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Indian Government's Hindi Propagation in Foreign Countries

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2010 (ID. 2010-08-01)
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1. American President Barack Obama

2. American President Bill Clinton

3. Mulayam Singh Yadav's Ultimatum on Hindi

4. Vajpayee Speaks in Hindi at the United Nations (UN)

5. President Abdul Kalam not Allowed to Speak in Tamil at New Delhi Press Conference

6. Take the Daughter to Royal Court

7. Hindi Ambassadors of India

8. World Hindi Secretariat

 

1. American President Barack Obama

President of the United States of America (USA) Barack Obama hosted a state dinner to the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2009. President Obama said a few words in Hindi, specifically, he said "Aapka Swagat Hai" (you are welcome). Obviously the president and his speech writers thought that Hindi is accepted and understood all over India and saying a few words in Hindi would endear him in the hearts of Indians. They did not know that, may be, half the Indians at the state dinner did not understand what he was saying in Hindi.

President Barack Obama might not have known that, although Hindi is declared India's official language, it is not accepted voluntarily in the eastern and southern states. He might not have known that in the state of Tamil Nadu, with a population of 60 million, the state government had banned Hindi from its schools. He might not have known that Indian security forces shot and killed over one hundred anti-Hindi imposition protesters in Tamilnadu in 1965, and that seven Tamils self-immolated themselves to show their opposition to making Hindi the official language [Reference 1, 2]. Although bloodless, there were massive protest marches against Hindi in all four states in the south and West Bengal in the east. Hindi is not voluntarily accepted as India's official language universally.

Indian government buries such information and projects Hindi as THE language of India all over the world. Obviously Present Obama fell for that propaganda.

2. American President Bill Clinton

Actually the reason why President Obama spoke a few words in Hindi dates back to the year 2000 when the then American President Bill Clinton visited India. President Clinton spoke at the joint session of the Indian parliament. Also speaking at the joint session was the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Vajpayee knew English well and makes it a point to speak in English when he goes to Tamil Nadu on election campaigns. Yet he chose to speak in Hindi at the joint session, in front of the international press and media covering the event, thus projecting Hindi as THE language of India (or lingua franca of India). Truth is that at least 50% of the members of parliament (MP) and several ministers did not understand their prime minister's Hindi speech. Some did not know any Hindi at all and some did not know enough to follow the Hindi speech and switched to the simultaneous English translation.

3. Mulayam Singh Yadav's Ultimatum on Hindi

I would find fault with the non-Hindi MPs for not walking out of parliament when Vajpayee started his speech in Hindi. I especially find fault with MPs from Tamil Nadu where blood was spilled over Hindi in 1939 and 1965. Had they walked out, the American President and officials and the international press would have understood that Hindi is not the lingua franca of India and that there are strong feelings against making Hindi the official language.

Some readers may be asking, "Why display our differences over language policy in front of the visiting dignitary and the foreign media?" We did not start this controversy. Hindi chauvinists started it. Mulayam Singh Yadav, former chief minister of the Hindi-speaking Uttar Pradesh, told Prime Minister Vajpayee that Yadav and his supporters would boycott the joint session if Vajpayee  made his speech in Hindi (India Today, April 3, 2000).

4. Vajpayee Speaks in Hindi at the United Nations (UN)

Hindi politicians are making every effort to project Hindi as THE language of India. When he was the foreign minister (external affairs minister), Atal Bihari Vajpayee delivered his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi in 1977, although he knew English well. He later said that it was the "most unforgettable" moment in his life. I do understand his pride as a Hindi speaker (Hindian). But he is representing a multi-lingual country in the United Nations and should not project a wrong image that India is a Hindi country.

I understand Hindi-speaking Mr. Vajpayee's pride in speaking at the United Nations in his mother tongue. I will be proud if Tamil words echoed in the chambers of United Nations General Assembly too. Would a non-Hindi foreign minister of India or a non-Hindi diplomat from India be allowed to speak in his/her mother tongue at the United Nations? Absolutely not. That privilege, that right, that honour, that pride is reserved only for Hindi speakers (the Hindians).

