such privilege would overlap to a large degree.

18. Of especial interest is the quantitative argument based on the number of speakers of Hindi.59 For it is interesting that even those strongly in favour of giving Hindi a dominant position originally usually called Hindi the best means of communication, emphasising its being understood by most of the population of India. However, the numerical argument of speakers of the language was also introduced; in fact, the report of 1956 of the Official Language Commission states that Hindi was chosen as the official language because, inter alia, it is “spoken, amongst the regional languages, by the largest number of people” (DAS GUPTA 1970: 47–48; AGGARWAL 1991: 8).60 ← 26 | 27 →

Both arguments, namely that of being best understood and that of having the largest number of speakers, are, however, disputed. Modern Hindi has been called an “artificial language” (ktrim bhāā) (MAJUMDĀR 1987: 161),61 “a language that is only beginning to acquire native speakers” (SINGH, R. 1995: 1). Particularly the Hindi the Constitution envisages has been held to not actually exist (cf. ROCHER 1968: 22). As to the language propagated by Hindi partisans, and found in official usage, this has been described as incomprehensible to ordinary citizens, an “impossible language” (langue impossible) (MONTAUT 2003: 146). Hindi is even held to be basically no different from English.62

19. As regards the number of speakers, when one compares different statistics, one comes across amazing discrepancies. For instance, George Weber, in an article first published in 1997, drew attention to the discrepancies in the numbers given for primary speakers of “Hindi/Urdu:” the numbers in different contemporary statistics varied between just over 150 millions and just over 350 millions (WEBER 1999: 23). This statistical discrepancy is borne out by the data easily available today on the internet. As a case in point, the CIA World Factbook63 of July 2013 in its statistics on the world gives the world population as an estimated 7,095,217,980 persons,64 of which 2.68% speak Hindi, which works out to a little over 190.1 millions—just slightly more than the number of speakers of Bengali, given as 2.66% of the world population, i.e. just above 188.7 millions. However, in the data on India, the number of Hindi speakers in India is given as 41% of the total population of 1,220,800,359 estimated for July 2013, which works out at a little over 500.5 millions.

A very telling substantiation for this confusion can be obtained by comparing the data for “Hindi” and “Bengali” of successive editions of Ethnologue. Languages of the World:65 the 13th edition (1996) gives 182 millions for Hindi and ← 27 | 28 → 189 millions for Bengali worldwide, the 14th edition (2000) 366 millions for Hindi and 207 millions for Bengali, the 15th edition (2005) 181 millions for Hindi and 171 millions for Bengali, the 16th edition (2009) 182 millions for Hindi and 181 millions for Bengali, and the 17th edition (2013) 260 millions for Hindi and 193 millions for Bengali. Not only do the numbers for both languages fluctuate noticeably outside the limits of natural growth, but in one edition (1996) the number of speakers given for Bengali is even higher than that given for Hindi (189 millions against 182 millions). And even though just four years later, in 2000, the number of Hindi speakers in Ethnologue had more than doubled to 366 millions (only to be more than halved again after five more years), at around the same time (2001) the official census of India gave the number of Hindi speakers in India alone as 422 millions.66

Other sources, easily found by any internet search, give other figures, which serve primarily to heighten the confusion.

20. As this overview shows, the terrain of Hindi is markedly contested. If we are to understand why it is so, we will need to regard the issue of the “national language” in its temporal and spatial dimensions, in which it is closely intertwined with the discourse on nationalism, as has already been pointed out in § 10.

21. When one attempts to go to the very roots of the issue of the “national language,” one makes the perhaps not unexpected discovery that not only the discourses on nationality and a national language as such, but even the very nature of the latter could have been founded on non-native ideas.67 If recent scholarship is correct, then the idea of a “national language,” namely what he labelled “Hindustani,” was first enunciated by John Borthwick Gilchrist (1759–1841), and not, of course, in the context of Indian nationalism; rather, Gilchrist used this characterisation to elevate that which he was personally furthering, namely a certain form of Khari Boli (khaī bolī), to the status of a “language,” a standardised lingua franca that deserved priority as “the obvious choice for foreign learners in the same way that English is for visitors to England” (STEADMAN-JONES 2007: 35).68 The notions Gilchrist was opposing through this have been ← 28 | 29 → described as follows (COHN 1996: 302–303):

At base the problem was that of the British having labelled the language ‘a jargon,’ and the conflation of what Gilchrist began to call Hindustani and that language which the majority of Europeans in India referred to as ‘Moors.’ ‘Moors’ today would be termed a pidgin.

22. However, though Gilchrist’s characterisation of “Moors” as a “barbarian gabble [which] exists nowhere but among the dregs of our servants, in their snip snap dialogues with us only” (quoted by COHN 1996: 303)69 has led to the perception than “Moors” referred to a pidgin, or trade language, or the like, matters seem to have actually been more complicated. Not only the name “Moors” given to what the grammars of George Hadley (1772) and John Fergusson (1773) describe,70 but even the cursory remarks on “Hindustani/Moors” by Richard Steadman-Jones (STEADMAN-JONES 2007: 55–56) show that “Moors” was more, and this is borne out by the extracts from literature of the period 1752–1804 in the Hobson-Jobson (first published in 1886 and reedited in 1903), which show that it was also written; one quoted source (of 1767) even calls “Moors or Mussulmans and Persian” “the politest Language[s]” (YULE/BURNELL 1995: 584–585).

Indeed, T.W. Clark, commenting on Nathaniel Brassey Halhed’s linguistic remarks, points out that “Moors,”71 according to Halhed “a mixed species of Hindostanic,” was “the mother tongue of a number of sepoys and of some of the lower class Muslims in Calcutta,” and differentiates if from the forerunner of “Calcutta Hindustani” serving as an interface between Europeans and Natives (CLARK 1956: 455–456). In fact, as early as the end of the 17th century, the German Joan Josua Ketelaar wrote a Grammar in “Duijts,” i.e. Dutch (available now also in facsimile form, apart from an edited Latin version of 1743 by David Mills), in which he denotes what he calls the language of the Moors (moors) as the “Hindustanic būlī72 or Hindustanic language” (Hindoustanse Boelie, off hindoustanse taale)73—which actually is, according to Ketelaar, a misnomer because it is bastardised, the language of the Moorish Muhammadans (moorse mahometaans) being different from the “true Hindustanic or Paganish” (reghte hindoustanse, off heijdense).74 H.W. Bodewitz therefore opines that Ketelaar’s “Hindustanic” of the “Moors” “is neither pure Hindi nor Bazar Hindi, but re ← 29 | 30 → flects the language spoken by the Muslims who were powerful in those days” (BODEWITZ 1994–1995: 126).75

23. All this shows that “Moors” was not the interface jargon that Gilchrist described it to be, but some sort of native speech. In any case, the actual thrust of his—ultimately successful—efforts seems to have been different, and in keeping with an anonymous article published in 1828 (CORRESPONDENT 1828: 639):

But before we quit the subject of the classic idiom, let us endeavour to do it justice by placing it in its true light. It has been asserted by many individuals of high respectability, who have resided in India, that the Moors is not only the current and most useful language there, but that pure bonâ fide Hindūstanī [sic] would not be understood. We can only state, in reply, we found from experience that the case is not so. It may as well be said that the inhabitants of Billingsgate cannot understand pure sterling English; or that a foreigner coming among us should, in order to be understood, learn only the slang of the fishwomen who reside in that famous quarter.

The parallel given by the anonymous author clearly shows that the problem is, actually, that of standardisation and ‘refinement’ of native speech. When one now looks, in this light, at the characterisations of “Moors” as more than a simple interface between rulers and ruled (contrary to Gilchrists’s characterisation), and then at Gilchrist’s efforts with regard to “Hindustani” and directed against “Moors,” then it does seem that, irrespective of the reasons he himself gives, his mission consisted, in essence, of introducing the notion of a “language community,” i.e. an ideological construct entailing allegiance to a shared denotational code of language known by names, in a field marked by “speech communities,” i.e., practical constructs displaying a shared orientation towards the presupposition of normative usage76—even though this normativity was not actually there in many cases, the situation being, rather, that (ROSS/DURIE 1996: 16)

the speech community uses a pool of languages and there is no one language coterminous with the community. (…) a speech community can be viewed schematically as a series of roughly concentric circles (e.g. hamlet, village, village group, region, and so on) to which there is no specified upper limit—a view which will work just as well in a traditional village situation as in a metropolitan urban setting.

Viewed in this light, Gilchrist was, basically, pushing a homogeneous, ‘refined,’ and clearly demarcated standard in what was factually a multiform environment, by characterising divergences from his standard as undesirable.77

24. Only a few years after Gilchrist, we find J.F. Ballantyne of Benares College also using the term “national language” in an exchange with students of the ← 30 | 31 → Sanskrit College which has been referred to often.78 In reply to a question by Ballantyne, a student said:

We do not clearly understand what you Europeans mean by the term Hindi, for there are hundreds of dialects, all in our opinion equally entitled to the name, and there is here no standard as there is in Sanskrit.

After a further exchange, Ballantyne exhorted the students

not to leave the task of formulating the national language in the hands of the villagers but to endeavour to get rid of the unprofitable diversity of provincial dialects, by creating a standard literature in which one uniform system of grammar and orthography should be followed; the Pundits of Benares, if they valued the fame of their city, ought to strive to make the dialect of the holy city the standard of all India (…)

It is unclear what the “dialect of the holy city” actually refers to;79 most probably it is not the same standard Gilchrist was championing. But the core idea that there should be a “national language” for Indians seems the same.80

25. It is probable, though lacking appropriate investigation, at this stage it cannot be proved, that the Indian nationalist movement appropriated both templates: the notion of the one national language as well as that pertaining to its character. However, in this process the “language community” and the “speech community” were conflated and became synonymous, so that homogeneity and heterogeneity coexisted under the same label. This could not but engender ambiguity as to what was actually meant.

26. This ambiguity is also evident in the ideas of the major architect of nationalistic language policy, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,81 who “often re ← 31 | 32 → ferred to the Hindi of his conception as village Hindi” (DAS GUPTA 1970: 111). Various of Gandhi’s remarks make it clear that the “Hindi” he as a rule had in mind was a spoken form, for instance (GANDHI 1990: 419; originally in Hindi):

The number of those speaking Hindi is almost 65 million. The Bengali, Bihari, Oriya, Marathi, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Punjabi and Sindhi languages are sisters of Hindi. People speaking these languages can understand and speak a little of Hindi. If we include these, the number is almost 220 million.

But understanding and speaking some Hindi does not make one fit to cope with formalised language used in an official, administrative or educational, capacity; this requires a particular, additional language register. Interestingly, Gandhi does not seem to have given much thought to such considerations,82 even though he also advocated the compulsory study of Hindi throughout India, as well as the establishment of Hindi as the “national language,” in which he “seems to be making space for a surprisingly far-reaching measure of bureaucratic uniformity” (LELYVELD 2001: 66).

