Due to their cultural bonds with India, the curiosity to acquire knowledge of the Indian national language, and the desire to establish better communication, many Pakistanis have taken to studying Hindi with enthusiasm
Pakistan’s special bonding with China is well-known. What evokes curiosity is that for the last many years, a large number of Chinese are taking lessons in Hindi in Pakistan. Not only the Chinese, many officials of Islamic countries, including the United Arab Emirates, too are learning Hindi in Pakistan.
That Pakistan is emerging as a seat of Hindi learning and teaching is a revelation. On a recent trip to london, I met a Chinese lady at a restaurant. She asked me in a smattering of Hindi, aap Bharat se hainIJ (Do you belong to IndiaIJ)
Naturally, Hindi made us friends there and then. She said that she had done her post-graduation in Hindi language from Pakistan. When I prodded her to reveal more about her days as a scholar of Hindi in Pakistan, she told him that the Islamabad-based National University of Modern languages (NUMl) conducts classes for those keen to learn Hindi. Many foreigners and Pakistani study there.
later, I learnt that it was established in 1973. It became the first university in Pakistan to provide certificates, diplomas, language courses, masters and PhD degrees in Hindi. After NUMl, University of the Punjab, lahore, too started various courses in Hindi in 1983.
The University of Karachi once had a Hindi department, but it was later closed. Given the fact that Karachi is the bedrock of lakhs of people who trace their roots to Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Bihar, the decision of University of Karachi to shut their Hindi department is surprising.
Hindi was a huge casualty of the two-nation theory of the All-India Muslim league. It was almost wiped out from present-day Pakistan post-1947, but for the laudable initiative by NUMl and University of the Punjab.
like other languages of Pakistan, Hindi too suffered due to the one nation-one-language policy of monolith Pakistan. Urdu, which was not the language of any part of the newly-created Pakistan, got special treatment there.
MA Jinnah declared it as the national language of Pakistan during his only visit to Dhaka in March 1948. That unilateral decision in respect of Urdu had created unrest among Bengali-speaking east Pakistan. People there felt betrayed as their language got a raw deal. That created a huge chasm between west Pakistan and east Pakistan. That led to the creation of Bangladesh.
The faculties in both University of the Punjab and the NUMl have Indian connections. Many women, who teach there, migrated to Pakistan after marriage. These ladies had their education in various Indian universities like Patna University, Chaudhary Charan Singh University and Panjab University, Chandigarh.
Meanwhile, Pakistanis have begun to use several Hindi words like vishwa (world), niti (policy), sambandh (relations), aashirvaad (blessing), charcha (debate), pati-patni (husband-wife), nirashaa (disappointment), shanti (peace) etc. Hindi words were not part of their conversation earlier. Arguably that is also the influence of Hindi films and Indian television serials. Both are a rage in Pakistan. Irrespective of the region, Pakistanis watch them.
Once, a Pakistani gentleman told me that Pakistanis learnt Hindi in a big way from serials like Ramayan and Mahabharat. These serials had created a kind of thirst among them to learn more about Indian culture and epics. Sadly, after partition, young Pakistanis did not learn about Indian epics. They grew up listening to anti-Hindu and anti-Indian narratives.
However, things started changing once social media invaded our lives. Now, the free flow of information has opened unlimited opportunities for anyone willing to learn.
For some Pakistanis, the knowledge of Hindi provides them an opportunity to follow the Hindi media and develop an understanding of neighbouring India, while for others it is an individual interest.
During the World Hindi Conference in Bhopal 2015, a few noted Hindi scholars told me that while two universities are teaching Hindi, from a certificate course to the PhD level, Pakistan lacks trained professionals to teach Hindi. As a result, the language does not get adequately promoted there. The teachers at both these places have Indian connections. As mentioned earlier, those who migrated to Pakistan from India took over teaching responsibilities, but they were not adequately trained.
Meanwhile, at the Centre for South Asian Studies at lahore, Hindi has now become a mandatory paper for those doing their M Phil in regional languages.
Naturally, due to deep cultural bonds with India and curiosity to acquire knowledge of regional language, establishing better communication continues to drive many in Pakistan to study Hindi.
(The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP)