The Age-Old Conflict Of India’s National Language Resurfaces: What Is About?

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The conflict over India having Hindi as its national language is even older than India’s independence. Although a majority of people believe that Hindi is the official language of India, its not. India does not have a national language. 

This language conflict has once again ignited after the Union Home Minister of India, Mr Amit Shah recently said that people belonging to different states must speak Hindi and that Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English. 

He further said that, “India is a country of different languages and every language has its own importance but it is very important to have a language which should become the identity of India in the world. If one language can unite the country today, it is the widely-spoken Hindi language.”

Adding to this, a Twitter banter between Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn and Kannada actor Sudeep Kiccha of Hindi being/not being a national language, further sparked the conflict even more. This has made the netizens raise their opinion on the same. 

Hindi is spoken by 46% of the Indian population. Other than major northern states, other states Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal, and north-eastern states hardly use Hindi as their official language. 

India is a land of diverse religions, castes and cultures. This mentioned, it is also the birthplace of over 100 languages with 22 of them being recognised as official languages. In such a scenario, making just one language a national language is difficult. 

Many political leaders of the south as well as the actors took offence in this and raised their voice against the imposition of Hindi as India’s national language. These personalities include, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, Indian music composer A.R Rahman, Actor Sonu Sood, Prakashraj, former Karnataka Chief Ministers Siddaramaiah and HD Kumaraswamy, Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj S Bommai, National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah, among others. 

Stalin lashed out at the Home Minister saying, “Union Home Minister Amit Shah asking to use Hindi instead of English is an act endangering the unity of India. The BJP leadership continues to work to undermine India’s diversity. Does Minister Amit Shah think that “Hindi States” are enough and not Indian States? Use of a single language does not help unity. Desolation does not foster integrity. You are making the same mistake over and again; but you are not going to succeed.”

This conflict over Hindi language has seen many peaceful as well as violent protests mainly in the south. It started first in 1937. The Indian National Congress attempted to teach Hindi in the Madras Presidency which led to the protests. After much debate, in 1946, a decision was made to run the proceedings of the House in Hindustani and English. 

As a way to put an end to this conflict, a solution was proposed. Hindi would not be made the national language but Hindi in the Devanagari script was made the “official language of the Union” and English was to be used for all official purposes for 15 years from the date of the constitution. This date could only be extended by the Parliament.  

Article 343 and Schedule 8 was drafted in the Indian constitution that granted the Indian states to adopt any language as the official language for correspondence purposes. However, Article 351 of the Indian Constitution stated that it would be the duty of the state governments to promote Hindi language and project the nation as being united by one language. 

As soon as the extension expired, a movement against the imposition of Hindi rose up especially in Tamil Nadu in 1965. The state saw violent protests that led to strikes, hartals and self-immolations. It took the lives of around 70 people. To bring these protests under control, the Government of India enacted an Official Language Act in 1963 that allowed the continued use of English alongside Hindi.  

It is important to know that the Indian constitution does not mention declaring Hindi as the national language of the country. Inspite of this, there have never ending arguments and conflicts on whether to make Hindi a national language or not. When will these come to an end, will they even come to end, will the current BJP government make Hindi India’s national language and if it does, what will be its repercussion, we don’t know. Nevertheless, it will be worth looking out for. 

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