The government’s fixation with Hindi is growing, as is seen from an official document issued by the Union Home Ministry, which pushes for the ‘’promotion and progressive use’’ of the language in government undertakings and offices all over the country. It is an annual document that expresses a perennial concern and obsession of the government, and tells civil servants that it is not enough that the work in government offices is done, but it should be done in Hindi. The government is unhappy that substantial work is still being done in English and reminds officials that targets have not been achieved, though there is ‘’progressive use’’ of Hindi. Since civil servants do not use Hindi in official work, subordinates are ‘’not getting the right message’’.
But it is the message conveyed through the letter that is not right. It is that the government is obsessed with spreading and even imposing Hindi on people who do not speak the language and who are not ready to work with it. The letter says it is the constitutional obligation of senior officials to use Hindi, implying that failure to do so is to go against the Constitution, which may have consequences. But the actual consequence of such a hard position on Hindi is to alienate people from the language and those who champion it.
The letter says that Hindi is
not used ‘’to the required extent’’, and offices may now have to measure their communications and file entries in percentages of Hindi wordage. Issuing such diktats will only increase resistance and opposition to the language. The letter should be taken as a follow-up of Home Minister Amit Shah’s call last year to make Hindi the country’s national language and to take it to all regions by 2024. He even said that “it is extremely necessary to have one language for the whole of the country that will be India’s identity in the world’’.
India is a diverse country and each state has its own official language. The idea of “one country, one language’’ will not be accepted just as the narrow notions of oneness and sameness that are being promoted in other areas will not be. The document has elicited sharp reactions from non-Hindi states which consider the Centre’s persistent attempts to promote Hindi as continuing threats to their identities. It is felt that coercion is being used to impose the hegemony of Hindi on others. This will lead to more resistance, alienation and strife.