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Why Official language of Union of India only as Hindi needs a debate that is logical rather than chauvinist?

  Aug 22, 2017

Why Official language of Union of India only as Hindi needs a debate that is logical rather than chauvinist?

Hindi can be first among equals when it comes to national languages, but it cannot hope to become the only one.
One of the most detailed debates in the Constituent Assembly was whether Hindi should be the official language of India. B.R. Ambedkar revealed that no other issue had generated as much heat as the one on the official language of the new republic. Hindi was accepted by a slim margin of one vote. It was supposed to replace English in 1965 as the language of government. The status quo was maintained after violent agitations in several states of peninsular India.

Lingua Franca
All these issues have come to a head once again—
Such impositions will quite naturally come up against opposition in states that have cultural identities based on other languages.


Warning: India is not Pakistan, but it is useful to remember that the imposition of Urdu on the Bengalis was the first catalyst of the movement that eventually created Bangladesh.
There are a few issues that need clarity.
Hindi chauvinism has had several unthinking champions. Even sophisticated leaders such as the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia and the great scholar Rahul Sankrityayan—though not chauvinists —did not take account of the reaction in other parts of India to their aggressive insistence of Hindi.

Spread of Hindi
The curious fact is that Hindi has very peacefully spread across the country over the past 50 years. Few would today remember the language riots in what was then Madras. Hindi cinema has done a lot to make the language understood in most parts of the country; it may not be the pure Hindi that was mercilessly lampooned in the 1970s comedy Chupke Chupke, but a more open variant that has absorbed even the lingo of the Mumbai streets. Cable television has also helped this process in more recent years.

A traveller can today hear Hindi spoken in most corners of the country. The language is bound to spread further in the coming years thanks to migration, commerce and entertainment. That should be welcomed. What should not be welcomed is either the force-feeding of the language with colonial intent or seeing it as a substitute for Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, etc., in their respective states. The eighth schedule of the Constitution lists 22 national languages. Hindi can be the first among equals. It cannot hope to become the only one.

These are crucial issues that the most aggressive votaries of Hindi often forget. India has seen language riots when the republic was young. We are now a more mature nation—and reopening those old wounds is pointless. Especially when Hindi has peacefully spread across the country and can live with other Indian languages.