There has been much hullabaloo about the “imposition” of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states, latest being presence of Hindi on Bengaluru Metro signboards and earlier about prolific release of government ads in Hindi in non-Hindi newspapers. There have been other objections too to steps that are mostly the outcome of implementation of recommendations of the Committee of Parliament on Official Languages by respective Ministries, after the consent of the President.
Even though some of the outraged people, especially on the social media, believe that all this is some grand conspiracy by the BJP and the RSS – who are supposed to be Hindi supporting groups – the truth is that these steps were decided when BJP was not in power and RSS was nowhere near to impacting union policies.
In fact – hold your breadth – these recommendations were proposed by a committee that was headed by a Tamil politician!
Let us rewind a little to understand the ‘root cause’ of the problem:
Committee of Parliament on Official Languages:
First, let us look at Committee of Parliament on Official Languages. It was formed in 1976 under Indira Gandhi-led Congress government as a part of the Official Language Rules under section 4 of the Official Language Act 1963. The motive of this committee is to assess the spread of Hindi across India and to make sure that all wings of government are well equipped with Hindi, such that the colonial language English can be replaced by native Hindi. Hindi in Devanagari script was chosen because of its closeness with Sanskrit.
But why was it planned that Hindi should replace English?
When the Constitution was framed, it was decided by the writers of Constitution that Hindi and English can be the Official Languages of India for the first 15 years. And exactly on 28 January 1965, English should be removed from Official Language and Hindi shall continue to be the sole Official Language of India. A 1955 Kher Commission Report submitted to the President reiterated this. The common sentiment was that English was the language of British, and it reminds the people of colonial days and using Hindi can remove that thought.
But anti-Hindi agitations in South drove the then Nehru government to amend Official Language Act of 1963 in 1965, wherein, it was suggested that English can continue to be the Official Language of the states until the State Legislative Assembly passes a resolution to adopt Hindi as sole Official Language. So, the states that do not want Hindi can continue to use English apart from its native tongue.
However, keeping in view of the ideas of Constitution makers, the Act laid the foundation for a Committee to be created ten years after 1965 to make sure that Hindi reaches the nook and corner of India and remains the uniting language replacing English and in tandem with regional language. This active promotion of Hindi is mandated in the Article 351 of the Indian Constitution. Thus was born the Committee of Parliament on Official Language.
The Committee was headed by the Union Home Minister with 20 members of Lok Sabha and 10 members of Rajya Sabha functioning under the Minister, since Department of Official Language comes under the Home Minister. Since the issue was a matter of linguistic tension and taking into account the size of India, it was decided that the Committee would submit eight separate reports detailing the progress made in spreading Hindi to the whole of India and submitting recommendations to Ministries. This report will be sent by President to both the houses and also to all State governments. Based on the feedback from all of them, the President may make changes to the Report.
The first report was submitted in January 1987, and the eighth report was submitted in August 2005. The ninth report was more of a compilation of the past reports and final recommendation to President. The ninth report was prepared by a Committee which was headed by the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who is a Tamil obviously, elected from a non-Hindi state.
In total, 117 points were recommended by this Committee headed by Chidambaram for making sure that Hindi gets propagated to nook and corner of India and to replace English as the connecting language. Not only that, Congress MP from Theni of TamilNadu, Aaron Rashid had been a member of Committee. [pdf] These recommendation were forwarded to the President on 2nd June 2011.
Now let us see how the media and activists reacted to these recommendations, which incidentally are causing huge outrage these days.
There were no reports in The Hindu on these recommendations on that day and the next day. These recommendations were later tabled in Lok Sabha on 30th Aug 2011 and in Rajya Sabha on 7th Sep 2011. Again, there were no reports in The Hindu around these dates. The Times of India fared no better. While “sources” are ready to pounce upon even minor rumors in Minister circle nowadays, why wasn’t there any debate on this report back then? Why didn’t the South Indian allies of UPA take up this issues and create a debate on these tabled reports in both the Houses?
