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Hindi as a National Language

Annual Hindi Diwas

14th September has been designated as “Hindi Diwas”- meaning “Hindi Day”. Authors, speakers and various contributors of different capacity towards promotion of Hindi, are recognized and awarded on this day. Like many other festivals and days of the country, this day has also lost its meaning and purpose. But even while this day has failed to achieve anything significant, it always manages to achieve one thing- that is attracting the supporters and criticisers of “Hindi as a National Language”.
This year, the feud got kicked off by Home Minister Amit Shah, while he was speaking at a ceremony on Hindi. He said, "While diversity in languages is the strength of our nation, a national language needed so that foreign languages and cultures do not overpower our own". He recognized Hindi as the most capable national language candidate.  Of course, this got twisted by all degrees by various leaders for their interests. But Honorable Home Minister is not the first person to say this. Many greater leaders have said similar things and more passionately. Mahatma Gandhi- who was perhaps the first true National Leader, said exactly similar things. Even his first language was not Hindi. Interestingly, Hindi is not first language of Home Minister either. So, it is interesting to understand why Hindi brings out such divisions? Why some non-native speakers of Hindi vouch for Hindi, while others fight it fiercely.

History of Indian Languages

Art XVII of the Constitution of India designates Hindi as the official language of the Union and a clause "or in English" is added for carrying out daily official work. Though English was to be phased out in 15 years post the implementation of the constitution, but such proposals have faced severe protests from non-Hindi speaking states.
In addition to official language, constitution also recognizes 22 scheduled languages- English is not part of this list. Below is the count of language wise speakers as per the Census 2011.
Language
Speakers (in lakhs, 2011)
Hindi
5280
Bengali
972
Marathi
830
Telugu
811
Tamil
690
Gujarati
555
Urdu
507
Kannada
437
Odia
375
Malayalam
348
Punjabi
331
Assamese
153
Maithili
136
Santali
73
Kashmiri
68
Nepali
29
Sindhi
27
Dogri
26
Konkani
22.5
Manipuri
18
Bodo
14.8
Sanskrit
0.2

What should be our way forward?

As you can see, Hindi is the largest language spoken by almost 40% Indians. If you add Hindi-family languages together, the count would be even higher. So naturally Hindi has the highest potential of becoming the language that can thread the pearls of India.
So why are there protests? Welcome to democratic freedom!
Every voice matters. So does every choice. Why would anyone give up their choice unless they see any gain from it? And this cannot be done by force or law. That is where policymakers have been making mistake. Hindi does not offer any more advantage than the other Indian languages as far as work is concerned. In fact, the widely availability of texts, research and other materials in English- makes English more efficient language than most other languages of the world. There is no harm or shame in acknowledging this.
So, in such scenario, what role Hindi can play? Well, English can be language of minds, but matters of heart belong to Hindi. There is no better option than this. But encouraging matters of heart is totally different from encouraging matters of mind.
The pure Hindi is hardly spoken by a handful of people in informal environment. There are tens of thousands of dialects of Hindi and they all come to together in this beautiful language. We have incorporated words from Awadhi, Brij, Magahi, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Urdu, Farsi and even English. We will have to go further- we can incorporate more languages. This can only happen when interaction between two different cultures happen more often. School meets, sports meet, Melas and other such informal gatherings can be the perfect way to do this.
Hindi deserves to be the language of hearts, and this cannot be done formally. We have to be informal, experimental and open-minded about this. Otherwise petty politicians will keep using this topic as to create divide in the society.