Hindi as official language in United Nations

Hindi in United Nations

K. Chezhian

TAMIL TRIBUNE, September 2007 (ID. 2007-09-01)
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1. A Request to Make Hindi an Official Language of United Nations

2. Our Objection to Hindi in the United Nations

3. Hindi Imposition and Language Discrimination within India Should Stop First

4. Hindi is not the Language of a Billion People

5. Opposition to Hindi Imposition in India

6. Our Request to the United Nations


1. A Request to Make Hindi an Official Language of United Nations

The Eighth World Hindi Conference in New York City in July 2007, organized by the Indian Government External Affairs Ministry and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, asked the United Nations (UN) to make Hindi an official language. Indian Government said that it would make immediate diplomatic moves to achieve this. (The next two paragraphs are rather light-hearted and you may skip them and go to Section 2 for a serious discussion of the issue.)

India's Minister of State for External Affairs Mr. Anand Sharma said that the Eighth World Hindi Conference resolution sends a clear signal when more than 1,000 delegates speak with one voice, something which no other country could achieve till date. It is a rather ridiculous statement on the part of Mr. Sharma. Any country or, for that matter, any language group can bring in a 1000 people (or 10,000 people or 100,000 people) to pass a resolution asking United Nations to make its language an official language at the United nations. It is not a big achievement; it cannot be called an achievement at all. Within 24 hours I can gather 1000 Tamils and pass a resolution requesting United Nations to make Tamil an official language. I am sure my brothers and sisters speaking Bengali or Telugu or Kannada or Malayalam or Urdu or Swahili or Vietnamese or Portuguese or Polish can do the same. It does not mean anything.

Having said that in light-hearted response to the rather grandiose statement made by India's Minister of State for External Affairs, let us seriously look into the resolution seeking to make Hindi an official language of the United Nations.

2. Our Objection to Hindi in the United Nations

This writer is from Tamil Nadu, a state in the Indian Union. Tamil people have opposed and continue to oppose making Hindi the official language of the Indian Union on the grounds that Hindi is alien to them and making it the official language discriminates them in employment and other areas. In spite of this opposition, not only from Tamilnadu but also from some other non-Hindi states, Hindi is being imposed on them steadily and systematically [Reference 1]. What Tamil people fear (as well as some other non-Hindi peoples) is that recognizing Hindi as an official language of the United Nations would embolden Indian government to continue with more vigor Hindi imposition and language discrimination within India.

3. Hindi Imposition and Language Discrimination within India Should Stop First

Making Hindi a United Nations official language is a privilege, not a right. Hindi speakers should earn that privilege by correcting the current discriminatory language policy of the Indian Government. United Nations, if it ever were to seriously consider Hindi as an official language, should ask India to stop Hindi imposition and language discrimination. Indian Government often says that there is no Hindi imposition and Hindi would never be imposed. These are empty words; the truth is that Hindi imposition and language discrimination is part of life in non-Hindi regions of India [Reference 1]. United Nations should consider the possibility of making Hindi an official language only after each linguistic state of the Indian Union certifies by popular vote that there is no Hindi imposition or language discrimination in India.

4. Hindi is not the Language of a Billion People

The call to make Hindi an official language of the United Nations comes essentially from the 300 million or so Hindi speakers and the Hindi politicians who dominate the Indian parliament because of their numbers there. This call is not from the entire one billion plus population of India. Couple of hundred million non-Hindi speakers from states like Gujarat and Bihar may support it or may not care one way or other but at least a couple of hundred million surely oppose it until Hindi imposition and language discrimination stops within India.

This should be clearly understood. Hindi is not the language of the one billion Indian population as it is often falsely projected. It is the language of only about 300 million people residing in the north-central region of India. About half the Indian population does not understand Hindi and attempts to teach them is considered an imposition by many of them, especially in the deep south and east. We are afraid that elevation of Hindi as an official language of the United Nations would strengthen Hindi imposition and language discrimination within India.

5. Opposition to Hindi Imposition in India

Opposition to Hindi imposition and language discrimination does not come from "some Tamil fanatics" as many Hindi speakers would like people to believe. Opposition to Indian Government's discriminatory language policy comes from the entire Tamil population of about 60 million people, more than the population of many countries in the United Nations. The legally elected Tamil Nadu State Government not only passed a resolution opposing Hindi as the official language of India, it also removed Hindi as a subject in the tens of thousands of schools under its control to show its opposition. Not only the ruling party in the state, but also the main opposition party as well as most of the smaller parties are highly critical of Indian Government's language policy. The mass uprising of Tamil Nadu in January-February 1965 in opposition to India's language policy is unprecedented and surpasses any demonstration against British rule in the state [Reference 2, 3]. There were no more massive agitations after that because the government crushed it with an iron fist, bringing in troops and police from other states and killing well over a hundred unarmed Tamil youths in just 5 days during the second week of February 1965 (there were also a few deaths in the preceding weeks). Agitation was called off and Hindi imposition continues with no more massive protests.

Opposition is not limited to Tamil people either, some other non-speaking states also oppose it but less vehemently. If people in the southern and eastern states are asked to vote on the issue, they would vote against Hindi as India's official language. Will the Indian Government hold such a vote and prove to the world that Hindi is accepted throughout the Indian Union?

6. Our Request to the United Nations

Under these circumstances, we plead to the United Nations not to consider India's request to make Hindi an official language until it corrects its discriminatory language policy within India. Only after the people of each non-Hindi state certify through popular vote that they are satisfied with Indian Government's language policy should United Nations consider Indian Government request. If and when the Indian Governments rectifies its discriminatory language policy to the satisfaction of all the non-Hindi states, Tamil people would have no objection to making Hindi an official language of the United Nations (UN).

REFERENCES

1. Articles on  Hindi Imposition and Opposition

2. A Chronology of Anti-Hindi Agitations in Tamil Nadu and What the Future Holds (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2003 (33 KB) (h)

3. Burnt Offerings Against Hindi Imposition: Self Immolation of Tamil Martyrs in Tamil Nadu, 1965 (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2004 (20 KB) (h)

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