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Hindi in Parliament

Members of Parliament Stare Dumbfounded as Indian President Addresses Them in Hindi

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2010 (ID. 2010-04-02)
Updated September 2010
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President of the Republic of India, Pratibha Patil, addressed the parliament in Hindi on February 22, 2010. That is nothing unusual. Some past presidents have addressed the parliament in Hindi, and some others in English. What was unusual is that the president's Hindi address was not translated to English as was customary. (In past years, president's address to parliament in Hindi was always translated to English, and if in English translated to Hindi.) Members of Parliament (MPs) who did not know Hindi, many did not, sat there as their president spoke what sounded to them as gibberish.

It is a violation of the Indian constitution and related laws not to translate the President's Hindi address to English. Indian constitution and related laws say that English will continue as the associate official language as long as non-Hindi states want it. Both the president and the speaker violated it. As far as the Hindi politicians who dominate the Indian parliament are concerned, constitutional provisions do not matter when it comes to thrusting Hindi.

Who ordered that no translation of the president's speech be offered? Is it the speaker of the parliament Meira Kumar? Who gave the speaker the authority to flout the constitutional provision? Under what umbrella is she standing protected? Of course, the umbrella of the Hindi politicians who stand united crossing party lines when it comes to Hindi domination.

Hindi politicians are pushing the boundaries of Hindi dominance even further, over and above constitutional provisions. Hindi politician are thrusting Hindi into unwilling non-Hindi throats deeper and deeper. Message is clear. Do you want to participate in the Indian political arena fully? Learn Hindi. Anyone aspiring for the most powerful position in India, the prime minister post, better learn Hindi. [President is theoretically higher than the prime minister, but it is a ceremonial position with no real power.]

Former Congress President Kamaraj from Tamil Nadu, when asked about whether he wants to be the prime minister, said, "I cannot become the prime minister. I neither know English nor Hindi". That was in the 1960s. If he were alive today he would have said,  "I cannot become the prime minister. I do not know Hindi". Hindi dominance had increased during the past decades. 

Prime Minister Deva Gowda, from non-Hindi Karnatak State, asked his aids to translate his major speeches into Hindi and write them in Kannada script. He then read those speeches without really knowing what he was saying.  

Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, from the non-Hindi state of Andhra, put together a political coalition called United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), and one day hopes to become the prime minister. One of the things he did to "qualify for the position" was to learn Hindi at his old age.

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who held the finance portfolio earlier, was considered by some as a potential candidate for Prime Minister after the next parliamentary election. It seems that his lack of Hindi knowledge would hinder that possibility. The Expressbuzz web site, owned by the influential Indian Express family of news papers, wrote on July 27, 2010, "Whenever there was discussion on Chidambaram as a possible prime ministerial candidate, his lack of familiarity with Hindi was seen as a big minus". A capable minister, who has headed two important ministries, home and finance, may not be able to become Indian prime minister because he does not know Hindi. This is the power of Hindi politicians.

ADDENDUM:

I remember another incidence of Hindi supremacy and Hindian arrogance that appeared in the January 10, 2010 issue of the Indian newspaper "The Telegraph"  published from West Bengal. This is the excerpt from a lengthy article on languages and politics. "A.R. Venkatachalapathy of the Madras Institute of Development Studies tells me how insulted he felt when, at a meeting attended by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam soon after he became president of India, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan had stopped him from responding to a request for a few words in Tamil by saying, “He is the president of India. He cannot speak in Tamil.”

[POSTSCRIPT: I want to make it clear that I am opposed to Indian constitution's "two language formula": Official language Hindi and associate official language English. I am for English as the sole official language. Having  said that, the point of this article is that even the Indian constitution's two language formula is violated by the Indian government thus further elevating Hindi and further benefiting Hindians. Former Tamilnadu chief minister C. N. Annadurai explained why English is sufficient as the official language of India, through an interesting little story. You may read the story in Reference 1.]

Thanjai Nalangkilli

REFERENCE

1. Two Dogs and Hindi: A Story from C. N. Annadurai's Speeches (by K. Chezhian), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 1999 (6 KB)

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