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Imposition of Hindi

Non-Hindi speakers will effectively have to pay for a system that actively discriminates against them

Imposition of Hindi
Imagine you are a non-Hindi speaker who does not know Hindi and imagine your friend is a Hindi speaker who does not know your mother language. You are both citizens of a republic with equal rights. Also, remember the fact that a majority of the citizens of the Indian Union do not know Hindi and have expressed no demand to know it. It is the non-Hindi states that generate a stupendous majority of the so-called "Central funds" and are forced to subsidise the Hindi states, not vice versa. Hindi being one of the two official languages of the Indian Union let us be clear what the purpose of an official language is as per the Official Languages Act. Official languages are "languages which may be used for the official purposes of the Union, for the transaction of business in Parliament, for Central and State Acts and for certain purposes in High Courts". Public announcements (including websites), academics and education and such are not official purposes. Neither does the Constitution make Hindi a pre-condition for the unity of the Indian Union. No Presidential order can override laws made by Parliament like the Official Languages Act. With this context, let's look at some of the Parliamentary Official language committee recommendations that have received Presidential approval recently.

Official languages are "languages which may be used for the official purposes of the Union, for the transaction of business in Parliament, for Central and State Acts and for certain purposes in High Courts". Public announcements (including websites), academics and education and such are not official purposes. Neither does the Constitution make Hindi a pre-condition for the unity of the Indian Union. No Presidential order can override laws made by Parliament like the Official Languages Act. With this context, let's look at some of the Parliamentary Official language committee recommendations that have received Presidential approval recently.

Perhaps the most audacious one is that "all dignitaries including Hon'ble President and all the Ministers especially who can read and speak Hindi may be requested to give their speech/statement in Hindi only". Already, non-Hindi MPs cannot give speeches in Parliament in their non-Hindi mother tongue without permission as Hindi MPs can in their Hindi mother tongue. This order seeks to force Hindi on all ministers who represent a non-Hindi majority republic. In short, the Republic may be a multilingual and non-Hindi majority, but its executive branch is requested to speak to non-Hindi people in Hindi. The recommendation that "Hindi should be made a compulsory subject up to tenth standard in all schools of CBSE and Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan" was accepted "in principle". Thus, forcing students to learn Hindi in non-Hindi states has been agreed to "in principle". The Central Board of School Education and the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan are funded by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, which is funded mostly by revenue from non-Hindi states like any other "central" thing. So non-Hindi peoples will have to fund Hindi imposition on themselves.

. In short, the Republic may be a multilingual and non-Hindi majority, but its executive branch is requested to speak to non-Hindi people in Hindi. The recommendation that "Hindi should be made a compulsory subject up to tenth standard in all schools of CBSE and Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan" was accepted "in principle". Thus, forcing students to learn Hindi in non-Hindi states has been agreed to "in principle". The Central Board of School Education and the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan are funded by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, which is funded mostly by revenue from non-Hindi states like any other "central" thing. So non-Hindi peoples will have to fund Hindi imposition on themselves.

Through approval of recommendation 47, Hindi has been made compulsory up to Class 10 in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where less than 20 per cent speak Hindi and Bengali is the most widely spoken language. But who cares about Andaman? Many of the recommendations (Recommendation Numbers 3/5/9/10/83/84/99) have to do with spending time, money, and human resource on training personnel in learning Hindi without mentioning why exactly is that relevant to the work they do. Recommendation Numbers 22/23/26/41/62/67/75/89/90 creates a huge number of jobs and incentives specifically for Hindi-knowing people, primarily paid for by non-Hindi people's revenue and taxes. While anyone can know Hindi, it is well-understood people from which linguistic background will benefit from this initiative. The dangerous recommendation 11 calls for surveillance of underlings by superiors vis-a-vis their use of Hindi in their office work in any department: "Senior most officer of every office should be assigned the responsibility to review the work done in Hindi by his subordinate officers on any day of the last week of every month". Surely, the best use of a superior officer's time in the Income Tax department's office in Maharashtra or West Bengal is setting targets about Hindi use and checking up on its progress.