5. President Abdul Kalam not Allowed to Speak in Tamil at New Delhi Press Conference

Here is a telling incident. Soon after he was elected the president of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (a Tamil) was about to say a few words in Tamil at a press conference at the request of some one there. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan (a Hindian) jumped in and said, “He is the president of India. He cannot speak in Tamil.” (The Telegraph, January 10, 2010). Prime Minister Vajpayee had his "most unforgettable" moment giving a full speech in Hindi at the United Nations in New York. Can't President Abdul Kalam have a few moments of happiness saying just a few words in his mother tongue Tamil at a press conference in New Delhi? Is the pride in one's language reserved for Hindians only?

6. Take the Daughter to Royal Court

While Hindi political leaders go around the world and speak in Hindi at international forums as if Hindi is THE language of India, these politicians do not want foreigners to know that there are well-developed languages in India. It is like the evil stepmother taking her daughter to parties in the royal court while locking up the pretty stepdaughters in the house lest others see them too. Are non-Hindi languages the step daughters to be kept out of sight of the world? And is Hindi the only language to be seen and heard by foreigners?

7. Hindi Ambassadors of India

Not only Hindian ministers and prime ministers of India project Hindi as THE language of India but Indian ambassadors and other diplomats, irrespective of their mother tongue, are also instructed to do so. Indian independence day and republic day are often celebrated in foreign cities where there is a sizable Indian population. Indian consul-generals often go to these celebrations if there is a consular office there. They are instructed to read Indian president's message in Hindi even if very few in the audience understand Hindi. 

The reason given for reading the message in Hindi is that foreigners would otherwise think that India does not have a language of its own and that it still depends on English. That may be true but by reading the message in Hindi, does not the Indian government project a false image of the language map of India? Now many foreigners think that Hindi is THE language of India and other languages are secondary. This is as much a false image about India. Let the consul-generals read a translation of the president's message in the language of the host country. English in America, French in France, etc. Then all the Indians there would understand and no one is downgraded or discriminated. If a foreigner asks, "Why are you reading the speech in French? Doesn't India have a language of its own?" Answer proudly, "India is a multi-lingual country. We are blessed with so many rich languages. There are people here speaking a number of these languages. Which language do I choose to read the president's message? So we choose to read the message of this country where we now live." That would paint the true picture of India's language situation. But that is not what the Hindi politicians want. They want foreigners to think that India's language is Hindi.  This false picture downgrades all non-Hindi peoples of India. If I say to a foreigner tomorrow that my language is Tamil or Telugu or Bengali, they would think that it is some undeveloped language and Hindi is the only language worthy in India. This gives a false perspective about India. 

Also let the president, prime minister and ministers address international forums in English or in their own mother tongue with a simultaneous English translation. Then foreigners would know the rich tapestry of cultures and languages in India. That is not what the Hindi politicians want. They want to project the false picture that Hindi is THE language of India, understood and accepted by all. They want foreigners to think that India is Hindi land--Hindi country.

8. World Hindi Secretariat

India signed a memorandum of understanding in 1999 on establishing the World Hindi Secretariat in Mauritius. Why a World Hindi Secretariat? What about the other languages? When asked the Indian government responded that the World Hindi Secretariat would promote other Indian languages also. Then why not call it World Secretariat for Indian Languages? The true intention of the Indian government is clear from the very name.

REFERENCES

1. History: A Chronology of Anti-Hindi Agitations in Tamil Nadu and What the Future Holds (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2003 (33 KB)

2. Burnt Offerings Against Hindi Imposition: Self Immolation of Tamil Martyrs in Tamil Nadu, 1965 (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2004 (20 KB)

RELATED ARTICLES

1. Indian Government Promotes Hindi Around the World (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2012 (12 KB)

2. Hindi in United Nations (by K. Chezhian), TAMIL TRIBUNE, September 2007 (13 KB)

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