Anatomy of Hindi

August 13, 2008 at 5:51 am 2 comments

Anatomy of Hindi

By Prakash A Raj

The first ever elections of president and vice-president of Nepal took place on July 21. Dr Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepali Congress and Paramanand Jha of Madhesi People’s Rights Forum were elected president and vice-president respectively. Both Madhesis from eastern tarai and both speak Maithili as their mother tongue, which is also spoken across the border in the Indian state of Bihar. While taking oath of their posts few days later, Dr Yadav used Nepali, dressed in daura suruwal and bhadgaunle topi whereas Jha took his oath in Hindi, one of the national languages of India and was dressed in dhoti. There were demonstrations in several places and Jha’s effigy was burnt because he used Hindi instead of Nepali to take his oath. A writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court to invalidate his oath-taking as it was done in Hindi whereas the interim constitution requires that the language of government would be Nepali in devanagari script. On the other hand, the interim constitution also permits the use of “mother tongues”, presumably meaning languages other than Nepali to be used in local government offices.

More than sixty legislators elected in Constituent Assembly (CA) took their oath and speak regularly in Hindi in meetings. They belong to MPRF and other regional parties from the tarai.

Is Hindi spoken in Nepal? According to interim constitution, all “mother tongues” spoken in Nepal are its national languages (Rashtriya Bhasha) as it is a multi-lingual country. Nepali in Devanagari script and derived from Sanskrit is similar to Hindi, also written in the same script. Actually, it is very easy to translate from Hindi to Nepali and vice-versa as it was witnessed during the oath-taking ceremony.

According to 2001 census, Hindi was spoken as a mother tongue by 105,000 people in Nepal which was 0.47 percent of its population. On the other hand, such languages as Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi spoken in the tarai are considered dialects of Hindi in India although India recognized Maithili as a separate language few years ago. Maithili spoken in northern Bihar is spoken as mother tongue by a larger number of people in India than in Nepal.

On the other hand, Hindi instead of Maithili is taught in schools and is used as a language of administration in Maithili speaking areas of Bihar. It is Hindi and not Maithili which is used in local government offices in Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur and in Bihar Legislative Assembly.

Similarly, Bhojpuri spoken in central tarai of Nepal and in western Bihar and eastern UP is not used for official purposes in India. Although the language spoken in Varanasi is Bhojpuri, it is neither taught in schools nor is used in municipality there or in either UP or Bihar legislative assembly. Awadhi language spoken in Lumbini tarai is similar to the language spoken in central UP including Lucknow, Basti and Barabanki.

However, it is not taught in the schools or is used for local governments in Indian cities where it is spoken. It is considered a dialect of Hindi for all practical purposes. The percentage of speakers in Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi in Nepal is 12.3, 7.53 and 2.47 respectively which adds up to 23 percent of the population.

It is estimated that 5.83 percent of population in Nepal speaks Tharu which is considered to be a separate language. On the other hand, many people in the eastern tarai, including Tharus and non-Tharus speak essentially the same language. If this criterion is used then the percentage of Hindi speakers in Nepal would be at least a quarter of the population making it the language second only to Nepali.

Actually, India is a democratic country where the people speaking Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi have chosen to adopt Hindi as their language. If the speakers of Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi in Nepal want to adopt Hindi as their link language, there should be no reason for others to object. As a link language, it is also understood by a very large number of people in Nepal, next only to Nepali. In a federal Nepal, Hindi could be adopted as a link language in eastern tarai.

It is the CPN (Maoist) which made the “autonomous, federal states with right of self-determination” part of its agenda. Can it evade responsibility for secessionist movement in the tarai and elsewhere in the country? The national daily Gorkhapatra which is under Ministry of Communications headed by a Maoist minister has been publishing two pages in different languages spoken in the country daily in its pages.

It has published pages in such languages as Sherpa and Sunuwar whose speakers are less than 25,000 and also Urdu which has 174,000 speakers in the country. This could be a commendable step in view of inclusivity. Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara was seen on Nepal television as saying that nobody spoke Hindi as mother tongue in Nepal. Gorkhapatra has not published anything in Hindi. Is this because of anti-Hindi bias of Maoist leaders? Actually, Nepali as link language developed in Nepal during 240 years rule by the Shah dynasty when it was unified.

King Mahendra popularized its use in the tarai and many migrants from the hills changed the demographic composition there making Nepali as the link language in such districts as Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari on the one hand and in west of Kapilbastu.

However, Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi continue to be spoken in parts of tarai west of Kosi and east of Birganj and in Lumbini. Should those who are not native speakers of those language decide for speakers of Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi whether they should or should not study or use Hindi? Actually, Hindi or Khari Boli similar to that used in written form is used only in western UP around Meerut and Delhi in India.

However, it is now considered language of several states including Himanchal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, UP, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. This is in spite of several dialects and languages spoken in these states. German is spoken not only in Germany but also in Austria and Switzerland.

Similarly, French is spoken in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Canada. More than twenty Latin American countries speak Spanish. What is wrong in admitting that Hindi is also spoken and is one of its major languages in Nepal in addition to India? Whereas the writ petition at the Supreme Court might be entertained and he may be required to take oath in Nepali language, Hindi being the language spoken by a large number of people of Nepal has to be accepted. If someone can take oath in one of many languages of Nepal such as Magar, Tamang or Newari, why not in Hindi?



Entry filed under: Articles.

Students, vice-president and the Madhes agenda Slow-burn in the Tarai

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sujit Kumar Thakur  |  August 16, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    The writing is a real eye opener. Our politicians should be aware of the fact that getting involved in oposing any language or community is simply a communal feeling. If you continue doing the same , communal harmony would certainly be in danger. The present leadership needs to be more responsible and accountable to fellicitate the smooth transition of the nation rather than fuelling ghee in already burning Nepal with their irresponsible statements(Here Mr Krishna Bahadur Mahra).
    I am surprised with the reaction of different students organizations, how agitated they were? Was it love for the nation ? are we mastering in art of burning tyres, vandalising public properties and terrorizing entire nation? When there is a real concern of national interest, nobody seems to be awake but we simply get into all inhuman acts when there is completely no issue. I would like to refer to the sky rocketing market prices, Pradip Nepal and his useless team(all non players) going to Beijing Olympic at the expense of national fund, we seem to be fast asleep. We need to take aggresively these issues rather than concenterating on who spoke in what language or who wore what dress.
    In Nepal, we have thousands of languages and cultures and we should be proud enough to have such a differse distribution of people. We should adore the fact that we are a multi lingual and multi cultural nation.
    To prosper happilly , we definitely need to be more tolerant, and inclusive.
    Thanks and Regards,
    Sujit Kumar Thakur

  • 2. riya  |  September 9, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Dear Sir, i likt your opinion. but some i donot uderstand the views, thanks
    riya india

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