Language issue in India:
The recent move by Govt of India to promote Hindi has opened up a can of worms and scratched old scars. Social media is abuzz with debates over linguistics. While there seems to be a general consensus among citizens that no language must be imposed upon anybody against their wishes, South India in general, and Tamil Nadu in particular have vehemently opposed any such move.
Why is language such a sensitive issue? Why are Tamilians against Hindi? Since when has this anti-Hindi stance been in place? Is Hindi really India’s national language? Lets find out the answers to all these questions.
The history of Tamilians’ wrath against Hindi dates back to 1937 when the British allowed elected local provincial Govt under the British Govt of India. The Congress party, soon after forming the Govt under C Rajagopalachari in 1937, imposed Hindi as compulsory subject in schools. This was met with wide scale criticism followed by Anti-Hindi demonstrations & movement under the guidance of Periyar E. V. Ramaswami Naicker (EVR) & C. N. Annadurai. This agitation grew over the next few months and was mainly sustained by students. A 14 year old boy had impressed Annadurai with his excellent organization abilities during the movement. This 14 year old boy was M. Karunanidhi.
As the movement intensified over the next 2 years, the British Governor intervened and withdrew Hindi in 1940 by overruling Congress Govt’s act, after which the protests subsided.
Over the next few years, the Govt of Madras tried to impose Hindi as compulsory language several times but in vain. In 1942, it was introduced and withdrawn within days due to protests. In 1946 as well, the Govt tried to test waters but backed down again after intense protests. Karunanidhi & his mentor Annadurai had always been the forerunnners in these agitations and gradually Tamilians had begun to perceive this duo as their saviors.
During the framing of Constitution between 1946 & 1950, language was one of the most debated topics and the decision to declare a national language resulted in 2 prominent camps: North Indians who advocated Hindi or Hindustani as the national language, and the South Indians who did not want it to be imposed upon them. (However, after partition in 1947, Hindustani was ruled out and the support for Hindi grew further in the North India camp).
For more details about Constituent Assembly:
While the Hindi camp tried to push Hindi due to its “numerical superiority”, the Tamil camp rejected it outright and one of the Tamil leaders even went on to mock them by pointing out that if “numerical superiority” is the criteria, then the crow had to be chosen as national bird instead of the peacock.
After several brainstorming debates, the Constituent assembly decided to finalize on “Hindi with Devanagari script” as the official language of the Union, along with a special clause that English would continue to remain in use for all official purposes for the next 15 years.
“Hindi with Devanagiri script” was a relatively new language which was first adopted in Bihar in 1881. The language had to further evolve in order to cater to the modern world which required coining of several new words especially for the purposes of Administration, Diplomacy, Science & Technology. The plan was to set up committees which would develop the language further and make it ready for nation-wide usage within the next 15 years. (i.e 1965)
With immediate effect, Hindi was being introduced as a compulsory subject in all the Hindi speaking states and non-Hindi speaking states were given 15 years to learn and “gear” themselves for the language which would become mandatory from 1965 and the committees would meanwhile develop Hindi so that it would be the de-facto language after 1965.
Within few years, the committees began to face the ground realities. It came as a hard realization that that 15 years would not be sufficient and the process of developing Hindi to a stage where it could be used as single national language might take much more time. Even C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), who had always been in favor of Hindi as national language and had imposed Hindi in 1937 when he had formed the Govt of Madras, began to air his concerns about how Hindi was yet to develop to be acceptable as the single national language.
So, how long did it take to develop Hindi? When was it made compulsory even in non-Hindi states? Did the non-Hindi states heartily accept Hindi?
We shall find out all these in the next part.
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