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An exercise in rational thinking

By February 11, 2019No Comments

Source : The Hindu

The latest issue of “Akaar” is aimed at fostering a dialogue among those who feel concerned about the rise of unscientific, obscurantist and communal consciousness



It is perhaps the first time that a journal has focused its entire issue on the Hindi-speaking region and its society as Akaar has done. Published from Kanpur and edited by Priyamvad, it’s a journal-with-a-difference. Devoted to making effective intellectual intervention and spreading forward-looking thinking, Akaar made a departure from the tradition and instead of publishing poetry, fiction and literary criticism, it almost entirely concerned itself with discussing ideas, ideologies and problems facing various disciplines of social sciences. As a result, it is publishing more and more articles that have been written originally in Hindi. The 51st issue of the journal has a single theme: Hindi samaj (Hindi community). Prakash Chandrayan and Basant Tripathi were invited as guest editors to give shape to this thematic number and a beautiful painting of Asghar Wajahat, renowned Hindi fiction writer and playwright, for its cover. Regrettably, his name has been printed as Asgar Wazahat.

Undecided debate

There has been a debate, which continues to remain unsettled, if Hindi-speaking people constitute a nationality in the same way as the Tamil or Telugu or Malayalam-speaking people do. The late Ramvilas Sharma, who was one of the top Hindi literary critics and also dabbled in history, economics and music criticism, had floated the idea that the Hindi region constituted what he called “Hindi Samaj” (Hindi community), and had all the characteristics of a nationality.



Yet, the fact remains that the present-day Hindi is in reality a modified version of Khari Boli and most Hind-speakers do not speak it at home. The Hindi region is replete with languages like Awadhi, Braj and Maithili that have a long and rich literary tradition with Tulsidas, Surdas and Vidyapati respectively as their iconic figures. Bhojpuri, Kumaoni, Garhwali, Rajasthani, and a host of other dialects are spoken in the so-called Hindi region. So, the concept of Hindi Samaj remains problematic.

In his editorial, Priyamvad has drawn attention to the fact that modern Hindi was crafted by adding Sanskrit words to Khari Boli. This language is not spoken even in public spaces in the Hindi belt where the preferred lingua franca is Hindustani with a fair share of words of Persian-Arabic origin.

In his article on the need of a new kind of political leadership in the Hindi belt, well-known Hindi journalist Ramsharan Joshi has suggested that instead of Hindi samaj, the term Hindi-Urdu samaj should be used.

However, the guest editors have explained in their separate editorial that their endeavour is neither Hindivada (Hindi-ism) nor Hindi sub-nationalism nor Hindi-Urdu revivalism. It is solely aimed at fostering a dialogue among those who feel concerned about the rise of unscientific, obscurantist and communal consciousness and also to promote introspection into the creative ability, contradictions and substantive content of the Hindi region. It’s an exercise in rational thinking.

Analysing problems

This special number contains critical analyses of the Hindi region’s problems in various spheres of life and covers a vast area and one can only offer a glimpse of the richness of its contents.

Eminent educationalist Krishna Kumar differentiates between Hindi region and Hindi society and poses an important question to those who do not tire of crying hoarse over Hindi not becoming rashtrabhasha (national language). He asks if we have been able to create that rashtra (nation) whose bhasha(language) Hindi could have become.

In his view, Hindi was the symbol and vehicle of the struggle to create a nationwide samajikata (sociality) and had the Hindi society remained true to this dream, it would have engulfed the entire country.

Instead of that, Hindi region pays scant attention to basic issues like education and even the teaching of Hindi has remained within the confines of traditional and conservative methods. Education failed to come on to the agenda of any important political leader or party of the Hindi region. Kumar also raises another very important point in his thoughtful and thought-provoking article. In his view, Hindi has failed to become a language in which new ideas are created. In the absence of the creation of new ideas, it could only become the language of translation and it is seen in the fields of media, justice and politics.

Abhay Kumar Dube has tried to critique the way intellectual discourse has taken shape in the Hindi literary community on Marxism, feminism and Dalit writing, offering valuable analyses of the on-going discussions as well as their histories. Musharraf Ali has brought into sharp relief the problems facing the Muslims who constitute the largest minority in the Hindi belt. While one may not agree with his formulations regarding the concept of Hindi samaj and its potential to vivisect the country once again, his criticism of the Muslim clergy, political leadership and Muslim intellectuals of the region for not raising the real bread-and-butter issues of the community. Harvard-trained economist Shashi Bhushan has analysed the economic stagnation that has taken the Hindi belt in its grip. In his view, the dominant thinking of Hindi India has been “superiority of the rural society” and there is a large body of literature to espouse this. He finds the growth of a kind of “rural dictatorship” that has hampered economic growth in this region.

Articles on communalism, intellectual decline, religious fanaticism, science and gender issues are the other highlights of this special number. O.P. Jaiswal’s article on the anti-caste role played by the Siddha sampradaya comes as a fitting finale.

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