Hindi, the Enemy’s Language, is Being Slowly Revived in Pakistan

On Hindi Diwas, a look back at how the language received “step-motherly treatment” in Pakistan after partition.

4 min read

Noted actor Balraj Sahni and great lyricists like Shailendra and Anand Bakshi had learnt Hindi at their schools and colleges in Rawalpindi. Brilliant Hindi writers like Krishna Sobti, Devendra Satyarthi, Upinder Nath Ashk and many more had started writing in today’s Punjab of Pakistan.

Hindi was flourishing in present day Pakistan till 14 August, 1947. Sadly, the epitaph of Hindi was written in Pakistan. Hindi was ‘declared’ as the language of the Hindus. Hindi publications were shut down, schools and colleges stopped teaching it. Reason: It was considered to be the language of the enemies.

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Death Knell for Hindi

Prior to 14 August, 1947 Hindi was taught across present day Pakistan in prestigious colleges in Lahore like Government College, FC College, Dyal Singh College that had full-fledged Hindi departments. The partition sounded death knell for several Lahore-based organisations working for the growth of Hindi.

Among them was the Hindi Pracharini Sabha which used to run from the office of Roop Lal, a foot soldier of Hindi in Lahore. It used to organise debates in schools and colleges in Lahore, Sargodha, Rawalpindi and other big cities in West Punjab (now Pakistan).

Hindi was even taught in Sindh, Baluchistan and other areas. The Karachi University had an illustrious Hindi department. As a matter of principle, Hindu women invariably learnt it either in schools, colleges or through classes conducted by the Hindi Pracharini Sabha. However, all this came to an end in Pakistan.

‘Hindi Banegi Bharat ki Bindi’

Prof Narinder Mohan, a noted Hindi poet and an authority on Saadat Hasan Manto, says:

My father, Mr Roop Lal had coined the slogan then Hindi banegi Bharat ki bindi. Those were the days when Hindi hardly got any state patronage in Punjab. Yet, dozens of people were involved in teaching Hindi to students.
Lahore had three Hindi newspapers with an impressive circulation — Arya Gazette, Prakash and Amar Bharat.

Arguably, Hindi writers coming from Pakistan had given new dimension to the language. They did not mind using Hindi and Punjabi words in their stories, poetry and novels. For instance, instead of ‘Kintu- Parantu’, they had started using ‘Agar-Magar’.


Shunning Hindi Only to Favour Urdu

Bigots in Pakistan started calling Hindi as the language of the enemy. Therefore, it had no future there. It had to die. Moreover, the language policy of Pakistan is flawed on many grounds. While Pakistan was created for Muslims in 1947, it was split in 1971 mainly due to their extremely flawed language policy.

Can you believe that the seed of split of Pakistan was sown by none other than Muhammad Ali Jinnah? It was Jinnah who declared on 21 March, 1948 in Dacca, that “Urdu and only Urdu” embodied the spirit of a Muslim nation and would remain as the state language of Pakistan.

This was unacceptable to people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). And after Jinnah's announcement, protests against imposition of Urdu became a routine in East Pakistan. Dhaka University campus was the bastion of pro-Bangla protesters. On 21 February, 1952 there were protests as usual when suddenly, Pakistani police started firing, killing dozens of students. That was the day when East Pakistan decided to snap ties with rest of the Pakistan. In the backdrop of these facts, it was not possible for Hindi to survive there.

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Revival of Hindi in Pakistan

Despite its share of struggles, Hindi is now being revived slowly in Pakistan. Thanks to Bollywood, satellite TV channels and interaction among Indians and Pakistanis on foreign soil, especially in the Gulf region, an average Pakistani freely uses several Hindi words. Hindi words like vivaad (dispute), atoot (unbroken), charcha (discussion), patni (wife), ashirvaad (blessings), shanti (peace), vishwas (trust) are spoken by ordinary Pakistanis quite frequently.

After partition, the issue of language became highly politicised as it was transformed into a religious issue, with slogans like, ‘Ik Allah, Ik Quran, Ik Nasl, Ik Zubaan’ (One God, One Quran, One Race, One Language). But associating oneself with Urdu to assert oneself as Muslim smacked of false pride. It was due to this reason that East Pakistan later separated from West Pakistan to become Bangladesh.

Then the Urdu-speaking West Pakistan looked at Bangla as a regional language just as it sees other regional languages such as Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi, Pashto, Hindko, etc.

Interestingly enough, large number of Pakistanis who are keen to study Indian culture are learning Hindi through the internet. Former Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit had told me that his country cannot ignore Hindi as it is the most widely spoken language of our immediate neighbour. Well, better late than never!

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Linguistic Skills Being Passed on to Gen Next

Hindus across Sindh region are also learning Hindi in a big way. Hindus have a sizeable number in Karachi, Hyderabad and other parts of Sindh. They are desperate to learn some of the notable Hindu religious books in Hindi. Since there is no facility to teach Hindi, they have no option but to learn it from their elders. This dwindling tribe had learnt Hindi during the pre-partition days.

Chander Kohli, a Sindh-born Hindu NGO worker who is currently based in Dubai, says:

I learnt Hindi from my elders in Karachi. Now I teach Hindi to youngsters. While Sindhi is our mother tongue, yet we learn it in order to study the religious scriptures our religion.

All said and done, it is so sad that a language had to die as it was clubbed with one religion.


(The writer is former Editor, Somaiya Publications. He can be reached @VivekShukla108. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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