Central home minister Amit Shah has sparked a heated controversy all over the country by his statement that only Hindi language can unify the country and therefore, a single language should be chosen to distinguish India all over the world. He also said that although there are 122 languages and 19,500 dialects in the country, only Hindi which is spoken by the largest number of people, can unify India.
Pointing out that only partial success has been achieved in the use of Hindi in science and technology, he also exhorted people to make school students speak Hindi and reminded that if language becomes subject to foreign influence, it will endanger our culture. On the other hand, nearly the entire Opposition has come out in one voice and with virulent protest arguing that the call for 'one country, one language', is part of a BJP agenda to cast everything in the mould of BJP ideology which can never be allowed. While the Congress opposes the attempt to dig out the sensitive issues suppressed by the architects of our constitution, DMK from Tamilnadu's points that India is not 'Hindia' and that the home ministger's statement which hurts national integration should be withdrawn. DMK also warned that should there be any attempt to impose Hindi unilaterally, not only Tamil Nadu, but even Karnataka , Bengal and Andhra will resist that in unison.
The government has been observing September 14 as 'Hindi Day' in commemoration of the Constituenty Assembly decision taken on that date in 1949 to accord the status of official language to Hindi also. What the Constituent Assembly did was to include Hindi, as written in Devnagari script, in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution and accept it as official language in addition to English. Intially there were 14 languages in the schedule of the constitution. Later, through constitution amendments in 1967, 1992 and 2003, the number became 22. There are applications for another 44 languages seeking inclusion in the 8th Schedule pending before the home ministry. In addition, India has also conferred the status of classical language on select langauges for their rich heritage and special position. Kannada, Malayalam, Odiya, Sanskrit, Tamil and Talugu are the languages that enjoy this distinction. Viewed objectively from this perspective, the architects of the nation had conceived ways to uphold the legacy of India that spoke diverse languages and nurtured a cultural variety in step with that. That was the envisioned means to maintain the unity and integrity of the country in its march to prosperity. To the same end, they opted for the concept of unity in diversity which projects India as a wonder before the world.
According to the 2011 census, the langauge spoken by the largest percentage of population – 43.63 percent – then was Hindi. But it has its converse that more than half of the population are outside that language. Therefore, the wise minds that drafted the constitution decided that simply based on the idea that it was the language spoken by most people, Hindi should not be thrust on the people as the national language.
The practice of observing a Hindi Day was started in 1953 based on a demand by Rashtra Bhasha Prachar Samiti that was founded on 4 July 1936 at Wardha at the behest of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi in an exploration whether India, with different languages and cultures, could find a common language. But later history is that Gandhiji himself got convinced of its impracticality. And it is also history that in the choice of the prime ministerfor independent India, Gandhi gave high priority to Nehru over Sardar Patel based on the former's command in English language. Alothough debates still linger about the wisdom of using language as the basis of the country's division into states, there were no other feasible ways available at the time. Language and culture are dear to any people like the air they breath, and they distinguish them from other peoples. No people will stand an onslaught of it. This strong sentiment can be seen bristling in the words of Amit Shah who advocates the spread of Hindi as much as in that of those who oppose him. And those who are beyond the Hindi belt consistently stress the point that they give due regard to Hindi and to those who speak it, and what they oppose is the propensity to impose Hindi without giving sister languages the same regard. It is not only that the attempt to enforce a monolithic concept of one country, one language, one religion, one culture, one leader, one election will not succeed, on the contrary it will take the country to disaster even. How much of governmental muscle will be required to counter popular sentiment is amply made clear by the Centre's intervention in Kashmir. But, the sangh parivar leadership in its haste towards a Hindu nation, has no insistsence of such realistic convictions. And their rigid pursuits do not end with Hindi. The sangh parivar's ideologue Golwalkar had already made it clear in his 'Bunch of Thoughts' that until the status of common language was given to Sanskrit, Hindi which is an offshoot of Sanskrit, was being given primacy in view of the convenience of it being the langauge spoken by most people and that it does not mean Hindi is the sole national language or ancient and rich language. He even accepts the age and heritage of Tamil over that of Hindi. That being so, it is not a mere passionate affinity to Hindi, but the proclivity to tie and drag the country towards a single culture that Amit Shah has expressed. The protests against it only prove that the ulterior goal has been duly detected. One cannot be more right than DMK leader MK Stalin who said: India is not 'Hindia'.