Quick Take

Hindi as sole national language is an idea which militates against India’s pluralist unity in diversity

| Updated on September 17, 2019

Union Home Minister Amit Shah   -  The Hindu

Home Minister Amit Shah’s call for Hindi as the sole national language will stoke linguistic divisions that have long been assimilated as part of larger national identity

Culture and language could unite and contribute to a larger feeling of national identity. But in the history of India as a young nation-state, they have often been the epicentres of violent conflict. Indeed, it is testament to the maturity of the nation’s founding fathers and their commitment to the Constitution that cultural and linguistic diversity has been united in the wider sense of Indian identity for citizen of every faith, culture, language and caste. Just as the Constitution was amended several times to assimilate some, like the Nagas, whose cultural identity clashed with the “command of the Sovereign”, creation of states on linguistic lines placated and united those who spoke different languages.

It is thus both unfortunate and unreasonable for the Home Minister and President of the ruling BJP to expose the linguistic fault-lines by insisting that Hindi alone is the language that can unite India. The BJP President had, on Saturday, maintained that “while India has many languages and every language has its own significance, it is important to have one language in the country that will become known in the world. Today, if there is one language that can unite the country in one thread, it is the most widely spoken language which is Hindi”.

Predictably, there have been sharp responses especially from the southern states in general and Tamil Nadu in particular as the state has been the site of many historical conflicts and agitations over what its people saw as the attempt to “impose” Hindi. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has termed it as a “war cry” against non-Hindi speaking people and even Karnataka CM B S Yedyurappa, the BJP’s tallest leader in the South, has rejected Shah’s assertion. Indeed, the only sensible course of action for the BJP President is to withdraw his comment and concede that the diversity in Indian languages is a strength not a weakness as he seems to believe. It serves no creative purpose to stoke divisions that have long been addressed and assimilated as part of India’s national identity.

Published on September 17, 2019

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