Arts & Culture

Hysteria Over Hindi: “One Nation, One Language”

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As another Hindi Diwas goes by, another politician remarks on the ‘One Nation, One Language’ theory. How justified is the imposition of Hindi on India? 

On account of Hindi Diwas, 14th September, Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister said, “India has many languages and every language has its importance. But it is absolutely necessary that the entire country should have one language that becomes India’s identity globally.” As a result, he faced a lot of backlash, and attracted a lot of flak for implying ‘One Nation, One Language’ aka Hindi. 

Since Independence, India has faced a multilingual perplexion. From the imposition of a particular language to the alienation of the same, Hindi has stayed at the top, hegemonically. Shah’s statement resonates with his party’s ideology too. Hindi is spoken with a majority of 53%, however, isn’t democracy about inclusivity and not just the majority? India is a land of multilingual-ism with several languages and hundreds of dialects. Hindi remains as a North- Indian domination on mostly North-East and South India where Hindi isn’t the majority’s language. Shah reinstated Patel and Gandhi’s vision of Hindi as the Raj Bhasha. 

Sharanya Vajjha, a Political Science student who belongs from Andhra Pradesh, and has stayed in Assam for a long period said, “ Hindi should be the national language as it deals with the majority. I understand South India’s alienation but teaching them the basics since childhood would help eradicate the barrier. As many choose to migrate, learning Hindi in addition to English and regional language would be an added benefit.” 

Bharatiya Janata Party’s proposal in May, to include English and Hindi in schools besides the mother tongue in non-Hindi speaking states, garnered a lot of criticism from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. After a lot of outcries, Hindi was made an optional language. Looking back at history, India was reorganised based on linguistic plurality, states have been divided, capitals have been shifted only to keep their regional language intact. 

“Every language has a beauty of its own and needs to be respected. That said, it is still necessary to have a language that reflects our country, and it cannot be English, the language left by the colonisers. Hindi acts as a common medium in most parts of India. It need not be the national language but its value cannot be undermined.” says a Hindi teacher who has been teaching the same since over a decade. 

Living in North India surrounded by Hindi, we tend to forget that our country escalates beyond this. As a Bengali, I have seen my family struggle with Hindi after shifting to Delhi. Someone who has studied Hindi only till elementary grade is bound to face difficulties communicating formally and informally in any given setup. Not all states celebrate Hindi Diwas, they take pride in ‘their’ mother tongue, not of the dominant voice. 

Stephen Mathew, a student from Kerala says, “It (Hindi as the national language) should not happen. Learning a language definitely helps you to comfortably gell with a foreign culture but it should not be imposed in a country where you have hundreds of languages.” 

Facing backlash from southern parties and criticism by MK Stalin, Rajnikanth and the likes, Shah took back his statement and clarified, “I never asked for imposing Hindi over other regional languages and had only requested for learning Hindi as the second language after one’s mother tongue”, he further added, “I myself come from a non-Hindi state of Gujarat. If some people want to do politics, it’s their choice.” 

India is a land of diversity, our unity lies in our diversity. Imposition would not only deny us of our right to speak in our desired language but also, put a binder on our tongues. Simran Das, a student from Assam says, “As a person from North East, who was conditioned to speak in Hindi by the education system, the Hindi language certainly has a meritocratic value to offer as lingua franca. But the imposition of any language in a country that speaks more than 121 languages is bound to create an existential crisis and subsequently agitation among regional languages.” 

Feature Image Credits: The Hindu

Anandi Sen

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