The list of recommendations by the Chidambaram-led committee is huge. But, we shall just focus on the parts that have now become outrage-worthy since BJP has come into power in 2014:
Imparting Hindi training to Central Government Employees:
The Committee had separated India into A, B, and C regions. Region ‘A’ comprises of the States of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and the Union Territories of Andaman Nicobar Islands; Region ‘B’ comprises of the state of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab and the Union territories of Chandigarh; and Region ‘C’ comprises of the states and the Union Territories other than those included in Regions ‘A’ and ‘B’.
From 2005 to 2010, inspections were done in 2095 Central Government offices in these regions and it was recommended that newly recruited employees working in Central Government office need to be imparted training in Hindi within a year of joining (Point 3).
Point 5 recommends increasing usage of Hindi on Computers in Central government offices. Even in region C, stress was made by the Chidambaram headed committee to make sure that Central government employees do their work in Hindi on Computers. Points 9-11 talks about tracking progress made in Hindi by Central government employees in even non-Hindi speaking states.
Ministries working under Modi in June 2014 extended this recommendation to Social Media and look what happened next.
- Same Chidambaram cautions Modi government of dire consequences if it spreads Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states. Much like a book writer bashing his own book.
- Karunanidhi who was then part of the Central government and close ally of Chidambaram cries foul. We doubt where he was when these recommendations were done by his allies in the Centre?
The funniest part is that all the committees were set up before 2014 and recommendations were forwarded to Ministries before Modi became PM. But it was branded as Narendra Modi’s push for Hindi by the media, which somehow had failed to report earlier.
If employees can be forced to do paperwork and desktop work in Hindi in UPA rule, it was fine and it becomes outrage-worthy only when it was extended to social media in June 2014?
Town Official Language Implementation Center (TOLIC):
Apart from implementation at Ministry level, recommendations in the Congress-headed report calls for spreading Hindi at town levels by enhancing the activities of Town Official Language Implementation Center, which was formed in 1976 in towns that have more than 10 Central Government offices. As of now, there had been TOLICs in 72 towns in South India and 10 TOLICs in Tamil Nadu and had been functioning for a long time before BJP came to power in Delhi.
Why was it not shut down? When milestones in Hindi were tarnished by Tamil activists, why did they not lobby to close TOLICs in Chennai or Cuddalore or Madurai? Did they implicitly allow spread of Hindi in their backyard till 2014? Or did “Tamilness” increase only after 2014?
Hindi on the Internet:
Point 28 of the UPA-led Committee’s Recommendation to President stressed that contents provided to National Information Centre for any website needs to in Hindi along with English or else it will be rejected.
We have not seen outrage on this yet, so after this article is published, I hope that propaganda blogs like Scroll and Wire should outrage why government websites are forced to be in Hindi too and not in any other Indian language.
Hindi in Education:
Point 33 of the Recommendations tabled by Chidambaram headed committee talks about compulsory Hindi in all CBSE and Kendriya Vidyalaya schools up to 10th even in non-Hindi speaking areas.
While reporting this, Huffington Post softly removes phrases like ‘committee formed in 2011’ or any reference that gives away that it was done in the UPA time. The report says that President gave his approval for recommendations submitted, but it was not mentioned recommendations by whom and when?
Apart from this, options for Hindi in papers and to start Hindi departments in universities in non-Hindi speaking states were also recommended. Outrage for this is pending. I hope someone from Huffington Post is reading this. Go, write.
Point 47 had asked for compulsory Hindi education across India. Thankfully, this recommendation is modified by President to include this only in A regions.
Hindi in Advertisements:
Points 48-51 calls for more Hindi and less English in advertisements issued by the Central Government in print and media alongside English in non-Hindi speaking states. Supporters of Modi government have often blamed babus (bureaucrats) for failing to understand local sentiments and issue Hindi ads. But babus too were just following rules, which were not outraged upon in 2011.
Hindi in books and booklets:
Point 52 calls for minimum 50% allocation of library budget for buying Hindi books in Central government offices. Expecting an outrage on this soon…
Point 57-58 calls for magazines and time tables published by Air India to be in Hindi and English. Outrage pending! I have given ideas for 4 articles already!
