The government on Friday asserted in Parliament that it has no intention to impose Hindi over any other Indian language, a remark which assumes significance because of protests in some states due to apprehensions over the issue. All languages are national languages, although Hindi is the official language, said Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who is in-charge of the Department of Official Languages in the central government.
He said the government is trying to find a way soon on how to bring the pending 38 languages in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, which grants official status to a language. “There is no question of imposition of Hindi over any other language. Hindi is the official language. There is no one language which is national language,” he said in the Rajya Sabha.
He was replying to a debate on a private member’s bill which sought inclusion of ‘Tulu’ and ‘Kodava’ languages in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution moved by B K Hariprasad of the Congress. “It is not a question of trying to impose Hindi. Let us be very clear. There is no one language which is national language, all languages are national languages. Hindi is the official language, so there is no question of discrimination. There is no special effort or attempt to promote Hindi,” Rijiju said.
His comments assume significance as they come in the backdrop of allegations by certain quarters in some state like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu that the central government is trying to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states.
The controversy over Hindi being imposed was generated after President Pranab Mukherjee accepted the recommendation of the Committee of Parliament on Official Language that all dignitaries including the president and ministers, especially those who can read and speak Hindi, may be requested to give their speech/statement in Hindi only.
The president had accepted several other recommendations, including making announcements on board aircraft in Hindi followed by English. Elaborating on the government’s three-language formula, Rijiju said it is already in existence and there is no bar on any state to conduct its business in regional languages.
The minister observed that the issue of language is very sensitive and a slight mistake or misrepresentation can lead to many differences within the country. “We have not given any preference to one language over another. While justice is being done, we must ensure that no complications arise in the future because it is a very sensitive subject,” Rijiju said.
Clarifying the government position, he said, “We have made it clear that there is no question of imposition of Hindi over any other language. Hindi was made the official language taking into account the spirit of members of Parliament. Hindi has to be promoted but at the same time all other regional languages also have to be promoted”.
Hariprasad, while piloting his private member bill, highlighted the importance of regional languages. “We have no problem in making Hindi compulsory in southern states but please make one southern language compulsory in north India,” said Hariprasad, who hails from Karnataka.
Hariprasad also demanded that a criteria be developed for inclusion of languages in the 8th Schedule to make the process transparent and devoid of politics. To this, Rijiju said it is not easy to define the criteria which will make a particular language qualify for inclusion in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.
He said the Home Ministry had set up a committee to have a look at the cases pending regarding inclusion of more languages in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. The minister urged Hariprasad to withdraw his bill, saying the two languages cannot be considered in isolation for inclusion in the 8th Schedule, to which the Congress member relented.
At present, there are 22 languages under the 8th Schedule of the Constitution while 38 languages have been listed formally. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, there are demands for inclusion of 38 more languages in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.
Participating in the debate, Prasanna Acharya (BJD) urged the central government to come out with a broader Constitution amendment bill. “Let the government constitute a committee which should go deeper into the subject,” he said.
“India cannot unite unless we bring the people together,” he said, adding “inspite of all diversities, this nation is one and it continues to be one”. He said sometimes people are angry like in Gorkhaland, who are demanding a separate state, and urged the government to take care of the sentiments of people of the area.
He urged the Centre to also bring Sambalpuri and Kosli languages of Odisha as part of the 8th Schedule. Shiv Pratap Shukla (BJP) said if all the languages were taken care of, then there would not have been problems as existing today.
The President of India has himself said that if a language is spoken more in a state, then the government can include it in the 8th schedule, he said. He said the three-language formula has been diluted as Sanskrit has been abandoned and only English and Hindi are recognised more.
He lamented that while India has not bothered about promoting Sanskrit, Germany has adopted it and is promoting it. He urged the government to include Bhojpuri and Tulu in the 8th schedule as it is spoken by a large number of people across the country.
Anand Bhaskar Rapolu (Cong) stressed the need for protecting lesser-spoken languages in the country. La Ganeshan (BJP) cautioned against imposition of English, saying in Tamil Nadu the mother tongue is Tamil but a generation has grown which didn’t know how to write it and now there is a generation which doesn’t know how to read it.
Pradeep Tamta (Cong) said languages like Bhojpuri, Kumaoni, Garhwali should also be included in the 8th Schedule. Ram Vikas Netam (BJP) lamented that though Chhattisgarh was carved out as a separate state, its language Chhattisgarhi was still to be accorded official status.