Piyong Temjem Jamir is a Naga with a passion and dedication for Hindi language. His promotion of Hindi and also social service has been acknowledged with 14 awards over the past few decades. In 2006, a Naga educationist in full traditional regalia received the Ganga Saran Award from the hands of then president of India APJ Abdul Kalam. Twelve years later, the same Naga personality was on stage in Delhi, his attire again proclaiming his Naga identity, receiving the Padma Shree from President Ram Nath Kovind.
Ignored by his own people, Piyong Temjen Jamir, the lone single-minded crusader of Hindi language in Nagaland, probably wants to send a message to his critics that his identity as a Naga has not been compromised by his love for the Hindi – a language not favored for long in Nagaland as well as many parts of northeast India during the peak of separatist movements. Now 86, Jamir’s dedication to promotion of Hindi and also social service has been acknowledged with 14 awards over the past few decades.
The man, reverently addressed as Guruji, has always draped himself in traditional weaves for each award or even for any photo for the media. Jamir, the principal of Rashtrabhasha Hindi Shiksha Sansthan, located in Nagaland’s cosmopolitan town of Dimapur, was recently awarded the Padma Shree for distinguished service in the field of literature and education.
Jamir recalled that hardly anybody had any interest in Hindi and that he was looked down upon by his own people and in his own village as he taught Hindi. Jamir published articles in local newspapers putting forth the argument that Devnagri was more suited to script the tonal and rhythmic language of the Naga tribes than the Roman script.
The educationist was issued threats on more than one occasion by separatists fighting for independent Nagaland. Starting with three students – two relatives and one a friend’s son – in a thatched accommodation and then shifting to the current site of the Rashtra Bhasha Hindi Shiksha Sansthan or Hindi College, the journey of Piyong Temjen Jamir has been a long and testing one.
Jamir’s tryst with Hindi began in 1963 when he left his native place to learn the language at Wardha in Maharashtra. After completing the course in Hindi at Wardha, he stayed back for two more years to acquire more knowledge of the language. Jamir stayed at Wardha for seven long years, whereas people could not stay there for even a year due to the extreme heat. He was resolute and wanted to learn to speak Hindi properly he said.
Back to his state again, Jamir worked as an instructor in the Hindi Training College, originally established as a branch of the Wardha institute in 1962 in Dimapur as Rashtra Bhasha Vidyalaya. Frustrated by the disregard for the language among the locals, he resigned from the college in 1982 and contested in the state assembly election but was unsuccessful.
In 1984, the Wardha institute withdrew its sponsorship of its branch in Dimapur and the then-in charge of the college coaxed Jamir, who was also in the managing board of the institute, to take over the institution as its owner. In 1988, resolute to revive the college, he shifted location and changed the name to Rashtra Bhasha Hindi Training Institute.
Jamir had also taken his young wife, Atula, to Wardha to train her in Hindi and she became his pillar throughout the days of struggle. Jamir recalls how his wife faced off the undergrounds when they threatened him.
Jamir says promoting Hindi has also helped him serve the society in many ways, including get local youths employed. One of his first students was a girl whose husband had left her and their kids. She liked the language. Jamir sent his wife to teach her at home and helped her pass her exams. Then she got the post of Hindi teacher in her village. As the number of students grew, Jamir made trips to the state education directorate to seek jobs for students of his institute who had completed the course.
A follower of Mahatma Gandhi, it was no surprise hence when he was dubbed as Mahatma Gandhi of Nagaland and Father of Hindi in Nagaland. But he is yet to get due recognition from his own brethren. More than 2000 Hindi teachers in Nagaland have been trained under the tutelage of Piyong Temjen Jamir. Today, Jamir’s children teach Hindi. His eldest son Walleng has taken over his father’s institute.
As one enters the sprawling grounds of the Hindi College run by the Jamir family, two structures are visible on either sides of the gate. On the left is a church, and on the right stands tall a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.