Revisiting the Making of Hindi as a ‘National’ Language: Ganpat Teli

In the first quarter of last the century a consciousness building campaign was started among the literate people of north India. At that time as a result of a long lobbying process, Hindi language and Nagari Script had already been recognized the purpose of official usage. Thus, the leadership of this lobby started to demand a new status of the National Language for Hindi written in Nagari script. In the contest for the National Language status, Hindustani and Urdu languages were counterparts of Hindi. Supporters of both the languages – Hindi and Urdu – symbolized them with Hindu and Muslim community respectively. On the other side, Hindustani which was a colloquial language was supported by the camp of progressive writers and Gandhi.

Strong supporters of Hindi opposed the idea of Hindustani and advocated the usage of Sanskritized Hindi. They argued that Sanskrit is the pure and divine language of Hindus, so only Sanskritized Hindi can bear the cultural heritage of the community. They subscribed to the logic of Devvani and Mother Language. At the time of this debate the literacy level in India was very low. On other side, the supporters of Hindi were preparing a Language which was highly Sankritized, but did not belong to the common people, especially the marginalized groups of both Hindu and Muslim communities. This happened because Sanskrit language and its words were not used in large scale on a daily basis. The Sanskritized Hindi not only marginalized people of non-privileged social strata socially and economically, but also deprived them the opportunity to become a part of the knowledge process.