Hindi enthusiasts of New Zealand will have another opportunity to promote the cause of Hindi language – the third most spoken language of the world – in the wider South Pacific region by participating in the first ever regional international Hindi conference proposed to be held in Fiji on March 15-17, 2019.

The conference – touted as the first regional international Hindi conference – is separate from the recently held World Hindi Conference in Mauritius in August 2018, and is focused on promoting the Hindi language in particular regions of the world.

Indeed, the South Pacific region is an area of significant interest for the fact that Fiji is the only country outside India where Hindi is an official language, accompanied with the growing size of the global Indian diaspora in New Zealand and Australia – the two major countries of the region.

The Hindi Conference is being organised by the Government of India in close cooperation with the Government of Fiji and the University of the South Pacific – the largest and most prestigious educational institution of Fiji and the Pacific.

“This is the first ever international Hindi conference to be hosted in Fiji and is poised to bring together 100-120 laureates, experts and artists from about 15-20 countries all around the world,” a press release from the office of Indian High Commissioner in Fiji, Vishvas Sapkal said.

However, further emphasising on the importance of Hindi-enthusiasts of New Zealand and Australia Mr Sapkal said, “Although we have invited and are expecting guests from all around the world our special focus is on Hindi-enthusiasts of NZ & Australia.

“I would like to invite all Hindi language experts and enthusiasts from NZ and Australia to participate in the upcoming conference,” Mr Sapkal said.

High Commission of India, Suva, Fiji, Vishvas Sapkal (Image: http://envoyexcellency.com)

The conference would be officially inaugurated by India’s Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, and would involve several cultural performances including the famous Ramleela presented by well-renowned Shri Ram Bhartiya Kala Kendra.

It is important to note that Shri Ram Bhartiya Kala Kendra’s Ramleela is not only one of the most important events in the cultural calendar of Delhi, but also regarded as the best Ramleela in India.

Apart from cultural performances, there will be an opportunity for Hindi scholars and experts to present research papers on more than twenty different topics, including Hindi in New Zealand, Hindi media, Hindi in Girmitiya countries and diaspora literature, in the Hindi Conference.

Wellington-based Hindi-educationist and activist Sunita Narayan has been coordinating efforts in New Zealand for this historic event by communicating with the office of the Indian High Commission in Fiji, and New Zealand, along with other Hindi language supporters in the country.

Speaking to The Indian Weekender, Mrs Narayan said, “This is a historic conference in Fiji where Hindi is widely spoken and well entrenched in day to day life of the island country.

“We [all Hindi-educationists here in NZ] are excited about the opportunity of dialogue and conversation amongst different stakeholders working towards the common goal of promoting the Hindi language that comes naturally with any such mega event,” Mrs Narayan said.

“The conference has the potential to strengthen Hindi language in the South Pacific region,” Mrs Narayan said.

Mrs Sunita Narayan (Image: Supplied)

Expressing support to the cause of promoting Hindi language Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Sanjiv Kohli told The Indian Weekender, “We are encouraging participation and helping the expansion of Hindi teaching capacities here in NZ.”

What does Fiji have to offer?

Fiji holds the unique reputation of being the only country other than India to have the Hindi language as one of its official languages. This is a statement on not only how Fiji has embraced not just India’s Girmitiya population and their descendants, but also the Hindi language.

It is noteworthy that Fiji has produced many renowned scholars of Hindi language like Kamla Prasad Mishra, Joginder Singh Kanwal, Vivekanand Sharma, and Dr Subramani and not to forget iTaukei-origin scholar of Fiji, Nemani Bainivalu, who was awarded the ‘Vishva Hindi Samman’ in the World Hindi Conference held in Mauritius, in August 2018.

Making diasporic connections

The conference apart from promoting the cause of Hindi language also offers the opportunity of strengthening existing and making new diasporic connections in this part of the world.

Given the size of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, and their passion for retaining the elements of Indian heritage and culture, such a conference is bound to offer new opportunities of strengthening diasporic connections.