[lg policy] How Hindi became Arunachal Pradesh’s lingua franca

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Feb 27 10:45:28 EST 2018


 How Hindi became Arunachal Pradesh’s lingua franca Ironically, it is the
presence of a large number of native languages in Arunachal Pradesh that is
the key reason behind Hindi gaining currency in the state.
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Written by Adrija Roychowdhury
<http://indianexpress.com/profile/author/adrija-roychowdhury/> | New Delhi
| Updated: February 27, 2018 7:37 am
[image: Arunachal Pradesh, Narendra Modi, Hindi in Arunachal Pradesh,
languages in Arunachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh language, Arunachal
pradesh news, north east news, India news, Indian Express] Ironically, it
is the presence of a large number of native languages in Arunachal Pradesh
that is the key reason behind Hindi gaining currency in the state. (Tashi
Tobgyal New Delhi)

“Even if a child speaks in his native language until the age of five, the
moment he goes to school he automatically picks up Hindi. That is the
contact language of the peer group,” says Jumyir Basir about the popularity
of Hindi among the people of Arunachal Pradesh. Basir, who teaches Tribal
Studies in Rajiv Gandhi <http://indianexpress.com/about/rajiv-gandhi>
University at Itanagar, believes that in Arunachal Pradesh, unlike other
northeastern states, Hindi has over time grown to become the lingua franca.
In saying this, she was only validating Prime Minister Narendra Modi
<http://indianexpress.com/about/narendra-modi>’s recent assertion during
campaigning in the state. Modi had stated if there was a state in the
northeast where Hindi was spoken widely, it was “my Arunachal”.

“If you travel to Arunachal Pradesh for a day, you will hear more Jai Hind
than you will hear after travelling the entire country for a week,” he had
said.

The popularity of Hindi in Arunachal Pradesh has been well documented in
the past few years. About 90 per cent of the state’s population can speak
the language and Hindi is used among other languages during debates in the
state legislative assembly as well. According to the most recent language
survey carried out by renowned language critic G.N. Devy in 2010, Arunachal
Pradesh is home to around 90 local languages. Yet, the state’s preference
for Hindi as a common language over its many local languages sets it apart
from its Northeastern sister states where the preference for the native
language is known to be very strong. “Unlike other northeastern states, we
did not have a language movement here because all of us speak different
dialects. In my own community I might converse in my own language but if I
have to converse with someone from some other tribe, I have to use a
contact language. Therefore Hindi has become like a lingua franca,” says
Basir.

Ironically, it is the presence of a large number of native languages in
Arunachal Pradesh that is the key reason behind Hindi gaining currency in
the state. However, historical and political factors have also played a
role in spreading the predominantly North Indian tongue across the
Northeastern state.
The breakaway from Assam

At the time of India’s Independence, the present territory of Arunachal
Pradesh was part of the tribal areas of Assam. It was renamed as the
North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) in 1951. Between 1950 and 1965, the area
was administered by the Governor of Assam who worked as an agent of the
President of India under the Ministry of External Affairs. During this
period, the medium of instruction in all educational institutions was
Assamese.

However, in 1965, the NEFA was removed from under the administration of the
Governor of Assam and placed under the Ministry of Home Affairs, in 1972
the NEFA was turned into the union territory of Arunachal Pradesh and in
1978 it gained recognition as a full-fledged state. The breakaway from
Assam was not peaceful and border disputes between the two states remain a
regular affair till today.

In fact, since the time the administration of the state changes hands,
there has also been widespread opposition to Assamese being used as the
medium of instruction in education. In the absence of a common native
language, English and Hindi were introduced as mediums of instruction in
educational institutions and that remains to be the case till date. “The
use and development of tribal languages in education in Arunachal Pradesh
was very much restricted, though recently some attempts are being made for
the development and use of the major tribal languages like Adi, Nocte,
Apatani, Nishi, etc,” writes linguist Hans R. Dua in his work, “Linguistic
minorities in India”.
The Chinese aggression and armed occupation

The popularity of Hindi in the state also needs to be seen in the context
of the volatile politics of its geographical location. Arunachal Pradesh
was right at the heart of the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. The presence of
the Indian Army in the state during the period is deemed to be one of the
first instances when Hindi was introduced here.
[image: Arunachal Pradesh, Narendra Modi, Hindi in Arunachal Pradesh,
languages in Arunachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh language, Arunachal
pradesh news, north east news, India news, Indian Express] The presence of
the Indian Army in the state during the period is deemed to be one of the
first instances when Hindi was introduced here. (File Photo)

“The Army came with Hindi, they conversed in Hindi. In many ways, the army
did provide some kind of service, in terms of opening of schools, hospitals
etc. Therefore, it was imperative for the local community to understand
Hindi to have some form of interaction,” says Basir. She went on to suggest
that the Chinese aggression in the region could have also influenced the
language policy of the Indian government. “I feel that Hindi was introduced
here for the integration of the then NEFA into the larger nation-state,”
she says. However, such a suggestion is a possibility but remains hard to
verify.

While the exact reason behind the extensive use of Hindi among the people
of Arunachal Pradesh remains debatable, a significant fallout of the same
has been the gradual dying out of several native languages in the state. In
2017, a survey carried out by the UNESCO reported 33 languages of the state
as endangered, out of which four were enlisted as being on the verge of
extinction. In recent times, however, there have been some efforts at
documentation and preservation of local languages of the state, which are
being feared to be wiped away for want of a common language.

‘Each dying language takes away a culture system’
<http://indianexpress.com/article/research/international-mother-language-day-2018-ganesh-devy-indian-languages-5072487/>



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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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