Is PM Modis’s push for Hindi acceptable? Let’s explore what the CMs have to say

Narendra Modi’s government is intensifying its efforts to relegate English to the margins of Indian life where it believes it belongs as a “colonial relic” by offering medical degrees in Hindi for the first time.

Ever since he came to power eight years ago, Modi, along with home minister Amit Shah and other Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, have taken intermittent potshots at the English language and talked up Hindi, the language of north India.

Modi has spoken frequently of freeing Indians of the “colonial mindset” left by the British empire and of removing the relics of that rule. Just this week, Modi spoke of the “slavish mentality” surrounding English.

This sparked a war of words, with Hindi film star Ajay Devgn retorting, “Hindi was, is, and always will be our mother tongue and national language.” Devgn, a known Narendra Modi acolyte, who tweeted in Hindi then questioned why they took the trouble of dubbing their regional language films in Hindi. To which the Kannada actor quipped, “No offense sir, but was wondering what’d the situation be if my response was typed in Kannada.!! Don’t we too belong to India sir?”

Of late, southern films dubbed in Hindi like KGF and Baahubali have been stupendously successful in North India. Their record business has riled the Hindi film industry and its superstars.

The spat could easily have been brushed off as one between Bollywood and south Indian film stars over films being dubbed in Hindi, if not for the fact that Amit Shah, India’s home minister and senior leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had recently said that the Modi government intended replacing English with Hindi as the national language of communication, a few weeks ago.

Speaking at the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee in New Delhi, Shah said Modi has decided that the language used in running the government is the official language, and “this will definitely increase the importance of Hindi.” He underscored the fact that Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English and not to local (regional) languages.


Recalling the Indian National Congress

Recalling how the Indian National Congress in pre-independence India had reorganized itself on the basis of linguistic regions that reflected the diversity of the country, Mukherjee said that during independence the Hindi language issue had been dealt with in depth. There was massive resistance from states like Tamil Nadu, which even threatened to secede. To assuage such sentiments, Jawaharlal Nehru assured that Hindi would not be imposed.

This, Mukherjee said, paved the way for the three-language formula in India, which recognizes English, Hindi, and the regional language in every state.

According to Mukherjee, “imposition of Hindi is on the same lines as the imposition of Hinduism as the only religion in this country.” Rejecting the BJP’s “nationalistic” agenda, Mukherjee said, “India is too diverse a country to be pigeon-holed into a one-language, one-religion formula. It just can’t succeed.”

The BJP is attempting to implement its goal of “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan,” an India with one language(Hindi), one religion (Hinduism), and a country exclusively for Hindus. This has stirred a hornet’s nest.

Non-Hindi-speaking states ruled by regional parties have hit out at this agenda. Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, a senior leader of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), which is in power in Bengal said, “We are against this agenda of Hindi imperialism… this is how fascism grows. Imposing Hindi is against the tenets of federalism.”

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and chief of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), M. K. Stalin, warned the BJP against tinkering with “India’s integrity and pluralism.” Incidentally, the DMK was at the forefront of the anti-Hindi agitations in Tamil Nadu in the 1950s and ’60s. Reminding Tamilians of their historic struggle against the imposition of Hindi, Stalin called on the people to oppose it again.

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