Hindi may be the official language of the country, but a section of the militants in the northeast has often targeted it for being the language of what they say is ‘colonial India’.
The militants would target Hindi and people speaking the language every time they had an issue or two with the government. Scores of people have lost their lives at the hands of the gun-totting militants only because they were from the Hind-speaking region.
The language was never a taboo, yet few would speak it.
Now, with militancy at its lowest ebb, there is a change in the mindset, especially among the youth, and many seem to be developing a liking for the language. So, when Peter Sumi comes across his friend Jacob at a marketplace in Nagaland, he says: “Hi Jacob, kaisa hai (how are you)?” Jacob replies: “Aacha hu (I am good); aapka kya khabor hai (what about you)?”
They speak Hindi with an accent that can be described as ‘Northeast Hindi’. Barring Manipur, inter-tribal communication and the lingua-franca have been a mixture of Hindi, English and the local language. “Hindi sounds nice and it has a soothing effect. The youngsters are getting more and more exposure to the outside world. So, they develop the knack of speaking the language in no time,” says Peter.
Over the years, English has the main language for conversation between educated youth from different states of the region. But the trend now is that their dialogues would often be interspersed with Hindi words.
In the numerous bars, restaurants, parks etc in Guwahati, students from the region are often seen conversing in a language that is a mixture of Hindi, English and local words. Some may argue that those not educated enough speak in Hindi — instead of English — as they are left with no other options. But the fact remains that even the educated, who are fluent in English, tend to speak Hindi.
Recently, a call center in advertised posts, calling for applications from candidates who can speak and communicate in ‘Northeast Hindi’, besides having knowledge of local languages.
Another factor contributing to the trend is economic compulsion: Many flock to the metros now. Those not educated enough are forced to speak Hindi to eke out a living. Their influence back home on others is also huge.