Amid a huge backlash over his comments on Hindi as a “unifying language”, Union home minister Amit Shah said on Wednesday (September 19) that he had never asked for the imposition of Hindi over regional languages and added, “If some people want to do politics, it is their choice.”
Shah said he has been repeatedly pitching for strengthening regional languages. “I too come from a non-Hindi speaking state. I come from Gujarat where Gujarati is the language, not Hindi. One has to listen to my speech carefully. If someone wants to do politics, it is their choice,” he said.
The home minister said to end the confusion, people should listen to his speech carefully where he repeatedly said that Indian languages should be strengthened and people should realise the necessity of the Indian languages.
“A child can perform, a child’s proper mental growth is possible only when the child studies in mother tongue. Mother tongue does not mean Hindi. It is the language of a particular State, like Gujarati in my State. But there should be one language in the country, if someone wants to learn another language, it should be Hindi. I have just made the request. I have failed to understand what is wrong in that,” he said.
Shah’s statement given on Hindi Diwas on September 14 triggered a backlash. Even BS Yediyurappa, chief minister of BJP-ruled Karnataka told on Monday (September 16) said that his government won’t compromise on Kannada. “All official languages in our country are equal. However, as far as Karnataka is concerned, Kannada is the principal language. We will never compromise its importance and are committed to promote Kannada and our state’s culture,” he tweeted.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a Facebook post on Sunday (September 15) claimed that Shah’s statement of Hindi unifying India was absurd. On the same day, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin criticising Shah’s remarks said, “Home Minister Amit Shah should withdraw his comment declaring one language (Hindi) marking identity globally. This is India, not ‘Hindia’ and the DMK will not hesitate to face the democratic battlefield, uniting other states which will lose their rights due to Hindi dominance.”
Tamil film superstars, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan have criticised the home minister’s statement.
According to 2001 Census figures, just 45 per cent Indians speak or know Hindi and just 25% people have declared Hindi as their mother tongue.
A little over 25 crore actually speak Hindi, the Census report. The remaining people speak variants of Hindi like Bhojpuri, Magadhi, Maithili, Garhwali, Dogri, Rajasthani, Marwari and Haryanvi. All put together, the speakers of Hindi and its dialects are about 45%.
The remaining 55% speak non-Hindi languages and the majority people in India don’t even know Hindi. According to the 2001 Census, 42 crore people speak or understand Hindi all over India. But, only 25 crore declared Hindi as their mother tongue.
Almost 8.5 crore people speak Bengali, 7.5 crore people speak Telugu, 7 crore speak Marathi and 6 crore speak Tamil. People in the north eastern states speak more than 50 different dialects. Tribals in non-Hindi speaking and non-north eastern states also speak different dialects. These dialects have nothing to do with Hindi or its variants. The languages like Konkani, Tulu, Kodava and Beary, which are spoken in Karnataka also have nothing to do with Hindi.