That there is a contradiction between Gandhi’s emphasis on spoken communication and his proposed administrative measures has not gone unnoticed (LELYVELD 2001: 66–67):

There is, then, a striking disjunction between Gandhi’s decentralized, pre-industrial utopia and his insistence on a political structure of national and provincial languages, the basis, more or less, of what emerged after independence as India’s linguistic states and so-called three language formula. But it couldn’t have been otherwise because, as Bourdieu points out, any language that “makes itself heard by an entire group is an authorized language.” The business of Gandhi, after all, was to mobilize a population to break with established authority, and that, in Bourdieu’s terms, was a matter of constructing a new language by means of “the labour of enunciation,” “the labour of dramatization.”

27. The nub of the matter is that, even while harnessing “Hindi” as a means of mass spoken communication to the cause of the envisaged national language, any actual role such spoken means might have played in this process was effectually put paid to. According to D.P. Pattanayak (PATTANAYAK 1986: 30–31): ← 32 | 33 →

The pan-Indian Hindi sought to be created was so removed from the grass roots that it failed to draw sustenance from the various spoken languages as envisaged in Article 351 of the Constitution.

This, of course, also applied to all those communication forms which are usually labelled “Bazaar(i) Hindi” or the like,83 and serve particularly as means of communication in multilingual contexts. As L.M. Khubchandani points out (referring to the forms characterised as “Hindustani,” in a Gandhian sense,84 and “Hindi”), there is a “gulf between the nationally accepted Hindustani and the official diction of Hindi” (KHUBCHANDANI 1969: 50). The paradox is that it is particularly such communication forms that supply the rationale and ideology for the prominent status of “Hindi,”85 while they themselves are unfit for actual usage in most official and administrative situations other than person-to-person oral communication, as official and administrative situations require standar-dised and unambiguous language patterns.86 This is a fundamental dilemma which might be insolvable,87 and is irrespective of the number of “official” or ← 33 | 34 → “national” languages involved in the individual setting: various functions of the “language” of the “language community” cannot devolve upon the “speech community” unless a “language community” or multiple “language communities” evolves or evolve out of the latter, which leads to the same problems.

28. In view of these considerations, the suggestion (RAO 1985: 20)

that if one wants a common language for promoting emotional identity and national integration, it is easier to do so with a non-region-bound and underdeveloped language, as it would have both the negative advantage of equal disability for all and the positive advantage of opportunity for participation by all linguistic groups in its development

is not really feasible, for at some point this “underdeveloped language” will, if it is to fulfil the functions necessary for a modern state, have to become maybe not exactly, but in many respects very like the “developed literary and academic language” that, in the form of Hindi, is held to be detrimental to national integration (RAO 1985: 20).

29. One of the few who seems to have seen this problem is Suniti Kumar Chatterji. In an article first published in 1943 and republished in 1945, he first writes (CHATTERJI 2006: 103):

The speakers of the Aryan languages who do not belong to the Western Hindi area, or have not learnt grammatical High Hindi or Urdu, besides others (e.g. Austric and Dravidian speakers, Afghans, Europeans, Chinese, Tibetans, Burmese, etc.) when they employ Hindi (Hindustani) as a lingua franca or as a palaver speech, speak it in a simple form in which some of the knottier points of grammar are omitted (…); and it is affected largely by local vocabularies and idioms. This form of simplified Hindustani has been called [‘]Bazaar Hindi or Hindustani, or Basic Hindi, or Chaltu or Chalu (i.e. current) or Laghu (i.e. simple) Hindi,’ and this Bazaar Hindi is the real inter-provincial speech of the masses. It is also becoming the home-language of certain groups in our polyglot towns, outside the Western Hindi area.

After this, he makes a decided pitch for making this “Bazaar Hindustani (…), the real inter-provincial speech of the masses” having a grammar so simplified “that it can be written on a postcard,” the “national language” of India, “written in a modified Roman alphabet arranged like the Nagari alphabet” (CHATTERJI 2006: 111–112).88 But he does not leave it at this suggestion or demand; rather, ← 34 | 35 → he squarely tackles the practical implications (CHATTERJI 2006: 112):

A body of experts from different parts of India should meet, and fix the minimum of grammar. (…) This simplified Bazaar Hindustani will be a ‘concession language,’ the speakers of which will not have occasion to spoil the well of Khari-boli undefiled[,] as they are doing now everywhere outside the Western Hindi area. The experiment is well worth making, by declaring this simplified Hindi or Hindustani valid in all transactions of an inter-provincial pan-Indian nature. (…) This simplified Roman Hindi or Hindustani is to be made an optional subject of study in schools and colleges, and for Government officials, with all proper encouragement (…).

In this, he was proposing to evolve what we can now term a “language community” out of a “speech community” (cf. § 4 above), which presupposes some manner of awareness of the differences between the two. However, Chatterji was clearly an exception in the general debate on the “national language” as being based on the speech of oral communication.

30. Ultimately, this initiative did not lead to anything. However, the idea of there being two “Hindi”s did survive, and in a probably unexpected manner, namely in a perceived discrepancy between Hindi as the official language of the Union in the Indian Constitution, and Hindi as one of the (today 22) languages listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. This is very evident from the report of the Bombay Hindi Teaching Committee of 1951,89 which decidedly states (DAS GUPTA 1970: 140):

Hindi as adopted in the Constitution of India does not mean Hindi the Home Language or Regional Hindi. Hindi mentioned in the Eighth Schedule and Hindi mentioned in Articles 343–351 cannot be the same. While the former is Regional Hindi, the latter is common Hindi otherwise known as Federal Language.

There has been some discussion on this,90 an interesting aspect of this being a move to see Union Hindi as an “Indian Esperanto” and to give it the name “Bharati.”91 The issue of there supposedly being two official “Hindi”s seems also to have been taken up by some littérateurs of Hindi; at any rate, Mahadevi Varma ← 35 | 36 → remarks on it, comparing the double identity of provincial (prādeśik) and Indian (bhārtīya) Hindi to two bodies conjoined to one single heart (VARMĀ 1992: 39).

31. But the problem of “Hindi” is not confined to this synchronic aspect; it has a diachronic component too. Firstly, the nationalistic agenda necessitated, as we have seen in § 8, its being anchored in the hoary past, and this also applied to the would-be national language. At the same time, the need, commented upon in § 9, to fashion an identity through differentiation from an Other also made itself felt. The result was, in a complicated process on which much has already been written and thus need not be repeated here, the cleansing of both past and language of presumed foreign, which predominantly meant Muslim, elements; this mirrored efforts to, similarly, set up an “Islamic” language cleansed of “un-Islamic” elements (cf., e.g., RAHMAN 2011)

32. Secondly, in the vast tract of northern South Asia between the Punjab and Bengal, appellative demarcations between individual spoken and written forms of speech had not been and were not fixed, so that the same term could refer to various entities, while simultaneously the same entity could be referred to by various terms. “Hindi” (hindī / hi) was one of the terms used to denote various speech entities, whereas at the same time that entity today commonly understood under “Hindi,” namely a certain form of Khari Boli (khaī bolī), was variously designated. All this is well-known, so that no further elucidation seems necessary here.

Because of the various usages of “Hindi,” it could be claimed simultaneously by British officials that “Hindi is the language of the vast majority of the inhabitants of these [North-Western] provinces,” and “that no ‘Hindi’ spoken generally by the people existed” (KING 1994: 154).

33. Since at the time when the debate on the national language attained full bloom both what was to be understood under “Hindi,” and how Khari Boli, already elevated over other languages of northern India by the colonial administration, was to be termed and situated in this context, was still not fixed, the designated national language could not simply be chosen out of a pool of already delimited languages, as Bengali or Sanskrit might have been, but had to be constructed, both linguistically and socio-culturally. The various pressures which were brought to bear on this process have ensured that this is not yet completed.

34. One of the effects of these pressures has been the differentiation between Urdu and Hindi.92 One may speculate on what would have happened if another South Asian language at that time prominent had forcefully advanced its claim ← 36 | 37 → to be seen as the “national” language and even carried the field, for no other “Muslim” variety of any other South Asian language would have offered the opportunity to develop the sort of divide in both the language as well as the ideology of history and society as Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani did.93

Be that as it may, a resultant problem that the Khari Boli variety ultimately occupying the slot of “Hindi” faced was that, by discarding the variety of Khari Boli associated with the Muslim Other, i.e. that which ultimately came to be designated Urdu,94 “Hindi” Khari Boli also had to discard the bulk of literature in Khari Boli, and thus its required historical pedigree measured primarily in the unit of literature. To compensate for this and establish an alternative historical pedigree, it on the one hand took shelter under the authority of Sanskrit, on the other laid claim to other literatures under the designation of “Hindi.”95

35. Sanskritisation of vocabulary and structures96 was one obvious means of establishing nearness to Sanskrit; in this, not only the example of literary Bengali, but also the efforts of Bengalis, already alluded to in § 13, were clearly helpful. Further, theories of linguistic nearness to Sanskrit were devised, including such as postulated a greater nearness of “Hindi” to Sanskrit than other ← 37 | 38 → New Indo-Aryan languages had.97 But an important factor was also script, in which regard Nagari played an important role, as also evinced by the existence of an association to propagate it, the Nagari Pracharini Sabha (Nāgrīpracāriī Sabhā). The controversy regarding which script to use was indeed decided in favour of Nagari, which was taken to be associated with high culture and particularly Sanskrit, and against not only the Arabic, but also the Kaithi and related scripts;98 this is particularly intriguing because the association of Sanskrit with Nagari is to a large extent a product of Western scholars’ interest in Sanskrit and its literature, which led to the almost exclusive use of Nagari to print relevant texts.99 This latching on to the assumed divine status of Sanskrit is also evident in the rapid displacement of “Nagari” (nāg) by “Devanagari” (devnāg), literally “Nagari of the gods; godly Nagari.” Cf. in this context GODRE 2004: 19 (translated from the original Hindi):

The use of the words ‘Devanagari’ and ‘Nagari’ too is current for the Hindi language. The use of this was probably made to create the feeling of being different from Urdu with Farsi script. In the Punjab the language written in the ‘Nagari’ script is called ‘scriptural’ language or [language] ‘of scripture.’100

36. The importance attached to script101 can be gauged from the fact that a work devoted expressly to the early stages of the spread of Khari Boli (MĀTHUR 1990), even though careful to use the term khaībolī throughout,102 and pointing out several times the use of various scripts for Khari Boli—namely Latin, Nagari and Gurmukhi (e.g., MĀTHUR ← 38 | 39 → 1990: (20))—does not mention the Arabic script (and also not Kaithi). In fact, Urdu is blended out from Khari Boli. This is, however, in keeping with the definition of Khari Boli given (MĀTHUR 1990: 5–6),103 from which we also learn that due to prevailing Perso-Arabic influence, the initial character (svarūp) of Khari Boli “shows itself combined with Urdu, but at places separate from it.” Interestingly, however, Dakhni is considered a variant of Khari Boli,104 obviously because it serves to show that Khari Boli was used and understood over the whole of India including the South—though then again Khari Boli is differentiated not only from Urdu, but also from Dakhni (MĀTHUR 1990: (12)). Nothing is said about the script used for Dakhni.

