Hindi is a political hot button, which may backfire for BJP

A medical course to be taught in Hindi needed a few years of preparation and there should have been a separate translation bureau

Union Home Minister Amit Shah

Union Home Minister Amit Shah

Union Home Minister Amit Shah will be launching the first year MBBS Hindi textbooks translated from English on Sunday (October 16).

It has clear political overtones, and it is already sparking controversy south of the Vindhyas with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K.Stalin and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Telangana Minister K T Rama Rao declaring their resistance to imposition of Hindi in the country. The Hindi issue is a classic Diwali firecracker, and the BJP walks stubbornly into the melee.

It needs no proof that Hindi cannot cross the Vindhyas because the southern states as well as the eastern ones like Odisha, West Bengal and Assam will have nothing to do with Hindi. But it remains the grand obsession of Hindi heartland intellectuals of all persuasions, not just that of saffronites. For the BJP, there is an intimate link between Hindi and Hindutva, the latter being part of the BJP/RSS political catechism.

For many, the resistance to Hindi is also a way of resisting BJP and Hindutva. But Hindi remains a contentious issue between the secular Hindiwallahs and secular non-Hindiwallahs too. It is political masala at its useless best.

It has been reported that the first text books in Hindi relate to medical biochemistry, medical physiology, and anatomy, translated from English by 97 government doctors. Of course, this is a ham-handed way of doing things, as clumsy as the November 2016 demonetisation move of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Needs a long preparation

A medical course to be taught in Hindi needed a few years of preparation, and there should have been a separate translation bureau. Secondly, and more importantly, textbooks have to be prepared in Hindi and they should not be translated. And most of the practicing doctors cannot do the job and it cannot be done in a matter of months as has been done in Bhopal. And you cannot just do it for the first-year of the five-year course. There is a glaring and natural paradox that those who know Hindi do not know science, and the scientists, including doctors, are Hindi ignoramuses. And it is no crime. The approach should have been more systematic.

But the hate-filled Hindutva of BJP lacks the intellectual rigour and sophistication needed to implement an idea. What is being done in Hindi should be done in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Bangla, Assamese, Marathi and Gujarati as well.

Send teams to Osmania University to study

Mr Amit Shah who is quite fond of denigrating the rule of the Nizams in erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad – it is an irresistible temptation for Mr Shah and the BJP to play the Hindu-Muslim card – should know that the first institution of higher learning where an Indian language was used as medium of instruction was in Osmania University set up by the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, in 1918, where medicine, engineering, sciences were taught in Urdu, and there was a huge translation bureau to do the job, and that the experiment lasted into the early 1950s.

Or he should depute a team from the Hindi cell in the Union Home Ministry to spend a year in the Osmania University archives to study how the translations were done. And things could be made easy if those Urdu books are re-written in Devnagari script so that much labour can be saved. It could lead to a fruitful integration between Hindi and Urdu.

Why is it not implemented in Gujarat?

It is a matter of curiosity as to why the Hindi project is not being implemented in the home state of Mr Shah and Mr Modi. It would have set a good example of promoting Hindi as a national language. But Mr Shah and his supporters would say that the intention is to promote Hindi in higher education in Hindi-speaking states. But then it should be done simultaneously in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Haryana. The pool of experts gathered from all these states to write textbooks for science courses in the universities would make for a grand experiment.

The BJP governments may allot funds for the promotion of Hindi but they will not be able to produce the language scholars. The RSS volunteers whom they can hope to press into the project may not have the intellectual skills to deal with science subjects and how to present them in Hindi. And there is no quick mechanical way of producing scholars like Rahul Sankrityayan because there is a need for scores of scholars of his caliber to make Hindi the medium for science education at the university level. The BJP leaders, and for that matter, leaders of other political parties, are not capable of handling the subject. So, the BJP can only hope to become a laughingstock.

It is perhaps unfair to expect Mr Shah or Mr Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh or Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh to know that Hindi is a very weak and unevolved language. It is good for literature and even for history, but not yet for the sciences. It is not the fault of the BJP worthies that Hindi is a weak language linguistically speaking. So, Hindi linguists and litterateurs must do something to do linguistic intricacies. He has elections to fight in many states, culminating in the Lok Sabha polls of 2024. And introducing Hindi textbooks for first-year medical students in Madhya Pradesh is part of his election agenda. But these ideological pyrotechnics may not work for the BJP anymore. Mr Modi and Mr Shah may not have tired but there is BJP-fatigue across the country, and much more so in the Hindi heartland. Promoting Hindi to promote Hindutva is in many ways a dead-end.

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