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Posted at: Jan 7, 2018, 12:37 AM; last updated: Jan 7, 2018, 12:37 AM (IST)AS I PLEASE

Language politics: Hindi at the UN?

K. Natwar Singh
Any attempt to impose Hindi on the non-Hindi speaking states will divide India
Language politics: Hindi at the UN?

By K. Natwar Singh

Earlier in the week, a benign exchange between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Shashi Tharoor was witnessed in the Lok Sabha. The External Affairs Minister was emphasising why Hindi should be included as one of the official languages at the United Nations. The other languages of the UN are English, French, Russian, Chinese and Spanish. Arabic was added in the 1980s.

The minister said Hindi was not confined to India only. It was also spoken in Suriname, Fiji (the combined population of Surinam and Fiji is less than 1 million) and Ghana, apart from 800 million Indians. 

The facts go against the minister’s claim. All Indians don’t speak Hindi. Even our Constitution does not pronounce Hindi as the national language. Hindi is not the first language in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal, Kashmir, Eastern states, Punjab, Goa and Puducherry. It is the first language in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand (marginally), Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

What is even more telling is a unique phenomenon. Many chief ministers like that of Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh cannot speak in Hindi. Even, the Congress leader in the Lok Sabha and Dravidian veteran M Karunanidhi cannot converse in Hindi. Moreover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too uses interpreters to have meaningful conversations with the Tamil Nadu CM. 

On what basis can the External Affairs Minister justify the inclusion of Hindi as one of the languages of the UN?  Any attempt by the Sangh Parivar to force Hindi on the non-Hindi speaking states will divide India. We must not forget the agitation that followed the attempt to promote Hindi in Tamil Nadu. Tamil is the language of Tamil Nadu.

I come from Rajasthan. My mother tongue is Hindi plus Braj Bhasha. No conflict between the two. This applies to Hindi and Bhojpuri, Awadhi and so on in UP. This flexibility is our national pride. Thus, our overenthusiastic Hindi protagonists should be more realistic. Patriotism is no Indian’s monopoly. When Sushma-ji visits Chennai, I take it that she speaks in English to the CM.

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Ten heads of states will be meeting in New Delhi on January 25 to mark the 25th anniversary of India-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) partnership. Incidentally, we did not join ASEAN when it was founded. Why? I would not go into that at the moment.

Those attending the meeting are: Malaysian PM Najib Razak, Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong (son of late Lee Kuan Yew), Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, Darussalam (he is one of the richest men in the world), Cambodia PM Hun Sen (30 years ago, we helped him to become leader of his country), Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic PM Thongloun, Thailand PM General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Vietnam PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Indian PM Narendra Modi. 

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Incidentally, India was pre-dominantly Buddhist nation till AD 1000, Indonesia till the 15th century (even today the culture of Indonesia is almost Hindu plus Sanskaritic), Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Burma remain Buddhist.

One of the sublime architectural wonders of the world is Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Borobudur is another such wonder in Indonesia.  Both are said to have been constructed by Buddhist builders. It has been my good fortune to have spent time in these erstwhile Buddhist nations and the two architectural sublimities.  

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“My standard of conduct is so vastly low that I feel I have a right to condemn those who don’t come up to it.”— AE Houseman 

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