Hindi is an official language not the national language of India


People like to hear and say what they like. While completing my college and living in a campus close to New Delhi many years back I had to face several arguments about this topic. I had varied responses at different times at times countering and at times brushing aside the comments from the other side. Chances are that in school I had read the same civics books as those who believe Hindi to be the national language of India and not just one of the many official languages. However both sides in this case were confident me probably more from the inside because I had a recollection of those lines from the New Delhi based C.B.S.E. text book and the teacher’s words. It may not be accurate to say that the other side faked confidence as they grew up in the cow belt or in Punjab/Haryana/Rajasthan/Himachal/Uttaranchal where the patronage for Hindi is far greater than from where I come from. It also goes without saying that teachers will always provide a subtle emphasis on the interpretation they like i.e. India has no national language [period] or that India has no national language but Hindi is the most widely spoken language. This matters when said to an audience of impressionable teenagers especially in the years gone by when we used to learn more at home and school than from the TV and the internet.

In this blog post I am not undermining the depth of Hindi activism as a whole. The Hindi heart land of India has many independent languages and dialects like Bhojpuri, Maithili, Awadhi, Pahari, Bundelkhandi, Braj Bhasa, Hariyanvi, Punjabi, Marwari, Mewari etc. Many people who vouch for a more dominant role for Hindi may not speak Hindi at home and with friends as it is not their mother tongue and they may be versed in multiple Indian languages. However it is also very true that for many Indians India means an experiment with secularism and equality, of the plurality and coexistence of cultures, religions and languages and friendship between people in spite of different cultures, languages and religions not friendships solely based on sameness. It is this idea that many cherish and find hope in.

However irrespective of what India’s constitution lays out in terms of lingual equality activism related to Hindi is unsettling to those who do not subscribe to it. At the same time other Indian language speakers and enthusiasts can take inspiration from the Hindi movement and promote and produce literature, movies, music,  business dealings, e-commerce in their own mother tongues and realize that there is a world outside English. Outside Harry Potter, Twilight, 50 shades of grey, Avatar, Prometheus, Inception, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn etc. Too bad that I am blogging this in English too [lol]. But I like catching up with the latest Bengali movies in the cinema halls when I am in Kolkata or online [paid sites only; say no to piracy] and read the news in Bengali frequently. At the same time a side effect of a growth focused era needs to be stated. A society highly focused on economic growth will more likely seek a uniformity in spoken and written language as it is merely a method of communication in this context. Just like an individual a society makes its own choice of how much cultural baggage it caries, how much it keeps its shoulders free to sprint forward. It remains to be seen hence what happens to all that is non english in the decades to come.