37. As to the subsumption of older literatures in other languages under the label of “Hindi,” this was, on the one hand, facilitated by the fluctuating older terminology which labelled various forms of speech “Hindi” (apart from other appellations), while on the other it was impeded by the need to emancipate Khari Boli from the dominance of these. This was true particularly, though not only, of Braj and Avadhi, amongst which especially the dethroning of Braj was a laborious process.105 Subsequently, however, the literatures in those different forms of speech could be appropriated as “Hindi” literature linked to Khari Boli.106 Obviously, this can and has caused terminological problems, a case in point being the statement107 that there are three varieties108 of Hindi, namely Braj, Avadhi and Khari Boli, for, since it is the latter which is today equated with Hindi, this would ← 39 | 40 → mean that the three varieties of Hindi are Braj, Avadhi and Hindi.

As with various other developments having to do with Hindi, here too colonial templates might have played a major role. In this case it was George Abraham Grierson (1851–1941), who was, according to SARMA 2010, instrumental in creating the idea of a Hindi Indian literary heartland, a “literary Hindustan,” to which all other regions and religions are peripheral, through his The Modern Vernacular Literature of Hindustan.109 Though Grierson—who excludes literature in Urdu and uses only Nagari besides the Roman script—does not subsume the various languages he describes under one “Hindi,” his book leads to this conclusion,110 as is also evident from the fact that Suniti Kumar Chatterji in 1928 called it a “History of Hindi literature” (SARMA 2010: 176), and that it was translated under the title Hindī sāhitya kā pratham itihās (“The first history of Hindi literature”) by Kishorilal Gupta (Kiśorīlāl Gupt), and published in Benares in 1957 by the Hindī Pracārak Pustakālay (“Hindi Propagating Book Store”). Irrespective of whether Grierson’s notions were indeed so pervasive or not, it is striking that the literary heartland he conceives is more or less that of traditional Madhyadeśa, and fits the template of Bhāratavara (Hindi: Bhāratvar) that played a pivotal role in the conception of India as Bhārat,111 which particularly ‘Bharatendu’ Harishchandra had already popularised.112

Suniti Kumar Chatterji has attempted to describe the situation thus created through a European analogue (CHATTERJI 1963: 111):

If in Europe we could conceive of Portuguese, Spanish and Catalan ceasing to produce literature (like Galician and Provençal) and the speakers of all these accepting French as their main literary language, studying only French at school and reading and writing only French, and if on that basis we were to lump together the earlier (and even modern) literatures in all these languages and dialects as ‘French’ literature, then we would be in an analogous situation for ‘Hindi.’ Only, Standard Literary Hindi, as current now, is a recent speech, barely 150 years old.

38. As the example of Grierson’s work further shows, the overlapping of categories also seems to have played a role. As is well known, the reception of ← 40 | 41 → traditional literature was more often than not genre- and not language-bound, and this pertains to later times also, as the multilingual Sikh scriptures too show. Therefore, various speech forms could until well into modern times be used for individual genres of literature without their linguistic form being problematised, in contrast to style, contents, and the like.113 When, however, linguistic classification is applied to this pertaining perception based on genre-classification, there are bound to be interferences, probably without those affected by such interferences even being aware of any categorical contaminations.

This may be illustrated by an extract from a “scientific history” of the Hindi language (NARULA 1976: 54:)

The ‘form’ or style of Early Hindi variously called—Hindvi, Sadh-bhasha, Sant-vani, Bhakti-kavya etc.—is in fact not one uniform language but is a common term, loosely used, for several varieties and shades of the languages of Northern India during those times.

The reference to non-linguistic categories (e.g., “style,” “Sant-vani,” “Bhakti-kavya”) is noteworthy. It can easily be surmised how much more pervasive such categorical contamination must have been, and continues to be, in general public discourse, particularly when partisan or polemic.

39. The whole development depicted above has been summed up as follows (KING 1994: 151–152):

The meaning of ‘Hindi’ expanded when moving backwards in time, but contracted when moving forward. To give ‘Hindi’ a glorious past one had to include all her elder sisters, but when one came to the present only the youngest sister—Khari Boli Hindi—received attention. This basic contradiction reflected the need to invest the symbol ‘Hindi’ with dignity and to mask the embarrassing fact that the rise of Sanskritised Khari Boli Hindi could hardly have occurred without the previous widespread use of Urdu.

This seems to be a more or less accurate description.

40. Further, as we saw in § 18, the status of Hindi is justified in part by numerical arguments. Since it is Khari Boli which is officially “Hindi,” it is obviously a problem that in the tract in which Hindi is said to be spoken, the languages actually spoken are mostly not Khari Boli. The solution found has been to subsume them all under Khari Boli as its variant forms.114 This follows a common pattern, on which it has been said (BARBOUR 2004: 294): ← 41 | 42 →

Nations may not only divide languages in this way,115 they may unite mutually quite unintelligible varieties and conceptualise them as a single language if their speakers are deemed to constitute a single nation.116

41. In the case of Hindi in India, this has led to developments of the pattern described by W. Martin Bloomer (BLOOMER 2005: 2–3):

A consequence of language characterization is the habit of identifying patterns of life, allegiances, and identities with the language itself. In its most developed ideological form this habit has been called linguism, the identification of the linguistic group as the political group. Here, at least according to the schemes of nationalists, polyglossia or diglossia moves (declines?) to a monoglot standard with an accompanying shift in attitude from linguistic tolerance to intolerant monoglossia. When each nation has its own language, the contest of language seems to have been settled, except that ties of identity and political ambitions do not always square with the neat categorization single people, single language, and single nation.

In accord with this are attempts to create a new “Hindi nation,”117 a “language community” as described in § 4 above, comprising the territory in which the various speech forms subsumed under Khari Boli are spoken.118 Frustratingly—and maybe incomprehensibly119—for its proponents, this has met decided oppo ← 42 | 43 → sition from those thus to be subsumed, so that “in no other province are there as many linguistic disputes as here[, i.e. the ‘Hindi region’]” (ŚARMĀ, R. 1989a: 171).120 However, it was possible to at least enshrine Uttar Pradesh as the “Hindi heartland” (cf. KUDAISYA 2006: 366–380).

42. Why discord arises is easily perceivable. The census of 2001 subsumes 49 variant forms, plus unspecified “others,” under Hindi. When compared with the data for other languages, this number is extraordinarily high. Thus, for the two languages following Hindi in this regard, namely Oriya and Bengali, the census subsumes only 5 and 4 variant forms, plus unspecified “others,” respectively; for the rest of the languages even less variant forms are mentioned. Moreover, “others” listed under Hindi are spoken, according to the census, by over 14.7 million people, whereas the “others” spoken by the highest number of people following this are listed under Bengali and Assamese, namely just over 0.5 million and just under 0.4 million people respectively. This means that under this label too the difference is remarkably high.

Such classifications have been contested, e.g., as “language robbery” (BHAĀCĀRYA 1990: 45 note 17), or “a device to swallow the small fish” (ABBI 2006: 2). As these two examples standing for many show, the underlying accusation is that of wilful manipulation of linguistic data to further certain agendas.121

43. The subsumption was for a long time generally effected by labeling the subsumed speech forms as “dialects” of Khari Boli Hindi.122 However, there is increasing unease with this term, as the following shows (SINGH, R. 1995: 2):123

A language, [Max] Weinreich once said, is a dialect with guns, and that’s about all there is to the distinction between language and dialect, for it is impossible to formally define or characterize the difference between a language and a dialect.

Classifications relating to South Asia are no exception.124 The problem is exacerbated by the fact that classifications based on the notion of “dialects” may also involve issues of valuation (SINGH, R. 1995: 4): ← 43 | 44 →

A particular dialect establishes itself as a language (= standard dialect) through socio-political means, and the task is normally accomplished by encouraging, if that is the right word, feelings of inferiority amongst speakers of other dialects (…).

This may even lead to the notion that the “dialects” are corruptions which developed in the course of time through the degeneration of a former pristine form, in this case Khari Boli Hindi.125

44. Such unease seems also to have influenced official stances, as evinced in the terminology used for the decentennial census, the last of which was in 2011. This utilises a self-estimation by the individual speaker as to what his or her “mother-tongue” is. This is, however, not the same as the view of many socio-linguists that, with regard to the classification of a certain speech form as a “language,” or as the “dialect” of some language, “the decisive role in this is played by the self-assessment of the speakers.”126 For what is meant by the specification of the Indian census is that the speakers are asked how they name what they speak.127 The classification as such is, however, undertaken by the ‘authorities,’128 so that basically the system of classification referred to in §§ 40–43 remains intact.129 ← 44 | 45 →

Quite apart from the contentious issue of the significance and validity of any census data on language in general,130 and of the problem of defining the term mother tongue131 and differentiating this adequately from home language,132 this mode of operation cannot do justice to actual bilingual and multilingual situations and usages as they are common both in and outside the home in India, as they force the respondents to make monolingual choices.133 On top of this there is the problem of actual or alleged slanted specifications and questions which may lead in certain preordained directions.

In view of all this, it is unsurprising that census language data, and particularly the data for Hindi as the area in which the most problems can a priori be ex ← 45 | 46 → pected to arise due to the complexities detailed above, and in actual fact do seem to arise, have been called into question and associated with manipulation.134

45. Matters are complicated by the fact that the relevant discourse is multilingual, and that the terminology in other languages, in this case particularly Hindi, is not necessarily fully equivalent to the English terminology.135 For example, for the semantic range of dialect in English two different Hindi terms are in use, bolī and upbhāā, even though they can be differentiated in English, for instance by translating the former as “speech” and the latter as “dialect.”136 However, when ŚARMĀ, R. 1992: 20 says that those holding the bolīs of the Hindi region to be bhāās err,137 then bolī seems to take up the semantic field of dialect. On the other hand, when Maithili was officially declared an independent language in 2003, the English language newspapers reported a member of parliament as saying in Hindi that Maithili would nevertheless still remain a bolī, and not be a bhāā; this was seemingly so difficult to reproduce adequately that both “Boli” and “Bhasha” were retained in the English reports.138

A further example is the following (KUMĀR, A. 2009: 33, translated from the original Hindi):

At the time of the coming of the East India Company to India there were many regional languages (āclik bhāāe) [like] Sindhi, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Bangru, Kannauji, Bundeli, Bagheli, Bhojpuri, Avadhi, Braj etc., but it is a matter of amaze ← 46 | 47 → ment that no one language (bhāā) among these was the link language (sapark bhāā) in the Mughal Empire of that time. The link language of the enormous Mughal Empire was ‘Hindustani,’ which was Arabo-Persian mixed Khari Boli Hindi.139

The Hindi terms here (of which the English translations given are tentative and maybe inaccurate) clash with the Indian census’s subsumption under the “language” Hindi of most of the “regional languages” above, and the independent “language” status of the others. And the confusion is heightened when basically non-linguistic terms—be these English, Hindi or of some other language—with unclear or contested meanings are additionally introduced,140 as is the case with āclik (āñclik) “regional” here, since some of these “regional languages” mentioned were well-established pan-regional literary languages of those times.

