52. Hindi in the South

I have the greatest faith in the Dravidians some day taking up Hindi study seriously. If an eighth of the industry that they put in mastering English were to be devoted to learning Hindi, instead of the rest of India remaining a sealed book to them, they will be one with us as never before. I know that some would say the argument cuts both ways. The Dravidians being in a minority, national economy suggests that they should learn the common language of the rest of India than that the rest should learn Tamil, Telugu, Kanarese and Malayalam in order to be able converse with Dravidian India. It is for that reason that Hindi - propaganda work of an intense type has been going on in the Madras Presidency.


The following figures, based on 1951 census, are taken from the Report of the official Language Commission, p. 468: (In thousands)
States Population Literates Literates in English (S.L.G. or equivalent) Percentage of col. 4 to col. 3 Percentage of col. 4 to col. 2
1 2 3 4 5 6
Bombay 35,956 8,829 458 5.19 1.27
Punjab 12,641 2,039 325 15.93 2.56
West Bengal 24,810 6,088 597 9.81 2.41
Ajmer 693 139 18 13.11 2.63
South India (i.e. Madras, Mysore, Travancore-Cochin and Coorg) 75,600 17,234 876 5.08 1.15
Madras (after separation of Andhra) 35,735 7,800 400 5.13 1.12
Andhra 20,508 3,108 165 5.32 0.81
Mysore (including Bellary Talukas) 9,849 1,956 136 6.94 1.38

Let no Dravidian think that learning Hindi is at all difficult. A little time taken from the recreation hour daily in a systematic manner will enable an average man to learn Hindi in one year. I would venture to suggest too that large municipalities might now introduce Hindi as an optional language to be learnt in the municipal schools. I can say from experience that Dravidian children take to Hindi in a remarkably easy manner. Little does anyone know that almost all the Tamils and the Telugus living in South Africa can carry on an intelligent conversation in Hindi. I venture to hope therefore that the young men of Madras will show their appreciation of Marwadi generosity by availing themselves of the facility afforded to them of learning Hindi without payment.

Young India, 16-6-'20


The following figures pertaining to the spread of literacy in Hindi are form the report of the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, Madras, for the period 1918-1955: (In lakhs)
States Population Literates Literates in Hindi
Andhra 203.2 30.4 8.02
Tamil Nadu 277.7 51.8 8.98
Kerala 140.1 72.8 14.22
Karnatak 228.4 48.7 9.87
Telangana 80.0 13.3 1.36
Madras City 14.2 4.3 1.75

Bengal and Madras are the two Provinces that are cut off from the rest of India for want of a knowledge of Hindustani on their part. Bengal, because of its prejudice against learning any other language of India, and Madras, because of the difficulty of the Dravidians about picking up Hindustani. An average Bengali can really learn Hindustani. An average Bengali can really learn Hindustani in two months if he gave it three hours per day and a Dravidian can hope to achieve the same result with English in the same time. A knowledge of English opens up intercourse only with the comparatively few English-knowing Indians, whereas a possible knowledge of Hindustani enables us to hold intercourse with the largest number of our countrymen I appreciate the difficulty with the Dravidians, but nothing is difficult before their industrious love for the motherland.

Young India, 2-2-'21

English is the language of international commerce, is the language of diplomacy, and it contains many a rich literary treasure, it gives us an introduction to Western thought and culture. For a few of us, therefore, a knowledge of English is necessary. They can carry on the departments of national commerce and international diplomacy, and for giving to the nation the best of Western literature, thought, and science. That would be the legitimate use of English, whereas today English has usurped the dearest place in our hearts and dethroned our mother tongues. It is an unnatural place due to our unequal relations with Englishmen. The highest development of the Indian mind must be possible without a knowledge of English. It is doing violence to the manhood and specially the womanhood of India to encourage our boys and girls to think that an entry into the best society is impossible without a knowledge of English. It is too humiliating a thought to be bearable. To get rid of the infatuation for English is one of the essentials of Swaraj.

Young India, 2-2-'21

If we were not living in artificial conditions, the people living in the South will not consider the learning of Hindi as a strain on them, much less a superfluity. It is surely more necessary for them to learn Hindi than for the Hindi-speaking and understanding Hindi against one speaking population to learn the Southern languages. There are two speaking and understanding Hindi against one speaking the Southern languages in all India. There must be for all India a common language of inter- provincial contact in additional to, not in the place of, the provincial language or languages. It can be Hindi- Hindustani.

