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Explained: What India’s Constitution Says About Hindi and National Language

The debate over Hindi being a national language has been raging since Independence. In the past, the constituent assembly had witnessed heated exchanges over the use and scope of Hindi with one member, Pandit Raghunath Vinayak Dhulekar (Indian freedom fighter), declaring that those who did not know Hindustani (as Hindi was known back then) "had no right to stay in India".

Updated: April 28, 2022 12:56 PM IST

By News Desk | Edited by Surabhi Shaurya

Explained: What India's Constitution Says About Hindi and National Language
What India's Constitution Says About Hindi and National Language (Representation Image)

New Delhi:Hindi Hai Hum, Watan Hai Hindustan Humara…’, for most of us, an everlasting childhood memory is standing in an assembly queue and singing the couplet (Sare Jahan se achha, Hindustan hamara) written by Muhammad Iqbal. At that time we never thought of the real idea behind Hindustan. In the post-Westphalian or rather European conception of the nation-state, language has been the driving factor for the formation of a separate country altogether. This came as a major challenge in the constituent assembly, because, unlike in Europe, it was impossible to theorize India’s linguistic diversity which ultimately accumulated under a single national identity. Some western scholars went to the extent to say that India as a nation would not exist at all. Making something like a “national language” for such a diverse society would have created chaos and public disillusionment among non-Hindi speakers of the country.

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New Debate Over Hindi Being A National Language

Yesterday, a new debate over Hindi being a national language started again after Bollywood superstar Ajay Devgn and South Indian actor Kichcha Sudeep engaged in a Twitter banter over the latter’s comment on Hindi no longer being India’s national language. The trigger for the argument was Sudeep’s statement three days ago during a function in Bengaluru where the who’s who of the Kannada film industry celebrated the nationwide success of KGF-2 starring Yash. When the compere of the event said KGF-2 had a pan-India effect, Sudeep said Hindi is no more a national language.

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Later Sudeep clarified that the context in which he made the statement was different from the way it was perceived and that it was not intended to provoke, hurt or start a debate. “You (compere) said the Kannada film (KGF-2) had a pan-India effect. Let there be a correction – Hindi is no more a national language. Hindi (film industry) should say that they are doing pan-India films today. They are struggling and dubbing their movies in Tamil and Telugu, yet it is not happening (business),” Sudeep had said.

Ajay Devgn Vs Kiccha Sudeep

The actor asserted that a pan-India movie was not the concept because people are just making films that reached everywhere due to dubbing. He explained that way back in the 1970s, China started dubbing Chinese films into English and it was accepted whereas in India the process started quite late. “Language is just a barrier. Today, it is broken. It’s no more pan India. (The term) ‘Pan India’ is coming to Mumbai,” the multi-lingual actor added.

This statement did not go down well with Ajay Devgn. Taking to the micro-blogging site, Devgn in Hindi tweeted,”Kiccha Sudeep, my brother, according to you if Hindi is not our national language then why do you release your movies, made in your mother tongue, by dubbing them in Hindi? Hindi was, is and always will be our mother tongue and national language. Jan Gan Man.”

Their argument did not end there as Sudeep reminded Devgn that he did understand the text that was sent on Twitter in Hindi. “Hello @ajaydevgn sir.. the context to why I said that line is entirely different to the way I guess it has reached you. Probably will emphasize on why the statement was made when I see you in person. It wasn’t to hurt, provoke, or to start any debate. Why would I sir? No offense sir but was wondering what’d the situation be if my response was typed in Kannada.!! Don’t we too belong to India sir? I love and respect every language of our country sir. I would want this topic to rest, as I said the line in a totally different context. Mch luv and wshs to you always. Hoping to seeing you soon (sic).” Sudeep asked.”

What does India’s Constitution Say About Hindi? 

The Constitution has never declared Hindi as the national language, rather, in 1950, it has accorded Hindi in Devanagari script to be the official language of the union along with English under Article 343. For the unversed, part XVII of the Constitution deals with Official Language. “The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals”, the Constitution says.

The Constituent Assembly while discussing the Language Formula noticed the recommendation of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights, which recommended the formula as per which, “Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Persian script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union. English shall be the second official language for such period as the Union may, by law, determine.”

Hindi Our National Language — Myth vs Reality

In 2010, Gujarat High Court observed that though the majority of people in India have accepted Hindi as a national language, there was nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country. The observation was made by a division bench of Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice A.S. Dave recently while rejecting a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that had sought a direction for mandatory printing of details — price, ingredients, and date of manufacturing — of goods in Hindi on the ground that it was the national language.

“Normally, in India, the majority of the people have accepted Hindi as a national language and many people speak Hindi and write in Devanagari script but there is nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country. No mandamus can be issued on any manufacturer or others for giving details or particulars of the package in Hindi in Devanagari script,” the court had said in 2010.

Mahatma Gandhi’s View on Hindi As National Language

In 2019, Home minister Amit Shah had invoked Mahatma Gandhi while backing the government’s idea that Hindi should be the identifying language of India. ‘I want to appeal to people to promote their native languages but also use Hindi to make the dream of Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) and Sardar (Vallabhbhai) Patel of one language come true,’ he had tweeted two years ago.

However, researchers believed that Gandhi kept changing his position. After 1942, Gandhi seemed to stress the adoption of Hindustani, a fusion of Hindi and Urdu, not Hindi, as the unifying language of the masses.

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Published Date: April 28, 2022 12:11 PM IST

Updated Date: April 28, 2022 12:56 PM IST