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Friday, May 20, 2022

Hindi: love and hate in Nepal

The Hindi language has been influential in Nepal since long before any formal moves of the Bharatiya Government, like the formal efforts of the then Prime Minister of Bharat, Manmohan Singh to establish Hindi on the world stage in 2006.

In this article, the scribe doesn’t want to turn over so many old pages of history now. However, it can be said that Hindi has been used in various dimensions in Nepal since the ancient period. When one says about Nepal and Bharat that religious relations have existed between these two countries is phenomenal. And, I think, religious ties from ancient times have not diminished until the present postmodern era.

What could be the reason behind this? Would it have been possible without language?

Undoubtedly the Hindi language has been playing a connecting role to keep it bolstered. In the same way, the Hindi language has been helping all the diplomatic, economic and trade relations between Nepal and Bharat to flow smoothly and continuously. And language itself is a subtle dimension of culture as well. Language is the medium, the means to make one’s thoughts, anger, passion, persuasion, humility, politics, and, business easier. 

Embassy of India to Nepal organizes several programme in Nepal every year on the occasion of Vishwa Hindi Divason 10th January. If we look at the Hindi language in the centrality, there are mainly two types of psyche in Nepal. One occupies Madhesh, the southern plain of Nepal and another is non-Madhesh.

In these two separate geographies, Hindi has been positioned differently. Hindi has been influential in the Madhes region for hundreds of years now. Let’s analyze with some practical examples of history.

In Rana regime opening schools were prohibited to bar ordinary Nepali from receiving education. With the flow of time number of schools came to increase. In Madhesh as well, Rana had permitted to open a school and it happened by opening the first school out of the valley– Chandra Middle School in Siraha district.

Similarly in other districts schools started opening to address the democratic demand of people. In those schools, Hindi was the main effective language of study and teaching at that time. The decline of Hindi started only after the introduction of new education system in Nepal wherein the myopic panchayat had imposed one-nation-one-language ideology wherein Hindi was vehemently targeted to eliminate from Madhesh.

According to some Madhesi analysts, removing Hindi and declaring Nepali mandatory, harmed the education of Madhesis. In this way, to the largest extent Hindi became the victim of ruling elites dealing the nation from certain corner of Kathmandu.

Citizens of Madhes used to be aware of the events in India before the politics of Kathmandu and all it was possible through the Bharatiye Newspapers which used to be quickly available. 

There is rough but mostly quoted statistics that 70 lakhs (approx.) Nepali resides in Bharat and 6 lakhs (approx.) Bharatiyas in Nepal. They all are from different walks but it’s the Hindi language that allows them to manage bread and butter.

Most of the workers from Madhes went to Punjab, Bharat for agricultural work and Hindi helped them there. Today, a new generation of people from the same community goes to golf countries. But even there, Hindi is helping them to complete their jobs and routines. And this applies not only to the Madhesi community but also to other Nepali workers in general. 

Hate and love

As a matter of fact, Hindi movies and serials have been helping most Nepalis by providing information and entertainment. In Nepal, particularly in the non-madheshi families no matter they are from an elite club or lower-middle calls families, Hindi telefilms are on their first list of the daily schedule.

Multiplex owners in Kathmandu earn high through broadcasting Hindi cinema. Web series of Pankaj Tripathi and Prakash Jha is highly watched in Nepal. But, you cannot find Hindi speaking youngsters from the non-madheshi community in Kathmandu or the rest of the place, in public. Albeit, leaders of every political party, like to speak Hindi with Bharatiya leaders or employees because they feel comfortable in conveying their thoughts and messages.

If we look back, from the Democratic Party to the communist– their respective pioneers BP Kiorala to Pushpa Lal Shrestha, they all have received their education in Bharat. They had revolted against the Rana regime from their exile in Bharat. They had ‘sensed’ the Bharatiya literature to an optimum level. Ironically, Hindi is looked at from “Bharatiya Lens”.

On the contrary, the mentality of opposing Hindi superficially is high among the Nepali ruling class. Hindi cinema is boycottedin the cinema halls when extremist nationalism dominates India for its alleged political interference in Nepal. Hindi entertainment channels are banned while such bans are rarely allowed to last for weeks.

Last year, during the premiership of KP Sharma Oli, the issue of Lipulek, Kalapani andLimpiyadhura was re-erupted between India and Bharat, the ‘pseudo-nationalism’ in Nepal was at the peak. Regarding the issue, Oli had an interview in Hindi with the famous Bharatiya journalist Sudhir Chaudhary.

Oli speaks English well. But he enjoyed speaking in Hindi. Many baseless anti-Bharatiya had denounced Oli for switching Hindi. About KP Oli, a recently published book Kathmandu Dilemma: Resetting India-Nepal Ties, former Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rai had quoted KP Oli that Oli and Rai ‘loved’ to talk in Hindi very often.

Oli, who is also famous for creating gimmicks by abusing Bharat had chosen Hindi as a cultural diplomatic instrument to appease his Bharatiya counterpart. This is the importance of Hindi for Nepali politics. 

It would be unwise to overlook the truth that Hindi is the second largest spoken lingua franca after English in the world. In Nepal, the ‘nationalist gang’ claims that the flourishment of Hindi in Nepal would be inviting lingual and cultural hegemony of Bharat.

Amid these discussions, we should not forget that the influence of Hindi has been taking place spontaneously. Because, in today’s world Hindi has become the language of ‘hand to mouth’ and the language of ‘compulsion.’

I would like to ask those nationalists that, if Hindi is removed from Nepal, how the 7 million Nepalese would be impacted who are working and living in Bharat? Have you studied the possible impact of the cultural dedication and harmony towards Nepal among the 6 lakhs Bharatiyas working in Nepal. Hindi cannot breathe open in Nepal unless there is a change in the perception of Hindi-speaking Madhesis as Bharatiyas and the illusion that one becomes a nationalist by abusing Hindi.

On 25th July 2009, after a long-year trial, the Apex Court of Nepal had ruled that Vice President Parmanand Jha’s taking of the oath of the office in Hindi, instead of Nepali, on 23rd July 2008 was unconstitutional. Nepali parliamentarians are threatened of speaking in Hindi inside the house.

Constitution of Nepal 2015 does not restrict the Hindi language to being spoken at the place someone wishes to speak. According to the report of census 2011 prepared by the Central Bureau of Statistics, 77,569 Nepalese residents have registered Hindi as their mother tongue. Among them 325 live in the mountains, 30,311 live in the Hills and the rest all reside in the Madhesh.

I can challenge those ‘Hindi hater nationalists’, did they ever try to explore those Hindi speakers as mother tongue representing the Mountain and Hilly region of Nepal? Or do they have a prejudiced mind to abuse Madheshis only?

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Randhir Chaudhary
Randhir Chaudhary
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @randhirJNK

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