The first language controversy in the subcontinent emerged in Uttar Pradesh in the 19th century as a section of Hindus sought to replace Urdu – till then the language of administration along with English – with Hindi. As part of this politics, “Urdu and Hindi became proxies for Muslim and Hindu [political] mobilisation,” wrote Garga Chatterjee. “In that process, shoring up Hindi numbers became crucial. Many languages of North India like Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Rajasthani, Braj, etc., were nominally fused into Hindi as a political tactic with devastating long-term consequences for the counted-as-Hindi-but-not-Hindi languages.”
I feel *Hindu* nationalism is a many headed Hydra. It builds on a millennia of humiliation but at the same time seems extraordinarily insensitive to actually diversity.
The only real defence Hindu nationalists have as to why their ideological brand is softer than the Muslim equivalents is simply because “Hinduism is a broad tent.”
I feel this obscures that Hinduism was the subject of intense reform over the last two centuries in a way Islam wasn’t. However it won’t surprise me if this tenuous commitment to liberalism falters after longer and more successful stunts of the BJP.
It seems the BJP has discovered the political power of Two Nation Theory and is really riding that perilous horse.
Not only is Hindi growing, it is changing. The Union government’s efforts to make it a “national language” have resulted in it being “firmly moored to a vastly associational Sanskrit with all its casteist baggage intact”, writes Mrinal Pande. “Its highly associational vocabulary is being used to purge thousands of words it has assimilated through the centuries from regional dialects and Islamic and European languages.” Of course, actually purging Hindi of all its Persian vocabulary would be an impossible task – the very name of the language is from Farsi.