No, India, Hindi Will Not Take Over Without a Fight

Image courtesy Bengaluru based Promote Linguistic Equality Facebook Page.

Image courtesy Bengaluru based Promote Linguistic Equality Facebook Page.

During this year's Independence Day celebrations in India, a group of Twitter users launched a campaign to promote greater linguistic equality in the country. As a result, the hashtag #StopHindiImposition started trending nationwide.

Participants in this campaign are also demanding that the government amend India's Official Language Act and declare Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, and other languages to be India's official languages.

According to census data from 2001, the most common languages spoken in India after Hindi are Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, and Tamil, whose speakers constitute about 30 percent of the population. In other words, each of these languages has more native speakers than many European languages and each state where these languages are spoken is bigger than most European countries.

The campaign on Twitter began with the Bengaluru-based Facebook group Promote Linguistic Equality, which has roughly 4,000 Facebook followers. The group says the policies of the Indian Government favor the Hindi language, ignoring rights of other languages. Promote Linguistic Equality also states that:

The purpose of this Twitter Campaign is to demand the Indian Union Govt to Promote Linguistic Equality & #StopHindiImposition on Non Hindi Speaking States.

A nation with a long history of heated language politics

The Anti-Hindi Imposition protest is a not a new phenomenon in India, and has in fact existed for several decades. In 1937, the Indian National Congress tried to impose Hindi education in the schools during the Madras Presidency (which the public vehemently opposed for nearly three years). In 1940, the British Governor of Madras, Lord Erskine, removed Hindi education from schools.

Image courtesy: Promote Linguistic Equality Facebook page

Image courtesy: Promote Linguistic Equality Facebook page

During the 1949 debate in India's Constituent Assembly about the country's official language, T.A. Ramalingam Chettiar, representing Madras, once warned that there would be bitter consequences, if officials imposed Hindi as a national langauge. Due to staunch opposition from the members of South India, the assembly dropped the plan to introduce Hindi or Sanskrit as India's national language.

In 1965, the Indian government tried to introduce a Hindi-only policy, which provoked widespread protests and riots across Madras. Later that year, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave assurances that local officials would continue to use English as the country's official language, so long as non-Hindi-speaking states want it. In 1967, Madras also witnessed significant political changes, as the Congress party was defeated and DMK came to power for the first time.

It was in 1967 that the Indian government introduced the three-language formula, making Hindi compulsory in schools, even in Non-Hindi-speaking states. It lead to strong protests in South India, and eventually the Legislative Assembly of Madras State (Tamil Nadu) scrapped the three-language formula and introduced a two-language formula, stating that no language other than Tamil and English could be used in the state's public spaces, government administration, or educational institutions.

Anti-Hindi imposition protests were renewed recently when the new government under the Bharatiya Janata Party formed in 2014. The government, which strongly favors Hindi, decreed that “government employees and officials of all ministries, departments, corporations, or banks, who have made official accounts on social networking sites, should use Hindi, or both Hindi and English, but give priority to Hindi.” All political parties in Tamil Nadu strongly opposed the measure.

Tensions brought on by new waves of migration

Stop Hindi Imposition, another Chennai-based Facebook group actively promoting linguistic rights, condemns the attitude of some of the Hindi speakers who are moving into the city, who often expect the local population to be well versed in Hindi.

On Facebook, Ganesh Velusami writes, “Will [the Hindi speaker] lament that people around him don't speak Hindi, if he were to have gone to [the] US for work? Why then this imperialistic attitude while in India alone? Because he has been brainwashed that India has one national language of first class importance: Hindi and other regional languages of the second class people.”

Sandeep Kambi posted a picture on Twitter, and asks

Most non-Kannadigas in Bengaluru feel they can get by knowing little or no Kannada at all, writes Sriram Vittalamurthy.

Twitter user Vashant Shetty raises a question:

Blogger Vignesh Raj complains:

I can remember my flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai by Air India. The safety announcements and other important announcements were only in Hindi and English in a region where over 90% customers know either Tamil or Malayalam or both. How fair is to make ‘ceremonial’ announcements in a region where both languages are foreign? I flew with British Airways from London Heathrow to Chennai. As I was greeted by the Air hostess I heard a welcome message ‘ British Airways ungalai anbudan varavaerkirathu (Welcomes You)’ followed by announcements in English.

