August 7, 2011

Is Hindi our National Language?

A popular misconception among Indians is that Hindi is our National Language. In reality, it is as absurd as saying Hinduism is our National Religion. The fact is that, Hindi is not our National Language; we do not have a National Language or a National Religion. Neither our constitution nor our law recognizes the existence of a National Language. So, from where the idea of Hindi being our National Language came is not clear.

Is Hindi our National Language?India is a country with so many different languages and it is impossible to impose one among these as the national language. It is a very controversial issue and has been so for many years. Article 343 of our constitution dictates that "the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script," it also puts forth English as the other official language. The status of being the official language will not automatically make a language the national language. The law and the constitution have to give this recognition, which in Hindi's case has not happened. This was made clear in a ruling by a bench headed by Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya in the Gujarat High Court in January 2010 in a hearing regarding issuing of directions that packaged commodities must contain details about goods in Hindi.

The fact stands that Hindi remains to be the most spoken language in the country. It is this potential of Hindi helped it gain the status of Official Language of the Parliament, along with English. The States are given power to select one of its widely spoken languages or Hindi as the official language, along with English. Furthermore, there are a very vast number of people who speak other regional languages that has no resemblance with Hindi. Many of these regional language speakers are so emotionally involved to their mother tongue, they would most certainly protest against any other language being made into a National Language. In fact this has been happening for so long now. Any attempt to make any one of the inborn language of India as its National Language is, for sure, going to cause unrest among a major set of the population.

There is a long lasting battle going on every now and then regarding this issue between the Hindi speakers and other language speakers, especially so in Tamil Nadu. This battle started even before independence, as early as the 1930s. The first agitation was between 1937 and 1940 in Tamil Nadu, after that the second one was between 45 and 50, in 65, in 68, in 86; this has always been an ongoing process. It emerged every now and then sparking a lot of controversy and unleashing a lot of hatred. There has not been any major attempt to set a National Language in so many years and so this battle is in a hibernation state for that duration and any attempt to revive the National Language campaign will definitely unleash it again.

Do we really need a national language?
For so many decades now, we have managed very well without a National Language. Not having a common language has not stopped us from going anywhere in the country or interacting with anyone. So can we not go on like this?
When it comes to a common language, as many people who know Hindi, or even more, knows English too. Here comes the argument about English being a foreign language, the language of the colonialists and all! All these are true but that does not change the fact that English is now, a Global Language, and we are among the ones who embrace it. Look how the English Medium schools in the country are attracting the vast majority of the students. Look at all the BPO and the IT industry in the country, whose backbone is the English speaking population of the country.

The point is, in this global world where the whole world is eying us, do we really need to fight between ourselves on matters like having a national language?

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