Home Feature Time for Action: Elevating Hindi to UN Official Language Status 

Time for Action: Elevating Hindi to UN Official Language Status 


By Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’

From a geographical and democratic perspective, Hindi is a language that inherently possesses the potential of being a global language. Due to its widespread use and expansiveness, it can function as a global solution, fostering understanding and dialogue among societies and diverse cultures. Its growth and prosperity extend beyond just the linguistic realm; it’s intertwined with a rich geographical and cultural backdrop, enabling it to contribute to enhancing the world’s diversity into equality and harmony.

The United Nations has six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. To make a language official, a majority vote among more than 193 members is necessary. Countries with new languages should receive financial support for translation and interpretation services. Content writing offices need to ensure that their websites offer content in all six official languages. The United Nations delineates four skill areas in language levels: listening, reading, speaking, production, and conversation; written production and participation.

The question is why, today, languages such as English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Arabic could be official languages of the United Nations, but not Hindi? Arabic was given the status of a UN language in 1973. However, it’s regrettable that despite being the language of one of the largest democratic countries in the world, Hindi has not yet gained entry. It’s known that in August 2010, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, the then Foreign Minister stated that the government was taking active steps to include Hindi as an official language of the United Nations, and a committee was formed under the chairmanship of the Foreign Minister in 2003 regarding this matter.

Due to continuous efforts, it was possible to present Hindi content in the United Nations through weekly programmes and radio. As widely known, for an amendment to Rule 51 of the United Nations’ operating rules, the essential support of more than half of the member countries and an estimated expenditure of 13 million American dollars annually will be required, for which assurance has already been given by the government. Thus, despite the power dynamics, numerical strength, and financial power leading the six aforementioned languages to become official languages of the United Nations, Hindi, despite being eligible and a global language in every sense, has not yet achieved this status.

There has been a concern that Hindi is not even a national language of India. As per Article 343(1) of the Constitution, Hindi is the official language of the Indian Union. The system established to function for 15 years had aimed at gradually making Hindi the language of government work nationwide. Interestingly, there was no discussion about what would happen after this interim period. A decision was made to form a parliamentary committee in the future to investigate this matter. Additionally, the constitution recognised 14 other languages. Despite 15 years passing, the spread of Hindi in the central government’s functioning could have been limited; however, in the last decade, due to the facility of writing Hindi in Unicode, a significant stride was made. A lot of change has been seen at the national and international levels. Hindi has made a robust presence on the internet. Many dedicated youth organisations are consistently uploading Hindi content online, resulting in the development of a Hindi Wikipedia parallel to the English Wikipedia. There has been a surge among the youth on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp to read, write, listen, and speak in Hindi.

The number of those who speak and understand this language is more than 100 crores. It has transcended the boundaries of cultural and communication barriers for Indians living abroad, reaching many Western countries. It’s the second official language in countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Suriname, Nepal, and others. Hindi is taught and studied in universities across nearly 130 countries worldwide. Its increasing popularity through mediums like cinema, radio, television, and the internet, along with its indispensability in religious, cultural, and social festivities, and celebrations, has earned Hindi a special place on the global stage. Prompt actions are necessary to grant Hindi, India’s official language, the status of the United Nations’ official language.

Renowned English playwright and author Walter Bagehot said, “The language of a foreign country’s administration and education being a foreign language is a cultural subservience.” Furthering the thoughts of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Justice Krishna Swamy Iyer said, “If there’s a necessity for a script for all Indian languages, it can only be Devanagari.” Pausing briefly, he continued, “Hindi could indeed become India’s national language. There’s no doubt that there’s no specific opposition to Hindi. Yes, there might be politically motivated discussions, but today, the entire India stands solidly behind Hindi. It’s our good fortune that at this time, India has strong political will, swift reforms being implemented, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call presenting India as an emerging global power on the international stage.”

In Prime Minister Modi’s vision, a self-reliant, empowered, constantly evolving India is a great power. We are striving collectively to reach the summit, acknowledged by the entire world. I believe that serious collective efforts are needed to elevate Hindi to its rightful prestigious position and make it the language of the United Nations. The circumstances are favourable today, and I firmly believe that with new energy, determination, and dedication, we can surely achieve our goals. We must remember that one-fifteenth of the world’s population, meaning fifteen percent of the global population, stands united with us in full solidarity.

I truly believe that India’s time has arrived. If we can line up the entire world for Yoga and solar alliance, we can also do it for Hindi. This is the time that Swami Vivekananda, Maharishi Arvind, and Keshav Hedgevar used to talk about. India is genuinely prepared for a golden era, with abundant development opportunities, and the entire world will be part of this remarkable tale of progress.

(The author is former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and former Education Minister, Government of India)