Amit Shah Has Sparked Hindi Controversy
Home Minister Amit Shah has sparked a renewed controversy by stating that Hindi should be accepted alternative to English and not to local language & all the govt’s work will increasingly be in Hindi. The statements were at the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee in New Delhi on 7 April, where Shah mentioned that "the time has come to make the Official Language an important part of the unity of the country." From actors to politicians – many eminent personalities and politicians continued to lash out at him.
The 2011 linguistic census accounts for 121 mother tongues, including 22 languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. Hindi is the most widely spoken, with 52.8 crore individuals, or 43.6% of the population, declaring it as their mother tongue. The next highest is Bengali, mother tongue for 97 lakh (8%) — less than one-fifth of Hindi’s count. In terms of the number of people who know Hindi, the count crosses more than half the country. Nearly 13.9 crore (over 11%) reported Hindi as their second language, which makes it either the mother tongue or second language for nearly 55% of the population.
In 2018, the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had demanded the United Nations to make Hindi the official language. She argued that Hindi is a widely spoken language. Also, it is spoken in Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad, Tobago and Suriname and the Indian diaspora all over the world knows the Hindi language. The argument of South India on this matter was that if a non-Hindi speaker Prime Minister from the south does not speak Hindi in India, will he be bound to speak Hindi in the United Nations? The inclusion of Hindi on the logic of being widely spoken, then in such a situation, Arabic language is spoken in 22 countries. Despite this, Arabic is not the official language of the UN. Whereas Hindi is spoken on a large scale in only one country and in other countries it is not spoken fluently.
In the five decades since the promulgation of the ‘three-language formula’, implementation has largely failed across the country, for two divergent reasons. At an ideological level, in States such as Tamil Nadu, the question of being required to learn a northern language such as Hindi has always been contentious, with anti-Hindi agitations a recurring episode in the State since 1937. In the northern States, there is simply no demand for learning a southern language, and so no northern State has seriously implemented the three-language formula.
The Government’s requirement that Hindi be privileged in official work actually militates against the interests of efficiency. Language is a vehicle, not a destination. In government, it is a means, not an end. The Hindi-speaking peolpe fail to appreciate that, since promoting Hindi, for them, is an end in itself. However, even though it may be argued that one language will bring uniformity to India, we should never forget that the beauty of India lies in its diversity. At the same time, it also needs to be understood that Devanagari Hindi is not our national language but it is an official language. None of the languages of India is the national language. In such a situation, we would not like to allow our country to be divided on the basis of language. Language should be an instrument of opportunity, not of oppression.
It is up to the people of any two non-Hindi speaking areas or States to decide what their language of communication should be. If they are comfortable with English, which is also a global language, the Centre has no business in advising them to abandon English and take to any other language or Hindi, as done in this case. Mr. Shah’s observations presuppose the position that English is not an Indian language. What he seems to have overlooked is that English has been recognised as an Indian language as much as Tamil or Telugu or Hindi have.