The conflict over whether or not India should have Hindi as its national language has once again ignited after the Union Home Minister of India, Amit Shah recently said that people belonging to different states must speak Hindi and that Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English.
He added that, “India is a country of different languages and every language has its own importance but it is very important to have a language which should become the identity of India in the world. If one language can unite the country today, it is the widely-spoken Hindi language.”
Following this, tweets between Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn and Kannada actor Sudeep Kiccha about Hindi being/not being a national language further sparked the conflict on varu
Although Hindi is spoken by 46% of the Indian population, it is mainly spoken in the major northern states, while other states, like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and West Bengal, rarely use Hindi as an official language.
India is also the birthplace of over 100 languages with 22 of them being recognized as official languages. In such a scenario, making just one language a national language is difficult.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin responded to the Home Minister by saying, “Union Home Minister Amit Shah asking to use Hindi instead of English is an act endangering the unity of India. The BJP leadership continues to work to undermine India’s diversity. Does Minister Amit Shah think that “Hindi States” are enough and not Indian States? Use of a single language does not help unity. Desolation does not foster integrity. You are making the same mistake over and again; but you are not going to succeed.”
Conflict over the status of Hindi has been behind protests, some violent, since 1937 when the Indian National Congress attempted to teach Hindi in Madras. As a way to end the conflict, a compromise was proposed whereby Hindi would not be made the national language but Hindi in the Devanagari script was made the “official language of the Union” and English was to be used for all official purposes for 15 years from the date of the constitution. This date could only be extended by the Parliament.
Article 343 and Schedule 8 was drafted in the Indian constitution that granted the Indian states to adopt any language as the official language for correspondence purposes. However, Article 351 of the Indian Constitution stated that it would be the duty of the state governments to promote Hindi language and project the nation as being united by one language.
As soon as the extension expired, a movement against the imposition of Hindi rose up especially in the state of Tamil Nadu, where violent protests in 1965 led to the deaths of 70 people. To bring these protests under control, the Government of India enacted an Official Language Act in 1963 that allowed the continued use of English alongside Hindi.
The Indian constitution does not mention making Hindi the national language of the country.