Accept Hindi as India's Official Language (Points and Counter Points)

Gaurav Garg

TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2010 (ID. 2010-11-f1)
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The following e-mail was received from Mr. Gaurav Garg. He is from northern India and currently works in Tamil Nadu. We are publishing the e-mail with response from one of our regular writers. Responses are provided within square parentheses "[ ]" ending with TT (Tamil Tribune). A mini-debate on if Hindi should be India’s official language.

I read some Tamil Tribune articles on India's official language policy [Reference 1] and I find some of your views very incongruous with mine. I would like to propound a few points.

Everybody will agree that if we want our country to prosper, the common man should get the chance to prosper, and for this we have to ensure his education. Using a language that is not his native language will impede his growth. Almost none of the freedom fighters supported English [This is misleading. Most leaders in Tamil Nadu opposed Hindi before and after 1947 and now. - TT] They had realized that English is not the language of common man and it would never be. If some people know English, it is because it had been imposed by our government, and they too are more comfortable in their mother tongue. So I would like to suggest that every work in our country should be done in Indian languages. [Hindi and English are both alien to Tamils. We would like to do work in Tamil in Tamil Nadu and communicate in English with the rest of the world that includes the other states in India. There is no need for Hindi. - TT]

To support my point I would like to give you one example from history. Latin was the languages of communication among the higher echelon in Europe until the 18th century, every scholar was supposed to know that languages. Many books of that time were written in Latin. Even Sir Isaac Newton's book Principia Mathematica was written in Latin. As time passed people realized that they have to work in their native languages for the free development of their respective countries. [We are all for studying and working in Tamil but it is the Hindi dominated Indian government that is blocking it. Indian parliament would not allow a minister from Tamil Nadu, Mr. Alagiri, to reply questions in Tamil while Hindi ministers are allowed to reply in their mother tongue Hindi [Reference 2]. (Alagiri wanted to speak in Tamil because his proficiency in English and Hindi is limited.) Indian government is blocking the use of Tamil in our state High Court while Hindi is allowed in the high courts of some Hindi states (Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh). Indian government owned Air India refuses to make in-flight announcements in Tamil for flight to, from or within Tamil Nadu. Just three examples. - TT]

Some people support use of English in our country on the pretext of equality and globalization. I want to ask them a question, "Would you like to appoint a foreigner as Prime Minister because he would be equally foreigner to all of us. [Language of inter-state communication and prime minister post are entirely different. Don't compare apples to automobiles. They are different and serve different purposes- TT] And secondly I can not accept English as global language. If English has been a global language there would have been only English at the United Nations instead of six languages. Some International organization must have certified English as the world language. [Tamil people have no special love for English but it is the language of global communication today. Status of English around the world speaks for itself. - TT] 

People say English connects us with the world. In the present scenario we learn only English. Most of our business is with English speaking countries and our students go for higher education in English speaking countries only. Even our ambassadors try to manage their work in English even if they are appointed to a non-English speaking country. This entails our politician get contrived information, and we bind our world to English speaking countries. Instead of that we should have an environment in which we learn different languages of the world and explore the world in every dimension for development of our country. [English is the most widely used language in the world. Anyone who downplays the importance of English in international communication, science and technology is ignorant or is trying to fool others in order to promote Hindi over non-Hindi Indians. Yes, people going to live in Germany for an extended period of time should take a crash course in Germany, etc. Someone doing business with Poland should learn Polish, etc. By the way, you are attempting to say that there is no need for English and we should choose Hindi as the language of communication within India. As for Tamil Nadu is concerned, we choose English over Hindi because English is much more useful than Hindi. - TT]

In our country we have to create an environment where everyone gets the opportunity of getting education in his/her native language, which brings self-respect as well. [We are all for it, as long as you do not define Hindi as the native language of India. My native language is Tamil. - TT] And if a person is working in some other region for a longer period, he should learn the language of that place. But yes, there is a need for a link or official language which helps those people who need to travel throughout the country or live in different places for shorter periods of time. [Our position is that English is that language because it is useful around the world, and not Hindi which is useful only in Hindi belt states and some other states which have accepted Hindi. There is no need for one language for international travel and another for travel within India. - TT]

We do not want to impose Hindi for the sake of nationalism. Hindi is in no way superior to any other language of our country, it is just because it is the most common language. [Saying we don't want to impose Hindi, and then force non-Hindi employees of the Indian government to work in Hindi is hypocrisy. Former Chief Minister of Kerala put it so well: ""Hindi is as much alien to South Indians as English is to Indians" - TT]

I urge you to print my letter in your magazine and please reply to my letter. We are communicating in English because we are part of the system that works this way. But we have to change the scenario. English is neither my language nor yours. [Hindi is not my language either. - TT] I accept there will be problems in initial stages but we have to work in this direction. We can discuss the problems that we might encounter and can bring out the solution. [You are asking us to accept Hindi imposition. Our answer is an overwhelming "no". - TT]

You will be happy to know that I am trying to learn Tamil. I believe that if we are going to other place for a longer period, we should learn the language of that place to show our respect to their culture. 

Gaurav Garg
September 2010


1. India, Tamil Nadu and Hindi Imposition

2. Mr. Alagiri Goes to New Delhi (Language Discrimination in Parliament)

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