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Is it right to impose a one language policy in India?


India's diversity

India's strength lies in its diversity. Indians belong to different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, each having a history that dates back to preBuddhist times. Languages like Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi, Odiya, Bengali, Assame, etc. have a long history and the total number of people who speak these languages exceeds the population of entire Europe. If these communities are willingly part of a united India it is because they believe in their Indian nationality deeply, which is not tied to any particular religious or linguistic identity. From the beginning, even during the Indus times as we now understand, India has always been the land of diverse communities and linguistic groups. The people also came from different racial backgrounds. What kept them united for the last 5000 years or so is their cultural history which is deeply rooted in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The cultural imprint is so strong in the consciousness that even when people migrate to other countries, they retain their distinct Indianness.

There is little doubt that India is held together as a country because of its cultural and linguistic roots and its historic ties with the ancient religious traditions that are today recognized under different religious banners. In 1960's the central government tried to impose Hind1 upon non-Hindu speaking people and it provoked widespread unrest. In the nineties when the BJP government came to power they tried to revive Hindi as a national language, which was not received well in non-Hindi speaking states. It probably also led to its subsequent defeat in the next general election. BJP has hardly any presence in non-Hindi speaking states, except for one or two regions. Their unpopularity in non-Hindi speaking states is mainly because they are identified not only as a Hindu party but also as a Hindi party. People in the southern states prefer English to Hindi because English is historically associated with the regions. The British ruled these states in the past long before they emerged as a ruling power in the north, whereas prior to independence these states were seldom ruled by Hindi rulers. South Indians are also aware of the many prejudices people in the North hold against them. Hindi movies regularly make fun of the way non-Hindi speaking people speak or pronounce Hindi. It does not bode well for promoting Hindi in southern states.

The BJP government upon whom people have kept many hopes should focus their attention upon the economic development of the country and the social ills that plague the nation rather than promoting one language or one cultural identity that may threaten the unity and integrity of India and weaken the unity between Hindi and non-Hindi speaking people. Let us hope commonsense prevails and the government will protect all linguistic traditions and communities instead of just promoting one language or one culture.

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