Tamil Tribune

India, Hindi and Broken Promises (An Eight-Point Request)

Thanjai Nalankilli

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TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2014 (ID. 2014-07-01); Updated on 2014-09-01
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ABBREVIATIONS

BJP - Bharatiya Janata Party

DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

1. Introduction

Within days of coming to power at the Indian Central Government (Union Government), Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government took several measures to hasten the continuing Hindi imposition. Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister on May 26, 2014. One of the many such acts was a Home Ministry memorandum dated May 27, 2014 (the day after Modi became Prime Minister). It states, "It is ordered that government employees and officials of all ministries, departments, corporations or banks, who have made official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube or blogs should use Hindi, or both Hindi and English but give priority to Hindi." (The Economic Times: June 17, 2014). Essentially, the memorandum says that English is optional on social media posts but Hindi is mandatory (Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube or blogs).

An uproar started in Tamil Nadu. The first to shoot across the bow was former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and President of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Mr. Muthuvel Karunanidhi. The 90 years old Karunanidhi (born on June 3, 1924) said, ""Giving priority to Hindi will be construed as a first step towards attempt at creating differences among non-Hindi speaking people and making them second class citizens". He asked why Hindi should be given priority over other languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. (The Economic Times: June 19, 2014).

Reacting to this criticism and opposition from others, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, “The home ministry is of the view that all Indian languages are important. The ministry is committed to promote all languages of the country.” (Deccan Chronicle: June 21, 2014)

2. Rajnath Singh and the New Web Site

Time to prove that Minister Rajnath Singh was serious about promoting all languages came sooner than expected

About five weeks after Mr. Rajnath Singh's statement that his ministry is committed to promote all languages of the country, on July 26, 2014, Prime Minister Modi  opened a new web site where people can make suggestions and discuss how to better govern the country ( http://mygov.nic.in/ ). Mr. Modi said that the web site "would bridge gap gulf between people and government. Democracy cannot succeed without people's participation in government and this participation should not be limited only during elections". Author of this article visited the web site on July 28, 2014; the web site is in English and Hindi only. So, only people whose mother tongue is Hindi and those non-Hindians who know either Hindi or English can provide suggestions and "participate in the government" (as Mr. Modi called it). Others are left out of this web site. Does it not elevate those whose mother tongue is Hindi to a higher level than non-Hindians? Will Mr. Rajnath Singh, as a member of Modi's cabinet, holding the important portfolio of Home Ministry, ask the Prime Minister to include all languages listed in the Indian Constitution (22 languages as of 2014). It is possible. In fact, it is not that difficult. If companies like Google and Facebook can allow their users to use dozens and dozens of languages from around the world, why cannot the Indian government? Mr. Rajnath, please use your influence with the Prime Minister and get it done. Thank you in advance.

3. Do What You Said (An Eight-Point Request)

Was Home Minister Rajnath Singh sincere in saying that his ministry and the Indian Government are committed to promoting all Indian languages or was he saying that to deflect the criticism and opposition to the Home Ministry memorandum? Assuming that he is a honourable man, we take the Home Minister at his word and ask him and the Government of India to do the following:

1.

All employees at Indian government offices should be proficient in the state language where the office is located, and must be able to communicate with local people and businesses in the state language (speak, read and write).

2.

All communications (letters, e-mails, telephone calls, etc.) to businesses and people should be in the state language.

3.

All Indian government web sites and postings in social media (Facebook, twitter, blogs, etc.) should be in all languages listed in the constitution.

4.

Appoint only those who know the state language as high court judges. State languages should have the same status as English in state high courts. 

5.

Question papers for all competitive examinations for Indian government institutions and jobs should be in all languages listed in the constitution and English. Candidates should be allowed to answer questions in any one of those languages or English.

6.

Make announcement in Air India in the state languages of departure and arrival. 

7.

Print railway tickets in English and the state language. We noticed that railway tickets issued in some railway stations in Tamil Nadu are in English and Hindi only. It used to be state language and English.

8.

Use the state language in all Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) at government banks.

END OF THE EIGHT-POINT REQUEST

Update:

Under mounting opposition from Tamil Nadu and a few from other non-Hindi states, Prime Minister's office issued a statement that the May 27, 2014 memorandum was misunderstood and that both English and Hindi would be used. Mr. Rajnath Singh's statement that all Indian languages will be promoted is still empty rhetoric to pacify opposition from non-Hindi states.


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