By Krati Gupta
Edited by Liz Maria Kuriakose, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
The NDA’s move to give prominence to Hindi over other languages while using social media, has stirred the hornet’s nest. BJP’s ally DMK’s chief Karunanidhi slammed the proposal proclaiming it as an ‘imposition’ of Hindi and that it will degrade the non-hindi speaking citizens to the rank of second citizens. Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalitha in her letter to PM Modi stated that this violates the Official Languages Act of 1963 according to which English language shall be used for purposes of communication between the Union and a State which has not adopted Hindi as its Official Language. She further commented that the public information of importance passed on through social media needs to be easily discernible to the public and therefore should be as per their convenience.
The actual protests sparked with two circulars issued on May 27 by the Official Language department. In one of them, it addressed all ministries, banks and departments to give predilection to Hindi on social media for all future purposes. While in the second, it announced prize money worth Rs 2000 to two employees who did their official work mostly in Hindi.
In the current situation, one cannot help but ponder whether the old adage ”One nation, one language” is still entrenched in India. With other high priority issues at hand such as the effective implementation of union and railway budgets ,it’s high time that the Modi government assuages the probability of linguistic wars akin to the Anti Hindi agitation of 1962, by making clear that it’s not manoeuvring a Hindi enforcement project. The Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan rallying dictum of BJP now seems to pose an imminent threat and lay grounds for lingo battlefield.
India is known for its diversity in culture, traditions and languages. Hindi is the mother tongue of less than 25% people and its regional variations like Bhojpuri and Awadhi curtails the figures further. In such a scenario, giving prominence to Hindi will only promote the idea of majoritarianism over nationalism, and prove to be a bitter pill to swallow particularly for north eastern and southern states. While English continues to be the official language for business, court proceedings, parliamentary and administrative texts in tandem with Hindi for Hindi speaking states, it is time we cognise ourselves with the fact that it is no more a foreign language. The political head honchos who consider it to be a product of colonial rule, bite the bullet when it comes to our education system or the railways or majority of existing laws which are also a product of British era. It’s an irony that the ones who protest English for use by the masses, send their own kids to the elitist English medium schools and universities.
The need of the hour is to establish equilibrium with application of a ‘3 language formula’ in schools. Under this, students can opt for a regional language of their choice along with Hindi and English. In this way, the government can ensure encouragement to regional dialects and languages without the non-Hindi speaking population feeling bereft. The go ahead signal given to the IT ministry to launch websites in all regional languages under the domain name dot bharat is also a welcome step in this regard. This new domain name is expected to provide the Centre and state a platform to share public information and provide online services in the languages which the people concerned can comprehend easily.
Modi’s address in English at PSLV launch in Sriharikota recently, also gave a green flag to the notion that even government is re thinking on pursuing its Hindi chant further. Every state, with its own culture and linguistics is a precious pearl in the radiant Indian necklace, and we hope it together continues to portray the message of ‘Unity in Diversity’, for the years to come.
Krati is currently a Pre final year student pursuing chemical engineering from Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad. She loves watching movies and posing for pictures. Apart from juggling between the concepts of thermodynamics and heat transfer during college hours, she is a greenhorn at writing and is highly optimistic about exploring the vast horizon in this field . She believes penning down her thoughts will make at least a small difference to the world.