Hindi Diwas: Is Narendra Modi-led government imposing Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states?

It was on 14th September 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India adopted Hindi as the official language of the newly formed nation. The language was chosen owing to its penetration and number of speakers who could understand the language in the country. 14th September is celebrated as ‘Hindi Diwas’ because of this. Under the Official Language Rules 1976, all government offices are encouraged to communicate in Hindi so that it reaches out to more common people.

When the Constitution was framed, the writers of Constitution had decided that Hindi and English can be the Official Languages of India for the first 15 years. On 28 January 1965, exactly 15 years later, 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 reminded the people of colonial days and using Hindi can remove that thought.

However, anti-Hindi agitations down south made Nehru amend the Official Language Act of 1963 in 1965 suggesting 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, the makers of the Act, gave provision that 10 years later a committee is formed to ensure Hindi reaches the nook and corner of the country, thereby replacing English and that it is also in tandem with the regional language.

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Committee of Parliament on Official Languages 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 penetration of Hindi language 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.

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. The first report was submitted in January 1987 and eight reports were submitted in August 2005 followed by a ninth report, which was a comprehensive report of all eight reports and recommendation to the President. The ninth report was prepared by a committee headed by the then Home Minister, P. Chidambaram.

This committee recommended 117 points to make sure Hindi reaches far and wide. These recommendations were forwarded to the President on 2nd June 2011. While the recommendations to propagate the use of Hindi was made during the UPA, it is often shown as the current BJP-led NDA government is insisting on ‘Hindi imposition’. The committee led by Chidambaram recommended that newly recruited employees working in Central Government office need to be imparted training in Hindi within a year of joining as well as an increase in usage of Hindi on computers in Central Government offices. The committee even stressed that the Central government employees do their work in Hindi on Computers. You may read more on the report here.

All Modi government did was to extend the recommendations to social media. However, the same Chidambaram who headed the committee which talked about spreading Hindi far and wide across the nation, warned Modi of ‘dire’ consequences if he tries to spread Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states.

Amusingly, all the committees were set up by the governments prior to 2014 and recommendations were forwarded to ministries before Modi became the prime minister but it is usually portrayed as if Narendra Modi has been pushing for Hindi. Last year there was an outrage on Hindi signages in Namma Metro in Bengaluru, saying that the Narendra Modi-led government is ‘imposing Hindi. Considering Namma Metro is a joint venture between the government of India and the state government, and it is the duty of the government of India to promote Hindi as per Article 351 of the Constitution of India.

Article 351, Constitution of India

And while people may be against the idea of promoting Hindi itself as a language opposing the promotion of Hindi is actually a constitutional amendment. Till the above article exists in the Constitution, the government of India is dutybound to promote Hindi.

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