THE USE of Hindi in “offices as well as in society” might be an advisory from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), but there was no logic in circulating such a document on the Panjab University campus, said students who took part in a drive to save the status of Punjabi last year.
Students launched the drive last year as the administration was not using the language on signboards while English and Hindi were being used. The June 12 MHRD advisory on the use of “rajbhasha” on the campus is likely to re-ignite the language debate on the PU campus, with the Syndicate set to discuss it at its September 23 meeting.
A committee, formed in July after the advisory was received, unanimously resolved that the advisory dated June 12 “should be circulated in all the departments of the campus for compliance of the content of the letter at their level and the spirit of the letter be followed” but it has also noted that it is an advisory and “not [in the nature of] a directive”.
The advisory calls for using the Hindi language “with pride” at workplaces and social gatherings. Even lectures at seminars or public gatherings should be in Hindi, states the advisory. It encourages the use of words such as ‘namaste’, ‘namaskar shirmanji’, ‘mahoday’, ‘manyavar’, ‘kripya’, ‘dhanyavaad’.
Antarpreet, a student who took part in the Punjabi language drive in 2017, said, “Education is already undergoing centralisation with the RSS promoting their agenda of Hindustan. But the use of Hindi instead of English at a university in Chandigarh doesn’t make sense as the city was formed from the villages of Punjab.” He added that Punjabi should be given priority according to the region and that Hindi could not become more prominent here.
“This is an attempt at finishing the regional language. English is the dominant language in higher education, but even Hindi for us is from the outside. Here in Punjab, we’re under pressure of using both Punjabi and Hindi,” said Harmandeep, spokesperson of the Students For Society.
Students recalled that at the university’s convocation in March, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu dwelt on the importance of mastering the mother tongue, stating that one should “remember the language that comes from your mother’s womb”, adding that mother, native place, mother tongue and teacher should be given utmost importance.
“If mother tongue should be promoted, then Hindi is not our mother tongue. The university has a majority of non-Hindi students,” said Harmandeep, adding that the multilingual and multicultural identity of the country was in danger. The Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC) 2017 had also widely supported the Punjabi language drive on the campus. Former president Jashan Kamboj had said that Punjabi was the mother tongue and all three languages should be there on signboards, with Punjabi on top, followed by Hindi and then English.
“Mother tongue has a vital role in the development of each and every individual and its community. To stop one from speaking or using one’s language is to cut his or her very roots. Students are well aware of the mother tongue issue and they won’t let such interventions of the Sangh have its impact in Panjab University,” said the newly elected PUCSC President Kanupriya.
The committee for the promotion of the rajbhasha discussed three issues, including the MHRD circular. One of them is also the formation of a directorate of Hindi or a cell that could take up matters related to the use of Hindi. Another matter that was discussed was the translation of the university Handbook of Information into Hindi. While the circular for this was received at the beginning of the session in April, the panel decided that the handbook should be both in Punjabi and Hindi.
“The use of Hindi has nothing to do with a mandate. It is only for as much use as possible. We too are already conscious of the tussle between Punjabi and Hindi. In future, there could then be an expectation of an advisory for Punjabi too,” said a member of the committee, who did not want to be named.
Another member, requesting anonymity, stated that an advisory could not be imposed on anybody. “The Punjab government has also often sent such advisories, but such things always suit an agenda. An advisory cannot be taken seriously. Also, English does not need such advisories against it because it has purely survived as a business language here,” added the member.