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Hindi Scare

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It was National Hindi Day and a BJP Union Home Minister appealed for making it India’s National Language. It was an appropriate occasion and he was only reiterating the BJP’s long held stand. Unfortunately, shaken by the recent ‘decisive’ moves by the Modi Government to implement the BJP’s promises, politicians in the South have resolved to fight the language war to the last breath. One suspects that Minister Amit Shah’s statement is also a bit of misdirection, the usual strategy adopted by the Prime Minister when he is actually planning something else. Anyway, the so-called ‘secular’ parties that spend so much time castigating the BJP for its ‘divisive’ politics are already working on whipping up anti-Hindi sentiment that will manifest soon enough on the streets. It may be noted that those who oppose Hindi have no problem in co-existing with English. There are even some who would be comfortable with it being declared the National Language. This is simply because the market requires a certain level of skills in that language, which it would be impossible to deny the younger generation. The regressive attempt by any government to impose a regional language in education and other critical areas would result in its being shown the door by the voters. UP’s Mulayam Singh, for instance, lost a lot of credibility when he adopted such a policy. Those who want Hindi to be the national language – and these include Gujaratis such as Mahatma Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah –need only allow the present evolving process to run its course. India is integrating in many ways and much faster than it might seem to some. Bollywood, for one, has traditionally played a large role in this. Ditto, now, for TV and the Internet. Forget India’s states, Pakistan’s insular sections have been much perturbed by the incursion of Hindi phrases into the speech of its younger TV viewing generations. There may still be some inner parts of the southern states or the North-East where people do not know Hindi or it is resisted, but a working knowledge of the language is necessary if employment is to be sought in other parts. Even among North India’s elite whose chosen language of conversation was English, the trend now is to do so in Hindi. This is despite an undiminished command over the English language. It is increasingly simpler and economical to use Hindi as a means of communication pan-India, just as English is the lingua-franca when one travels abroad. This is an inexorable process that all the politicking cannot stop.