46. Classificatory confusion is also evident in the terminology used by bodies which have official character, inasmuch as entities which are subsumed under Hindi by the census, are accorded the status of “language” or bhāā side by side with Hindi. Examples are the status of Chhattisgarhi as an additional official language in Chhattisgarh since 2007, the recognition since 1966 of an independent Maithili and since 1975 of an independent Rajasthani by the Sahitya Akademi, the clear differentiation of Kumauni, as a bhāā, from Hindi in a publication of the Uttar Pradesh Hindi Institute (Uttar Pradeś Hindī Sasthān) (PĀEYA, T. 1977: 8). In Bihar, Maithili was even before its official recognition as an independent language in 2003 the subject of university study, also in own departments, and even PhD dissertations were written in it. A work in Hindi on the origin and development of Haryanvi written by the language commissioner of Rohtak District, Haryana (ŚARMĀ, N. 1968), calls Haryanvi a bhāā through-out,141 and differentiates it both from Khari Boli and from Hindi/Hindustani.

47. Obviously, various terminology and semantics used by the participants in a discourse or debate cannot but further confusion. It is, thus, unsurprising that the large synchronic and diachronic spread of the application of the term “Hindi” has caused, and continues to cause, problems. A clear reference to such problems was made already in 1880 by A.F. Rudolf Hoernle (HOERNLE 1880: I–II) ← 47 | 48 →

H. [= Hindí] is commonly said to be spoken over an area of more than 248000 square miles and to be the language of between 60 and 70 millions or fully ¼ of the inhabitants of India. This statement is true only in a very limited and special sense. It is true if by H. we understand the literary or High-Hindí (including under this term Hindústání or Urdú); but it is quite incorrect if it be understood to imply that only one language is spoken generally by the people inhabiting this area. It is, a priori, extremely improbable and contrary to general experience that one and the same language should be spoken by such large numbers of people over a tract of country so widely extended. As a matter of fact, two entirely different languages are spoken in the so-called Hindí area; one in the western, the other in the eastern half. For the sake of convenience, these two languages will be called in this treatise Western Hindí and Eastern Hindí; but the terms are not altogether good ones, as they give too much of an impression that Western and Eastern Hindí are merely two different dialects of the same (Hindí) language. In reality, they are as distinct from one another, as B. [= Bangálí] in the east and P. [= Panjábí] in the west are supposed to be distinct from what is commonly called Hindí. Indeed the likeness between E. H. and B. is much closer that between E. H. and W. H.; and on the other hand, the affinity between W. H. and P. is much greater that between W. H. and E. H. In short W. H. and E. H. have as much right to be classed as distinct languages rather than different dialects, as P., H., and B.

The confusion due to “Hindi” having different connotations has since Hoernle’s time not diminished, but increased due to the increase of content. Fortunately, one of the oldest usages, namely in the sense of “Indian,”142 seems today not to play a role,143 though it might well have influenced the nationalist discourse.144 But even so, the multitude of usages and semantic ranges, albeit having the potential to be flexibly used in different ways and contexts to further individual arguments,145 on the whole cannot but confuse, and often bewilder.146

48. All this shows the appropriatness of the following (KAVIRAJ 2010: 159): ← 48 | 49 →

The potential mobilization for Hindi as a ‘national’ language which would compulsorily replace English, and make India look more like a unilingual European nation-state, failed to gather momentum because it was hard to decide which kind of Hindi would enjoy these privileges of universal aggrandisement.

Not only is the term “Hindi” itself, but the whole terminology associated with it, and the deliminations associated with these, anything but unambiguous.147 As Kapil Kapoor points out (KAPOOR 1994: 100):

The designating term Hindi, evidently polyvalent, poses problems of identifying its referent uniquely and absolutely. This is no doubt as true of Hindi as it is of the concept of ‘language’ itself, and therefore, one of the ways we could approach the multivalent semantics of Hindi would be through the defining frames of language itself.

In the context of political and public discourse, often polemical, such an approach is, however, probably doomed already at the outset, unless it forms the basis on which authoritative administrative measures may be taken. In actual fact, and on the contrary, the aim is mostly confused with the starting point.148

49. Unfortunately, far from being helpful in this regard by giving clear categories and delimitations, the supreme authority in India, namely the Constitution, only complicates matters even more. Indeed, it is surprising how a document so thorough and complicated as the Indian Constitution149 is at the same time so vague when it comes to terms which are fundamental, thus paving the way for nearly continuous contention in the political, social, judicial and administrative arenas, with results too well known to need comment here. Examples of such vague terms are “Hindu,”150 “caste” and “tribe” (the latter two not even clearly differentiated from each other);151 “Hindi” is another.152 ← 49 | 50 →

Hindi appears in the Constitution in articles 120, 210, 343–346, 348, 351 and 394A. Nowhere is it defined; the naming of the script to be employed does not help in defining Hindi linguistically. The matter is made even more complicated by article 351 (“Directive for development of the Hindi language”) stating:

It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.153

The article, called “a curious piece, which attempts to combine so many things in its concept of Hindi that it leaves a wide scope for conflicting interpretations” (DAS GUPTA 1970: 138), introduces “Hindustani” without defining this. Though supposedly this was a concession to those who wanted “Hindustani” in the Gandhian sense (cf. § 27 above)—an unambiguous definition of which too is lacking —the Constitution does not say so, so that it remains unclear what sort of language is, actually, meant. The situation is complicated by the fact that Hindustani, which Alok Rai calls a “ghost” (RAI 2005), has, after having had independent language status beside Hindi and Urdu in early censuses of independent India, progressively vanished, and now does not even figure as a “mother tongue.”154

Further, article 351 uses an ambiguous formulation: “in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule.” Does this refer to Hindustani and all the languages of the Schedule, or to languages of the Schedule other than Hindustani? In the latter case, since Hindustani itself is not a part of the Schedule, the question would arise as to what in the Schedule could be referred to here: could it be Hindi or Urdu, or was Hindustani meant to be included, but dropped? If, however, the former is the valid interpretation, then one would, though not having to look for Hindustani in the Eighth Schedule, nevertheless have to grapple with the problem of Hindi of the Eighth Schedule being ← 50 | 51 → one of the languages that is to enrich Hindi according to article 351. One outcome of this problem is the debate mentioned in § 30 above.

50. From this overview it appears that problems with regard to Hindi seemed preordained from the very beginning, not only, but particularly due to the uncertainty as to what this entity actually is. And matters will probably become even more problematic. Since in 2003 Maithili attained the status of an independent language on inclusion in the Eighth Schedule of the Constituion,155 the pressure to accord other languages at present subsumed under Hindi the same status has been growing. Of special interest in this regard is the official Nepalese recognition as independent languages of various speech forms subsumed under Hindi in India. Since the India-Nepal border region is a unified socio-economic and cultural area in which non-Khari Boli languages dominate, the strong position of these in Nepal, especially of Bhojpuri, Avadhi and Maithili, is sure to have repercussions in India (cf. LAL 2002: 106–108). However, though they may be strongest in this area, pressures on the cohesion of the present entity “Hindi” are strong in other parts of India too. It therefore seems imminent that either individual states or the central government will soon be unable to withstand the pressures to recognise more independent languages and place them on a par with Hindi.156 And should this dam break, the tide cannot be turned back.

The official loss of large numbers of postulated speakers could not but severely impede upholding the present status of Hindi by the argument of numbers. Further, it would most probably lead to a critical review of cultural and ethnic certainties, as major portions of Hindi literature could no longer be “Hindi” either. Entrenched power and other structures would suffer, too.

Some fear such a development, others hope for it,157 some of these even holding that a full-fledged blooming of what they see as the actual languages of the so-called “Hindi region,” with their own literatures, would ultimately aid the development of Hindi (e.g. NARULA 1976: 85, 106, 124–132). The whole ques ← 51 | 52 → tion of the status and functions of Hindi in India might even have to be debated again—hopefully with clearer conceptions of what is being debated.

51. However, irrespective of any future debate on these lines or not, there is a new development which it will be progressively less possible to ignore. Largely unknown to the general public, the norms of the International Organization for Standardization on languages are steadily gaining acceptance. The relevant norm, ISO 639, applies to South Asian languages too.158 Most of the languages at present officially subsumed under Hindi in India have separate language status according to ISO 639. Moreover, Hindi has not been accorded the status of a macrolanguage.159 This implies non-acceptance of the claim that other speech forms which ISO 639 classifies as languages can in certain situations be subsumed under the label of Hindi.

ISO standards can, of course, be challenged, and also changed, but doing so requires an international debate whose parameters cannot be set by national governments. As the ISO 639 standard enters more and more into the public domain, it will increasingly impinge not only on the international status and aspirations of Hindi, but most probably also on domestic Indian debates on these. It thus could well be that ISO 639 will play a major role in any, and maybe even force a, new debate on what Hindi stands for and is.

52. The struggle to define what is (and is not) Hindi is an ongoing one, and an end does not seem in sight.160


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1All names referred to in this article are in the anglicised form.

2Both quotations are from ‘Ye deśe bahu dharma bahu bhāā’ (1962), reprinted in RĀ 1994: 238–248; the two quotations appear on pp. 243 and 240 respectively. The own ideas of BHAĀCĀRYA 1990 expressed in the extract above echo those of Annada Shankar Ray (1904–2002) as found in a number of his essays.

3That is also true of the first statement of Annada Shankar Ray quoted above (“A multilingual country will become many states,” in the original: bahubhāī deś bahu rāra habe); in the original context this refers to the probable outcome if one single language is made the national language, alienating the speakers of all the other languages.

4Cf. HAARMANN 1986: 257–263, particularly pp. 261–262 pointing out that “ecological settings reveal a variety of conditions in which language plays a minor (not a crucial) role in the shaping of ethnic identity, or even has no part in ethnic processes.”

5For an ancient and pertinent example cf. BECKMAN 2013: 203: “(…) most of the residents of central Anatolia during the Late Bronze Age, although belonging to diverse ethnic groups and speaking several—sometimes unrelated—tongues, were »men of Hatti« (LÚ.MEŠ URUatti), the people we today call »Hittites«.”

6Cf., e.g., ELFENBEIN 1982: 77: “(…) in the same family the father will speak to one son in Brahui, to another in Balochi; sons will speak Balochi to their father but Brahui to their mother, or vice versa; a conversation between several persons can take place quite indifferently in both languages at the same time; the leading families of sardars use Balochi to one another but Brahui to members of other families; the Khans of the Brahui Confederation, centred on Kalat since the 17th century, always referred to themselves as ‘Khan-i Baloch;’ and so on.” This is, needless to say, just one example; similar group-internal linguistic pluralism is found in various parts of South Asia to this day.

7See also the discussion on this statement in JONES 1997: 58–59.

8See, e.g., KHUBCHANDANI 1997: 78–103.

9Our focus here is on the spatial phenomenon being explained as such, not on the references to ketra- and region. Actually, the meaning attributed to Sanskrit ketra- might be considered apodictic; at least no in-depth contextualised semantic investigation of documented usage is referred to. One is thus led to wonder about the semantics of ketra- in, for instance, the name Kuruketra as both the locus of the Mahābhārata battle and as the landscape inhabited by the Kurus, as well as of New Indo-Aryan derivatives such as khet (found in several languages). In effect, the reference to the Sanskrit term needlessly complicates the matter, and should perhaps be disregarded. It may also be noted how the critique of region is carefully hedged to refer not to this concept as such, but to the “modern western model;” indeed, from a historical point of view such a critique would be problematic. However, even the modern concept of region has been described as multifarious, and includes the “mythic,” in which region is, though referring to concrete space, taken to be “a mental construct,” a “landscape of the mind” (FRANCIS 2004: 37–39). Here too in-depth investigation seems called for. In any case, apart from serving to take a swipe at ‘Western’ thought, the mention of region too (also in KHUBCHANDANI 1997: 81–82) serves no discernible purpose with regard to the central argument.

