In an extremely alarming development, the hostels in JNU have made mess rebate forms and other forms available only in Hindi. The forms that were bilingual (in English and Hindi) so far, have been replaced by Hindi-only forms. Angered, sections of students approached the Rector today (Wednesday, 25 July), demanding a reversal of this retrograde move. The Rector informed the students that this step was taken as per the directive of a parliamentary committee delegation which recently visited JNU. Sensing the collective dismay of the students, she attempted to trivialise the issue by terming it a “minor” one. But the steadfast resistance of the student community forced the administration to back down and to give the assurance that bilingual forms will be made available as before.
Let us recall that the JNU prospectus makes it clear that “JNU being an all India University, the medium of instruction for all programmes of study (barring Languages) is English”. This explicit recognition of the all-India character of JNU implies that there is space in this central University for students hailing from diverse linguistic backgrounds. This is the promise on the basis of which students from all over India and from abroad have come to our University in pursuit of the famous “adventure of ideas”. The JNU administration’s regressive move threatens to hack at the roots of this democratic, pluralistic tradition. There are large numbers of students in JNU who don’t understand any Hindi, and even among those who understand spoken Hindi, there are big sections who do not read or write the language. Making forms available only in Hindi amounts to treating them as social outcasts.
The JNU administration’s chauvinistic move is nothing but a continuation and extension of the central government directive that Hindi should be the major medium in social media and official exchanges. This is evidently part of the larger attempt by the BJP government to impose the majoritarian identity of ‘Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan’ on the people of our country. This communal, sectarian notion doesn’t conceive India as a union of different linguistic nationalities and groups. It rather attempts to construct and impose a monolithic culture over every nationality in India, refusing to recognise the multi-national character of our country.
Steps to make the government and its processes more easily accessible to every citizen must be undertaken through the promotion of all national languages in India for official uses. Such promotion of Hindi along with other national languages — treated at par with Hindi — would have been a progressive move. But no such concern is being shown by the government or by the ruling party. Their intention is not to promote and develop Indian languages and thereby democratise access to knowledge and society at large, but to arouse passions and to pit speakers of different Indian languages against each other. Doing away with English while not providing alternative mechanisms to promote other Indian languages would mean that speakers of other Indian languages would be deprived of even the bare minimum democratic treatment. The ground reality today is that the only available language that enables communication between people belonging to different linguistic groups in India without discriminating against or depriving any linguistic group is English. That is why English was made one of the official languages of the Union government, and must remain one of the compulsory languages for every official communication by the central government.
Given the context in which it has occurred, the JNU administration’s step can only be seen as a dress rehearsal for even more of such regressive moves, and the student community must be on guard to make sure that the administration doesn’t backtrack on its assurance that bilingual forms will be back. We warn the administration not to indulge in such chauvinistic moves in the future. Our republic can move forward only by staunchly upholding the equality of the nationalities which constitute India, and any further attempts by the ruling dispensation to rouse passions and thereby divide people by imposing Hindi would be fought and defeated by the progressive, democratic forces in the country.