By Parth Gupta
Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu felt the heat of staunch objection after asserting that the citizens of India should make an effort to master Hindi since it is our national language. There is no denying the fact that Hindi is the most spoken language in India. There has always been a quarrel between Hindi and non-Hindi speakers on the matter of making Hindi the national language of India.
Recently, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made an announcement that from now on, passports will be bilingual, with the text both in English and Hindi. This step definitely inflates the influence of Hindi. Another recent incident is the anti-Hindi protests over Hindi being used as a language in Namma Metro sign boards in Bengaluru. With half the nation agitating over Hindi imposition in non-Hindi speaking belts, these events are adding fuel to the fire.
Are we giving too much importance to Hindi?
Mr Naidu said, “Hindi is our national language and it is impossible for India to progress without Hindi. It is unfortunate that everyone is after English. I am against Britishers but not their language. We should learn all languages, but by learning English our mindset is also changing. This is wrong, this is against the interest of the nation. It is unfortunate that everyone is bent upon learning English because it guarantees employment. Hence I want the nation to discuss, promote and learn our mother languages more and at the same time learn Hindi as well.”
For the record, according to Clause 1 of Article 343 of the Constitution of India, Hindi is only one of the official languages. It also affirms that states, where Hindi isn’t the regional language, may use English for official purposes and recognises 22 languages to be the official languages of India.
Mr Naidu also said that since the majority of the population speaks Hindi, it is necessary to learn Hindi. The Census of 2001, however, revealed that only 45% of India speak Hindi and only 25% had Hindi as their mother tongue. Adding to this, the BJP government has also procured approval from the President for usage of Hindi in Airport announcements, press news and advertisements. It has also gone a step further by making Hindi a compulsatory subject in CBSE schools across the country.
Diversity trumps national language
Another angle to the argument is that while several nations have a national language, why not India? This is because other countries do not shelter various cultures. Neither do they boast about being a diverse nation. A good example of this diversity would be the case of Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank and Corporation Bank. All three banks were chartered in Karnataka, with all documents being in English and Kannada. While the locals used Kannada, people from outside used English. In came the Central Government in 1969, nationalising all these banks. All documents were now to be printed in English and Hindi.
Conditions like these make it mandatory for people knowing only one official language (which they’re required to know as citizens of India) to learn another language too, for nothing but basic banking transactions. This preferential treatment is what started the mess that we’re in today. Ethnicity being multidimensional, the minority shouldn’t and can’t be made to follow the ways of the apparent majority, especially since we are part of a diverse society.
Force is not the answer
Every community resists forceful imposition, irrespective of the form. The governing principle is that languages become extinct or endangered when people no longer use them or are no longer authorised to use them. If Hindi is imposed on people speaking Tamil or Marathi or Kannada, these languages will sooner or later become extinct. If non-Hindi speaking states needed to learn Hindi in order to economically favour themselves, they would automatically do it. In such a case, it would not be shoved down anyone’s throats.
The idea that learning Hindi over English would bring economic benefit is simply absurd. The reason is simple. Knowing English helps to communicate better when the other party speaks a different language. People who speak different languages take great pride and honour when they use their mother tongue. If by law or by other means, a foreign language is imposed, their section will be at loss and another section will be at a profit, resulting in a snowball effect. This would ultimately lead to the formation of a hegemonic state.
When the government is the instigator
The push towards Hindi has become over-powering with the Modi Government assuming office. This practice, however, has been the policy of the governments since independence. Hindi along with English are the only languages used by the Union government for its operations. Now that the outgoing President, Pranab Mukherjee has signed a presidential order that has made it binding for all government office-holder to address public adopting Hindi, the government has unofficially made its stand clear.
While previous central governments have manoeuvred through laws to push out ‘other languages’, this government is bidding to the same with English as well. A fact to be kept in mind is that East Pakistan separated from West Pakistan on linguistic issues. This was because of West Pakistan’s imposition of Urdu on East Pakistan. With continual attempts to make Hindi the ‘national’ language of a multilingual country like India, the question is, will a citizen using his/her ‘mother tongue’ be framed as ‘anti-national’?
Featured Image Credits: Visual Hunt
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