Some who altogether dismiss the masses from their minds would regard English not merely as an alternative but the only possible medium. This proposition would be unthinkable but for the hypnotic influence of foreign domination. For the masses of the South who take an ever- growing part in national affairs, what can be easier- learning Hindi which has many words in common with their languages and which at once gives them access practically to the whole of the North or to learn English, a wholly foreign tongue spoken only by a select few?

The choice really depends upon one's conception of Swaraj. If it is to be of and for only the English Knowing Indians, English is undoubtedly the common medium. If it is to be for and of the starving millions, of the illiterate millions, of the illiterate women, of the suppressed 'untouchables', Hindi is the only possible common language.

Young India, 18-6-31

Though I consider these Southern languages to be daughter of Sanskrit they are different from Hindi, Ooira, Bengali, Assamese, Punjabi, Sindhi, Marathi and Gujarati. There grammar is totally different from Hindi. In describing them as the daughter of Sanskrit, I only mean that they have a large number of Sanskrit words in there vocabulary and when they are in difficulty, they go to Sanskrit as to a mother- they seek her help and receive from her in the firm of new words their requisite nourishment. They might have been independent in the olden days, but now they are enriching themselves with words taken from Sanskrit. There are many other reasons also why they should be regarded as the daughter of Sanskrit. But we may not go into them here.

I have always held that in no case whatsoever do we want to injure, much less suppress or destroy the provincial languages. We want only that all should learn Hindi as a common medium for inter-provincial intercourse. This does not mean that we have any undue partiality for Hindi. We regarded Hindi as our national language. It is fit to be adopted as such. That language alone can become the national language which is easy to learn. To our knowledge there has notice of.

If Hindi takes the place of English, I for one would be pleased. But we know well the importance of the English language. Knowledge of English is necessary to us for the acquisition of modern knowledge of the study of modern literature, for knowledge of the world, for intercourse with the present rulers and such other purposes. As things are, we have to learn English even if we do not wish to. English is an international language.

But English can never become our national language. True, it seems to dominate the scene today. In spite of all efforts to resist its hold on us, it continues to occupy a large place in the conduct of our national affairs. But this should not lead us to entertain the illusion that it is going to become our national language.

We can easily find proof for this from our experience in any province. Take for instance Bengal or South Indian where we find the influence of English to be the largest. Should we want anything done in these parts by the people, we cannot have it done through English, though at the moment we may also not be able to do it through Hindi. With the help of a few words of Hindi, however, we may succeed in expressing our meaning at latest to some extent; but through English not even this much.

Of course, if may be accepted that hitherto no language has been able to establish itself as the national language. English is the official language. That as natural under the prevailing circumstance. But I consider it quite impossible for it to go beyond this. If we want to make Indian one nation, whether one believes it or not, Hindi alone can be the national language for the simple reasons that no other language can hope to have the advantages enjoyed by Hindi. With some slight variations Hindi- Hindustani is the language spoken by about twenty-two crores of people, both Hindus and Muslims.

Therefore the most proper and under the circumstance the only possible thing would be to use the language of the province in the province, to use Hindi for all- Indian purposes and to use English for inter-national purposes. While the Hindi-speaking people may be counted in crores, the number of those who speak English can never be increased to more than a few lakhs. Even the attempt the attempt to do so would be unjust to the people.

(From Hindi)

From Gandhiji's presidential address at the 24th session of the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan held at Indore in 1935

There is nothing wrong in making a knowledge of Hindustani compulsory, if we are sincere in our declarations tjat Hindustan is or to be the Rashtrabhasha or the common medium of expression. Latin was and probably still is compulsory in English schools. The study did not interfere with the study of English. On the contrary English was enriched by a Knowledge of the noble language. The cry of 'mother tongue in danger' is either ignorant or hypocritical. And where it is sincere it speaks little for the patriotism of those who will grudge our children an hour per day for Hindustani. We must break through the provincial crust if we are to reach the core of all-Indian nationalism. Is India one country and one national or countries and many nations?

Harijan, 10-9-'38