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Why India's Official Language Policy is Unfair to Non-Hindi Peoples

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2003 (ID. 2003-04-01)
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Definitions
1. Why Tamil Nadu Opposes Hindi
2. English should be the Sole Official Language of India
3. Arguments of Hindi Chauvinists
4. How the Hindi-and-English Policy Hurts non-Hindi Peoples
5. Statistical Evidence of how non-Hindi Peoples are Hurt
6. Is Teaching Hindi in Tamil Nadu Schools the Solution?
7. What is the Equitable Solution?

Definitions:

Hindians: People whose mother tongue is Hindi (similar to Tamil speakers are sometimes referred as Tamilans or Tamilians).

1. Why Tamil Nadu Opposes Hindi

Speaking at a Public Meeting in Chennai (Madras)on April 29, 1963, the future Chief Minister of Tamilnadu C. N. Annadurai said, "We will go to every part of Tamil Nadu and tell the people that Hindi is coming and that it is like a thunder strike on the heads of Tamil and Dravidian people.... If Hindi were to become the official language of India, Hindi-speaking people will govern us. We will be treated like third rate citizens".

Annadurai was brought to trial on December 3, 1963 for conspiracy to burn the Indian Constitution. He elaborated to the judge why he opposes Hindi becoming the official language of India. Annadurai said, "Making a language (Hindi) that is the mother tongue of a region of India the official language for all the people of India is tyranny. We believe that it will give benefits and superiority to one region (the Hindi-speaking region).... Danger to the people of Tamil Nadu because of Hindi becoming the official language of India is great".

2. English should be the Sole Official Language of India

Hindi chauvinists' response to opposition to Hindi, from 1950 when the new Indian Constitution crowned Hindi as the official language, is that, "Out of the goodness of our hearts we will give you (non-Hindi peoples) a grace period of 15 years to learn Hindi. For the next 15 years (until January 26, 1965) we will "allow" English to remain as the associate official language. Then Hindi would be the sole official language of India." On the face of strong opposition from Tamil Nadu and the blood sacrifice of more than 60 unarmed civilians who were shot and killed by Indian security forces, the status of English as the associate official language was further extended indefinitely; but the Indian Government would use its power to make non-Hindi workers in the employ of the Indian Government and its many undertakings do the work in Hindi {Reference 1]. Indian Government undertakings such as the State Bank, Life Insurance Corporation, Oil and Natural Gas Commission, etc. employ sizable number of employees.

Tamil people knew that 15 years or 50 years, making Hindi the official language of India (even with English as the associate official language) would put non-Hindi peoples at a disadvantage vis-a-vis Hindians. That was why Tamil people agitated over and over again [Reference 2] that English should be the sole official language of India and Hindi should not be given any status above other languages spoken in India. "English Ever, Hindi Never" was the thundering slogan heard on the streets of Tamil Nadu during the Tamil Nadu Students Anti-Hindi Agitation of January-February 1965.

This is not that Tamil people have a special love for English and hatred for Hindi. This is the only equitable, fair official language policy for an artificial country like India that consists of many nations with their different languages, each spoken by tens of millions of people. Like it or not, a knowledge of English is necessary for communicating in the international arena and to be abreast with latest developments in science and technology. It is the ground reality. That is why English is a required subject in every school in India and in almost all over the world. Making English the official language of India does not give an unfair advantage to anyone because it is not the mother tongue of anyone in India with the exception of the tiny Anglo-Indian community. On the contrary, making Hindi the official language gives an undue advantage to Hindi people (approximately 40% of the Indian population).

There is no need for non-Hindi peoples to learn Hindi unless they work in Hindi states. English is sufficient to communicate and do business internationally and within India. C. N. Annadurai argued the unnecessity for Hindi so eloquently through the parable of "Two Dogs and Hindi" [Reference 3].

3. Arguments of Hindi Chauvinists

Hindi is forced on Tamil people (and on many other non-Hindi peoples) by the Indian Government because Hindians dominated the Indian Constituent Assembly and now dominate the Indian parliament [Reference 4]. Hindi was made the official language and is kept as official language because of Hindian's sense that India is Hindia and they are the legitimate ruling race of India, and because it gives an undue advantage to Hindians.

