Hindi Chauvinism Or Anti-Hindi Bias?
Last few days saw much hue and cry, mainly by politicians from down south led by
With Prime Minister
Before Modi, former prime minister
However, after the statesman unexpectedly lost the elections in 2004, Hindi, too, started losing its place of privilege in the corridors of power and was totally marginalised during the decade-long rule of former prime minister Manmohan Singh. Although many international leaders of developed countries like China, Germany, Italy, France, Japan and Russia speak in their respective national languages even on foreign visits, Indian leaders have always taken pride in using English even in the Parliament. This was evident during the
Now, let’s come back to the present controversy over the use of Hindi. It all started with the Home Ministry issuing a directive to bureaucrats to use Hindi to convey message through social media. It’s pertinent to mention here that the directive was only meant for ‘social media messages’ and not for the official communications sent from the Centre to the states, which continue to be in the two official languages - Hindi and English.
Social media messages are meant for the general public. According to the 2001 census, Hindi is the mother tongue of more than 41% of the country’s population. Add to that 5%
But the anti-Hindi crusaders of Tamil Nadu lost no time in raking up a controversy out of a non-issue. M Karunanidhi, chief of Tamil Nadu-based DMK party went on to say, "No one can deny it's beginning to impose Hindi against one's wish. This would be seen as an attempt to treat non-Hindi speakers as second class citizens." Where is the question of treating non-Hindi speakers as second citizens?
Barring Tamil Nadu, no other state has raised any objection to this direction. In fact, it is heartening that this time, the push for Hindi comes when the government is headed by someone whose native language is not Hindi (Narendra Modi’s mother tongue is
Union Minister of State for Home
Noted poet Ashok Chakradhar also welcomed the move, saying “If this government is getting bureaucrats to use Hindi, it is a great idea. Hindi is understood by 80% of Indians who pick it up from popular films, songs and the media. But at the official level, no one is fighting for the language.”
Tamil Nadu’s opposition to Hindi dates back to the 1960s. In 1950, the Constitution declared Hindi as the official language and English was to be used as secondary official language till 1965 to facilitate a smooth transition. But the DMK launched an anti-Hindi campaign in Tamil Nadu, during which, Hindi books and effigies of ‘Hindi demoness’ were burnt on village bonfires. Does it not reflect deep-seated anti-Hindi bias?
The campaign soon turned into full scale riots, which led to the killing of 70 people, including two policemen. However, the riots catapulted the DMK to power in 1967 elections in the state as opposition to Hindi was a dominant election issue.
Following large scale violence in Tamil Nadu, the Centre enacted the Official Language Act, 1963. The Act stated, “Notwithstanding the expiration of the period of 15 years from the commencement of the Constitution, the English language may, as from the appointed day, continue to be used in addition to Hindi.”
One wonders why some Tamilians hate Hindi so much. In Gujarat, students are taught English, Gujarati and Hindi in schools. They never get offended or complained about imposition of Hindi. Hindi is the most widely spoken language in the country and it should be promoted to facilitate easier communication throughout the country. But at the same time, the importance of regional languages should also not be undermined.
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