Hindustani vs. English: The First Fight before UPSC and Mohan Bhagwat

Over the last few weeks, there has been much debate over the UPSC examinations and the use of English, Hindi and other “bhashas” as a language vis-a-vis a medium of instruction, with multiple polarizing views flooding our media. Yesterday, apart from having an overtly religious overtone, Mohan Bhagwat of the RSS gave ample fodder to linguists, constitutional experts, geographers and historians to go to town on his calling Hindustan as a nation of Hindus. From an academic simpleton like me, the following arguments come to mind immediately. The name Hindu does come from the river Indus from where our Vedic society took inception. However, geographically, Hindustan did not include the Deccan and regions to the south of Vindhyas if I remember correctly. And finally, the Constitution of India does begin with “We the people of India that is Bharat”. So, India and Bharat, not Hindustan, I would think. There is also the issue of the manner and position from which he made this comment. However, the details shall be thrashed out {figuratively and literally!} on your national media.  However, in the string of debates that will hit your social, print and electronic media, a debate on Hindustani as a language may also come alive.

The purpose of this post isn’t to critique the UPSC examination or Mohan Bhagwat’s comment, which the media wiill do aplenty. It is to remind you about the first fight that lay at the intersection of these two complex linguistic, geographical and historical issues.

As India framed its Constitution, the issue of Hindustani was brought to the forefront. The Constituent Assembly met in 1946 and on its second day of business(10th December 1946), RV Dhulekar picked a fight with the interim Chairman Sachidanand Sinha on the usage of English in the Constituent Assembly. He went to the extent of saying that

“People who do not know Hindustani have no right to stay in India. People who are present in this House to fashion out a constitution for India and do not know Hindustani are not worthy to be members of this Assembly. They better leave.”

The relevant transcript is reproduced at the end of this post.

I’m not a linguist/historian to offer insight on these issues, but I somehow feel that it is this kind of historical animosity between the languages whose repercussions we’re facing today in many different spheres, and adding to a lack of clarity to the idea of India.

RV Dhulekar on Hindustani

RV Dhulekar on Hindustani

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Dhulekar’s Proposed Amendment

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Sachidanand Sinha’s ruling on Dhulekar’s outburst