BJD’s T Satpathy must be applauded for standing up to BJP’s Hindi obsession | editorials | Hindustan Times
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BJD’s T Satpathy must be applauded for standing up to BJP’s Hindi obsession

Attempts to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states is a bad idea. India’s strength lies in its diversity - of language, attire, food, religions, and points of view

editorials Updated: Aug 21, 2017 19:15 IST
Bengaluru, India - June 23, 2017: Signage at Mahatma Gandhi Metro station written in Hindi language along with English and Kannada in Bengaluru, India, on Friday, June 23, 2017. Bengaloreans protesting against the use of Hindi language in Namma metro stations. (Photo by Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times)
Bengaluru, India - June 23, 2017: Signage at Mahatma Gandhi Metro station written in Hindi language along with English and Kannada in Bengaluru, India, on Friday, June 23, 2017. Bengaloreans protesting against the use of Hindi language in Namma metro stations. (Photo by Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times)(Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

When Lok Sabha MP Tathagata Satpathy replied in Odia to Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s official letter in Hindi, he was upholding a long tradition of protest against attempts to impose Hindi on states in which it is not widely spoken or used as the official language. In the 1950s and 60s, when the language debate was in its heyday, there were many attempts to make Hindi a ‘national language’. But these attempts proved unsuccessful.

Homogenising the way we interact was never going to work in a country as plural and diverse as India and so the makers of the Constitution decided that there would be no national language. It took three years of debate in the Constituent Assembly to devise the Munshi-Ayyangar formula (after KM Munshi and Gopalaswamy Ayyangar) in 1949, which decided that there would only be “official languages” in India and no “national language”. When the debate was rekindled in the 1960s, there was again no consensus on Hindi as official language.

The great wealth of literature, poetry, theatre, and music that stem from and flow through different languages are each as Indian as the next. It should be a matter of pride that even today as many as 780 different languages are spoken in the country. It is easy to argue that a language that is spoken by a “majority” of people should become a ‘national’ language, and everyone must learn it; but it would be disingenuous to force a people to learn a new language for no reason other than empty patriotism. To diminish the pride of the native speaker in her own mother tongue will not inculcate any love for the State. The principle of ‘unity in diversity’ is one that not merely tolerates the existence of different kinds of food, attire, religions, languages, and points of view in the country; but indeed celebrates them.

It should not be necessary for boards on the Namma Metro in Bengaluru or highway markers in Tamil Nadu, or indeed letters to officials of states to be written in Hindi for a united country. What is needed is to respect each other’s differences and celebrate them.