GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

International commerce and Mahatma Gandhi

 

The would-be members will be therefore pledged so to work in the Imperial Council as to introduce Hindustani and in the Local Councils the respective vernaculars, at least as an optional medium for the time being till we are able to dispense with English for the conduct of national affairs. They will also be pledged to introduce Hindustani as a compulsory second language in our schools with Devanagari or Urdu as an optional script. English will be recognized as a language of Imperial intercourse, diplomacy and international commerce. 1 English is a language of international commerce, it is the language of diplomacy, it contains many a rich literary treasure, and it gives us an introduction to Western thought and culture. For a few of us, therefore, knowledge of English is necessary. They can carry on the departments of national commerce and international diplomacy, and for giving to the nation the best of Western literature, thought, and science. That would be the legitimate use of English. Whereas today English has usurped the dearest place in our hearts and dethroned our mother tongues. It is an unnatural place due to our unequal relations with Englishmen. The highest development of the Indian mind must be possible without knowledge of English. It is doing violence to the manhood and specially the womanhood of India to encourage our boys and girls to think that an entry into the best society is impossible without knowledge of English. It is too humiliating a thought to be bearable. To get rid of the infatuation for English is one of the essentials of swaraj. 2

You will not mistake this for a movement of general boycott of foreign goods. India does not wish to shut herself out of international commerce. Things other than cloth which can be better made outside India she must gratefully receive upon terms advantageous to the contracting parties. Nothing can be forced upon her. But I do not wish to peep into the future. I am certainly hoping that before long it would be possible for India to co-operate with England on equal terms. Then will be the time for examining trade relations. For the time being, I bespeak your help in bringing about a boycott of foreign cloth. 3 My uncompromising opposition to the foreign medium has resulted in an unwarranted charge being levelled against me of being hostile to foreign culture or the learning of the English language. No reader of Young India could have missed the statement often made by me in these pages, that I regard English as the language of international commerce and diplomacy and therefore consider its knowledge on the part of some of us as essential. As it contains some of the richest treasures of thought and literature, I would certainly encourage its careful study among those who have linguistic talents and expect them to translate those treasures for the nation in its vernaculars. 4

English is a language of diplomacy and of international commerce. I know you will not misunderstand me because I may request use of the English language as one of the greatest of world languages. I think that there is a great deal in the English literature which we could learn with profit. But even as dirt is described as matter “misplaced” so also is our use of English in the wrong place as here obnoxious. Each time I have to use English in order to transmit my thoughts to my countrymen and each time I hear English in our mutual intercourse, I feel deeply the sting of ever-growing humiliation. 5 It is then I hold the duty of Great Britain to regulate her exports with due regard to the welfare of India, as it is India’s to regulate her imports with due regard to her own welfare. That economics is untrue which ignores or disregards moral values. The extension of the law of non-violence in the domain of economics means nothing less than the introduction of moral values as a factor to be considered in regulating international commerce. And I must confess that my ambition is nothing less than to see international relations placed on a moral basis through India’s efforts. I do not despair of cultivation of limited mass non-violence. I refuse to believe that the tendency of human nature is always downward. 6 

English will, no doubt, have its place in India under swaraj as a medium for international commerce, but that does not mean that it should be allowed to usurp the place of your mother tongue. Even when foreigners come to see me, they at least try to speak as many Hindi or other non-English words as they might know in my presence and end their conversation with a Vandemataram or a Salaam. An English Lady came to me yesterday with her daughters. I wanted to speak to her daughters in English, but they preferred to talk to me in Urdu. But what have you done? You have as it were said to me: ‘Yes, we know what you like, but we shall give you that which you do not like.’ It is just like the story of the fox and the stork; you know how the one called the other to a dinner and then kept him hungry. Similarly, you have called me here. You have called me the greatest man of the world, but you have forgotten the first essential of courtesy, viz., to address me in the mother tongue. 7 English should be taught only as one of several languages. As Hindi is the national language, English is to be used in dealing with other nations and international commerce. 8 

English helps us to become internationalists for that are the language of the international commerce of the day. Each is good in its own place and will serve its purpose accordingly. May I illustrate this point? Malayalam in the Punjab is useless, so is English for a Punjabi farmer. But if you speak to the Punjabi in Hindi, e.g., Salamalikum’, he will smile at you and he will say, ‘I know him’. 9  The question of language as such does not fall within the scope of Nayee Talim but the question of the medium of instruction does and that must always be the mother tongue. This point cannot be over-emphasized. Equally important is the question of a national or all-India language. It can never be English. English is undoubtedly the language of the rulers and of international commerce. But Hindi-Hindustani alone can be our national language. At present it has two forms. In order to understand both the forms of the national language, viz., Hindi and Urdu, and for their natural synthesis we must learn the Devanagari and Persian scripts. I find this lacking even in my immediate surroundings. All our sign-boards must be written in both the scripts and there should be none amongst us who cannot easily read and write either. 10

I was going to tell you that I do not wish to apologize. I dare not. You cannot understand the provincial language which is my mother tongue. I do not want to insult you by speaking in my own language. Our national speech is in Hindustani. I know that it will be a long time before it can be made into an international speech. For international commerce, undoubtedly, English occupies the first place. I used to hear that French was the language of diplomacy. I was told when I was young that if I wanted to go from one end of Europe to the other, I must try to pick up French. I tried to learn French in order that I may be able to make myself understood. There is a rivalry between French and English. Having been taught English I have naturally to resort to that language. 11

 

References:

  1. Letter to V. S. Srinivasa Shastri, March 18, 1920
  2. Young India, 2-2-1921
  3. Young India, 13-7-1921
  4. Young India, 1-9-1921
  5. The Hindu, 22-9-1921
  6. Young India, 26-12-1924
  7. Speech at D. J. S. College, February 5, 1929
  8. Ashram Observances in Action 
  9. Harijan, 26-1-1934
  10. Speech at Hindustani Talimi Sangh, January 11, 19452
  11. Harijan, 20-4-1947

 

 

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