What RSS said about Hindi as a national language 50 years ago
The RSS, the BJP’s ideological fount, too has campaigned for promotion of Indian languages for a long time, but has been careful to avoid being seen as a campaigner to make Hindi a unifying language or according it the status of a national language.
Union home minister Amit Shah’s comment that people should increase the use of their mother tongue and also use Hindi to realise the dreams of Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) and Sardar Patel has again sparked off a row over suspicions that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition intended to promote Hindi as the national language.
Though Shah had underlined that the promotion of Hindi should not come at the cost of other Indian languages, the statement did create a flutter with parties in the non-Hindi speaking states where the BJP is trying to increase its footprint. While DMK leader MK Stalin criticised the comment and said “this is India, not Hindia”, similar reactions flooded social media sites.
Incidentally, the party’s ideological fount the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) too has campaigned for promotion of Indian languages for a long time, but has been careful to avoid being seen as a campaigner to make Hindi a unifying language or according it the status of a national language.
Watch: Amit Shah’s ‘Hindi a unifier’ appeal stirs row, opposition call it ‘a bid to impose’
In December 1957, the second sarsanghchalak of the RSS MS Golwalkar in an interview to the Organiser spelt out his stand on the question of a national language.
“I consider all our languages as national languages. They are equally our national heritage. Hindi is one among them which, by virtue of its countrywide usage, has been adopted as the State Language. It will be wrong to describe Hindi alone as the national language and others as provincial languages. That would not be seeing things in the right perspective,”Golwalkar said in the interview.
As it sets about increasing its own presence on the ground, the Sangh has been conscious of cultivating its own image as that of a pan Indian identity and not a Hindi-speaking outfit. The design to propagate Indian languages and dialects helps the Sangh creates more space for its ideology and also shatter the impression that the BJP is a Hindi-heartland phenomenon with no takers beyond the Vindhyas.
Most pracharaks or full time workers who are deputed across the country to undertake work related to the Sangh are known to be fluent in more than one Indian language. It is not uncommon to come across a Malayalam-speaking pracharak break into fluent Bangla or a Marathi-speaking pracharak having mastered Telugu.
To lend more weight to its campaign to promote Indian languages, the RSS at its annual meeting in Nagpur in 2018, passed a resolution calling for efforts to protect and conserve Indian languages and dialects.
“The declining trend in the practice and usage of Bharatiya languages, elimination of their words and replacement by words of foreign languages are emerging as a serious challenge. Today, many languages and dialects have become extinct and several others are endangered,” the resolution passed at the end of the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha read.
Later while taking questions from mediapersons, a senior RSS functionary had assured that the resolution, which calls for protection of Indian languages and dialects, does not indicate the supremacy of any one language particularly Hindi nor does it oppose learning foreign languages to expand one’s knowledge.
The timing of the resolution coincided with several states including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana accusing the BJP of trying to foist Hindi across the country. That fear primarily stemmed from recommendations made by Sangh affiliates such as the Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, which wanted the NCERT to remove English, Urdu and Arabic words including a couplet from noted poet Mirza Ghalib from textbooks.
Over the years, RSS functionaries have been empathetic in underscoring the benefits of imparting education in the mother-tongue; even as it has all too often stressed on the mainstreaming of Sanskrit. Its affiliate the Samskrita Bharati for instance does not push for making the classical language compulsory, but easy to grasp to increase its popularity.