Amit Shah's Hindi remark sparks fears of "Hindi imposition"

04:03 PM May 01, 2022 | Shivani Kava |

Actors, politicians, and artists have all slammed Home Minister Amit Shah for proposing that Hindi be used instead of English as a means of communication between individuals from various states.


Let’s  examine what Amit Shah said and why it sparked such a controversy. We shall also look at the history of India’s linguistic politics.

On April 8, Union Home Minister Amit Shah sparked outrage when he said that people from different states communicating with each other should do so in Hindi as opposed to English. Hindi should take the place of English, he clarified, and not that of the local language.

Mr. Shah delivered his views during the 37th sitting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee. During the meeting, he stated that 70% of the Union Cabinet agenda was written in Hindi, and that Prime Minister Modi had determined that the government would be managed in Hindi.

The Opposition slammed Amit Shah’s remarks, calling them an attack on India’s pluralism and vowing to oppose any attempt to impose “Hindi imperialism.”


According to PTI, Congressman Jairam Ramesh claimed that Hindi is the ‘Raj Bhasha’ (official language), not the ‘Rashtra Bhasha’ (national language).

K. Annamalai, the state BJP president in Tamil Nadu, slammed the Home Minister’s remarks, saying there was no need to “learn a language under compulsion to prove one’s Indianness.”

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M.K. Stalin tweeted: “A single language will not be of use for unity. A single identity will not create unity.”

At a news conference on April 19, Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP Su. Venkatesan claimed that Tamil Nadu being the first state to oppose the imposition of Hindi was not surprising “because we have a language that is independent of Sanskrit for over 2,000 years.”

The Trinamool Congress of West Bengal has also expressed objection to the imposition of Hindi. TMC leader Sougata Roy said, as per a PTI report said, “If Amit Shah and the BJP try to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states, it will be resisted. The people of this country, where there is so much diversity, will never accept such a thing.”

AR Rahman, a well-known singer, expressed his thoughts on the subject, although in a cryptic manner.

He captioned an image with the word ‘Tamizhanangu,’ referring to the song that is used to invoke the Tamil deity.

The sentence in the image’s footnote is from a renowned poem by celebrated Tamil nationalist poet Barathidasan, in which he states that Tamil serves as the root of people’s rights.

Recently, Ajay Devgn and Kichcha Sudeep engaged in a Twitter banter over ‘Hindi no more national language’ comment.

Devgn, who recently starred in filmmaker SS Rajamouli’s pan-India blockbuster “RRR”, tagged the Karnataka-based actor on Twitter and wrote, “Hindi was, is and always will be our national language.”

“My brother, according to you if Hindi is not our national language then why do you release your mother tongue movies by dubbing them in Hindi?” Devgn wrote in Devanagari, the Hindi script.

“Hindi was, is and always will be our mother tongue and national language. Jan Gan Man,” said Devgn.

Since before independence, there has been a conflict between Hindi and other languages. Tamil Nadu has been the most vocal and pervasive of these.

In Indian history, the issue of language has a lengthy history. The Munshi-Ayyangar formula was accepted by the Constituent Assembly in 1949. The official language of the Union would be Hindi written in the Devnagari script, according to this. For the next 15 years, English would be used for all official purposes, allowing non-Hindi-speaking countries to adapt smoothly.

C. Rajagopalachari, the Chief Minister of the Madras State at the time, issued a government order making Hindi mandatory in 125 schools across Tamil Nadu in 1937.

The Official Languages Act came into effect on January 26, 1965, making Hindi the official language of India. C.N Annadurai, the founder of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), declared today a day of mourning. The government’s circular, which prioritised Hindi in official communications, added fuel to the fire. Protests erupted across the state, with five young people lighting themselves on fire.

These demonstrations also resulted in Indira Gandhi amending the Language Act, ensuring that English would be used as an official language until resolutions for the “discontinuance of the use of English language…have been passed by the legislatures of all the states that have not adopted Hindi as their official language.”

Tamil Nadu has maintained its two-language formula since the 1960s – English and Tamil, and nothing else. The issue of Hindi imposition was so important in Tamil Nadu politics that the DMK defeated the Congress party in 1967.

Anti-Hindi rallies in Karnataka have never reached the same intensity as those in Tamil Nadu. Last year, however, opposition politicians from the Janata Dal-Secular and Kannada organisations such as the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike criticised the celebration of Hindi Diwas on September 14th. On Twitter, the hashtag #StopHindiImposition trended as well.


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