Saturday, February 18, 2023

Mind your language

This is a throwback to the 1960s, or if you remember your history, to the 1930s. The first anti-Hindi agitations in Madras happened in 1937, when the provincial government of the Madras Presidency decided to make Hindi a compulsory subject in the schools. As long as the government was run by the Indian National Congress (with Rajaji as the Premier of Madras), the policy remained in place, and the agitations against it continued without a break until 1940. After  the provincial governments resigned in 1939, protesting against Britain declaring war on behalf of India, the compulsory Hindi teaching policy was withdrawn. 

The Constitution of India had set out a 15-year period during which English would be one of the Official Languages of the Union of India; a period during which Hindi would be strengthened to become the sole such language. As that 15-year deadline approached, there were protests in several non-Hindi speaking states, but none had the vehemence of protests in Madras. And so, despite the Official Languages Act of 1963 indicating that English may continue to be used for an indefinite period, the protests against Hindi continued. More about that for another day.

Recent attempts at making Hindi acceptable across all non-Hindi-speaking states have been met with suspicion. And so this slogan on a bridge in Chennai; I hope that the politicians are sensible enough to understand that we as a nation have thrived because of our diversity!


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