Union minister Harsh Vardhan said the media misquoted him at a recent function, where he had expressed his liking for Hindi and had observed that 95 per cent of the programmes in the environment and science and technology ministries, that he heads, were conducted in English. Vardhan, at the function, had applauded the officials of the Sashastra Seema Bal for using Hindi at a programme of the force in which he presided.
Said Vardhan to THE WEEK, “All languages are equally important in India. We have so many languages in the country, and they need to be equally respected. At the function, I had expressed my liking for Hindi. It was wrong on the part of the media to have twisted my statement and to have presented it as if I was forcing Hindi on all.”
Vardhan said Hindi should give all Indians a sense of pride and is a unifying force. “Hindi is the most important language in the country and this cannot be denied. But the BJP government at the Centre will never force Hindi on anyone. We respect all regional languages.”
Harsh Vardhan said he understands that many people in south India and the northeast were wary of Hindi being imposed on them.
“These days nobody is bothered about the language that he or she speaks beyond a point. Around 20-30 years ago, there was the emotional connect attached to all the languages. But that is no longer the case today,” said Vardhan. “Every language should flourish in the country. At the same time it is a matter of immense pride that so many Indians speak an international language like English fluently.”
Hindi was adopted as the official language by the constituent assembly on September 14, 1949. Every year, this day, is celebrated as Hindi Day. The Constitution has provisions to carry the official events of a state in the local language of the state and English. Many political outfits in south India, especially in Tamil Nadu, have had issues on the supremacy of Hindi over their language.
A 2010 ruling by the Gujarat High Court states that Hindi is not a national language of the country. According to the 1963 Official Languages Act and the 1976 Official Languages Rules, English and Hindi are to be used as the official languages of the Centre and its organisations. The Official Languages Rules, in fact, allows the Union government to expand the use of Hindi across the country by persuasion, incentive and goodwill.
In 1965, after the 15-year period to make Hindi the only official language of the country came to an end, there was widespread anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu.
Now, the DMK, under M.K. Stalin, has hit out at the Narendra Modi government for imposing Hindi on states. Stalin said, “Since they have assumed power, the government led by Modi has been attempting to decimate the unity of the nation.”
We are Indians and we have so many languages, said DMK MP T.K.S. Elangovan to THE WEEK. “Our Constitution gives respect to each and every language in the country. We should always remember that our states were divided on linguistic lines. Let us preserve the diversity of this great country,” he said.