After the revocation of Article 370, the Modi Government could make Hindi the official state language of Jammu and Kashmir. At present Urdu is the official language of the volatile region which is widely used by a large section of Muslims including the entire Kashmir belt.
India is home to more than 19,500 languages, including 22 recognised in the country’s Constitution. Advocating for a common national language i.e. Hindi has been a controversial issue since the nation declared independence in 1947.
Indian Home Minister Amit Shah recently suggested declaring Hindi, mostly spoken in northern India, to be the country’s national language. This has also caused the southern and northeastern states to boil with anger.
Shah made an appeal to unify India by promoting Hindi, the country’s most widely spoken language, as the national language. According to the 2011 census, 528 million people – 43.63% of the population in India – speak Hindi.
Explaining the rationale behind declaring Hindi a national language, Shah said: “India is a country of many different languages, and each language has its own significance, but it is necessary to have a common language that becomes the mark of India’s identity globally”.
Earlier in June, India’s human resources development ministry unveiled the draft of a new educational policy, calling for making Hindi mandatory in all schools across India.
Campaign To Make Hindi A UN Language
India has actively taken up not only promoting Hindi in the country but at the international level also. According to estimates, it has spent INR484 million for the promotion of Hindi in world capitals and at the UN. The Foreign Ministry was tasked to make Hindi an official language of the UN.
A senior Indian official said that at the forthcoming UN General Assembly session, the Indian delegation will strive to convince members to adopt Hindi as an official language of the UN.
According to the UN procedures, getting Hindi accepted as an official language of the world body involves adopting a resolution endorsed by at least two-thirds of the members of the UN General Assembly. It also entails an additional expenditure to be borne by all UN member states.
In March 2018, India signed a memorandum with the UN Secretariat for an initial period of two years to boost the volume and frequency of Hindi content produced by the UN.
Past Anti-Hindi Agitation
In India, the first anti-Hindi imposition agitation dates back to 1937, in opposition to the introduction of compulsory teaching of Hindi in the schools of the Madras Presidency, which now comprise southern states. Mandatory Hindi education was later withdrawn by the British governor of Madras, Lord Erskine, in 1940.
The adoption of a national language for India was a hotly debated issue during the framing of the Indian Constitution after independence. After three years of debate, at the end of 1949, the assembly arrived at a compromise called the Munshi-Ayyangar formula (after K.M. Munshi and Gopalaswamy Ayyangar).
It has no mention of a “National Language”. Instead, it defined only the “official languages” of the Union. Hindi was adopted as the official language of India with English continuing as an associate official language for a period of 15 years.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) led the opposition to Hindi in Tamil Nadu. To allay their fears, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru enacted the Official Languages Act in 1963 to ensure the continuing use of English beyond 1965.
But it did not satisfy the parties, which again led an agitation in 1965, leading to the ouster of the Congress government from the province. Since then, it has never managed to recapture power in the state.
In 2014, the Home Ministry ordered that “government employees and officials of all ministries, departments, corporations or banks who have made official accounts on social networking sites should give priority to Hindi”.
The order also asked central ministries to issue circulars and orders in Hindi. This move was immediately again re-sent by the southern states. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha even ordered her secretariat to communicate in Tamil with the central government, in response to receiving any Hindi circular. The order was later revoked.
Move to change regional language scripts
In another move aiming to unify the country, many ruling BJP leaders have been also arguing that the script of regional languages should be changed to Devanagari (Hindi script).
Two years ago, the central government offered to declare the Kashmiri language a classical language to group it with Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kanad, and Odia, but with a rider to recognize Devanagari and ancient Sharada as its scripts, in addition to its current Perso-Arabic script. Scholars say if the script of Kashmiri or Kosher is changed, another popular language Urdu will not be far away, as its script is also in Persian-Arabic.
While many argue that recognition of Devanagari script for writing the Kashmiri language will make it more acceptable to Hindu Kashmiris now living outside Kashmir, others believe it would lead to the loss of all the literature produced over the past eight centuries.
Former Minister Saifuddin Soz alleged that the ruling class in Delhi is “deliberately” targeting the culture and language in Kashmir.
Via: Andoula Agency