Skip to main content

British divide and rule policy? Colonialists segregated Hindustani into Hindi and Urdu

By Rajiv Shah/ A few days back, India’s home minister Amit Shah, currently “recuperating at his residence” (to quote a former Gujarat official, currently in Delhi) after contracted novel coronavirus, once again raised controversy by pitching for Hindi as the only language that “can do the work of uniting the country”, because it is the “most spoken language”. He did this a year after he made a similar statement on Hindi Diwas, which falls on September 16.
Usually I don’t care for what politicians say about Hindi, as I think they usually talk from a commonsensical perspective, without taking into account any facts before them. They are more concerned with consolidating their constituency – in the case of Amit Shah it happens to be the Hindu majority in what is often described as Hindi mainland.
A somewhat similar effort was made, I recall, way back in 1960s, when an attempt was made by north Indian politicians to impose Hindi, even Sansktritise it, setting off a reaction in the south, particularly in Tamil Nadu, where Hindi was already spreading due to films and the Hindi Prachar Sabha. The result was: Tamilians stopped learning Hindi.
In a new twist to the controversy, an online portal, “The Bengal Story”, carries an interesting story seeking to dispute Shah’s view that Hindi is the language of unity. Devdan Chaudhuri, who is the author, says that John Borthwick Gilchrist (1759-1841), “a temperamental Scottish trained-surgeon and self-trained linguist”, who also happened to be “a failed banker in his native city Edinburgh”, an East India Company employee, was the actual father of Hindi, as we know it today, and actually fathered the division of Hindustani in Hindi and Urdu as part of the colonial "divide and rule" policy. 

Let me quote from the article:

His first publication was “A Dictionary: English and Hindoostanee” (Calcutta: Stuart and Cooper, 1787–90). He popularized Hindustani as the language of British administration and suggested to the Governor-General, the Marquess of Wellesley, and the East India Company, to set up a training institution in Calcutta. This started as the Oriental Seminary or Gilchrist ka madrasa, but was enlarged within a year to become Fort William College in 1800 within the premises of Fort William in Calcutta.
Gilchrist served as the first principal of the college until 1804, and continued to publish a number of books including “The Hindee-Roman Orthoepigraphical Ultimatum”, or a systematic descriptive view of the Oriental and Occidental visible sounds of fixed and practical principles for the Language of the East, Calcutta, 1804.
Gilchrist inducted Indian writers and scholars into the college, and offered them financial incentive to write in Hindi. The contributions by the Indian writers and scholars enabled rapid strides in Hindi language and literature in a short period of time. Gilchrist’s initiative produced the popular “Premsagar “(Ocean of Love) by Lallulal (1763-1825). Subsequently, a Hindi translation of the Bible appeared in 1818 and “Udant Martand", the first Hindi newspaper, was published in 1826 in Calcutta.
Gilchrist wrote: “bifurcation of Khariboli into two forms – the Hindustani language with Khariboli as the root resulted in two languages (Hindi and Urdu), each with its own character and script.” In other words, what was Hindustani language was segregated into Hindi and Urdu (written in the Devanagari and Persian scripts), codified and formalised.
The birthplace of modern Hindi is Calcutta. And it was in Fort William that this invention took place under the tireless efforts of John Gilchrist. If the Anglophone Indians are derided as ‘Macaulay’s children’, then the Hindi speaking Indians can also be called ‘Gilchrist’s children’.

Comments

Jabir Husain said…
Well researched article by an apt pen of journalism! The subject of language in relation of a diversed pluralistic society. Landscape of India's social engineering had impact of several internal besides external implications over the time of history (pre and post Independence)!

Author's intent to crystlalize; sanitize majoratarianism impact on language vis-a-vis identity politics by RW (majoratarianism) is a burning issues and might ignite local; regional; and federal under currents! If not dealt within Ambit of Constitution, might hamper diversity which is uniting India from Kashmir to Kanyakumari!

Timeline of RW and it's obsession with euphoria/ phobia is over! After Ram Mandir verdict bandwagoning communal phase had reached an end!
Unknown said…
Dirty Politics Unabated. Development Aspect on Back Seat. Poverty and Hunger in Orbit. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.

TRENDING

When Ahmed Patel opined: It's impossible to win a poll in Gujarat if you're a Muslim

By Rajiv Shah/ Ahmed Patel has passed away. It is indeed sad that he became another Covid victim, like thousands of others across the world. His loss appears to have been particularly felt in the Congress corridors. I know how some party leaders from Gujarat would often defend him even if one “negative” remark was made on him. “I personally cannot tolerate any criticism of Ahmedbhai”, Shaktisinh Gohil, Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, appointed Bihar in charge ahead of recent assembly polls, told me about a couple of years ago during a tete-e-tete in Ahmedabad.

Dangerous trend? Castes, communities making efforts to infiltrate IAS at entry level

Inside IAS academy, Mussoori By Rajiv Shah/ The other day, I was talking to a former colleague of the Times of India, Ahmedabad. I have known him as one of the reasonable and rational journalists. He later served in a TV. When in TV, he would often tell me anecdotes of how they would report events if they failed to reach the spot on time: “We would just say, here the attack took place, and that was the place from where the attackers attacked.”

World of Mahabharata is stacked against women, today things aren't much different

Controversial American Indologist Audrey Truschke , associate professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University, Newark, in a detailed essay, “The living Mahabharata”, points to how “immorality, sexism, politics, war” in the “polychromatic Indian epic pulses with relevance to the present day”.  ***