10See also HROCH 1994: 6–7 (p. 6: “Too many current theories of »nationalism« ignore the fact that language difference had been perceived to be a criterion of diversity since the Early Middle Ages”), 21.

11“Certainly, language may act as an important dimension of ethnic identity, especially in situations where an ethnic group possesses few highly distinctive physical indicia (…). On the other hand, language can just as often be irrelevant for an ethnic community. Geary has noted that language is at best a fluid index of ethnicity in Medieval Europe (…)” (HALL 2000: 21–22). “Thus, although language has been considered by some as the single most important component of ethnic identity, its importance clearly varies with the particular situation and is minimal for some groups. The association between language and identity depends on the social context pertinent to the language groups in question” (LIEBKIND 2001: 144).

12“Cultural nation” translates the difficult German term Kulturnation.

13The concept of the “speech community” as distinct from the “language community” has been continuously modified, the latest influential modification being by Michael Silverstein, as explained, e.g., in SILVERSTEIN 1998: 406–408. Note that Silverstein’s distinction between language and speech is not synonymous with Ferdinand de Saussure’s distinction between langue and parole, though Saussurian influence can easily be discerned.

14Although Kaviraj does not recur to the distinction between “language community” and “speech community” referred to above, and therefore uses the terms interchangeably, this does not impinge upon the phenomenon he is describing.

15Cf. also KAVIRAJ 2010: 98–99: “It must be recognized that although in many parts of India vernacular languages may have originated as early as the tenth century, regional political identity centred on a language is a relatively recent phenomenon.” In this regard, India was not unique in South Asia; cf. COPERAHEWA 2012: 891: “The politicization of Sinhala language-loyalty laid the foundations for the idea of Sinhala as the ‘national language’ of the Sinhalese nation,” which, as is known, translated into the idea of Sinhalese as the, and the only, such language for Sri Lanka.

16‘A Standard Character for Indian Languages,’ reprinted in TILAK 1919: 27–34. The passage quoted here is from pp. 27–28.

17“One nation, one language, is certainly not a swadeshi but a videshi idea” (OOMMEN 2005: 147).

18It might be interesting to speculate what the outcome would have been if the relevant debate had been conducted not in English, but in German, for Ein Staat, ein Volk, eine Sprache would, in the period following the 1930s, probably have been too reminiscent of the motto Ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Führer of the Third Reich to escape the opprobrium of appertaining to a similar ideology.

19Cf., e.g., DAS GUPTA 1970: 48–49.

20See article 5 of the Intermin Constitution of 2007. Nepali, one of the national languages, is designated the official language. English, of course, has not played the historical role in Nepal that it played in India.

21The term used is noteworthy, as it is not ra kī bhāā (“language of the state”), which, as KASAL 1991: 41 points out, has a different meaning. On the problem of whether “state” or “nation” is denoted by ra, see note 47 below.

22Though the specific situation of the nationalist movement precluded opting for English, it might not be amiss to point to a study that has comparatively examined the socio-economic development of multilingual countries of the Greater Mekong subregion in which one autochthonous language has been adopted as the national or official language to the exclusion of other autochthonous languages, and various African countries in which the erstwhile colonial language has been adopted for the same purpose (DJITÉ 2011). The findings are that both language policies are reminiscent of the colonial period, irrespective of whether the dominant language is autochthonous or not, marginalising those from other language backgrounds (DJITÉ 2011: 50). Even more intriguingly, an autochthonous national or official language has not led to any improvement in socio-economic indicators in the respective countries better than in those countries with an erstwhile colonial language in the same function (DJITÉ 2011: 50–51).

23RĀ 1994: 251, in an essay written on the 26th of January 1965 (‘Chābbiśe jānuārīr praśna’), writes (translated from the original Bengali): “In the history of India empires have often arisen, often fallen apart. But a ‘nation’ has not appeared before this. This here is the first. Our acquaintance with this newborn is of only seventeen years.”

24KAVIRAJ 2010: “Indianness, along with other attributes and entities of the social world, is also a historical construct” (p. 181). “An India internally defined, an India of a national community, simply did not exist before the nineteenth century” (p. 184). In an interesting essay, HARDER 2004 portrays the formation process of this “India” in the terms of the establishment of a club.

25Cf., e.g., KAVIRAJ 2010: 257: “I have argued in a study of Bankimchandra that this generation decided quite early that ‘we’ should oppose British rule, but it took them some time to settle down to a common understanding of what this ‘we’ represented.”

26Both these terms have been much discussed, and also contested; for a preliminary overview and critique see, e.g., YOSHINO 1995: 51–53.

27KAVIRAJ 2010: 183 points out: “Interestingly, the British could write ‘histories of India’ much more unproblematically than their Indian imitators, for they wrote of an India that was externally defined, a territory contingently unified by political expansion. To define the boundaries of British India was a simple operation; this merely required looking at the latest map of British annexations. By contrast, the India that Nehru so painstakingly discovered was an India more difficult to define, for the nationalists he represented sought to demarcate its boundaries by a more elusive internal principle.”

28“A nation without history is an imbecile one” (KHAN 1991: 13). Cf. also DALMIA 2010: 36: “Political and linguistic nationalism both suggest that the origins of the motherland and mother tongue are so hoary that they are beyond dispute.”

29The problem is similar to that which, according to Hans Harder, Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay had to face while formulating his concept of dharma, namely that “his dharma is an a priori construction. Bakim was in the contradictory situation that while moving towards a goal or a demonstrandum, he had to claim that this goal had already been reached long ago, i.e. that it was already a demonstratum” (HARDER 2001: 238).

30The matter is actually more complicated. For “British India” comprised only about 60% of South Asia, the rest consisting of approximately 675 “princely” or “native” states; both together gave “India” as defined in the Interpretation Act of 1889 (cf., e.g., CHAUDHARY/CHAUDHARY 2009: 184). Even though usually “British India” is mostly used in the sense of “India” of the Interpretation Act, the distinction should be kept in mind.

31What identity actually refers to cannot be discussed here; cf. ESLER 2003: 19: “»identity« has become something of a »plastic word,« rarely defined and dangerously elastic.”

32“The foundational concept is that of difference as constituting identity, since something only is to the extent that it is distinguished from something else” (ESLER 2003: 19). “Barth recognises that ethnic identity is ‘malleable’ (…). And such an observation gives us a clue about the role differentness plays in the make up of identity, for who we are and how we recognise ourselves and others is closely related not only to what (we think) we are, but what we say that we are not” (NEBREDA 2011: 43). Cf. MAMDANI 2010 on the—in modern times extremely bloody—relationship between Hutus and Tutsis: “A careful review of the history of the Rwandan state reveals that Hutu and Tutsi are bipolar identities reproduced by a form of the state that institutionalized them as such; there cannot be one without the other” (p. 447); “Those who insist that the Hutu and the Tutsi are separate ethnic or cultural groups should ponder one fact: the identity Hutu-Tutsi is bipolar. Neither can exist in isolation” (p. 452). See also JONES 2009: 326–327.

33Paul R. Brass holds “that there are benign and malignant forms of the search for self-respect through group identity, but that all such movements have the potential for disparagement of, and violence towards, the other” (BRASS 2004: 370).

34Cf. also CHATURVEDI 2001.

35On this see, e.g., FISCHER-TINÉ 2003, particularly pp. 308–328. Cf. also DAS GUPTA 1970: 191.

36Cf. on the beginnings of this process, e.g., TRAUTMANN 2006. On the often overlooked role German missionaries played see, e.g., NEHRING 2002.

37See on this also SINGH, P. 1999: 261–264.

38The proximity to Sanskrit as a significant socio-linguistic argument can also surface in other, quite unexpected surroundings, as, e.g., in connection with identity formation in Bangladesh today: “Linguists generally agree that Bengali is the oldest modern Indo-European language and therefore is most closely related to Sanskrit” (UDDIN 2006: 7).

39The last line reveals that stressing close links to Sanskrit also seems to be a means of compensating for the feeling of being looked down upon. Cf. in this context DHAR 1993: 423–424 on “the inherent inferiority of Hindi as a language compared with languages of the South or such languages as Bengali, Oriya and Assamese.”

40Suniti Kumar Chatterji vehemently opposed this very Sanskritisation, holding it responsible for Bengali’s weakness in contrast to Hindi’s strength, though he regretfully adds that Hindi had begun to emulate the Bengali development (CAOPĀDHYĀ 1989: 10–11).

41Attention may be drawn already to ‘Bharatendu’ Harishchandra (1850–1885), whose being influenced by the Bengal Renaissance is known, who “saw his first Bengali play in Calcutta and began to learn Bengali, which made available to him a wealth of new ideas and literature” (DALMIA 1997: 127), and who also seems to have been deeply involved not only on the emotional, but also on the literary plane with his literarily active Bengali mistress, the relationship with whom was lifelong after its inception (DALMIA 1997: 129).

42Cf. on this characterisation, also by non-Bengalis, e.g., ORSINI 2002: 4, 169.

43John Beames (1837–1902), in his grammar of 1872–1879, called Hindi, Marathi and Bengali the three principal languages of India. However, he regarded Hindi as the superior (BEAMES 1970: 31), particularly because of the perceived paucity of Sanskrit loanwords in this, which to him went hand in hand with a “change from a synthetical to an analytical state” (BEAMES 1970: 48). Beames’ personal estimation of language may be garnered from the following: “There is a flavour of wheaten flour and a reek of cottage smoke about Panjabi and Sindhi, which is infinitely more natural and captivating than anything which the hide-bound Pandit-ridden languages of the eastern part of India can show us” (BEAMES 1970: 51). On script, however, he had different views: “The Bengali is the most elegant and easiest to write of all the Indian alphabets” (p. 62); “(…) the Oiya character (…) is of all Indian characters the ugliest, clumsiest and most cumbrous” (p. 62). Similar statements by various persons in favour of or against individual languages and scripts have throughout characterised relevant debates, and continue to do so. As to Beames’ favouring of rustic seeming naturalness in a language, this is reminiscent of the ideas of Samuel W. Fallon (1817–1880), on whom see DÉSOULIÈRES 2003.

44Rabindranath Thakur’s (Tagore’s) long song Janagaamana, only whose first few lines are India’s national anthem, is in Bengali, though; government sources rarely mention this. India’s “national song” Vande mātaram, by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, is in Sanskrit with an admixture of Bengali in the second verse, the latter too rarely mentioned.

