Back in Time is ED’s newspaper-like column that reports the past as though it had happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to relive it several years later, on the date it occurred.
October 4, 1977, United Nations: In the 32nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Minister of External Affairs of the post-emergency government of Janata Dal, became the first individual in a position of power to use the Hindi language as a medium to reach out not only to members of the UN but also to the common folks of the country.
For the first time in the history of the United Nations General Assembly, Indian Minister of External Affairs, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, delivered an exhilarating speech in Hindi as opposed to many leaders who chose to speak in English, the dominant language of the Assembly.
The Foreign Minister described himself as a newcomer but also emphasized the fact that India as a nation has been with the UN ever since it was formed. Coping with the effects of the Emergency, Vajpayee also added, “The government in a short span of 6 months have restored the democratic and constitutional rights of the individuals that were snatched by the former regime.”
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the man of the masses, gave much more importance not to the nation-states but to the will and response of the people. He said, “The only yardstick to measure the success or failures of the regimes is social justice and dignity enjoyed by its citizens.” He criticized the Apartheid System in South Africa and maintained that India stands with the “South West Africa People’s Organization”.
Vajpayee reinforced India’s stance on the Non-Alignment Movement by adding, “India does not want to establish dominance over any other State and wishes to maintain friendly relations with everyone across borders”.
He reiterated that India has believed in the principle of ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbkam’ and the only concern India has is for the better future of humans all over the world. He ended his speech with ‘Jai Jagat’ or ‘Hail One World’.
Despite being fluent in English, the Foreign Minister chose his native language to deliver his unprecedented speech. Through this bold step, he countered the colonized mindset of the Indian leaders and clearly showed the world that Hindi is as elite as any other language.
The speech in Hindi was hailed by the Indians and Vajpayee became one of the most loved leaders of the nation. Vajpayee in his subsequent addresses in Hindi at the UN General Assembly uplifted the language to an international platform.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a writer-poet, fluent in languages, and had a multifaceted personality. The great orator leader visited the UNGA several times from 1977-2003 as foreign minister as well as the Prime Minister of the nation.
A Lok Sabha member for a decade, Vajpayee announced his retirement from politics in 2005. Vajpayee was honoured with Padma Vibhushan in 1992. He was also felicitated with the highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, in 2015. His demise on 16th August. 2018 brought a wave of grief to the country.
The reinforcement of our cultural roots and native language by Atal Bihari Vajpayee has now become a norm. Many leaders including former Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi have addressed many world forums in the Hindi language.
Languages are not only a means of communication but also a status symbol. Even today, there are instances where an individual is judged on the language he/she speaks. Languages, on one hand, are meant to be a medium of cooperation and understanding and on the other bring out elitism and racism. The prime question here is- What is a language actually for?
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This post is tagged under: history, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister, foreign minister, United Nations, Hindi, English, language, India, Apartheid, Non-Alignment Movement, Post emergency, democracy, rights, Back in Time
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