Tamil Tribune

Tell the Truth About Hindi and Counter Hindi Propaganda in Foreign Countries

Saroja Thanga Raj
Radha Krishnamurthy

M. Palaniappan

TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2011 (ID. 2011-01-01)
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1. New York City Mayor Greets Indians in Hindi

2. International Day at Son's School

3. One Billion Audiences for Hindi Movies: True or False?

    Concluding Remarks


Subsequent to the publication of the article "Indian Government's Hindi Propagation in Foreign Countries" in the August 2010 issue of TAMIL TRIBUNE [Reference 1], we received some e-mails describing how Indian Government's efforts to project Hindi as THE language of India has taken root in some foreign countries and how they personally tried to correct this wrong perception. Edited/abridged versions of these e-mails are published here. - Editor


New York City Mayor Greets Indians in Hindi

Saroja Thanga Raj

We used to live in New York City (United States of America (USA)) many years ago. Indian community in the city used to celebrate Indian Independence Day and Republic Day. New York City mayor issued a statement for one of these celebrations, greeting the Indian community. His greetings included a few Hindi words. Although I do know Hindi and understood it, it upset me because I know that many Indians in the city, including my husband, do not know Hindi and did not understand what the mayor was saying.

I sent a polite letter to the mayor describing the language situation in India and telling him that many Indians in New York City did not understand what he said in Hindi, and that some would have been offended by his Hindi words implying that all Indians accept Hindi as the lingua franca. I do not have the letter with me. This is the gist of what I wrote.

"Hindi is neither the mother tongue of all Indians nor the lingua franca of India. Hindi and its dialects are the mother tongue of about 40% of the population, and they live in the north-central part of India. There are many other well-developed languages in India, each spoken by tens of millions of people.

Although I know that the honorable mayor said a few words in Hindi with good intensions, it may offend some non-Hindi Indians. Some South and East Indian states, with a combined population much greater than that of United  States of America opposed making Hindi the official language of India. People of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, with a current population of 60 million, fought tooth and nail against it. Indian security forces shot and killed over 60 unarmed protesters during the 1965 Tamil Nadu Students Anti-Hindi Agitation. Even today Hindi is not taught in Tamil Nadu State schools. Many in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, Manipur, Tripura and West Bengal are also opposed to making Hindi the official language of India although their resistance is much less than that in Tamilnadu."

I know that the mayor might not have read the letter. But I am certain that some member of his staff would have read it and, likely, the next time that mayor intends to use Hindi words to greet Indians he might be advised against it.


International Day at Son's School

Radha Krishnamurthy

A few years ago my son's school in Canada held an "International Day" to broaden the outlook of the children. The school had children of immigrants from a number of countries. I remember India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Poland, Ukraine and Germany.

The school had set up a large board for each of these countries. Some basic information about the country, such as country map, capital city, population, language, literacy rate, etc. was written on these boards. In the "Indian Board', Hindi was written as the language. It bothered me.

I went to the teacher in charge of organizing the International Day and told her politely that Hindi is not the only language of India. She replied that an Indian parent told her that Hindi is the official language and everyone understood it. I told her that was false information. Hindi is the official language along with English as the associate official language. Not everyone understands Hindi. Indian government employees are forced to learn and do at least some of the work in Hindi, and many non-Hindi employees resent it. Tamil Nadu State with a population of 60 million people does not teach Hindi in its schools. There are many languages in India and some are spoken by population greater than Canada. So listing Hindi as THE Indian language is misrepresentation and the children are getting wrong information. I asked her to search the Internet for "anti-Hindi agitation" and "Hindi imposition". I told her that opposition to Hindi imposition is not limited to Tamil Nadu State but she would find many sites and articles by people from Karnataka, West Bengal and a few other states. [I did not give her any specific site. I wanted her to see for herself the extent of sites on this topic.]

The teacher asked me what I think the board should say under languages. I gave her a few suggestions and let her choose.

1. Multiple languages, each spoken by millions.

2. List all the languages listed in the Indian constitution. It could be too many for the board.

3. Hindi and English are the official and associate official languages but not all Indian understand them. There are many languages each spoken by tens of millions.

She chose to combine my second and third suggestions. She changed the board to "Hindi and English are the official languages but not every Indian understands them. There are many other languages spoken by millions. Then she listed all the languages listed in the constitution in small letters."

It is up to non-Hindi Indians in foreign countries to set the record straight and tell foreigners the truth. As long as Hindi speakers assert in foreign countries that Hindi is THE language of India or lingua franca of India, the non-Hindi people have not only the right but also a responsibility to set things straight. If not us, who? If not now, when?


One Billion Audiences for Hindi Movies: True or False?

M. Palaniappan

I live in United States of America (USA). A few years ago the television network American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) had a brief news segment about Indian movies. The tone of the segment gave the impression that Indian movies means Hindi movies. There was no mention of other language movies. At one point the American reporter said that Bollywood movies (Hindi movies) have an audience of one billion.

I sent an e-mail to producers of the news show. Salient points made in the e-mail are:

1. Although India has a population of one billion, Bollywood movies (Hindi movies) do not have an audience of one billion.

2. At least in the four southern states, people much prefer to watch movies in their mother tongue than in Hindi.

3. There are four languages spoken in the four southern states--Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. Each of these languages has a vibrant movie industry. In some years each Tamil and Telugu has more movies produced than Hindi. Large numbers of movies are produced in Kannada and Malayalam also although not as much as Hindi, Tamil or Telugu.

4. Although some movie theaters in major south Indian cities do screen Hindi movies, most theaters show local language movies. Some theaters also screen English movies. Theaters in smaller towns and rural areas seldom screen Hindi or English movies; they screen only local language movies. So Hindi does not have an audience of a billion.

5. While most people in the north may understand Hindi, many people in southern states would not be able to understand Hindi movie dialog. More people in the south understand English than Hindi.

(by Editor)

I want to wrap up this articles compilation by re-quoting from Radha Krishnamurthy's last paragraph of the second article:

"It is up to non-Hindi Indians in foreign countries to set the record straight and tell foreigners the truth. As long as Hindi speakers assert in foreign countries that Hindi is THE language of India or lingua franca of India, the non-Hindi people have not only the right but also a responsibility to set things straight."

Let foreigners know that there are more languages than Hindi in India. If a television, radio or newspaper report gives false information (because they got it either from the Indian government or Hindi speakers), send a brief note explaining the real facts. Be polite, be brief. Foreign media people want to tell their audience the truth. Let us help them. Let each of us be the ambassadors of our mother tongue.


1. Indian Government's Hindi Propagation in Foreign Countries (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2010 (16 KB)


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