Hindi divides Hindustan

The union home ministry’s directive to bureaucrats to use Hindi on social media as the language of communication has created a political storm in the country. On Friday, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa raised the issue with prime minister Narendra Modi to suitably modify the instructions to ensure that English was the language of communication on social media. She termed the issue ‘highly sensitive’ and one that ‘causes disquiet to the people of Tamil Nadu.’

By Friday evening, the PMO issued a statement, ‘The attention of the government has been drawn to the concerns expressed about instructions imposing the use of Hindi in non Hindi-speaking states. ‘
‘It is clarified that these instructions of the Department of Official Languages dated 10 March, 2014 do not seek to impose communication in Hindi on states which are not Hindi speaking... The Ministry of Home Affairs in its circular dated 27.05.2014 has communicated the above guidelines of the Department of Official Languages with regard to the social media to the departments under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Therefore, this is neither a new policy nor an attempt to impose the use of Hindi on any non Hindi speaking State,’ said the statement.

Jayalalithaa termed the Centre’s move on use of Hindi as being ‘against letter and spirit’ of the law. She asked Modi to suitably modify the instructions to ensure that English was the language of communication on social media. She said in the letter that she had learnt that two office memoranda issued by home ministry ‘direct that official accounts on social media like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google and YouTube, which at present use only English, should compulsorily use Hindi, or both Hindi and English, with Hindi being written above or first.’ That makes the use of Hindi mandatory and English optional, she said in the letter.

‘As you are aware, as per the Official Languages Rules, 1976, communications from a central government office to a state or Union Territory in Region ‘C’ or to any office (not being a central government office) or person in such state shall be in English. This provision has been introduced following the introduction of a mandatory proviso in Section 3(1) of the Official Languages Act, 1963, by an amendment in 1968 which states (that), ‘English language shall be used for purposes of communication between the Union and a state which has not adopted Hindi as its official language,’ she pointed out.

Meanwhile, the BJP on Friday, sought to defend the government’s move to promote Hindi, by saying it seeks to bind the nation together and should not be construed as an ‘insult’ to English. ‘Hindi is the national language and is the heart of the country. Priority to Hindi cannot be (construed as) an insult to English. The government’s initiative for according priority to Hindi and regional languages is a welcome step,’ said BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. He said Hindi is a mixture of different regional languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayali, Gujarati, Bengali, Assamese, Urdu and other regional languages.

Congress on Friday attacked the government for directing officials to use Hindi in social media, warning that this will lead to a backlash in non-Hindi speaking states. ‘There will be a backlash in non-Hindi states, in particular in Tamil Nadu... The government is advised to proceed with caution,’ party leader P Chidambaram told the media in the capital.
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