Aishik Saha, a student and Quora user, writes:

The myth that Hindi is the national language of India has persisted, and been propagated by the mainstream and alternative media for a long time. Those, who have pointed this out are often shouted down by our ultra-nationalists as anti-national or anti-Hindu.

It’s not just in Bengaluru or Chennai; the imposition of Hindi is occurring in almost every part of the country.

In the past few years, due to an economic boom in southern states, many people from northern parts of the country have begun migrating to the south. But many of these people, especially in cities like Bengaluru and Hyderabad, are reluctant to learn those states’ official languages, and instead lean on the locals to learn Hindi.

Penetration of Hindi is highly visible in the non-Hindi-speaking states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Telangana. This phenomenon is also present to an extent in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh.

A matter of social justice

The 1976 Official-Languages Rules of the Indian Constitution that ensures Hindi won't be used officially for any purpose in Tamil Nadu. Reality is another matter, however. Even basic day-to-day information and services in banks, railway stations, and government offices are often offered only in Hindi or English, leading many locals to complain that they're being denied their basic rights.

Preethi Sridhara, a Quora user, observes:

Kids are being taught Hindi from the first standard. There is absolutely no need of Hindi there. Then why? Why is the government shoving Hindi down their throat?

She continues:

If everybody wants a neutral language, let's go for English. Everybody understands English, right? But no, my friends are being forced to conduct meetings in Hindi. Now isn't that a little unfair?

S. Vallish Kumar writes:

Flawed language policy adopted by the Union Government of India, ever since the current political India was formed. The prolonged special treatment to Hindi by the Union Government of India, is what has caused the perception that everything related to Union Government must have Hindi in it.

Last year, E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, a member of parliament, authored a resolution to declare Tamil an official language. Union Minister of State Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary rejected the legislation, saying that Articles 343-351 of the Indian Constitution declare that only Hindi and English are the country's official languages.

As it happens, Indian languages like Tamil enjoy official-language status in Sri Lanka and Singapore. Also, Bengali and Nepali are official languages in Bangladesh and Nepal, respectively, but they are denied the same status in India, where vast majority of these languages’ native speakers live.

On Twitter, Mithun says:

“Aggressive Hindi propaganda by the Hindi centric Central Govt’s. and also to an extent Bollywood Movies, have created a false ego among some North Indians (not all) that Hindi is the supreme Indian language,” writes Quora user Sudhindra Sanjeev.

Prassanna LM, one of the organizers of the #StopHindiImposition campaign, demands:

Indians can enjoy true independence only when all Indians and their languages are given equal status. Otherwise, non-Hindi speakers will remain as second class citizens. We demand that all 22 languages of union be declared as official languages under the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.

Though India's mainstream media has often portrayed anti Anti-Hindi-Imposition protests as isolated to Tamil Nadu, the movement has also enjoyed support in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and West Bengal, where Twitter users have echoed calls for linguistic equality in India.


  • NK

    Central govt is trying their best to convert India into Muslim country through the imposition of the Muslim origin language Hindi.

    This is reason the fake “Hindu” party refused to declare Indian languages as official languages and PM refuses to speak in Indian languages.

    This agitation is start of long battle to recognize Indian languages in India and stop the imposition and special treatment of the Muslim origin language Hindi in CBSE, ICSE schools, customer service, radio/TV, IT dept, navatna companies, insurance companies, banks and consular service and extend these to Indian languages also.

  • skamui

    Bazaar Hindi had been a national language long before the English took over and imposed English (language of an aggressive murderous conqueror who committed many atrocities in India). It was the only common link between North and South India. The problem is now English is viewed as a money language so the rest of India would rather focus on that language. Hindi is NOT a Muslim origin language. It is the natural offspring of Sanskrit, and yet most south Indians see nothing wrong with having their languages chock-full of Sanskrit, North-Indian words (yes Sanskrit is a North Indian language). But as we can see here forcing different groups of people into one country like the English did doesn’t actually make them one country.

