[lg policy] India: Modi government's language policy: Wouldn't imposition of Hindi weaken government?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue May 5 14:44:59 UTC 2015

Modi government's language policy: Wouldn't imposition of Hindi weaken
E R Ramachandran, IBNLive.com

The Narendra Modi government seems to have touched a raw nerve when its
Home Ministry issued a circular on the use of Hindi on social media. In a
circular issued in May 2014, the Ministry wanted preference be given to
Hindi by central government employees and employees of public sector
undertaking and banks while using social media such as Facebook, Twitter,
Google, You tube and blogs. It also issued circular offering cash
incentives of Rs. 1600, 1200 and 600 for people who use Hindi for official

Language is a highly emotive issue and sometimes can cause irreparable
damage when wrongly addressed. There is evidence to that effect.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram rightly warned the Centre on possible
backlash from the South especially Tamil Nadu. Even BJP's ally at the
Centre PMK founder-leader Ramadoss came out openly against the 'advise' to
use Hindi in social media.
Modi government's language policy: Wouldn't imposition of Hindi weaken

The Narendra Modi government seems to have touched a raw nerve when its
Home Ministry issued a circular on the use of Hindi on social media.
#narendra modi #hindi #modi 365

Such moves, subtle and not-so-subtle will give a much needed boost to
(Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) DMK leader Karunanidhi to stoke the language
issue once again when DMK is languishing under the cloud of 2G scam and
problems faced by its family members Maran brothers. Even AIADMK leader J
Jayalalithaa, wrote to Prime Minister Modi to remove the obnoxious circular.

The language issue exploded back in the 1960s when ruling Congress party
burnt its fingers when a similar exercise was launched.

There was vehement opposition in the south mainly spearheaded by Periyar EV
Ramaswami Naicker, CN Annadurai, M Karunanidhi and others in Tamil Nadu
when government tried to impose on non-Hindi speaking States in the
sixties. This resulted in Congress losing power to DMK in Tamil Nadu which
the party has never been able to get back.

DMK came into existence mainly playing up the anti-Hindi feeling that Tamil
language will have to play second fiddle to Hindi and more importantly
fanning the fears of Tamilians that those who did not know Hindi will lose
their jobs. This alone was sufficient for them to sweep the polls in 1967
and firmly entrench DMK in power.

The anti-Hindi feeling spread to Bangalore too when a largely peaceful
crowd raised slogans against Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani, both Jan
Sangh members then, when Vajpayee started his speech in Hindi at a public
meeting organised by Yuvaka Sangha in Bangalore. The crowd shouted 'down
with Hindi' and 'English, English Please!' and when an unfazed Vajpayee
continued to speak in Hindi, the crowd booed and pelted stones which forced
the organizers to cancel the programme.

In a way such protests were an enigma. Whereas, on one side most people
enthusiastically learnt to sing Hindi songs despite not fully comprehending
their meaning; Hindi film producers counted on the huge market of south for
their films to become hits.

However, the same public was abhorrent when Hindi was sought to be made
compulsory for jobs and promotions. Girls willingly went to Dakshin Bharath
Hindi Prachar classes and became proficient in Hindi and millions simply
went gaga over Binaca Geet Mala over radio every Wednesday evening.
Bollywood has done more for the cause of Hindi than any government since

Naya Daur and Jis desh mein Ganga Bethi Hain ran for silver jubilees in
South and the same crowd would protest when government sought to meddle
with their career by introducing circulars in Hindi which nobody understood.

The point was Hindi was fine as long as there was no pressure and
compulsion from government to 'push it down the throat'. Such a move was
resisted tooth and nail. The Indira Gandhi government then learnt a costly
lesson when it lost power in Tamil Nadu.

In a slightly different way, how the emotive issue of language could be
used was demonstrated by late NT Rama Rao, the Telugu actor who
singlehandedly overthrew Congress government in Andhra Pradesh. When Rajiv
Gandhi upbraided his own Congress chief minister and elderly T Anjaiah at
Begum Airport in Hyderabad in front of all and sundry, NTR called upon
people to show their Telugu pourusham (pride), when one of their own was
insulted by a northerner.

Campaigning on the top of a beaten down Ford, for a party which he founded
and called 'Telugu Desam', Rama Rao repeatedly harangued public on the
'insult' to Telugu people and won a landslide victory in 1983.

The Modi government, at least some of its members seem to be overly
enthusiastic approach in their efforts to impose Hindi. Needlessly,
government directed central government employees and employees of Central
Public Sector Undertakings to use Hindi or both English and Hindi on their
web page in social media like Twitter, blogs you- tube, Face book and

India is a multinational, multi-ethnic country with thriving and throbbing
populace speaking 22 languages and hundreds of dialects. It has seamlessly
marched on united despite its diversity of culture, religion and language.
In fact that has been the strength and cornerstone of India's democracy.

To impose a language, belief and culture by any means however noble, would
be akin to disturbing its delicate fabric which is made of different hues
and texture. Governments in the past have learnt through costly mistakes to
stay away from such desperate acts.

So far Modi government has assiduously built an image of harmony and
friendship that seeks to carry the nation forward with development as its
main platform. States both BJP and Non-BJP, have enthusiastically responded
to its various initiatives. To sour it with some ill-conceived notions to
impose Hindi will only impede progress at the same time making people wary
about Government's intentions.

Wouldn't imposition of Hindi weaken Modi government? History seems to
affirm that.

(ER Ramachandran is a noted sports writer and a commentator on current

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