Recommendation 34/35 calls upon the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development to "work out an action plan for implementing Hindi teaching scheme in all Universities/Higher Educational Institutes" and also asks the ministry to "take note of such Universities and higher educational institutes where there are no Hindi Departments" and "encourage" (such encouragement typically translates into extra funds or threats of fund cuts) such institutions "to establish Hindi Departments so that these departments could extend help in imparting education through Hindi medium". Thus, MHRD wants to promote Hindi medium higher education in non-Hindi states! Nowhere is Hindi-medium higher education more prevalent than in the Hindi belt. In the ministry's ranking of excellence of higher education institutions under the National Institute Ranking Framework, Hindi-belt states together had 21 institutions in the top 100. Twenty-six of the 100 places went to Tamil Nadu, where Hindi-medium education is practically non-existent. So, in effect, the Union government aims to drag down the level of academics in educationally advanced non-Hindi states to that of educationally backward Hindi states. This is nothing short of a conspiracy against the future progress of non-Hindi people.

Thus, MHRD wants to promote Hindi medium higher education in non-Hindi states! Nowhere is Hindi-medium higher education more prevalent than in the Hindi belt. In the ministry's ranking of excellence of higher education institutions under the National Institute Ranking Framework, Hindi-belt states together had 21 institutions in the top 100. Twenty-six of the 100 places went to Tamil Nadu, where Hindi-medium education is practically non-existent. So, in effect, the Union government aims to drag down the level of academics in educationally advanced non-Hindi states to that of educationally backward Hindi states. This is nothing short of a conspiracy against the future progress of non-Hindi people.

Among this talk of Hindi departments and Hindi medium, the MHRD has never come up with proposals to introduce say Bengali or Tamil medium in any higher education scenario – I mention these because these two had a robust vernacular language higher education scene that was world-class. And then 1947 happened! Recommendation 36 gives Hindi option in exams/interviews in non-Hindi states while Tamil or Bengali option will be absent in Hindi states, thus expanding job opportunities for Hindi speakers in non-Hindi states but discourage the opposite. Other recommendations call for any government advertisement to be published in Hindi irrespective of which state it is aimed at, compulsory buying of Hindi books for libraries, making airline announcements in Hindi but not in Kannada or Bengali (even if it is a flight in Karnataka or West Bengal), paying money to Hindi publishing industry through bigger advertisements, special incentives to government officials for creative writing in Hindi, mandatory printing of railway material in Devanagari, compulsory Hindi announcements in railway stations of non-Hindi states, incorporating Hindi in all government websites (but not other languages), giving examinees the option of Hindi in all examinations conducted by the Union Public Services Commission (but no such option of mother language for non-Hindi examinees), and so on.

Other recommendations call for any government advertisement to be published in Hindi irrespective of which state it is aimed at, compulsory buying of Hindi books for libraries, making airline announcements in Hindi but not in Kannada or Bengali (even if it is a flight in Karnataka or West Bengal), paying money to Hindi publishing industry through bigger advertisements, special incentives to government officials for creative writing in Hindi, mandatory printing of railway material in Devanagari, compulsory Hindi announcements in railway stations of non-Hindi states, incorporating Hindi in all government websites (but not other languages), giving examinees the option of Hindi in all examinations conducted by the Union Public Services Commission (but no such option of mother language for non-Hindi examinees), and so on.

Finally, the Union government will bear the enormous costs associated with making Hindi an official language of the UN (because presumably for the Union government, Hindi is India and India is Hindi) and "posts of Hindi should be created in subordinate offices/Embassies etc of the MEA situated in foreign countries" (I am assuming that the best use of MEA money in the Bulgarian or Nigerian embassy is this and Hindi is the only face of the Indian Union that the Union government wants to project to the world lest the world may wake up to the fact that non-Hindi speakers also exist in the Indian Union). The said committee was formerly led by P Chidambaram, approved by Pranab Mukherjee and Venkaiah Naidu endlessly touts the positive side of these recommendations. All three are non-Hindi politicians who are politically irrelevant in their home state and play the same role for the pro-Hindi Delhi establishment as the likes of Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain do for BJP.


Garga Chatterjee

Garga Chatterjee

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