    • Ravi Hegde

      Dear Friend,

      1. Bazaar Hindi was a common language or lingua franca used in Medival Period only between the regions of Punjab, Gangetic Plains and North of Narmada. Bazaar Hindi is unknown to the people of South India. Southern part of the country which was ruled by Cholas, Vijayanagaras, Hoysalas and Marathas used Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Marathi respectively. They never used any Bazaar Hindi or Hindustani.

      2. After the fall of Marathas, and Vijayanagaras, Islamic rulers captured the Deccan plateau and they used Urdu as their official language. Even then, Urdu was used just a court language existed only in the capital regions of those Sultanates, that’s why some people in Telangana, North Karnataka and Marathwada speaks certain form of Deccani Urdu.

      3. Below Krishna River, hardly any Urdu influence, even though some parts of Andhra and Karnataka ruled by Nawabs. Bazaar Hindi or Hindustani relatively unknown to the people of South India until Indian National Congress started dominating the politics of South India during early 20th Century.

      4. Southern Indian people has their own languages which is rich in history, literature and highly developed, which is unrelated to the Bazaar Hindi. Even Marathi, technically a Indo-Aryan Language but no direct connections with Bazaar Hindi. All other languages such as Kannada, Tamil, Telugu has no connections with Hindi.

      5. Hindi is a creole developed from Prakrit languages of Medieval India, which itself a creole evolved from mixture of many languages of the immigrant communities from Central Asia and Indian Native Tribes. Prakrit languages gave birth numerous Northern Indian languages such as Braj, Awadhi, Marwari, Sindhi, Gujarathi, Bhojhpuri etc.. It was after the Mughan invasion Turkic and Persian languages also got mixed with Prakrit and there developed Hindustani. Where as in South India, all languages evolved from Native Indian Languages and they are now known as Dravidian. Tamil is one such refined and developed language in Earlier history of South India, at that time Kannada, Telugu and Marathi existed as spoken languages. Later on, with arrival of Yadavas from gangetic plains to the Deccan region, they mixed their certain forms of Prakrit and Sanskrti with Kannada, Telugu and Marathi and developed literary Kannada, Telugu, Marathi. South Indian languages use Sanskrit vocabulary because during 8th Century many people in South converted into Hinduism from Jainism and Buddhism. Hindu priests were mostly used Sanskrit in Temples and Religious domain. Naturally, Kannada, Telugu and Marathi took a large number of Sanskrit words, and enriched their language. Except Tamil people, they took sanskrit words to less, rather developed their own vocubalary.

      6. Modern Hindi is a new invetion occured during last century to create a common language for all Indians, leaving the English out. But they failed to understand, Hindi or Sanskritised Hindi is alien to people of Deccan as much as English. Where latter has more advantages than the former. Today, even so called Hindi belt started learning English.

      7. South Indians today use English as their link language because it is one of the dominating language of the modern world, and widely used all around the world, and also it is the language of commerce, science and technology. As people in North think, South Indians are not anti-national or slaves to British. Modern day English is nothing to with British English. We are learning it because it is the language of America, America is dominating the world in this century. South Indians forget the French, Protuguese in Puducherry and Goa because such languages not needed anymore. So branding South Indians as slaves to British is totally illogical one.

      8. We are opposing Hindi, because Hindi or Khariboli as much as regional language of India as any other language. Indian Government cunningly, forged and merged Northern languages such as Rajasthani, Pahri, Awadhi, Braji, Haryanvi, Bhojhpuri, Maithili and dozen other languages and named it as Hindi and said to the world Hindi is largest spoken language of India. Do you know why Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh are not developed, and lacking behind in everything where as South Indian states of Maharashtra, Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu developed because we are still living with our own language which give us more confident and more autonomy and encouraging us to grow. Where as Cow belt states lost their language to so called Hindi and lacking in everything.

      9. Hindi could be only a regional language of Western UP and Delhi. All other regions should develop their own native languages and create their own states so that they could also grow and develop like Karantaka or Tamil Nadu does.