45See especially KUMAR 2013: 1716–1721, 1741–1743; KUMĀR, M. 1992b: 2–5, 24–27; RAI 2002: 53–56, also PATEL 2011: 154–155; MAJUMDĀR 1987: 162–163; KING 1994: 72; GUPT 1989: 223–225. There were, of course, other factors too. A very intriguing rejection of Bengali has been furnished by the Hindi poet Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala,’ who refuted the claims of Bengali on the grounds that Bengalis, their language and their literature are effeminate (PAUWELS 2001: 456–459, 480), in contrast to Hindi’s masculinity (PAUWELS 2001: 459); cf. in this regard the characterisation given by a renowned Bengali scholar: “Hindustani can be terse, it can be elaborate. It is a vigorous manly speech: a mardānī zabān, or purukh-kī bōlī, a tongue fit for men, as it has been described by some of its speakers and admirers” (CHATTERJI 1969: 147). Interestingly, Tripathi also called Bengalis “un-Aryan” and “Mongolian” (PAUWELS 2001: 458); today, the supposed non-Aryan character of Bengal, Bengali and Bengalis is regarded as a positive factor by one strand of Bengali nationalism in both India and Bangladesh (see DAS 2002).

46On the terms “official language” and “national language” cf. BARBOUR 2004. “In a multilingual society the distinction between national and official language is of major significance. It is not simply a distinction of tactful usage” (DAS GUPTA 1970: 131 note 11). Supporters of Hindi were aware of this: according to the ‘Bhūmikā’ (Foreword) of PRASĀD 1988, as well as pp. 5–6, the official language (rājbhāā) designates the language of administration, not of the populace, whereas the national language (rabhāā) is that of the populace that makes up the state (p. 5: a “lingua franca,” a refined language used in the whole or most of the country, understood by all or most of the populace); this clearly aims to differentiate between a foreign rulers’ language (English), and the language of the indigenous, previously ruled people, which would make it imperative that Hindi, seen here as the language of the populace, be not merely the rājbhāā, but the rabhāā.

47Interestingly, there has hardly been any discussion on whether rabhāā is an equivalent of “national language,” or, rather, of “state language,” which latter would somewhat defuse the problem of nationalism. The reason might be that Indian political terminology uses “state” mostly not for the whole, but for the parts (the provinces). There are thus few discussions on language in India taking the conceptual differences between “nation” and “state” into account (exceptions are, e.g., SHARMA, R. 2006 and APPADURAI 2006), discussions which would, willy-nilly, also have to tackle the question of whether India is actually a nation-state, or a state of nations (cf. OOMMEN 2005: 181–182, cited in § 6).

48To many, it was, and maybe still is, incomprehensible. Cf., e.g., NĀRĀYA 1987: 34 (translated from the original Hindi): “The national importance of Hindi cannot decrease through Hindi-opposition. The wise populace of the South understands this matter very well, [namely] that Hindi is the language of the soul of independent India, and its participation in the prospective determination (bhāvya niray) of the state is unavoidable.” In this view, opposition to Hindi cannot but be opposition to India.

49Cf., e.g., ANNAMALAI 2010: 223–224.

50E.g. in the Modern Review of July 1948 by Jatindra Mohan Datta (reprinted as DATTA 2006), who also pointedly asks: “Are the Hindi-speaking people more patriotic than the non-Hindi-speaking ones?” (DATTA 2006: 161).

51ROCHER 1968: 45–46; BHAĀCĀRYA 1990: 41; RAMASWAMY 1999: 343.

52Such characterisations are still common today, as any search of the internet with relevant keywords will easily show. The optimism of LELYVELD 2001: 74–75, that “the grand disputes about language have largely died down,” seems, therefore, to be misplaced as regards Hindi in opposition not to English, but to other South Asian languages.

53ROCHER 1968: 49 cites a member of parliament as saying: “Formerly, we were slaves of the English-speaking people, now we shall be slaves of the Hindi-speaking people.”

54See, e.g., DALMIA 2007; SIX 2006; PANDEY 2006: 201–232; DAS GUPTA 1970: 120, 132, 218. The irony is that, as RĀ 1994: 241 mischievously points out in the essay mentioned in note 2, in “Hind-Hindu-Hindi” all three words are foreign.

55Cf. also the opinion of MANDAIR 2007: 348: “To propagate Hindi as the national language of the Hindus, it was necessary to enunciate a ONE of Hindi, Hindi as ONE, and the Hindus as the subject of the enunciation ‘I am Hindu,’ in which the previously disparate ‘I’ of enunciation and ‘I’ of existence were unified.”

56Found in several of the author’s publications (also in OOMMEN 2003: 250), it was probably first used in 1984.

57SRIVASTAVA 1995: 227 writes on the increasing number of those opting after 1900 for “Nagari-Hindi” as the new “official language” in the United Provinces: “The nexus here between government patronage and language use is too evident to need any comment.” DATTA 2006: 161 snidely suggests (originally in 1948): “For equalising the accidental advantage they are gaining, let the Hindi-speaking people pay, say 10 percent more taxes by way of surcharge, which sum is to be spent among the non-Hindi-speaking peoples for their benefit.” See too KUMARAMANGALAM 1965: 32, 84; ROCHER 1968: 27–28.

58I. Karve and L.M. Khubchandani, in the discussion on DAMLE 1969 (on p. 31), hold that the perception that native speakers of the language use it to gain privileges over others explains part of the antagonism towards Hindi, even by people who know and use the language well. Y.B. Damle points out, though, that privileging through language does not pertain to Hindi alone: “However, in reality it is very difficult for a person belonging to one linguistic group, culture and region to enter into the Government service of another region” (DAMLE 1969: 28).

59An interesting corollary to this latter is the demand to use Hindi as a central clearing house into which other South Asian languages would translate their literary products, forming a common pool from which they would then translate the literary products of other languages; cf., e.g., PĀEYA, C. 1957: 88–89. (Here Hindi is also called the baī bahan “elder sister,” choī bahan “younger sister” being used to refer to each of the other South Asian languages, also referred to—as common in Hindi language publications—as prātīya “peripheral.”) Following OOMMEN 2003: 251, however, this would actually hinder cohesion: “India cannot build an authentic nation-state by building a cultural mainstream reducing the numerous collectivities of the periphery to the status of marginals.”

60One argument for Hindi produced by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the numerical majority of Hindi speakers (cf., e.g., DAS GUPTA 1970: 109–110, also GANDHI 1990: 419, where “the greatness of the Hindi language” is mentioned too). This is significant inasmuch as Gandhi’s thoughts on Hindi as the “national language” to a major extent served as the ideological blueprint for the drive to implement Hindi in pre- and post-independence India (though his later terminological change from “Hindi” to “Hindustani” was disputed and ultimately discarded; cf. DAS GUPTA 1970: 119–123), as is evident already from the excerpts in BROWN 2008: 175–176. For more details see, e.g., DAS GUPTA 1970: 111–112, LELYVELD 2001.

61This characterisation seems widespread, for voicing it is condemned as a ruse to keep English in use within India (ŚARMĀ, R. 1992: 20).

62“Today Hindi still remains a constructed language which can be called the Sanskritised version of the English language” (SRIVASTAVA 2000: 3899).

63Available under <>.

64Such incredibly exact population figures remind one of the following amusing anecdote from colonial India (HUFF 1975: 72): “»When you are a bit older,« a judge in India once told an eager young civil servant, »you will not quote Indian statistics with that assurance. The government are very keen on amassing statistics—they collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But what you must never forget is that every one of those figures comes in the first instance from the chowkydar [village watchman], who just puts down what he damn pleases«.”

65Cf. the online data under <>.

66The language data for the census of 2011 are not yet available.

67It is not possible to be more accurate at this time, although, given the far-reaching administrative and other consequences of the ultimately successful individual effort detailed below, it is highly improbable that there was no influence at all. In any case, the search for a non-autochthonous origin of the idea of a “national language” would make sense if the contention of KHUBCHANDANI 1997: 58 is accurate with regard to autochthonous thought, namely that in “a pluricultural ethos no one variety can be associated with the dominant role of a ‘standard’ language appropriate to all occasions.”

68On the convoluted process by which Gilchrist furthered his ideas pertaining to the “national language,” see STEADMAN-JONES 2007, particularly pp. 33–41.

69STEADMAN-JONES 2007: 70 notes that according to Gilchrist “‘Moors’ does not actually exist beyond the context of the servant-master relationship.”

70Cf., e.g. STEADMAN-JONES 2007: 68.

71Apodictically identified as Urdu by Clark.

72For oe = ū and also u, cf. goennagaar “sinner” on p. 15 of the manuscript, oenth “camel” and koeta/koettha “dog” on p. 17 of the manuscript.

73BODEWITZ 1994–1995: 126 translates this as “‘Hindoestanki boeli’ or ‘Hindoestani’.”

74For the facsimile of the manuscript see <>.

75BODEWITZ 1994–1995: 125–126 remarks quite critically on the characterisation of “Moorish” by BHATIA 1987: 27. For a reply see BHATIA/MACHIDA 2008: 37–38.

76These characterisations of the two “communities” follow DONG 2011: 69 (cf. § 4 above).

77Cf. also RAI 2005: 139–140.

78See, e.g., KING 1989: 184–185; RAI 2002: 65–66; DALMIA 1997: 174–175. Here KING 1989 (giving the date of the conversation as 1847; DALMIA 1997 has 1846) has been followed.

79According to RAI 2002: 66 it is Bhojpuri or “its typical Banarasi variant.” This may well be. However, it should not be overlooked that felt language affiliation does not necessarily follow actual linguistic criteria, as SIMON 1993, working on contemporary Benares, shows. Further, different social groups may, as elsewhere in South Asia, use different speech varieties, as shown also for Benares by SIMON 1993: 264 note 5. One can only speculate what the linguistic situation may have been around 1847, but there was probably more variation. Cf. also George A. Grierson’s remark of 1903 drawn attention to by SIMON 1993: 264 note 10: “The language spoken by the natives of Benares City varies considerably according to the castes of the speakers.”

80MUFTI 2010: 68 comments on this episode that “for the native speaker, the route to the discovery of that which is meant to be properly one’s own is a circuitous one, leading through precisely that which is foreign and alien.”

81“(…) we have the impression that at the moment of independence the choice of Hindi was already a fait accompli due to the simple fact of the prestige of Gandhi, who since long had proclaimed Hindi as the national language” (ROCHER 1968: 12, translated from the original French). Cf. note 60 above.

82This is also evident from the following: “I do not say that the provinces should all give up their own languages and start speaking and writing Hindi. In provincial matters, the provincial languages may be used. But national questions ought to be deliberated in the national language only” (GANDHI 1990: 324; originally in Hindi). For deliberating on “national questions,” particularly in writing, a different language register than that of simple oral communication is needed.

83Cf., e.g., SMITH 2008, also CHATTERJI 1972; SHARMA/THAKUR 2004; RAJYASHREE 1987; RAJYASHREE 1989 (p. 34: “It often happened that when a group of people were asked what language they usually spoke among themselves, an argument would break out as to whether it was Hindi, Urdu, a mixture of Hindi and Marathi, or a broken Hindi. Hence, the names Hindi, Urdu, Bombaiyya Hindi, Dakhani, Broken Hindi were taken by the researcher to refer to the same language”).

84“By the mid-1930’s Gandhi had formulated an idea of Hindi vs. Hindustani as the difference between a literary standard language and a language for oral communication” (LELYVELD 2001: 73). On Gandhi’s “Hindustani” see especially the description of DASGUPTA/SARDESAI 2010: 84–88.

