In a recent speech by Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu emphasizing Hindi as the “national language” of India earned him a sharp rebuke from the opposition and a fact check on social media. “Hindi is our national language, our identity and we should be proud of it,” said Mr. Naidu, adding that “it’s very unfortunate that we are obsessed with English” which, according to him, was detrimental to the nation’s progress.
Opposition leaders tore through the comments, pointing out that the Indian Constitution does not mark any language as “national”. Under its Article 343, Hindi and English are assigned the status of official languages.
As per the Constitution, India is a multi-lingual nation. It has 22 languages. But people in India give their first preference to the English language. It is used as a medium of communication in most of the schools and offices.
There has been a massive uproar by the Modi government asking the ministers and officials to use the Hindi language everywhere. Prime Minister Modi gave his speech in Hindi at the Bhutanese parliament during his first official overseas trip. All the government offices in India now have Hindi software installed in their systems. According to the government, all the officials and employees need to be well-versed in Hindi. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has always promoted Hindi as the official language. Apart from naming National Schemes in Hindi, the Ministers use a lot of Hindi words in their English speeches. This is ridiculous as no other country in the world, use their local language while speaking in English! The worst scenario is the commercial advertisement space. Any commercial organization would advertise their products in a language the consumers enjoy. They will not be keen on promoting official language at the cost of losing their business.
As Naidu said “Our original languages are Bangla, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil. ‘Bhasha and bhavna’ (language and feeling) go together. Apni Bhavana ko vyakt karne ke liye, bhasha bahut jaroori hai. Isliye apni matrubhasha mein log padhe, ye bahut jaroori hai. (Language is important to express our feelings. So, it is important that people study in their mother language).”
“I want that in our education policy we should consider (promoting our mother language). It is our misfortune that we give too much importance to English medium,” he said.
All national media and Union Government present an illusion to the world, that entire India knows and speaks Hindi. The National English TV channels do not bother about non-Hindi viewers and are happy serving the ‘Hindi-sthan’. They freely use Hindi in reporting and interviews in all their programs.
Imagine booking a gas cylinder and you hear a reply in an unfamiliar language. Imagine our PM speaking in an alien tongue! Imagine appearing for a UPSC exam in a language you do not know! How would you feel? The Government doesn’t seem to be sensitive to people’s feelings. Mother-tongue is as important as or more important than your mother! But if that feeling is not respected, it’s really unfortunate! The Information and Broadcasting minister said while they are not against English as a language, it was “being given undue importance because of its association with increasing job prospects where, both educated and uneducated people teach their kids to speak ‘mummy and papa’ for mother and father, instead of maa (for mother) in mother tongue.
Technically Hindi is spoken by maximum North Indians. If Hindi is made an official language it will be convenient for only north Indians. Just think the other way around if any other South Indian languages are made as the national language, will any of the north Indians agree. It will be difficult for them. Making Hindi as the official language will divide India into North and South Indians.
It is over half a century since the anti-Hindi agitation of 1965 and Delhi’s assurance that English would continue to be associate official language until non-Hindi-speaking States so desire. Since the days of Hindi scraping in through a single vote in the Constituent Assembly, no intellectual argument has been made for why the South should accept Hindi. Their case is usually made in Hindi, resulting in a dialogue of the deaf. From Subramania Bharati to Periyar to Rajaji Tamil leaders promoted, in good faith, Hindi language teaching in Tamil Nadu to foster better integration. Only to give it up as counterproductive, the arrogance and insensitivity of Hindi advocates contributing is no small measure to their disillusionment.
Any reasonably informed survey of trends in modern India will tell you that most of the major intellectual currents have bypassed the Hindi language. Hindi newspapers are not a patch on their Malayalam counterparts. The vitality of the little and middle magazine tradition in Tamil outstrips anything remotely similar in Hindi. Despite the billions of rupees spent on official language commissions and the appointment of Hindi officers in every Central government office, only Sarkari Hindi, which is about as fecund as a mule, has thrived. On the contrary, with little or no government patronage, Tamil and Malayalam constitute a far more vibrant presence in the virtual world.
The point to be noticed, in a country like India with a population of 130 crores, is that Hindi is spoken by more than 50% of the population and understood by 20% of the non-Hindi-speaking population. Hence, Hindi is naturally a more dominating language. But on the other hand, many countries have a set language spoken all over their country which makes a good flow of communication between people. India does not have a national language and it affects a maximum of those people who do not speak Hindi or English and thus ruining their chances of a competitive job in the market against those who speak these languages.
In the hands of a majoritarian government, with utter contempt for the cultural plurality and diversity of our great nation, the pipe dream of making Hindi the sole official language takes on nightmarish proportions. Hindi simply doesn’t make the cut. The preservation of culture has been an age old argument against any kind of change. If we were to be preserving culture then it should be Sanskrit that should be talked about and not Hindi.