      10. Just make Indian English or Inglish as the common language of whole India, and recognise all Indian languages which has more than a million speakers, its own territory. There will be 100 Indian languages. Recognise all 100 languages as official language, and use them whereever it is spoken. Give all services in all Indian languages, and teach a Common Indian English or Inglish to all the people. Enough. We don’t need Khariboli or Hindi any more.

      • skamui

        Your article is mostly correct, but some things need to be reconsidered.

        1) Hindi is not a creole. A creole develops from a pidgin. There is no evidence that Hindi developed out of a pidgin. If you want to say that Hindi is a mixture of different languages, this is true. But as you yourself admitted, south Indian languages have mixed in Sanskrit at the very least. Very few languages are islands and all South Indian languages have been influenced by the surrounding languages that border them. So by your definition that makes them creoles as well.

        2) Second, you should reconsider your boundaries. Bangalore and Mysore are south of the Krishna River. “Despite it being the native language of most Muslims of the erstwhile Princely States of Hyderabad State and the Kingdom of Mysore, it is also the spoken form of Hindi-Urdu for most Hindus and non-Hindus of the region to this day and is the most common “street-language” in several cities including Hyderabad and Bangalore.” -Dakhini, Wikipedia

        3) It can be claimed that the modern Hindi literary tradition began in South India via Dakhini Hindi. See Wali Deccani

        4) Language does not exist as one stagnant thing but in dialects. A standard has to be chosen. In this case the standard chosen was KhariBoli dialect of Hindi. In former times the Avadhi dialect was dominant and later the Braj dialect. In the same way, there are many many South Indian language dialects. So the situation is no different. In fact, I suggest you tour England and America. You will encounter the many dialects of English and the peoples that have lost their “glory and development” because they do not speak what is considered standard English.

    • Ajaya

      First create good economy in hindi so that we feel happy that our spent energy on hindi learning will be usefull. Otherwise we have all right to think hindi people are exploiting by forcing hindi on others so that they can migrate easily make their life where others has to learn one more extra language for no benifit.

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  • Ajaya

    Hindi people and GOI is very greedy. Almost all state has implemented Hindi as 3rd language. But this people are not satisfied. They want more. If we speak broken hindi not enough they expect us to speak fluently. Too much. When state goverment though hindi is not languge of the state implemented hindi as 3rd languge, GOI should promote non-hindi. They should stop spending any money to promote hindi. If state government had not implemented hindi as 3rd language then, they could have promoted. Now if they are promoting hindi then it is nothing but indication of greed of Hindi people. They are more in number thats why they are playing game in name of India, national language. We have to learn 3 language they learn 2 language. What a unfair. GOI is removing local languages in central government banks. This is how they treat for implementing hindi as 3rd language. Cheaters. Shame on them. First they tell hindi will be 3 language. Then they tell you know hindi local language is not required. They are converting India to Hindia. They betrayed us for loving hindi.

    • Avinandan D

      All Non Hindi states should stop teaching Hindi as a third language; this is like the parable of the Camel, Tent and the Arab. They will not stop till they destroy all Non Hindi languages as a spoken tongue- at least in the big cities. There is absolutely no need for Hindi as a third language or a fourth or fifth language , if you are living in a Non- Hindi state. A Malayalee living in Maharashtra can learn Malayalam, English and Marathi instead of English, Hindi and Sanskrit.

  • Ajaya

    We loved hindi so much, but GOI cheated us by removing local languages. We learn hindi 3rd langauge to communicate with central government. Dont expect to interact with in hindi in our state. We can speak in hindi with people who just came here. But we cant speak in hindi forever and we dont like people who dont learn local language in longer run (may be 10 year). If hindi can be in this limit fine otherwise we cant tolerate it. Our ancenstor saved our language for 2000 years and gave us in rich form(very much richer than hindi) and we wont allow hindi to over take it. We love hindi but if threatens our language then we have all right to take action.

  • Natarajan

    Please visit this dedicated website to know more about the history and the contemporary problems faced by the Non-Hindi people.

  • Giri

    India is very diversified country like European union, One languange formula doesn’t work in India. Promote all the official languages of India.

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