Arrogant Hindi fanatics say, "We are not forcing you to study Hindi but if you want a job with the Indian government or its various undertakings you must know Hindi. Are you too stupid to learn Hindi?"

More milder Hindi chauvinists say, "You, Tamil people are so smart. If you learn Hindi, you would soon surpass us in Hindi." I don't know if Tamils are any smarter than others. It would be utter arrogance on my part to think so. In any case, I would rather that my children spend the time learning computer skills, science and mathematics than studying Hindi. It would be more productive personally and to the society to learn these or other useful skills than to study Hindi. The only reason they may need to study Hindi is because Tamil Nadu is part of India. As I wrote in another article, Bangladeshis do not learn Hindi because Bangladesh is not part of India; Sri Lankans do not learn Hindi because Sri Lanka is not part of India; Burmese do not learn Hindi because Burma is not part of India. Tamils are forced to learn Hindi (if they want work in Indian Government jobs even within Tamil Nadu be it a railway station in Tamil Nadu or a State Bank in Tamil Nadu or a Life Insurance Corporation office in Tamil Nadu) because, unfortunately, Tamil Nadu is a part of India today [Reference 5].

4. How the Hindi-and-English Policy Hurts non-Hindi Peoples

Milder Hindi proponents say, "Alright, Hindi is not your mother tongue. So we will let you write Indian Government job examinations in English. See, how generous we are."

I say to them, "That is unfair too. You write the examinations in your mother tongue Hindi which you started speaking from your mother's lap and continue to use it day after day with your neighbors, friends and everyone around. You ask us to compete with  you writing the examination in English that is a foreign language, as foreign to us as it is to you. How about you writing the examinations in English and we in our mother tongue Tamil? That is the exact mirror image of we writing the examinations in English and you writing them in your mother tongue Hindi. English, which we all learn because it is the international language and the language of advanced science and technology, puts us all in the same playing field. If you love your language so much, then you Hindians have your own Hindia comprising of the Hindi states and whichever other states that want to be part of that country. God bless you. Long live and prosper. But we don't want to be part of that country."

5. Statistical Evidence of how non-Hindi Peoples are Hurt

No one but utter fools and foolhardy Hindi fanatics would say that Hindians writing Indian Government examinations in Hindi and Tamils writing them in English is fair. Should there be any doubt here are some numbers to ponder.

Out of the 1885 candidates who passed Indian Government Clerical and Stenographer examinations held in 2002, less than 100 are from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Why? Are students from these states stupid? No, I doubt it. These states are farther away from the Hindi heartland and their languages are much different from Hindi. That is the reason.

Let us examine it more closely. These are the examinations taken by Matric Level Grade C Stenographers.

1. General Studies (100 marks)

Questions in this component will be aimed at testing the candidates general awareness of the environment around him and its application to society. Questions will also be designed to test knowledge of current events and of such matters of every day observations and experience in their scientific aspect as may be expected of any educated person. The test will also include questions relating to India and its neighbouring countries especially pertaining to history, culture, geography, economic scene, general polity, scientific research etc. Candidate may take this examination in Hindi or English.

2. Essays (100 marks)

Candidates will be required to write essay on two topics. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay, to arrange their ideas in orderly fashion and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression. Candidate may take this examination in Hindi or English.