85Even an Assamese work written long after India attained independence emphasises that it is the spoken (kathita) or current (cālu) or market (bājārī) Hindi with its, in contrast to complicated literary Hindi, much simplified grammar which is popular in India (HĀKUR 1989: 79).

86The demand by S.N. Salgarkar in the discussion on L.M. Khubchandani’s paper, that the “true officialese of India should be what Gandhiji called Hindustani, which includes all the versions of Hindustani spoken over India and incorporate[s] various innovations of other languages” (KHUBCHANDANI 1969: 49), is, therefore, unrealistic.

87Appeals for preserving the plurality which characterises oral communication are no substitutes for setting forth policy alternatives which can actually be implemented in practice, while also ensuring functionality in the administrative and other public spheres. The numerous publications drawing attention to and calling for the preservation of plurality seem mostly to avoid such nitty-gritties. A case in point, which may serve as a generic example, is MONTAUT 2005; here it is stated: “A speaker is not defined as a one-language user but as a shifting user of a multi-layered repertoire, each segment being connected with a specific role of the individual within a highly segmented society. Interactional patterns echo that segmentation with fluid adjustments” (p. 95), and this is very well brought out, in great detail. However, all this relates to the sphere of oral communication. The appeals to preserve this plurality do not attempt to look outside this sphere, even though it is particularly outside it that state measures would have to be planned, implemented and subsequently coped with. Though there seems to be awareness of this aspect, since “the necessary standardization and modernization of scheduled (or otherwise recognized) languages” is mentioned (p. 98), this is nowhere followed up.

88Cf. also CHATTERJI 2006: 106: “A rich literature is no great recommendation for a language to be a lingua franca; rather it is the energy of those who use it, and their power to expand and control things.”

89A similar report of the Bombay Text Book Committee is alluded to by K.M. Munshi in MAJUMDAR 1965: 105; it is unclear whether the two organisations mentioned are actually the same or not.

90See, e.g., ROCHER 1968: 29–30. K.M. Munshi (MAJUMDAR 1965: 105) remarked that the Hindi of the Constitution was, in this view, held to be a “bazar Hindustani which was to be made into a literary language for official use in the future,” which vaguely echoes the views of Suniti Kumar Chatterji in § 29 above.

91Cf., e.g., KHUBCHANDANI 1997: 123; BARUA 2001: 129; on “Bharati” see also MAJUMDAR 1965: 99, 109–110, 137–138.

92The role of the colonial linguists and administration in this regard cannot, of course, be overlooked. As TIVĀRĪ 1991: 12 points out, “if the English had not happened to come in between, today these two languages would be one” (translated from the original Hindi).

93LELYVELD 1994: 193, though drawing express attention to the singular status of Urdu as a “Muslim” language, unfortunately does not proceed to ask this question. Why the same situation did not pertain with regard to other languages is a matter of speculation. Is it because the script used was and is usually the same for all varieties? Cf. the case of Bengali, for which the Bible Society of India even distributes two Bibles, the Pabitra bāibel in so-called Standard Bengali and the Iñjil śarīph in so-called Mussalmani Bengali, both in the Bengali script; it is highly improbable that anyone would claim that the language of these works represents not two different styles or varieties of the same language, but two quite different languages. But even the use of the Arabic script seems not to have had the same effect. Thus Arwi, written in a variety of the Arabic script (cf., e.g., “Arwi (Arabic-Tamil)—An Introduction” in TSCHACHER 2001: 1–72), seems not to have been seen as anything else than a variety of Tamil, and today the Arabic script has mostly been replaced by the Tamil script anyway. Even where, as in the case of Muslim-majority Punjabi, the Arabic script (in the form of Shahmukhi) is the majority script, there are no “Muslim” and “non-Muslim” varieties (with or without different scripts) having the status of separate languages.

94On this process see particularly RAHMAN 2011 and KING 1994, also EVERAERT 2010: 231–278; DAS GUPTA 1970: 50.

95ŚARMĀ, R. 1989: 137–138 (ironically referring to contrarian views by calling such appropriation wrongful, and mockingly adding that it would have been better if these literatures had all been translated into Hindi) points out, though, that traditionally people were not concerned with language questions, and could absorb these literatures (in verse) regardless of the language used. Cf. on this § 38 below.

96On this cf., e.g., LOTHSPEICH 2013: 1644–1647.

97Cf. on this assumed Sanskrit connection, e.g., RAI 2002: 77–78.; KING 1989: 200–202, and § 12 above. An official petition of 1875 by “residents of Patna and Bhagalpur” calls Hindi “a branch of Sanskrit, recognized by the principal English and German scholars as the best language in the world and the source of all other languages” (KING 1994: 72).

98“But Kaithi was unacceptable to the Nagari/Hindi propagandists. It appears that there were some crucial disqualifications that attached to Kaithi. It was perceived to have some association with Hindustani rather than with Sanskrit” (RAI 2002: 52). “Certainly Kaithi lacked the auspicious association with Sanskrit possessed by Nagari; rejecting Kaithi meant indirectly affirming Hindi’s close connection with Sanskrit. To Hindi supporters, rejecting Kaithi also meant separating Hindi and Nagari from a more popular but lower level of culture” (KING 1989: 193). See also KUMAR 2013: 1740–1744; KING 1994: 67, 181.

99Whereas traditionally, nearly all indigenous South Asian scripts were used for reproducing Sanskrit.

100BHATIA/MACHIDA 2008: 21: “[David] Mills pointed out [in 1743] that scripts such as Devanagaram were employed by Brahmins as a secret code to gain social influence and intellectual supremacy over the masses.”

101Script seems also to be an important factor for the subsumption or non-subsumption under “Hindi.” Gujarati, represented as a rule in an own script, has escaped being subsumed, as also Punjabi due to the Sikhs’ use of the Gurmukhi script. The various tongues of Rajasthan, however, even though linguistically close to Gujarati, were and continue to be classified as Hindi. This would answer the query of GOPAL 1966: 52: “If, as Grierson held, ‘Gujarati merges naturally and without difficulty’ into Marwari, and if Marwari is, in practice, just a dialect of Hindi, how can Gujarati be treated as a distant relation?” But note also that Grierson’s “literary Hindustan” described in § 37 does not include Gujarat (see SARMA 2010: 199).

102“Hindi” is used only sporadically.

103According to this, there were, under various names, four varieties of Khari Boli, mixed respectively with (1) Braj, (2) Braj, Rajasthani and Punjabi, (3) Braj, Bhojpuri, Avadhi and other eastern languages and Bengali, and (4) a plethora of loanwords from Sanskrit. It is obvious that this definition is also helpful in subsuming literatures in the languages named, or where language demarcations are not clear, under literature in Khari Boli.

104MĀTHUR 1990: (20) also calls it a “branch” (śākhā) of Khari Boli.

105See, e.g., RAI 2002: 83–92. Interestingly, Braj was, like Bengali (see note 45 above), characterised as effeminate (cf., e.g., RAI 2002: 94, PAUWELS 2001: 465).

106There have also been attempts to subsume literature in late Indo-Aryan Apabhraśa and Avahaha under “Hindi” literature (criticised by JAIN, D. 1983: 121).

107E.g. by GURU 1990: 476; METTAR 2009: 32.

108This neutral term is used here to translate the terms upbhāā and bhāā (used by GURU 1990: 476) and bolī (used by METTAR 2009: 32). The former can, however, for practical reasons be translated by “dialect” and “language” respectively, the latter by “speech.”

109Published as a journal article in 1888, as a monograph in 1889.

110According to SARMA 2010: 208, “he established a congruence of literary language(s) and space by assigning to a corpus of literary works representing a stratified linguistic group a territory—a corpus of literature that should by and by be equated with the umbrella term ‘Hindi’.”

111Cf. DALMIA 1997: 36–39. MUFTI 2010: 64 holds, with regard particularly to Sanskrit literature, that “the idea that India is a unique national civilisation is first postulated on the terrain of literature, in the very invention of the idea of Indian literature in the course of the philological revolution;” Grierson’s efforts can possibly be viewed in a similar light.

112See on Harishchandra (1850–1885) also note 41 above.

113Cf. note 95 above, and also § 2.

114Were it not for this solution, the demand of the famous poet Sumitranandan Pant (1900–1977) that the national language not be a language of books, but a spoken, living language of the masses, and that this be Khari Boli Hindi (DĪKIT 1983: 22), could not have been made. Interestingly, the reason given by Pant was that Khari Boli Hindi is superior to all other native languages in terms not only of quantity (number of speakers), but also of language quality (simplicity, comprehensibility, ease of pronunciation). Such qualitative arguments are, of course, frequently made by advocates for a language that they themselves have a command of, against other languages of which they do not.

115I.e. as in the case of Serbo-Croatian, now Serbian and Croatian (and Bosnian).

116According to WHELPTON 1997: 58, this also applies to Tharu in Nepal: “Although ‘Tharu’ is shown in the census as Nepal’s fourth largest language and is now one of the languages in which Radio Nepal broadcasts news, (…) some analysts (…) argue that it is not a distinct language but is simply a label for Awadhi, Bhojpuri, or Maithili as spoken by ethnic Tharus. Even more than with other groups of Nepal, Tharus’ won overwhelming (83.2%) acceptance of this label is evidence for the strength of subjective group-identification rather than for purely linguistic difference.”

117The Hindi word usually used is jāti. The term is problematic (cf. on it, e.g., CHATTERJEE 1996, also KAVIRAJ 2010: 107); the translation “nation” here should be seen as tentative.

118Cf. ANNAMALAI 1986: 11: “Extension of use of languages into the public domains is facilitated when there is territorial unification and political consolidation based on the language in question which has given political control to the speakers of the language.”

119Cf. ŚARMĀ, R. 1989b: 51 (translated from the original Hindi): “This matter is very clear now, that those persons who deny the existence of a Hindi nation, and wish to break up the unity of the Hindi language, somewhere or the other also resist India’s unity as a state (rīya ek). The reason is this, that the means for consolidating this unity as a state is Hindi.” That this is a logical conclusion follows from the notion that “for Indian unity the unity of the Hindi speaking populace is essential” (ŚARMĀ, R. 1989a: 125). (On rīya, translated here by “as a state,” and not as “national,” to prevent confusion with jāti as “nation,” cf. also note 47.) See also ŚARMĀ, R. 1989a: 171–172.

120According to ŚARMĀ, R. 1989b: 13, such disputes will cease once the populace has understood the modus of nation-building.

121One may, of course, also point to the quest for normativity which seems to have prevailed in Urdu (cf., e.g., BASHIR 2011: 102–103; DATLA 2013: 115), and postulate that this tradition might still pertain. However, in the Urdu case the quest pertained to attaining and maintaining a standard of the literary language regarded as pure and refined; this can hardly be compared with the Hindi case of subsuming other speech forms.

122Though this issue is different from that regarding the classification of languages along the lines of “official language,” “regional language,” “vernacular language” etc. (cf., e.g., MALLIKARJUN 1986: 6–7), it stands to reason that the two are, ultimately, related.

123The problem is, of course, a general one, and has long been and continues to be debated. This extract was chosen because it is from a publication dealing with issues of Hindi too.

