Tensions over Hindi in India Rise

India’s Union Home Minister Amit Shah stirred a social media debate in the country on Saturday after he pitched Hindi as a common language for the country. He said Hindi is the most widely spoken and can unite the whole country. The comment resulted the internet erupting trending hashtags such as #StopHindilmposition and #StopHindiImperialism.

“India has many languages and every language has its importance. But it is absolutely necessary that the entire country should have one language that becomes India’s identity globally,” he said in a series of tweets in Hindi.

 “I want to appeal to people to promote their native languages but also use Hindi to make the dream of Bapu [Mahatma Gandhi] and Sardar [Vallabhbhai] Patel of one language come true,” he tweeted.

The controversy comes because there is currently no one national official language of India. There are 22 scheduled languages in the country, and states can specify their own official languages through legislation.

The comments have created a raging debate in India over the status of Hindi as the national language, with opposition claiming that Shah is suggesting that the government should impose Hindi on the entire population.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted a series of Indian languages next to the national flag and stated, "India’s many languages are not her weakness."

The opposition party also said no indication should be given of a rethink on the "three-language formula" as it will create strife and unrest in the country. The three-language formula is commonly understood to comprise Hindi, English and regional language of respective states.

"We should not stir up controversies on emotive and sensitive issues which have been settled by the maturity of India's Constitution-makers and the prime minister after Independence, especially I am referring to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. When the issue came up of language and the three-language formula was devised," Sharma said. That formula must not be tinkered with and no indication should be given of a rethink which will create strife and unrest in the country, the Congress leader said.

According to the Official Languages Act, 1963, Hindi and English are the official languages for the Union government and Parliament. A total of 22 languages of the country are recognized under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

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