Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement on Thursday that when citizens of States communicate with each other, it should be in the language of India, with Hindi being accepted as an alternative to English, sparked widespread criticism with Opposition leaders dubbing it “Hindi imperialism”.
Mr. Shah, who is the chairman of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee, informed members that 70% of the agenda of the Union Cabinet was now prepared in Hindi. A statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs, quoted Mr. Shah as saying that the time had come to make the official language an important part of the unity of the country. He added that when citizens of States who speak other language communicate with each other, it should be in the language of India. Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English and not to local languages.
Countering the Minister, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh asked why the Home Minister did not learn a south Indian language instead of ramming Hindi down everyone’s throat.
“Hindi is raj bhasha (language of rulers) and not rashtra bhasha (national language) as Rajnath Singh said in Parliament when he was the Home Minister. Hindi imperialism will be the death knell for India as we know it,” Mr. Ramesh added.
His colleague from Lok Sabha Shashi Tharoor said uniformity and unity are two separate things. “Promoting a language that advantages one set of Indians over others is a recipe for division over diversity. Uniformity is not unity. Attempts to impose uniformity will undermine India’s unity,”Mr. Tharoor told The Hindu.
Presiding over the 37th meeting of Parliament’s Official Language Committee, the Home Minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had decided that the medium of running the government would be the Official Language and this would definitely increase the importance of Hindi.
However, politicians from the Hindi heartland too did not see any merit in Mr. Shah’s comments. Senior RJD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj K. Jha said the Home Minister must not forget the contemporary Indian history and the hard fought language battles.
CPI leader Binoy Viswam urged the Mr. Shah to revisit the statement for the benefit of the country.
(With inputs from Sobhana K Nair)