Indian Prime Minister Modi Talks to Foreign Leaders in Hindi - So What?

(Projecting India as Hindia Around the World)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2014 (ID. 2014-08-01)
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Mr. Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India on May 26, 2014. He invited leaders of neighboring countries for his inauguration and he also met with most of them individually. He talked to them in Hindi and translators were present to facilitate the conversation. Mr. Modi may choose to converse in any language he wants but the reasons behind his action is disturbing and "degrading" to non-Hindi peoples (the majority) of India.

First of all, Modi does have a decent proficiency in English. We want to point out that Modi did talk to his political allies in the non-Hindi speaking Tamil Nadu State (Ramadoss and Vaiko) in English. Also, when Vaiko visited Gujarat some years ago, it was Modi who translated Vaiko's speech in Vadodara (Baroda) from English to his mother tongue Gujarati. We are just pointing out that Modi has a working knowledge of English. Our concern is not that Modi spoke with foreign leaders in Hindi but the reason behind it.

Professor Purushottam Agarwal, visiting professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said that Modi's use of Hindi is a sign of "rootedness" of this government (Hindustan Times: June 8, 2014). This arrogant attitude of some Hindi politicians that India is rooted in Hindi lands (north-central India) alienates non-Hindi regions. If India is rooted in Hindi lands, am I, hailing from Tamil Nadu, an Indian?

DNA News (June 4, 2014) reported diplomats saying, "Modi has tried to assert India's national identity". If Hindi is India's national identity, what about Telugus, Bengalis, Malayalis, Tamils, ...? Are they mere vassals who are there just to pay taxes?

Times of India (May 17, 2014) headlined. "Election results 2014: HMT’s time is now". HMT stands for "Hindi Medium Types". Times of India says that until now those who studied in English medium are looked up and had better job opportunities, and now, with Modi as Prime Minister, Hindi Medium Types will also ascend. Left down in the gutters would be BMTs, TMTs, KMTs, etc. (B, K and M in the preceding abbreviations stand for Bengali, Kannada and Malayalam. So non-Hindi peoples will forever remain third class citizens. In fact, the Indian government actively promotes the sidelining of all languages except Hindi and Sanskrit [This is discussed in some length in Reference 1 with examples].

The arrogant attitude that India is Hindi prevails throughout the Indian Government, irrespective of which party is in power. Here are couple of examples.

In 2006, Indian government issued an order to the pharmaceutical industry (drug industry) that all pharmaceutical labeling should be in English and Hindi from April 1, 2006. Secretary of the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals said that it was one of the customer-friendly measures taken by the department [The Hindu newspaper: March 16, 2006]. Only people of the Hindi states benefit from it. So, to the Indian government, "pharmacy customers" mean "pharmacy customers from Hindi states". Other sick people do not count; they are second-class citizens. 

The same logic that "only people from Hindi states count" was used by the Defense Department when it made Hindi and English the examination languages for those applying for certain jobs. Defense minister said that Hindi was introduced as an examination language in order to attract talented youth from rural areas [The Hindu newspaper: December 18, 2003]. How does the introduction of Hindi 
as an examination language attract talented youth from rural areas in Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh or other non-Hindi states? To the Indian government "talented youth from rural areas" meant "talented youth from rural areas in Hindi states".

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when he was the foreign minister of India, spoke at the United Nations in Hindi although he had excellent proficiency in English. Hindi is his mother tongue. Will a non-Hindi foreign minister be allowed to speak in the United Nations in the mother tongue? No. Will a non-Hindi Prime Minister be allowed to speak to foreign leaders in the mother tongue? No. 

Our point is that, if a Prime Minister or Foreign Minister can speak in Hindi with foreign leaders and in foreign land, then a Prime Minister or Foreign Minister should be allowed to speak in any Indian language they prefer. That is not the situation in India.

Here is an example. 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 (whose mother tongue is Hindi) interrupted  and said, “He is the president of India. He cannot speak in Tamil.” (The Telegraph, January 10, 2010).

Long live Hindi India?

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1. Indian Government Language Policy: Destroy all Languages Except Hindi (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, March 2012 (10 KB) (h)

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Thanjai Nalangkilli

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