The exchange between a Kannada and a Hindi film star on the popularity of their language was just another in a series of discussions on national languages that tend to go nowhere because of the complexity and numbers of India. It appears the reach of regional films in today’s high-tech environment is getting longer adding weight to the argument that any extensive promotion of Hindi can only be regarded as imposition in the many states in which it’s not the dominant language.
The home minister had set off the debate by calling for Hindi as the link language in a throwback to old arguments about the need to find a common language in a veritable Tower of Babel of thousands of languages and dialects. What those who assiduously promote Hindi for their own political ends don’t seem to understand is that far more Indians do not speak Hindi, one of two official languages of India, than those who do.
Outside the northern belt of the NCR, UP, MP, Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, the language of general communication isn’t Hindi. Almost six decades ago, the imposition of Hindi in schools became such an issue that till today national parties are anathema to the Tamils and they ride piggyback on Tamil Nadu’s Dravidian majors. The fact is, language is a sensitive and potentially divisive issue in a complex Indian setting and anyone talking about it on a motivated way to the point of polarising opinions is only stirring the pot.
Historically, English has been a unifying force and in the modern age has also impelled India as a global IT power. While all languages of the nation can aspire to link people of different regions, Hindi cannot claim a sole right to be the sole alternative to English, which by definition is as much an official Indian language as Hindi. India’s diversity is best served by the principle of equity when it comes to its languages. By repeating ad nauseam their preference for Hindi, some politicians of national parties are only driving a wedge....