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Hindi vs English debate: Where do you stand?

Last updated on: June 20, 2014 16:45 IST

Hindi vs English debate: Where do you stand?

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The old linguistic war of Hindi versus other regional languages has reached a fever pitch after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to promote Hindi on social media is meeting strong resistance from leaders across the political spectrum, irrespective of party lines.

Following him becoming prime minister, the Home Ministry sent a circular asking bureaucrats and other officers that tweets and posts on their official social media accounts should be made first in Hindi. An English version is optional.

However, this move has triggered some fiery remarks from political leaders, some strongly objecting the instruction sent out May 27, while others have welcomed it, saying Hindi needed promotion.

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Jayalalithaa sees red over Hindi directive

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Firing off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa described the Home Ministry’s proposal as “against the letter and spirit” of the Official Languages Act, 1963, while pointing out that the “highly sensitive issue” caused disquiet to the people of Tamil Nadu “who are very proud of and passionate about their linguistic heritage”.

Social media by their very nature were not only accessible to all persons on the Internet, but were meant to be a means of communication to persons living in all parts of India, including those in ‘Region C’, she said. “People located in ‘Region C’ with whom the Government of India’s communication needs to be in English, will not have access to such public information if it is not in English. This move would therefore be against the letter and spirit of the Official Languages Act, 1963,” she said.

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This is the beginning of imposition of Hindi: Karunanidhi

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Dravida Munnetra Kazagham President M Karunanidhi, whose party had successfully led the anti-Hindi agitation in 1960s, had dubbed the move as a beginning of ‘imposition of Hindi’. The issue is credited as one of the reasons for DMK forming the state’s first non-Congress government in independent India. The veteran leader had questioned why Hindi should be given priority over other languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

“Giving priority to Hindi will be construed as a first step towards an attempt at creating differences among non-Hindi speaking people and making them second class citizens,” he said.

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It's a threat to national integrity: Vaiko

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And the move is even being slammed by the allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Vaiko, the leader of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which is an ally of the BJP in the South, said the directive of imposing Hindi as the official language on social media was a threat to national integrity. “The government is waking up a sleeping tiger. Tamil Nadu has shed blood on the imposition of Hindi.”

He demanded that all Indian languages be made official languages in the interest of the country’s unity and integrity and till such time English should continue as the official language.

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'Declare all 22 languages as official'

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Pattali Makkal Katchi founder S Ramadoss said the BJP in its election 2014 manifesto, had promised to develop all languages with rich history and culture. He also called for declaring all 22 languages in the VIII schedule of the Constitution, including Tamil, as an official language and “thus put an end to the Hindi imposition controversy.”

Attempts to ‘impose’ Hindi in the past have been successfully resisted with, though attempts were later made to do the same, he said while terming the latest move as a ‘softer version’ of the imposition of Hindi.

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'Imposition of Hindi, an injustice to other languages'

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The Communist Party of India (Marxist) also entered the language row on Friday, attacking the Narendra Modi government for its directive. “The government should modify its policy and, along with Hindi, use other national languages as well as English for communication on social media,” the party’s politburo said in a statement.

The Modi government’ decision to use Hindi as the sole medium of communication for government information on social media was “against the principle of linguistic equality and is an injustice to other national languages,” it said. 

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Mayawati bats for Hindi

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And while there were many who opposed the government’s move, Mayawati from the Bahujan Samaj Party said that the Centre should take interest in regional languages as well. “It is good that the Centre is encouraging the use of Hindi language. But our country has rich heritage of regional languages. The Centre must pay its attention towards them as well,” said Mayawati.

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'Promoting Hindi will help confidence of people'

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Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi with his comments has intensified the ongoing linguistic war. In a series of tweets in Hindi, Naqvi said that Hindi needed to be promoted since it is increasingly being seen as though only English speaking people are the intelligent lot. He said, while those speaking English were considered educated and elite, those speaking Hindi were considered illiterate. He stressed that such notions must be dispelled and government promoting Hindi would help pick up confidence of Hindi-speaking people.

“Hindi is the national language and is the heart of the country. Priority to Hindi cannot be (construed as) an insult to English. The government's initiative for according priority to Hindi and regional languages is a welcomed step,” he said.

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We want every language to get due importance'

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Trying to assuage the fears of leaders, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju dismissed any directive issued by the government to declare Hindi as the dominating language. “The controversy on Hindi is unwarranted. There is no directive that Hindi must be the dominating language. We want every language to get due importance.” Rijiu, however, argued that Hindi being the official language needed to be promoted but it was not being done by discouraging regional languages.

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