Now you see why candidates from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal fared so poorly in these examinations. These are candidates who have completed high school. They are asked to write essays either in Hindi or English. Hindians write essays in their mother tongue. Candidates from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal can write in one of two foreign languages (Hindi or English). Take two Hindians with high school education. One writes essays in Hindi and another in English. If both have the same level of knowledge of the subject matter, the one writing in his/her mother tongue Hindi is highly likely to score higher marks. The same thing happens when a Tamil writes the essays in English and a Hindian writes in Hindi. It is totally unfair and discriminatory. That was why C. N. Annadurai said, 

"We will go to every part of Tamil Nadu and tell the people that Hindi is coming and that it is like a thunder strike on the heads of Tamil and Dravidian people.... If Hindi were to become the official language of India, Hindi-speaking people will govern us. We will be treated like third rate citizens... Making a language (Hindi) that is the mother tongue of a region of India the official language for all the people of India is tyranny. We believe that it will give benefits and superiority to one region (the Hindi-speaking region).... Danger to the people of Tamil Nadu because of Hindi becoming the official language of India is great... "

He was right on target. This is one reason we oppose Hindi as the official language of India, even with English as the associate language. Hindi should not be given a status above other languages spoken in India.

6. Is Teaching Hindi in Tamil Nadu Schools the Solution?

There are some Tamil politicians who owe their positions to Hindians have made public statements in recent days that Hindi should be taught in Tamil Nadu schools and it would help them competing for Indian Government jobs against Hindians. There is absolutely no basis for this. The statistics presented in Section 5 supports this one hundred percent. "Out of the 1885 candidates who passed Indian Government Clerical and Stenographer examinations held in 2002, less than 100 are from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal." Hindi is taught in schools as a compulsory subject from either the 5-th or 6-th grade in all schools in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and West Bengal. Candidates from these states did not fare any better than candidates from Tamil Nadu.

Solution to Indian Government's discriminatory, unfair language policy is not teaching Hindi in Tamil Nadu schools but denying Hindi any special status above the other languages. That is the equitable solution.

To those who say learning one more language is good, I say, "How many schools in Hindi land are teaching Tamil or Telugu or Bengali?" If someone want to learn a third language (after Tamil and English), let them choose it, be it Kannada or Punjabi or French or Japanese or Hindi. Only reason Hindi is thrust into Tamil throats is because, unfortunately, Tamil Nadu is ruled from Delhi by Hindian politicians. As I said before, "Bangladeshis do not learn Hindi because Bangladesh is not part of India; Sri Lankans do not learn Hindi because Sri Lanka is not part of India; Burmese do not learn Hindi because Burma is not part of India. Tamils are forced to learn Hindi  because Tamil Nadu is a part of India today."

7. What is the Equitable Solution?

Making Hindi the official language of India, thus giving it a status over and above the other languages and giving Hindians a special privilege and undue advantages is wrong, unfair and discriminatory. What is an equitable solution? Some politicians from Tamil Nadu say that all languages listed in the Indian Constitution should be made the official language of India. It is impossible and impractical to conduct business in 18 or so languages.

The one and only equitable solution is to make English the sole official language of India. English is taught in every school in India, it is a necessary language for international communication and advanced studies in science and technology, and it gives no unfair advantage to any linguistic group in India. Ideally Tamils would like to see Tamil as the official language but as part of a multi-lingual country it is not possible. So we offer English as the compromise. It is not because we love English and hate Tamil. What Hindians want is to make Hindi the official language of India and get unfair advantages over others. If they are so proud of their language and could not accept English, I suggest that Hindi states form their own country, call it India or Hindia or whatever. Or, alternately, conduct a plebiscite in every state and let those states that do not want to accept Hindian hegemony form their own countries (as it happened just over a decade ago in the Soviet Union).

REFERENCES

1. Government of India's Hindi Imposition Agenda for 2002-2003 (by M. T.), TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2002

2. A Chronology of Anti-Hindi Agitations in Tamil Nadu and what the Future Holds (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2003.

3. Two Dogs and Hindi: A Story from C. N. Annadurai's Speeches (by K. Chezhian), Tamil Tribune, January 1999.

5. Who Rules India? (Part I) (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2000.

5. Doctor, Learn Hindi or You are Fired! (by K. N. Nair), TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2002.

RELATED ARTICLES

Hindi Imposition and Independence for Tamil Nadu (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 1999 (17 KB)

Archived articles on Opposition to Hindi Imposition in India (OR Search the internet with the following key words: Hindi imposition India Thanjai Nalankilli )

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