A fresh circular that makes a Hindi test mandatory for graduation degrees in the Delhi University is obviously to spark an outrage. According to the circular, students of Delhi University (DU) colleges will have to pass a Compulsory Test in Hindi (CTH) to get their graduation degrees. If the students have not studied the language till Class 8, they will have to take the exam.
The Hindi test will in all likelihood stir a controversy. It must be realized that there are hundreds of students in DU colleges who come from non-Hindi speaking states, like Assam, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Their curriculum has not included Hindi on a compulsory basis. Now having to learn Hindi from scratch would pose an onerous task for them. It is no wonder then that students hailing from the Northeast have threatened to launch a stir if Compulsory Test in Hindi (CTH) exam is introduced.
The question here is not about the graduates alone. The greater fear here is that Hindi would be imposed not only in education but in all affairs related to the government. Mr. Modi has amply made it clear that he would like to have Hindi as the national language. This imposition of Hindi on unwilling citizens is interpreted as a kind imperialistic ideology, the Hindutva imperialism, to create a false sense of national unity among the different linguistic peoples of India. In fact, the fear is that this line of thinking will rather destroy the peace amongst the different communities and the very idea of India being a diverse nation held together by a democratic set up.
International experience has shown us that the superimposition of one regional language over the others is actually counterproductive to national unity. For example, in Pakistan the One Unit program which forced the dominant Punjabified Urdu language and culture onto the rest of the country eventually led to problems erupting, leading to the partition of Pakistan.
What actually keeps the different linguistic peoples of India united is the respect for the diversity, which is nothing but respect for every individual linguistic community in India.
The argument is that Hindi is suitable as a national language because it’s usage is more wide spread than the other regional languages. For instance, Tamil is only spoken in Tamil Nadu, which has a population of 72 million, while the Hindi speaking population in the Hindi belt and also including the Hindi speakers in the non-Hindi belt amounts to about 15 times that of Tamil speakers.
By that reasoning regional dialects like Tamil then can only remain a regional language, while Hindi has all the potential of being a national language, for historical and social reasons as well. But others say that this is just a myth propagated by those who would thrust Hindi down our throats.
They argue that Hindification would accord a higher status and undue advantages to the speakers of that language. Central government jobs would go more to those who know the language fluently.
Those who speak regional languages are being urged to stick to their fundamental linguistic rights and fight the corruption of India by way of Hindi imposition. They say that there can be no unity without diversity.
We can perhaps take a lesson from Switzerland. English is widely used there by advertisers to standardize communication because the country’s Italian, French and German speakers are too proud to speak each other’s languages. Apparently, the only language in which to communicate to a diverse audience is the one that is native to none.
India, too, needs a means of communication that is standardized but does not offend anyone. The idea is not to take away the peculiar cultural diversity of India but to create ease of communication where every Indian feels that he is on an equal footing.
If such be the case it might be best to make English the sole official language of the central government and end the matter once and for all.
ANOTHER alternative would be that all the national languages of India (this includes the national language English) be made official languages of the central government.
The implementation of the rule mandated by the Hindi Department in the circular if approved by the Registrar will lead to protests and spark the bigger debate on Hindi as a national language.