Indian government’s bid to make Hindi official UN language lacks local support

Television journalists report from the premises of India's Parliament in New Delhi, India, in this Feb. 13, 2014 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 January 2018

Indian government’s bid to make Hindi official UN language lacks local support

NEW DELHI: Opinions in India are divided over the government’s attempt to make Hindi an official language of the United Nations.
“The irony is that Hindi in India does not enjoy the status of a national language. It is not the language aspiring India wants to learn, yet the government wants to spend millions of dollars promoting it as the official language of the UN,” said Priyadarshan, a New Delhi-based Hindi novelist, critic and journalist.
Talking to Arab News, he said: “This is the by-product of the hyper-nationalism that has gripped the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ever since it has come to power.”
Last week Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told the lower house of Parliament that New Delhi is willing to spend $63 billion to make Hindi the official language of the UN.
“The government continues in its efforts in popularizing Hindi worldwide and for the acceptance of Hindi as one of the UN official languages,” Swaraj told the Parliament on Thursday.
She added: “It is not difficult to get the support of two-thirds of member nations. But when the issue of bearing the expenses comes, many small nations become hesitant, which has led to a big hurdle in making Hindi an official language of the UN.”
Opposition Congress Party leader and former junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor, however, questioned the rationale and the wisdom of such a move when Hindi in its home country “doesn’t enjoy the status of the national language.”
He also said that when a person from a non-Hindi-speaking region of India becomes prime minister of the country, “why should we force him to speak in Hindi at the UN?”
Priyadarshan calls it “an attempt to polarize the country in the name of language. You have 22 officially recognized languages in India and an attempt should be made to develop all rather than promote one at the cost of the other. That’s why I call it a futile and divisive exercise.”
Bangalore-based activist Srujana Deva said: “India is not Hindi, and Hindi is not India.”
A very strong opponent of the imposition of Hindi in South India, Deva told Arab News that “the move is at par with the BJP government’s attempt to portray the country as a Hindu nation, which is not true. New Delhi wants to propagate a false narrative that everybody in India speaks Hindi, which is false.”
He added: “Homogeneity is not our identity. We thrive in diversity and I feel that the government is trying to weaken us by tampering with our diverse linguistic and cultural heritage.”
Anand Raj, an academic based in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, said: “Hindi is the language which most of the people in the country know and understand, and what’s the harm if a language spoken by so many people is promoted as the official language of the UN?”
Priyadarshan said: “The larger agenda is that the Hindu right-wing party BJP wants to further entrench itself in the crucial Hindi-speaking states in northern and central India, which are electorally very crucial, and impose Hindi on the Southern and eastern India which are non-Hindi speaking regions.”
In 19 of the 29 states in India, Hindi does not enjoy the status of first language.
South India witnessed violent protests recently in reaction to the Hindi inscription and signage at national highways and public places.


India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

Updated 8 min 43 sec ago

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.