10th World Hindi Conference in Bhopal
The 11th World Hindi Conference will be held in Mauritius in 2018. This resolution was unanimously voted at the 10th World Hindi Conference (10 – 12 September 2015) held in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. By that date, it is expected that the World Hindi Secretariat Headquarters would be a state-of-the-art building, fully operational and ready for the occasion.
The tenth Vishwa Hindi Sammelan had a clean demarcation from the previous nine ones. Whereas so far, focus was massively laid on Hindi literature and literateurs, Shrimati Sushma Swaraj, Indian Minister of External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs who headed the organising committee saw to it that emphasis was laid this time on Hindi as a language. The Vishwa Hindi Sammelan had the immense support of the Government of Madhya Pradesh. Its Chief Minister Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan left no stones unturned to make of this event a great success. The programme of the three-day meet included daily exquisite evening cultural extravaganzas that brought out the grandeur, refined artistic taste and savoir-faire of the state, as well as guided tours for delegates to the Indira Gandhi Folk Tribal Museum, a real delightful regale to the eyes and spirit.
40 Hindi Scholars from India and worldwide were awarded with the prestigious Vishwa Hindi Sammaan including two Mauritians: Ajamil Matabadal for lifelong dedicated service to the promotion of Hindi at Hindi Pracharini Sabha and Gulshan Sooklall, currently Acting Secretary General of World Hindi Secretariat.
The huge sprawling pavillion at Lal Parade Ground in Bhopal was a mobile venue for some 3000 delegates coming from all over India and more than 39 other countries, with hundreds of students and young people of Madhya Pradesh. It was a matter of pride to see the name of renowned Mauritian Hindi writer and poet Somduth Buckhory given to one of the venues for the sessions. The striking thing about Bhopal, the city of lakes, was its graceful beauty and cleanliness, and the remarkable resemblance of its lush green environment to that of Mauritius.
Some 72 recommendations were summarised by the rapporteurs of the different panels at the concluding ceremony on 12th September. One resolution that keeps being voted at all World Hindi Conferences is that of making Hindi an official language of the United Nations, a complicated issue implying much financial investment. However it was argued that if the International Yoga Day was voted by 177 countries at the UN in a record period of a few weeks earlier this year, one had to start working seriously at getting Hindi recognised as the sixth official language of the UN. For this, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman, diplomat and noted English novelist Vikas Swarup who rose to fame when his novel Q & A was adapted as ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, suggested that ‘an ecosystem should be developed for Hindi.’ Indeed Shri Narendra Modi did stress the fact Hindi should be able to enrich itself by absorbing words from other Indian languages such as Tamil and Bengali.
Endangered Languages of World
Narendra Modi laid emphasis on the threat to thousands of world languages as endangered species in the rapid globalization and digitalization process. He said that according to scholars and language experts 90% of the world’s 6000 languages may face the risk of becoming relics of the past by the end of this century. Only three languages stand out to dominate the world scene: English, Chinese and Hindi. That is why this sammelan laid great emphasis on making Hindi a digital language. ICT experts were urged to make Hindi a standard compatible IT language accessible to the common man.
The interesting fact is the contribution of non-Hindi belt stalwarts and pioneers who have contributed immensely to make Hindi the national language of India, such as Subhas Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Gangadhar Tilak, Kaka Saheb Kalelkar and others. Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of Arya Samaj indeed was the first one to move for Hindi as the national language of India and he wrote his famous book of Vedic ethics ‘Satyarth Prakash’, the ‘Light of Truth’, in Hindi. It is pertinent to note that whether it was Swami Dayanand, Mahatma Gandhi or Shri Narendra Modi, their mother tongue is not Hindi but Gujarati. As for Shri Modi himself he admitted that he learnt Hindi while selling tea at the railway station. He advised that one should not mind mistakes but persist in using the language and build up one’s confidence.
Mrs Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun’s energetic intervention
Mauritius sent a strong delegation of twenty headed by Hon Mrs Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research who presented a keynote address in the session dedicated to diasporic Hindi of the Girmitia world. She stressed on the efforts made by the Government of Mauritius to enhance the teaching and learning of Hindi right from Primary to Tertiary level. She came up with several effective, valuable and excellent suggestions, the main one of which was that outside India, Mauritius stands as a proven centre of excellence in the world of Hindi with distinguished international level writers such as Abhimanyu Unuth and a remarkable array of publications over more than 90 years.
She stressed the efforts made by her Ministry to make Hindi an ICT language to facilitate learning among students and growing non-Hindi learners as well. She remarked that Mauritius has matured as a Hindi curriculum developer with the Mahatma Gandhi Institute as an advanced Asian language hub with a pool of resourceful Hindi language pedagogical experts, and this expertise could be put at the disposal of other diasporic countries such as South Africa and the Caribbean countries. She expected help from India in this regard. Mrs Dookun also stated that she is giving attention to Bhojpuri too in the educational system as it feeds and nurtures Hindi as a heritage language.
Fiji also sent a strong delegation of 17 Hindi teachers and journalists. Mrs Neelam Kumari, editor-in-chief of Fiji’s only surviving Hindi newspaper Shanti Doot also received the Vishwa Hindi Sammaan. In fact in Fiji, Hindi known as Fiji baat is a recognised language of Parliament.
It is endearing to note that the Governor of Goa, Shrimati Mridula Sinha who was recently in Mauritius, who chaired the session on Hindi in the Girmitia diasporic countries proposed that there should be an E-library at the Mauritius-based World Hindi Secretariat that would allow accessing Hindi books to the whole world.
Hindi Cinema’s Pull
Delegates and lovers of Hindi came from as far as the Republic of Chad and Japan. Their presence at the Bhopal conference reflected the growing attraction and pull that Hindi has across the world. In this, the Hindi cinema has contributed immensely in popularising Hindi and making it accessible to non-Hindi speakers and non-Indians.
39-year old Adoum Idriss from the Republic of Chad said: ‘Since my teenage years I have been a big fan of Bollywood especially Amitabh Bachchan. Watching Bollywood movies, I could almost speak the dialogues from my favourite Hindi movies. Without understanding them!’ Bollywood films reach Chad through Saudi Arabia and Dubai. His passion for Hindi led Idriss to come to India and follow a course in Hindi at the Central Institute of Hindi in Agra.
Learning Hindi for Adoum Idriss has not only helped him to enjoy the Bollywood films but also to ’connect to the larger civilizational ethos of India.’ For that matter thousands of Africans and Russians and Middle East people know by heart Hindi film songs.
Mohamad Ismael, another recipient of the Vishwa Hindi Sammaan from Saudi Arabia stated that Hindi is much loved in his country but it should be made easy to access to children. Gulnaz Abdool from Egypt also said that many people from the Middle East love Hindi and would like to learn the language but they have many hurdles to cross due to pronunciation of difficult words. Hence the need to simplify the language. Indeed to access Hindi to his students, he uses Arabic.
Much attention was also given to Hindi as a language of science, medicine, law and other modern subjects. In fact universities of Madhya Pradesh namely the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi Vishwavidhyalaya and Madhya Pradesh Bhoj Open University conduct their courses and examinations entirely in Hindi.
The first thing that connects Madhya Pradesh with Mauritius is of historical importance. Hundreds of years ago, the founder of Bhopal, Raja Bhoj went to far off Bihar in the East of India and founded the city of Bhojpur there. The language Bhojpuri derived from Bhoj has become the medium of communication and heritage of over 200 million people today, including diasporic Bhojpurias.
- Published in print edition on 25 September 2015