Indian Embassy in USA

HINDIA or INDIA?

Hindi Imposition through Indian Embassies

Parameshwari Balakrishnan

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 1998 (ID. 1998-06-02)
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During the Indian Independence Day celebration in Houston (Texas, USA) in 1995, the Indian consul read the President's Independence Day message in Hindi. The audience, many of whom do not know Hindi, murmured and booed but the consul continued with the reading in Hindi.

This incidence shows how the Indian government is set on imposing Hindi on non-Hindi speakers both inside and outside India. What is the point in reading the President's message in Hindi (instead of in English) to an audience all of whom know English but only some know Hindi? The only reason is the arrogance of Hindians and the (H)indian government. If the majority of the audience do not know Hindi, so be it. It is their fault not to study Hindi. If they want to participate in activities abroad sponsored by the Indian government (with taxes collected from both Hindi speaking and non-Hindi speaking Indians), they better learn Hindi. From their point of view, India is Hindia except in name.

When I said how wrong it was to read the President's message in Hindi to an Indian audience (immigrants and non-resident Indians (NRI)), majority of whom did not understand Hindi, the reply I got from my Hindi friends is that "What will the Americans think of us if we read it in English? We should have national pride in our own language." To this I retorted: "Hindi is not my language. What about the feelings of those Indians whose mother tongue is Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, etc? Is any one of us less of an Indian than a Hindi speaker?" Then I suggested "What about this? The consul reads a translation of the President's message in his/her mother tongue. If the consul in Houston is from Kerala, he/she will read it in Malayalam. If the consul in New York is from Punjab, he/she will read it in Punjabi. If the consul in Chicago is from Uttar Pradesh, he/she will read it in Hindi, and so on. Then Americans will know the cultural and linguistic diversity of India. That is the true picture." My Hindi friends opposed it saying, "How many people in Houston will understand the President's message read in Malayalam?" I replied "I do not know whether more Indians in Houston know Malayalam or Hindi. But I know that neither language is understood by every Indian in Houston. The only language understood by all Indians in Houston is English."

The Indian government should recognize that India is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual country. There is nothing wrong in the world knowing that. Neither is it wrong to use English when appropriate. A Bengali, a Kannadiga, a Tamil, a Malayali, a Punjabi is no less of an Indian than a Hindi speaker. If the Indian government, under pressure from Hindi zealots, continues to impose Hindi and project India as Hindian country, what will result is not unity and uniformity instead disunity and disintegration!

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