E-Pao! Feature - Ban on Hindi Language

Ban on Hindi Language
By Geoffrey Ningthoujam *

Sometimes during the agitation for the inclusion of the Manipuri language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, a misconceived perception gained ground that the beloved mothertongue was being replaced by Hindi. Propaganda, ill-founded as it was, was carried out more or less successfully that the hidden, devilish aim of the Indian government was not only to impose Hindi upon a seemingly exploited people but also to erode the Manipuri language.

The success of the short-sighted propaganda owed heavily to the prevailing chaotic socio-political environment in the failed state where ultra-nationalistic sentiments were already ripe and prejudiced in the back-drop of a so-called Indian occupation, alleged human rights abuses by the paramilitary forces along with subdued demands for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and increased insurgency-related activities.

Hindi was seen as an instrument of Indianisation. This was the language of the mainstream Indians ,of the abhored paramilitary forces, of the economically well-to-do traders of north Indian origin who were seen as exploiting the Manipuri wealth and economy.

More importantly, Hindi was the national language and thus epitomised everything the average Manipuri youth was cultured to detest. Students' organisations, influenced in no small measure by the various assorted self-styled militant outfits, who were vociferously spearheading the agitation, looked upon boycott of hindi as a quid pro quo in lieu of non-inclusion of Manipuri in the schedule.

Boycott was seen as a symbol of defiance of the Indian state, as perhaps a snub on the paramilitary and the non-Manipuris in the state. Thus began the ban on Hindi.

Theatres could no longer screen Hindi movies.One could no longer hum a Hindi tune for fear of one's dear life. Hindi was silently struck off the curriculum in schools.

Shortly after,in August 1992,manipuri was included in the 8th Schedule. Orgiastic jubiliations followed over the success of the agitation. It was a hard-earned victory against an 'alien majority'.

But the ban remained.

What seemingly was a strategy of the agitation was gradually to be revealed as a part of a longer policy, sculptured behind the screen by the everpresent, faceless outfits. A ban of this nature, populist and unhealthy, once imposed, is bound to invite hostility upon attempts of its withdrawal.

The effect is thus to cultivate a deaf,dumb and blind melee hostile to the rest of the country for the sake of hostility and which subsequently would lend atleast moral support to their proffessed goal of liberation and their private goal of amassing riches via various colourful means and ways.

Who suffers? The population.

Theatres unable to afford expensive newly released English films turned to cheap and old ones for a time. But this catered to a very minuscule section of the earlier movie-going population. Certainly not to the grandparents brought up on heavy doses of Amitabh Bachans and Rekhas running among trees.Business suffered.Theatres began to close down.

Employees found themselves out of jobs. Shops, restaurants, etc. situated near these theatres and who had benefitted from the theatre-going population took a subsequent hit in their turnover. Audio and video parlours too suffered .

Many of these theatres have been converted quite innovatively to shopping complexes and schools, albiet without the essential infrastructure for extracurricular activities so required for the healthy development of the child. Avenues of wholesome entertainment were narrowed.

Ironically, a beneficiary of the entire exercise has been the Manipuri film industry which again is stiffled by the whimsical,arbitrary dictates of the same outfits. Joining the bandwagon of the unemployed were the erstwhile Hindi teachers. With their jobs lost,their dependents too suffered.

Ultimately,the losers are the proud Manipuris themselves. For one, censoring Hindi channels, news channels in particular, on the Sattelite TV would stifle the access to free flow of information and ideas in a dynamically evolving fast-paced world.

A democratic, well-informed society cannot evolve when choice is narrowed. Democracy suffers,whatever little semblance of it exists in the state today.

Ban on hindi would only further the psychological and social alienation of the Manipuris from the rest of the country. Many wide-eyed students who venture out of the state to seek quality higher education and others seeking greener pastures find themselves wider-eyed and utterly dumbed-neither can they converse in Hindi nor can communicate effectively in English.

A child brought up in an atmosphere vitiated by anti-India sentiments finds it hard to accept and be healthily integrated into the life of the alien educational institution itself, let alone the idea of mixing freely with others outside the campus.

The Manipuri becomes partly the cause of his own harrowed alienation. He is handicapped by his upbringing and his own hostility.

Language is a medium of expression. It is the means to a whole world of new ideas that might become the means to progress and to better life. Language is also the means to interact with others and interaction alone can reduce prejudice and eliminate stereotypism and unfounded stigmas that are clearly a major impediment to integration.

There are healthier ways preserving one's culture,language and customs without being senselessly hostile to another cultural attribute. Only when every Manipuri recognises this can the self-imposed ban on Hindi be revoked.

One cannot help but wonder which language our trigger happy brothers employ to communicate when they sramble outside the state to cool off as is sometimes necessary in their noble proffession.

I, for one, have difficulty picturing my brethren conversing in English. And sign languages are out of vogue.

Geoffrey Ningthoujam, graduate degree from Delhi University, writes for the first time to
The writer can be reached at
This article was webcasted on July 19, 2005.

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