Hindi should be made a common language because it is the most spoken language of India. It wouldn’t only make our communication easier but also strengthen Bhartiya concept of unity in diversity
On April 7, 2022, Union Home Minister Amit Shah suggested that people of different States should communicate with each other in Hindi and it should be accepted as an alternative to English while speaking at the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee. Several opposition parties criticised the statement of the Home Minister. They called it an attempt to impose Hindi over non-Hindi speaking people.
Debate over having a common language is not new. In fact this issue was discussed at length during the Constitution Assembly debate but they could not reach any consensus over the status of common language due to various languages competing with one another. Gandhiji himself favoured one common language for the entire nation and he would call it “Hindustani”; a mix of Hindi and Urdu. It is very much clear that our founding forefathers understood the importance of a common language that can be spoken all throughout India, thus creating commonality amongst people. Having said so, it is also true that politicians from Southern States have always opposed the idea of one common language (as they think Hindi would be the most suitable candidate for it). They saw it as a threat to their native languages. This is why even 75 years after Independence, this matter couldn’t be resolved. Let’s set aside politics and examine whether India really needs a common language? And if yes, why only Hindi could serve the purpose?
Does India Need a Common Language?
India is a diverse country. Indians speak more than 700 languages and 1,600 dialects. Let’s first understand why there are so many languages and dialects spoken in India? When travelling was not so common and people used to live in and around a specific area, they invented specific forms of language or dialect. This is why there are so many variations in languages; each belongs to a certain area. This is true for all languages spoken worldwide. In those days, people were self-sufficient and there were no such concepts of looking for a job in different areas where people speak different languages. During the British period, English became the language of elites and professionals but the majority of Indians neither knew English nor any other language except their native ones. After the Independence and as better job opportunities grew in cities, people rushed to different cities and they found a language barrier. Let us assume, a driver from Tamil Nadu finds a better job opportunity in Delhi but he neither knows English nor Hindi, how does he survive? Similarly a person from Bihar or UP opens a shop in Hyderabad, but he neither knows Telugu nor English, how does he communicate with customers? These are real time examples. To conquer this language problem, we need a common language that every Indian speaks and understands. There is no need of having mastery over it. Just the basic knowledge of alphabets and words would suffice. As we can see why we need a common language, it brings us to the most important question “Which language should be the common language?”
The fascinating thing about Hindi is that the percentage of people speaking Hindi is increasing in every succeeding census. In 1971, only 37 per cent people registered Hindi as their mother tongue which has grown to 38.7 per cent in 1981, 39.2 per cent in 1991, 41 per cent in 2001 and 43.6 per cent in 2011. Looking at these numbers, one can easily understand why Hindi deserves to be the common language as over half of the population already speaks Hindi
Whenever someone suggests that Hindi should be made the common language, opponents try to counter it with why Hindi, why not Tamil or Oria, or Bengali? The answer to it is very simple as well as complex at the same time. Hindi should be made a common language because it is the most spoken language of India. The 2011 linguistic census accounts for 121 mother tongues, including 22 languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Constitutions, 43.6 per cent Indian listed Hindi as their mother tongue (52.8 crores individuals), Bengali as the second highest accounts for only 8 per cent of population (mother tongue for 9.7 individuals). Also over 11 per cent of Indians registered Hindi as their second language (nearly 13.9 crores individuals). So combined nearly 55 per cent of the population of India either speaks Hindi as their mother tongue or their second language.
The fascinating thing about Hindi is that the percentage of people speaking Hindi is increasing in every succeeding census. In 1971, only 37 per cent people registered Hindi as their mother tongue which has grown to 38.7 per cent in 1981, 39.2 per cent in 1991, 41 per cent in 2001 and 43.6 per cent in 2011. Looking at these numbers, one can easily understand why Hindi deserves to be the common language as over half of the population already speaks Hindi. However debate doesn’t end here, people can argue here that mere no language doesn’t make it logical to make Hindi as common language. To understand this, let’s look at how English became the common language for Air traffic controls and pilots.
Case Study of English As Common Language
When the first and only mid-air aeroplane crash happened in India, it gave a shock wave in airlines industries. On 12.11.1996, a charter plane from Kazakhstan and a Saudi Arabia plane Boeing 747-168B crashed mid-air some miles away from Indira Gandhi Intercommon Airport, Delhi. One of the major reasons for this crash was the mis-communication between Air traffic control and pilots. Russian pilots, who were flying Kazakhstani planes, were not good in English. In fact there was a translator who was translating English into Russian for them. This misunderstanding of language led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. After this tragic incident, airlines industries felt the need for a common language which can be understood by both Air Traffic controls and pilots. There were many languages which were in flight but ultimately English was chosen as the international language for Air Traffic controls and pilots. So if one wants to be an international pilot, one has to know English. Now we come to our main question, why was English chosen? Simply because it was the most widely spoken language amongst pilots.
Imaginary fear for Hindi is not substantive. Hindi as a common language will only be the second language for non-Hindi speakers. For example- almost all Bengalis know Hindi but they hardly talk among themselves in Hindi
To ask 90 per cent of people to learn one other language in comparison when 56 per cent of people already speak Hindi doesn’t make any sense. It is very much rational and logical to make a language as common language which is most spoken.
Not a Threat to Mother Tongue
Imaginary fear for Hindi is not substantive. Hindi as a common language will only be the second language for non-Hindi speakers. For example- almost all Bengalis know Hindi but they hardly talk among themselves in Hindi. A lot of graduates from the Hindi belt know English, they can communicate in English if an Englishman arrives. This doesn’t mean that they talk in English among friends or family members. Hindi as a common language will serve Northern States just like Hindi is being used in Odisha, West Bengal, Assam or Punjab. They (Local language) will maintain their regional supremacy and Hindi will never be a challenge for them. The argument that Hindi as a common language would be belittling other native languages doesn’t make any sense. In India over 10 per cent people speak English as their second language that doesn’t do any damage to their mother tongue.
Every nation has people who speak more than one language. For example, Russian is the official language of Russia; that doesn’t mean Russia doesn’t have other languages spoken in its area. There are 35 languages in Russia as official languages in various parts of the country; still they have one common language as Russian for the entire country.
Mere basic knowledge of a language won’t make any impact on the importance of native language. It is high time we set aside politics a bit and think rationally why Hindi should be the common language for all Indians? It wouldn’t only make our communication easier but also strengthen our concept of unity in diversity.