Amit Shah’s Hindi push sparks outrage among state leaders

Amit Shah, Jammu and Kashmir, Article 35A, special status, security meeting, The Federal, English news website
Amit Shah's push to make Hindi a common language in the country has drawn criticism from the southern states. Photo: PTI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah pitch on the necessity of having Hindi as a common language in India, on the occasion of Hindi Diwas, has riled the Opposition. On Sunday, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a Facebook post said the claim that Hindi unifies India was absurd.

In a tweet, Shah said on Saturday, “India is a country of many different languages, and each language has its own significance, but it is necessary to have a common language that becomes the mark of India’s identity globally. Today, if there is one language that has the ability to string the nation together in unity, it is the Hindi language which is the most widely-spoken and understood language in India.”


“Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s Hindi agenda push despite nationwide protest needs to be seen as Sangh Parivar’s signs to launch a new battlefield in the name of language. The perception that only Hindi can unite the country is completely wrong. People in the south and the north-east don’t speak Hindi,” wrote Vijayan.

On Saturday, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin criticised Shah’s remarks. “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,” Stalin said.

Former Union minister and lawmaker from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor refused to accept Shah’s views and said that Hindi is a compulsory second language for all studying in South India whereas no one in North learns southern regional languages. “Most of us in the South learn Hindi as a second language but nobody in the North is learning Malayalam or Tamil,” Tharoor told ANI.

Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee opposed the move and tweeted, “My best wishes to all on #HindiDiwas. We should respect all languages and cultures equally. We may learn many languages but we should never forget our mother-language.”

Former Karnataka CM and JD(S) chief HD Kumaraswamy also joined the attack against Shah over ‘imposition of Hindi’. “Across the country, Hindi Diwas is being celebrated. When will PM Modi celebrate Kannada Diwas, which is also an official language according to the Constitution?” asked Kumaraswamy.

Earlier, the report on the Draft National Education Policy 2019, prepared by an expert panel led by Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation, too saw hesitation from non-Hindi speaking states thinking of it as an attempt to force them to learn Hindi, under the recommended “three-language rule” till Class 8.

However, after opposition the government decided to drop this part from the draft.

According to 2001 Census figures, just 45 per cent Indians speak or know Hindi and just 25 per cent 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 per cent.

The remaining 55 per cent 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.

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