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India: Illegal Hindi Imposition Beyond the Constitution

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, October 2014 (ID. 2014-10-01)
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Whenever non-Hindi peoples complain about Hindi imposition, we are told that government is following the Indian constitution and laws. Yet when it suits the purpose of pushing the imperial Hindi rule all over India, constitutional provisions are abandoned and Hindi is imposed illegally beyond constitutional provisions and laws. Here are three examples.

1.

Indian government ministers may speak in English or Hindi in parliament, according to the Indian constitution. In the past few years, Hindi stalwarts in parliament demanded that ministers who know Hindi MUST reply to Hindi questions in Hindi. (This is usually translated to English in parliament.) Ministers have succumbed to this pressure and it has become an established practice. Yet this demand is unconstitutional and shows Hindi power in parliament.

2.

When Chemicals and Fertilizers minister M. K. Alagiri from Tamil Nadu sought permission to speak in Tamil because he does not know Hindi and his proficiency in English is limited, the speaker of parliament Meira Kumar refused permission quoting the constitution [The Hindu newspaper: July 18, 2010]. But in Year 2014, the newly appointed Minister for External Affairs and Minister for Water resources took their oaths in Sanskrit [New York Times: June 18, 2014]. Sanskrit is not an official language of India like Hindi or English. Indian constitution does not accord any special status to Sanskrit; it is merely listed along with Tamil and 22 languages.  Yet no one objected to the ministers swearing in Sanskrit. Is it because many Hindi people consider Sanskrit as their ancestral father language? Yet another form of special, extra-constitutional privilege for Hindi language and people!

3.

A Home Ministry (Indian Government) memorandum dated May 27, 2014 stated, "It is ordered that government employees and officials of all ministries, departments, corporations or banks, who have made official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube or blogs should use Hindi, or both Hindi and English but give priority to Hindi." [The Economic Times: June 17, 2014]. Essentially, the memorandum says that English is optional on social media posts but Hindi is mandatory (Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube or blogs). This is against the constitutional mandate. Indian constitution requires that all Indian government communications to be in Hindi and English. There was an uproar non-Hindi states, especially in Tamil Nadu. The current (2014) and former Chief Ministers of Tamilnadu and the Chief Minister of Kashmir came out against the memorandum. A number of other Tamil politicians and organizations also opposed it. Under mounting pressure, Indian government withdrew the memorandum.

Why should non-Hindi peoples have to jump up and down when Hindi politicians decide to break laws to promote Hindi? The ministers and officials responsible for the memorandum should have been dismissed for violating the constitution and/or laws. But in India it is all right to violate the constitution as long as it is done to promote Hindi. That is the bad news for non-Hindi peoples of India.

(Post-Script to Item 2: It was reported on August 8, 2014, that Minister of State for Commerce Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman was allowed to answer a Tamil question in Tamil in parliament [the Economic Times: August 8, 2014]. This is a one-time deal to assuage the mounting criticism in Tamil Nadu against some Hindi imposition actions of the new Indian government [See Item 3 above]. We have seen the bait and switch tactic before. There was mounting pressure in Tamil Nadu that Tamil be allowed in Madras High Court. One judge allowed Tamil in one case. Months later when another lawyer used Tamil, another judge refused it quoting rules and regulations. What we want are laws or parliamentary rules enacted guaranteeing that ministers can speak in the mother tongue without seeking permission from anybody; the same right Hindi ministers have. We are not begging for favours, we are demanding our right.)


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