If I Don’t Speak Hindi, Does That Make Me A Second Class Citizen In My Own Country?

Posted on August 21, 2015 in Culture-Vulture, Society

By Sanjana Chowdhury

The patriotic fervour of 15th August was a little dampened by the #StopHindiImposition twitter campaign organised by Facebook advocacy group, Promote Linguistic Equality or PLE’s Bengaluru chapter.

Hundreds of twiteratti protested how non-Hindi speakers are forced to use Hindi, despite there being 22 languages recognised by the 8th Amendment of the constitution. On the day when we were all in the mood for “Jai Hind“, the protesters with the hashtag #StopHindiImposition raised thought-provoking messages like: “Bengal to Nagaland flight filled with Bengalis & Nagas, no safety instruction, announcements in Bengali or Nagamese” and “Language imperialism has wounded & broken nations (e.g., Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ukraine etc). Stop hurting India.

indian languages collage
As a Bengali, I felt proud of this protest movement, because as a non-Hindi speaker I too have been annoyed and hurt by Hindi imposition for too long. My language is not merely a “regional language” – it is an integral part of this country too.

Indian, Not Hindian

Despite the fact that Hindi is NOT the national language of India, there is a subtly cultivated notion that Hindi is the “rashtra bhasha“, which is further fed by the current government’s parochial propaganda of “Hindi. Hindu. Hindustan.

I’m a Bengali living in West Bengal, and yet I have to face linguistic discrimination every day of my life. Everytime I go to our local branch of State Bank of India, I’m appalled to see hundreds of forms only in Hindi and English. Even the passbook printing machine has the option of Hindi and English. Yet, most people who come to these local bank branches are not very educated people with nearly no knowledge of English and Hindi. Are they not entitled to banking transactions?

In banks, railways, Swachh Bharat Ads– wherever you look, there is no space for regional languages. Even the safety instructions on LPG cylinders are in Hindi and English – is there no regard for the safety of crores of people who don’t know these two languages?

Mother tongue remains an optional language in the syllabus of schools under the Central Board of secondary Education, while English and Hindi are compulsory. What is the government playing at? Though 60% of Indians have mother tongues other than Hindi, all-India examinations – like, IIT, IAS, NET, government job exams – are all held in Hindi and English. Is the government implicitly trying to take away the job opportunities of Non-Hindi speakers?

Our government intends to spend the Non-Hindian tax-payers’ money for World Hindi Conference and celebrating Hindi Diwas. Our Prime Minister addresses Indians in Madison Square, Sydney and Dubai in Hindi. His speech on Independence Day was in Hindi, and it was not even translated by the regional Doordarshan Channels.
Are we not Indians if we are not Hindians?

Manufacturing Nationalism

India is a country characterised by its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and this innate nature of our country is jeopardised by imposition of Hindi. Yes, India is indeed fragmented, but foisting a single language on us would not solve that problem. The ominous reminder of why Bangladesh was formed is not too far away.

There is a tide of Hindi everywhere that is engulfing other Indian languages and threatening those cultures. This is tacitly endorsed by the government as it attempts to manufacture a unified national identity that does not exist.

I am a Bengali, moulded by my language and culture. For me Hindi will always remain a foreign language thrusted upon me unnecessarily. Hindi is not my language and Bollywood is not my cult. Does that make me a second-class citizen in my own country?