Hindi as Putonghua

It is often difficult to separate out jealousy and enmity. While Narendra Modi‘s attack on China for its ‘expansionism’ is widely understood not to increase friendship between India and China, that’s not the full story. There is jealousy in it, too.

The Government of India has always secretly craved for Chinese-style control on the diverse peoples of India – and that’s internal ‘expansionism’. Not surprisingly, it forms the foundation of the Indian elite’s Idea of India. How nice it would have been if, for the outer world, the Government of India could openly claim complete racial, linguistic, and ethnic homogeneity within India! How nice it would have been if the Many voices of the Many Indias could be made to disappear and instead, the One voice of One India could assert itself on the global stage! Wouldn’t that be the roar of the Indian Lion no force on earth can stand up to? Narendra Modi is a puppet trying its best to turn this necrophilic dream into reality.

Of course, there is no democracy in China; India scores a big positive on that front. But there is no dearth of Indians who think democracy is India’s bane. And there is no dearth of people who think of democracy as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Why, even the founding fathers of independent India considered democracy as the best means to achieve, among other things, the homogeneity that China has achieved – but nonviolently. Why raise an arm where words suffice? Why use sticks when strategically placed carrots suffice? It is in the means that China differs most from India. The end is the same: homogeneity.

The Chinese have been getting rid of diversity, which always opposes the State’s supreme wisdom, from as early as 221 BC when the Qin dynasty came to power. But India hasn’t done anything comparable before 1947 AD – or, I must say, before the freedom struggle came of age. While the Chinese have effectively destroyed the various languages of China using violent means – books have been burnt, scholars buried alive, a single script imposed on one and all at gunpoint – India hasn’t tried anything of the sort. Instead, we are all set to destroy all Indian languages but Hindi nonviolently. No books will be burnt, no scholars will be buried alive, but they will all voluntarily submit their souls to the Centre, propelled simply by monetary, career, and sexual incentives (the last is the territory of Bollywood). That’s the belief, at least.

Take, for example, the upcoming State-sponsored celebration of Hindi beginning next week. That’s like a festival to celebrate the imposition of Beijunghua (the language of Beijing) on the diverse Chinese and calling it Putonghua (common language). Only, the Chinese never had to resort to such cheap tricks: they caught hold of all other languages and sent them to the guillotine after turning the lights off centuries ago, and nobody came to know.

Chinese writers who are allowed pen and paper by the Party, such as Zhang Weiwei, now claim that China is a ‘civilizational state’ – implying an organic homogeneity in one sixth of the world’s population. But in reality, China is a ‘state civilization’ – a whole mass of humanity forcefully subjected to an arbitrary state’s mindless craving for uniformity. The Indian elite working in tandem with the Government of India, jealous that our kings didn’t achieve this in the quietude of history, are now trying their best to achieve it today. Needless to say, they will fail, and the failure will be demonstrated, to an extent, in the next couple of weeks.

First Published: IBNLIVE, 12-09-2014