You are not contesting election to Indian Parliament
By VICTOR LAL
ONE of the most ridiculous and nauseating features of the election campaign is the language usage of Indo-Fijian candidates on the election trail: a pseudo pompous and counterfeit Hindi, as if they are contesting for power in India and not in Fiji.
Several potential voters wrote to me complaining that instead of speaking in the everyday Fiji Hindi to them, the candidates have been making speeches in Shudh (Standard/Correct) Hindi, a language a vast majority of the Indo-Fijian voters hardly understand.
A similar spectacle has been displayed during Question Time and Talk Back programmes on Fiji TV. I decided to watch the appearance of Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi of the Fiji Labour Party, Bimal Prasad of the National Federation Party, Shiu Ram of COIN Party and Dildar Shah of the National Alliance Party on these two programmes.
Again, a pathetic reoccurring pattern, as if Vayeshnoi, who is contesting the Nadroga Indian Communal seat, was reading a script out of the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita. When, all he was trying to do, was to explain his party’s manifesto (for which there is no Fiji Hindi word).
The other three were equally guilty, and at times I felt sorry for Shiu Ram, who even resorted to English to make his point, instead of opting to speak the language of the Indo-Fijian masses, and over 30 per cent of taukei Fijians – Fiji Hindi.
What is wrong with speaking Fiji Hindi? Are they ashamed of the language of their coolie forefathers? Why are these Indo-Fijian candidates contesting the Indian communal seats when they are by commission or omission, speaking to the voters in the language of ‘Mother India’.
For God’s sake, even Indian candidates, despite belonging to different political parties, speak in the 700 different dialects and languages to their prospective voters in India. A regional aspiring candidate in Madras will be speaking in Madrassi, and even the Communist candidate in Bengal will be pouting his Maoist and Stalinist propaganda in Bengali. The Italian-born Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress Party, also speaks in a Hindi language which is understood by the vast majority of the voters.
More importantly, the candidates in Bihar would be speaking in Bhojpuri or Awadhi, from which the corrupt version of Fiji Hindi has originated in our country. So why can not our own aspiring Indo-Fijian politicians speak the language of their people?.
As Nemani Bainivalu, a University of the South Pacific Hindi graduate, and later a cultural assistant with the National Reconciliation Unit, had once pointed out, only 20 percent of Indo-Fijians can read and write their formal language.
Many Indo-Fijians cannot even read their holy books written in the Khadee Bolee dialect, and pass on religious teachings by word. I am not suggesting that Sudh Hindi be replaced in our education system, or that everyone should be writing novels like Dauka Puran by Professor Subramani of the Department of Literature and Language at the USP.
What I am protesting against is the gibberish Shudh Hindi that is being shoved down the throats of Indo-Fijian voters who are struggling to ‘swallow’ the words. The election message and manifestoes of the political parties would be better understood if the Indo-Fijian candidates resorted to the conversational Fiji Hindi at the hustings. It will also help bring the taukei Fijians into the campaign, especially the 30 per cent who speak the language, and many others who have a smattering command of it.
It must be made very clear to Indo-Fijian candidates that despite the teaching of Shudh Hindi and Urdu in schools, Fiji Hindi is an integral part of the identity and culture of the Indo-Fijian population. It is unique to Indo-Fijians in the world. The day Indo-Fijian politicians kill Fiji Hindi, they will be killing a part of their history and heritage in Fiji.
For no matter where one goes in the world, the moment one hears an Indo-Fijian open his mouth, one immediately asks him: ‘What part of Fiji are you from?’ In a similar vein, India Indians are able to separate us from them solely on the basis of our Fiji Hindi.
If the Indo-Fijian politicians and aspiring candidates are too ashamed to speak to us in the language of our coolie forefathers, they should pack their bags and their manifestoes and take the next Air India flight to India, and wait there for the next general election in that country to practice their Shudh Hindi. We don’t need Indian political impostors in Fiji.
Such candidates and Indo-Fijian leaders do not deserve our sympathy or votes.
Long live FIJI HINDI.