Home Minister Amit Shah’s appeal to increase use of Hindi that he underscored has the potential to unify the country sparked off a row with opposition leaders from southern India speaking against what they perceived as an attempt to impose Hindi on them.
Amit Shah, speaking at a function to commemorate Hindi Diwas, hailed the diversity of languages and dialects in the country that he stressed was the “strength of our nation”.
“But there is a need for our nation to have one language so that foreign languages don’t find a place. This is why our freedom fighters envisioned Hindi as ‘Raj bhasha’ (official language)” Amit Shah said at the event to mark the day the Constituent Assembly adopted Hindi written in Devanagari script as the country’s official language.
In his tweets a few hours earlier, Amit Shah had pitched Hindi – the country’s most widely-spoken language – as the only one that had the potential to unify the country and be the country’s identity vis a vis the world.
On and off social media, Shah’s stressed on Hindi was seen as a hint of imposing the language on non-Hindi speaking states. DMK’s MK Stalin promptly demanded that the Home Minister Amit Shah withdraw his statement and announced a party meeting on Monday to up the issue.
The Youth Congress joined in, asking if the BJP had “forgotten India’s geography and the Constitution”. “There are 22 official languages and over 1652 mother tongues spoken across the length and breadth of India. Their identities will not perish,” the Congress’ youth wing tweeted.
In his speech, Amit Shah rued the influence of English, pointing that even young students whose language of instruction is Hindi cannot speak the language for 40 minutes. Shah suggested that school students should be told to speak in Hindi and should lose a mark for every English word that they use.
The row over Hindi comes months after an uproar over the proposed recommendation of a three-language formula – Hindi, English and the local mother tongue in non-Hindi states.