124On the problem of “language” and “dialect” particularly in South Asia see SHAPIRO/SCHIFFMAN 1983: 4–6, 82–83. MANOHARAN 2001: 136–137 has proposed the use of “associate language” for “dialect,” but that would not solve the problem of delimitation, though it might allow the use of such “associate languages” in certain domains hitherto reserved for “languages.”

125Cf., e.g., GOPAL 1966: 60: “As long as education was denied to most people, and their spoken dialects were supposed to be their standard languages, the philologist accepted the corrupted words as constituting the genuine difference between a dialect and Hindi; but when education (through the medium of standard Hindi) expanded, the corrupted words were looked down upon, and what was wrongly believed to be a genuine thing began to disappear into thin air.” For an interesting twist cf. BEG 1996: 60–61, holding that Hindi has developed considerable dialect diversity, and that some of the “varieties or dialects” “are standardized,” Maithili, Avadhi, Bhojpuri and Braj Bhasha being given as examples. In other words, “dialects” or “varieties” of an original “language” have developed, and then in turn been formed into individual standards; the “language” of course is Hindi.

126MATTUSCH 1999: 78, translated from the original German.

127This explains why, under the language Hindi of the 2001 census, we also find “Hindi” (with nearly 258 million speakers) and “Khari Boli” (with nearly 47,700 speakers) among the 49 “mother tongues” (plus “others”) referred to in § 42.

128This is contrary to the demand of MATTUSCH 1999: 78 that, if the speakers classify what they speak as an independent language, that will have to be accepted. Of course, such a stance is problematic too, as shown by the decision of Punjabi Hindus, in an atmosphere of Sikh-Hindu confrontation, to return their language not as “Punjabi,” but as “Hindi” in the censuses of 1951 and 1961, which played no small part in the division of the Punjab (cf., e.g., SHANI 2008: 45–48); subsequent developments included, as is known, the bloody period of the Khalistan movement, some of whose demands centred around the Punjabi language and the Gurmukhi script.

129PATTANAYAK 2003: 23: “In the 1961 census, smaller languages were merged under the labels of bigger languages and, since that time, the government has determined which languages should become the mother tongues of the people.” In view of such positions it is puzzling that the author of a work devoted inter alia to the issue of how Hindi was constituted (DALMIA 1997) blends out dissent when writing elsewhere (DALMIA 2010: 61–62): “Hindi as the people’s language has continued to prosper, (…). The figures of the last census show that 400 million people, or 41 per cent of the present population of India, regard Hindi as their mother tongue.”

130Cf. on this issue, e.g., AREL 2002; BUSCH 2010.

131On the problems associated with the term mother tongue cf., e.g., PATTANAYAK 2003; TULASIEWICZ/ADAMS 1998; GROFF 2006–2007: 19–21; HAMERS/BLANC 2003: 46; JAAWARE 2011: 244; KHUBCHANDANI 1979: 183–184; KHUBCHANDANI 1997: 153–155; MAJUMDĀR 1987: 34–35. Complicating matters, the Official Language Commission in its report of 1956 expressly held that Bhojpuri, Maithili, Rajasthani etc. were mother-tongues different from Hindi (cf. MAJUMDAR 1965: 71–72).

132Though they are not necessarily the same, prevailing language ideologies tend to correlate the “mother tongue” with the actual “home language” and conflate the two (as also done by PATTANAYAK 2003: 25). Thus also the Indian census, whereas the Canadian census, by contrast, dinstinguishes between the two (cf., e.g., DE VRIES 1996: 774). Cf., however, the unclear differentiation in TULASIEWICZ/ADAMS 1998: 7–8. As BAYER 1986: 62 points out: “A terminology is not synonymous with a concept. No amount of creation of terminology will help, if there is no clarity of concept.”

133This is an issue different from that of actual or claimed knowledge of two or more languages which the Indian census asks. However, even censuses that expressly attempt to collect data on bilingualism and multilingualism may be considered problematic, as, e.g., by ROMAINE 2006: 400–401; BEARDSMORE 1986: 87–90. For an illustrative case study of actual complexities cf. SIMON 1993. BHATIA/RITCHIE 2006b: 804 point out “that the language use of a bilingual is not strictly a linguistic matter but is also interwoven with complex factors such as multiple identities, a range of affiliations, and emotive factors.”

134Cf., e.g., KHUBCHANDANI 1979 on the language continuum of northern South Asia, SINGH, U. 1986: 178 on “Bihari” and Maithili, BRASS 2004: 367 on Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magahi and “Kisan,” and SHARMA/LAL 1987: 100 on Sadani/Sadari of Bihar. MAHAPATRA 1986: 212–214 cites, as an example of what he characterises as conscious efforts to define the Hindi area and substantiate its numerical claims, the census of 1971: this showed a decline in the percentage of Hindi speakers (29.65% after 30.39% in 1961), but in a reworking lasting seven years “exactly fifty mother tongues with speaker strength above 10,000 were freshly classified under Hindi to project the number of Hindi at 38.04 percent of the total population” (p. 212 also mentions “285 Hindi mother tongues,” but not in this context). For a general critique see KHUBCHANDANI 1997: 149–163. GROFF 2006–2007: 20–21 draws attention to Jawaharlal Nehru’s insistence that India’s multilinguality is mostly “a figment of the philologist’s and the census commissioner’s mind.”

135This is, of course, a general problem that arises widely when the language of discourse or debate changes. A most telling parallel is the difficulty of conveying the notion of the English term dialect in Chinese, and of the relevant Chinese terms in English; cf. on this MAIR 1991 and GROVES 2008.

136This attempt at differentiation has already been made above, in note 108.

137And that those maintaining that Hindi is an artificial bhāā that has been imposed on Avadhi, Bhojpuri etc. are actually partisans of the retention of English.

138One may speculate whether the underlying assumption, maybe even based on the speakers own speech patterns, might not be one of separate domains for a bhāā and a bolī, i.e. of diglossia (on diglossia see the classic essay of C.A. Ferguson: FERGUSON 1959).

139Cf. in this regard JAIN, D. 1983: 106, 113–116 stating that Khari Boli (differentiated here from the other bhāās today officially subsumed under “Hindi”) was chosen precisely because it had already filled the slot of Apabhraśa as a link language, without any particular regional affiliation. Interestingly, this is taken to be the reason for no old literature developing in Khari Boli, since for that being regionally anchored is considered essential.

140Cf., e.g., the terms cited above in note 122, and in § 14 along with notes 46 and 47.

141Very sporadically upbhāā too is found, e.g. on pp. 1 and 22.

142On the ancient Middle Eastern and European terminology for India, which is relevant in this context, cf. the succinct overview given by KARTTUNEN 1995. (This article has many misprints; fortunately, these concern mostly only the spiritus lenis of Greek words, and thus not much damage is done.)

143Though TIVĀRī 1991: 12 expressly points out this usage.

144Cf. in this context the statement that “Hindi, according to the writer [Madhav Mishra, writing in 1900], included Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi and other languages (as these languages follow some similar linguistic patterns)” (PATEL 2011: 146). This is quite interesting inasmuch as a later author holds that hind and hind were first of all applied not to India, but to the Hindi region (hindī pradeś) (ŚARMĀ, R. 1992: 17), which not only transposes modern notions on “Hindi” into a quite early time, but also bypasses the derivation of the words cited from sindhu-, which obviously would not fit the argument.

145Cf. the use Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay made of the various semantic fields of dharma in his writings (HARDER 2001: 183–185).

146See, e.g., the list of various different meanings of “Hindi” given by TIVĀRī 2004: 63–64.

147KHUBCHANDANI 1997: 136–142 has attempted to describe this situation by employing the concept of fluidity.

148“The reality of a focused reified language is one towards which groups work rather than their inherited starting point, although very often stereotyped as the latter by both laymen and linguists” (LE PAGE 1993: 156).

149This characteristic has led some to speculate on a malign motive: “Making a constitution of this kind was a strange but historically inevitable mixture of giving people unprecedented rights and also keeping them securely out of their reach” (KAVIRAJ 2010: 154). This is also postulated for the provisions regarding languages: “Language thus acted as a necessary process of filtration, or ‘gatekeeping;’ it would filter out inconvenient, extreme, radical, intransigent demands from subaltern social groups from reaching higher bodies” (KAVIRAJ 2010: 153). Whether the imputation of such motives on the makers of the Constitution is indeed warranted is surely a matter calling for debate.

150On the problem of defining “Hindu” see, e.g., ELST 2002; SEN 2007: 21, 23–25, 31; SEN 2010: 1–39.

151Note specially articles 341 and 366(24) of the Constitution subsuming the (undefined) categories “caste,” “race” and “tribe” under “scheduled caste” (but only “tribe” and “tribal community” under “scheduled tribe”). Cf. also JAIN, S. 2004–2005; MARTINI 2008.

152The lack of a definition of Hindi has, of course, already been pointed out by others; cf., e.g., ROCHER 1968: 19–20.

153On the Sanskritisation of Hindi cf. also § 35 above. Sanskritisation was also taken to overcome the rift between indigenous languages due to shared vocabulary: “(…) in spite of the strong plea put forward by certain groups of people in favour of a cosmopolitan and not too much Sanskritised Hindi, (…) Sanskritised Hindi alone can be easily understood in all non-Hindi-speaking areas” (GOVERNMENT OF INDIA 1958: 70).

154In fact, reporting it was even forbidden according to BHATIA/RITCHIE 2006b: 786.

155This seems pre-anticipated in the language classifications of the census of 2001, but actually the data were edited and released at a later date.

156One of the strongest contenders for this new status is, apart from Chhattisgarhi (cf. § 46), probably Bhojpuri (on this cf. SERVAN-SCHREIBER 2001).

157RĀ 1994: 269 (in the essay ‘Ulo dau;’ translated from the original Bengali): “Now the problem is how to make a unilingual state multilingual. Be it today, be it tomorrow, on one or the other day one will have to make the one more than one. There will never be a Hindi state in India.” Cf. (substituting, for India, “national” for “continental,” and “state” for “national”), the notion of the European Union as a state that “will encompass a nation that is much more a cultural configuration (one which promotes continental, national, and local cultures) than a standardized national culture” (LAITIN 2004: 84).

158For the most complete language list see the Ethnologue or SIL International websites.

159“Macrolanguage” designates clusters of closely-related distinct individual languages (two or more) that in certain usage contexts need a single language identity for all. The South Asian macrolanguages recognised by ISO 639 are Baluchi, Dogri, Gondi, Konkani, Lahnda, Marwari, Nepali, Oriya, Pushto and Rajasthani.

160Given the connections between Indian and Irish anti-British nationalism (see, e.g., SILVESTRI 2000), it is not surprising that the effort to establish Hindi as the national language of India was in many ways similar to that to establish Irish as that of Ireland, of which CROWLEY 2006: 33 states: “The fact is that only a major historical undertaking created »the Irish language« and »the Irish language« as it is known today.” Of course, Ireland was not confronted with the same heterogeneity as India was. Also, the opposition of Irish nationalists today to efforts to establish Ulster Scots as a language separate from English or Scots and on a par with (Gaelic) Irish (see CROWLEY 2006) does not correspond to the case of Hindi (as it would have done had Ulster Scots been Celtic and not Germanic), but one does see motivational and conceptual parallels.

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