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An Appeal to Unify India with Hindi

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September 20, 2019

What is the issue?

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on the occasion of Hindi Diwas made an appeal to unify India with the country's most widely-spoken language - Hindi.

Why this idea won’t be uniting India?

  • Historical - Our tragedy was we were colonised by linguistically challenged islanders who couldn’t think beyond one language.
  • This idea is not in tune with our history, culture and civilisation.
  • We are a multilingual society.
  • Speaking more than one language comes naturally to us.
  • Outdated - The real problem is that notwithstanding this multiplicity, we need one language to unite the country.
  • Another problem is that can only be Hindi.
  • ‘One nation, one language, one culture’ is a 19th century European idea and it failed to create unity.
  • It’s good to move away from this colonial idea.
  • Relevance - It does not matter how many speak Hindi.
  • The issue is about whether it can connect the country.
  • The Constitution is what that really connects the country which has made space for 22 languages in the Eighth Schedule.
  • It upholds the language diversity principle.
  • So, it cannot be said that one particular language should be brought forward to connect Indians.
  • Capacity - When a language tries to expand beyond its semantic-carrying capacity, it starts breaking up.
  • So, the government shouldn’t interfere with the linguistic behaviour or choices of people.
  • Animosity - If there is a mechanical idea of unity based on an entity, it would generate hostility beyond its immediate borders.
  • Majority - As per the 2011 Census, there are 1,369 mother tongues in India.
  • It may be true that Hindi is spoken by a larger number of people in India.
  • It is also equally true that it is not spoken by a majority of Indians.

What would be its effect on other languages?

  • All tribal languages are rapidly disappearing.
  • That is because there are not enough livelihood opportunities in those languages.
  • People are getting assimilated in some larger language.
  • India is uniquely gifted in that out of the world’s 6,000 languages, we have close to 10% of the spoken languages.
  • It would be unwise to become a one language or only a bilingual nation.
  • There may be semantic areas where English works but Hindi fails and vice versa. So, we need both and we need all Indian languages.

How to choose a common linguistic vehicle for communication, governance, etc?

  • In 1955-56, linguistic States were created in India.
  • Today nearly 35% of people are migrating daily for work.
  • Any idea of one link language will be economically disastrous for India.
  • It will slow down migration and reduce the ease of capital flow.
  • In such a situation, we have to conceptualise a new form of language identity for our States.
  • Our cities must be recognised as multilingual entities.
  • This will help us in unhinging the education policy for some large metropolises.
  • The current practice of clubbing together multilingual spaces with monolingual habitats is not fair to the large cities today.
  • The language choice of citizens should be widened and not narrowed by the state.


Source: The Hindu

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