Hindi in Railways:
Point 65 of the recommendations tabled by Committee headed by a Tamil minister called for compulsory announcement of train arrivals and departures in Hindi alongside English and regional languages in stations situated in ‘C’ regions, like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala.
We could see linguist warriors noticing this and going hyper over this on Twitter only in past one year. Why could a DMK ally and Tamil Minister not cut down this recommendation and urge for only regional and English announcement in stations in South India? No support for Tamil even from Tamil ministers?
Point 69 calls for only Hindi and English printings in train tickets, while silently avoiding regional language. Remember how images of railway tickets from South India recently went viral on Internet?
Point 70 calls for Hindi and English in all posters within and outside trains. Why could strong members of South India in UPA not lobby the then Home ministry in 2010 and urge for regional languages in tickets and posters in trains?
Hindi in Foreign Affairs:
Recommendation No.72 urges MEA to make sure that Hindi is added as the 7th language in United Nations. High voltage outrage assured when current Ministry takes this up.
Now comes our hero no. 73, which calls for the passport to be printed in Hindi. This is the latest outrage when I began writing this article. But this is not all.
Points 75-79 calls for maximum Hindi usage in offices of External Affairs located overseas.
Point 80 calls for maximum Hindi in Air India tickets and Pawan Hans helicopters. When is the outrage coming on this? Ideas for 2 more articles are here, grab it media!
Hindi in Films:
Point 94 and 95 calls for compulsory Hindi dubbing and subtitling of all films produced by NFDC and shown at film festivals. Bollywood and liberalism. Someone tell this to Anurag Kashyap, and of course, to the new ‘liberal’ websites. 7 article ideas by now.
If you had reserved your outrage till here, now is the time to unfurl your anger and make a scathing attack on BJP, because two BJP MPs in this Committee had made the following recommendations, which were happily accepted by the Congress regime and forwarded to the President.
The role of BJP in Hindi Imposition:
In Point 105 provided by BJP MP Shrigopal Vyas, it has been recommended that President and Ministers who can read and speak Hindi should be allowed to talk in Hindi in Parliament. But, he makes a U-Turn from alleged RSS agenda of Hindi imposition and in point 107 calls for de-recognition of schools that run as English medium instead of Hindi or regional language as the medium. How dare an alleged British agent RSS call for the removal of English and promotion of regional languages as school mediums? Again, in a huge blow to BJP, President has not accepted these recommendations.
In Point 113 provided by BJP MP Hukumdev Narayan Yadav, it has been suggested to undertake airplane announcement in Hindi followed by English. Recommendation was forwarded to the aviation ministry. Why did non-Hindi members of the committee not object?
Point 115 by same BJP MP calls for usage of Hindi alongside English in nameplates and name boards of all public places. This was approved by President and was suggested to be implemented.
Regional parties in limbo?
Even if the President has rejected some of these recommendations now, what were the suggestions provided by State Governments of non-Hindi speaking states to the Committee? Were they sleeping back then?
What were linguistic activists doing in 2011 when these recommendations were tabled? What were allies of UPA from South India doing when these recommendations were tabled? Does this mean that the South Indian regional parties were not having a voice in the UPA government? Or, were they controlled by UPA? Was DMK controlled by UPA similar to how they complain now that ADMK is now being controlled by the BJP?
UPA and its prime head Congress, which boasts of pluralism, mosaic culture and languages of India, had sat for seven reports in this Commission and tabled the final report with 104 points talking about spreading Hindi into non-Hindi speaking states. How can this be upholding unity in diversity? If their excuse is that the Indian constitution mandates it, why attack Narendra Modi government for following the constitution?
If Modi and BJP can be blamed for destroying other languages, just because Ministries under them have implemented the recommendations, imagine the magnitude of blame that lies with Congress and its allies that were espousing anti-Hindi agitations in South India while tabling reports after reports suggesting Hindi in every sphere of public government in non-Hindi speaking states.
How is it that the pluralism and Idea of India champions like Congress, DMK, CPI(M) et al. recommend for replacing English by Hindi and also come out as anti-Hindi warriors at the same time?
One thing is for sure, they are a library to learn politics from.