Warning against language chauvinism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that language should be inclusive, not exclusive, for it to prosper.
“Language should unite,” the PM said here while inaugurating the 10th World Hindi Conference, which is being held in India after a gap of 32 years. He said the agitation for Hindi was led by stalwarts like Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bal Ganghadhar Tilak, Kaka Kalelkar and C Rajagopalachari who spoke in different mother tongues.
Making a case for enriching Hindi by assimilating words from other Indian languages and dialects, Modi said, “You can’t close doors on languages because within four walls it won’t survive.” He said Sanskrit contains treasure of knowledge but lack of experts slowly took it away from people.
He said Hindi, along with English and Chinese, will dominate the digital world in the future, and cited instances from his foreign visits to assert that Hindi was getting its due. Language will become a huge market, he said. “Whenever I meet world leaders they try to say (in smattering Hindi and different accents) ‘sabka sath sabka vikas’, even Obama and Putin do it,” Modi said.
“Chai ne mujhe Hindi sikha di (I learned Hindi while selling tea),” he told the audience that included representatives from 39 countries. He said that while selling tea he would interact with milk agents who hailed from UP. “They did not know Gujarati and I had no option but to talk in Hindi. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had not known Hindi,” he said.
Quoting experts, he said that about 90 per cent of the 6,000 languages that exist today could possibly become extinct by the end of the 21st century, and warned against neglect of languages.
Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj praise Modi for speaking fluently in Hindi when premiers of China, Japan and Russia speak in their languages. “We feel honoured when he does that,” Swaraj said.
She said the previous nine conferences focused only on literature, and not on the language.