General ramblings, Indian Languages, Indian Politics

Indian Languages

The Constitution of India, adopted in 1950, declares Hindi in the Devanagari script as the official language of the Union. So, first of all, we shouldn’t refer to it as our “National Language”. There is a huge difference. Neither the constitution of India nor any law accords the status of “National Language” to any single language. India is such a diverse country that it would be impossible to call one language as our “national language”. At the state level, Hindi is the official language of the following states: Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Delhi. Also, Hindi is spoken by about 340 million Indians. It is commonly believed that Hindi emerged in 1000 AD.

Tamil, on the other hand, is the official language of Tamil Nadu. So, if people in Tamil Nadu don’t want to speak in Hindi, then I won’t say that there is anything wrong. Tamil is spoken by about 77 million people and is one of the oldest languages of the world.

But I do want to point out something. There were widespread protests in the ’50s and ’60s in Tamil Nadu when the Indian Government said that they would make Hindi the sole official language of India on 26th Jan, 1965 and in between the period 1950 and 1965, English and Hindi would both be co-official languages. The result – Come 1965, Hindi wasn’t made the official language of TN because of anti-Hindi protests. As we all know, Hindi and English are both official languages even today.

So why is it that every time I try to read something on Tamil language or Hindi, I can only find data about Anti- Hindi protests in Tamil Nadu? What about the other Southern States? I am sure Hindi was and is as alien a language in Kerala as it is in Tamil Nadu.


25 thoughts on “Indian Languages

  1. Alok says:

    Hi..first of all let me tell you its utter non sense to call Hindi an alien language…don’t be so biased…its English which is more alien (but accepted by Southern States) as they never minded using an alien language over Hindi if given a choice..
    Hindi is accepted all over India as its National language..even if it’s not declared India’s National Language (just for Keeping a huge Vote Bank happy)…Don’t forget American Legislature never declared Star Spangled Banner until 1931 but still it was their National Anthem..Star Spangled Banner was declared National Anthem after a Cartoonist named Robert Ripley mentioned this fact in one of his very famous Believe It Or Not Cartoons…
    I consider all those anti hindi protests as act/s of insane madness by people who were ready to accept an alien language English over a language that’s spoken & understood in 75% of India…

    God knows what do W.Bengal & South Indian States want to prove by having this attitude towards Hindi..Its sick mann!!!!

  2. @Ankur, Why? I have no idea. Probably you could pull out a calendar and tell me.

    @ Alok, I am not against Hindi or called it an alien language per se. It was called so by the leaders in the South. They use English because English is one of the co-official languages of their state. So, technically, Hindi is more alien.

    [God knows what do W.Bengal & South Indian States want to prove by having this attitude towards Hindi..Its sick mann!!!!]

    Have you been to W.Bengal? I am from Calcutta and can assure you that Hindi might not be an official language there but most of the people speak in Hindi. It is not what it used to be 15 years back when the Bengalis wouldn’t talk in Hindi. Now, most of them make a conscious effort to learn and talk in the language. I am saying this because I was born and brought up there and have literally seen the changes in front of my own eyes.

  3. //Why? I have no idea. //
    thats my point… the official status means nothing… nething that is popular and helps u to communicate is the national language.

  4. Hahaha..yes, that is of course there. But acc. to the Indian Constitution, Hindi is just an official language. I don’t have a problem calling it a national language. In fact, that is what I used to refer to it as before reading the Constitution. Probably we don’t have a problem saying that it helps us in communicating and can thus be called the national language. But someone else who doesn’t speak in Hindi would throw stones at you for saying this and funnily, I have had people doing that to me 😛

    Would you call Bengali/Tamil/Telugu as our National Language then? They help us in communicating too.

  5. [but don’t punish me by taking away my freedom of speech.]

    😛 Wow! Didn’t know that you had invested such powers in me. Jokes apart, what are you doing now? 😛

    Okay, seriously, what does “national language” have to fo with freedom of speech? In fact, there isn’t any national language.

  6. [i guess it should be English…. and slowly and steadily english is becoming the global language.]

    In terms of the number of countries that have English listed as their official language, yes. Population wise – no. Mandarin’s no. 1 population wise by a ratio of 2:1. English comes in at the second place.

    When we talk about India, I do agree with you. Even though people in the South don’t speak in Hindi, they do speak in English. In fact, English is used in all the High Courts and Supreme Court.

    It does make me wonder that why do people in the South not have a problem with English? Why only Hindi??

    [u keep on putting my posts for moderation…. ]

    Something really weird happening with the moderation, believe me. I have removed the moderation feature itself because previously approved comments (like yours) keep getting held for moderation too.

  7. //It does make me wonder that why do people in the South not have a problem with English? Why only Hindi??//
    tell me one thing.. i think u have traveled far and wide..

    how likely u r to find a SI taking the pains to understand hindi or a language of another state… than a hindi speaking NI learning a SI language?
    maybe its the ego.

    • S.Ravikumar says:


      Everything should be on the individuals own interest to learn and not to force any one learn. This country has it own strength of various types of languages and cultures. It was ruled by so many invaders and forigners those who do not know any of our languages and they managed to rule us without forcing any one to learn their languages.

      Since many of the states mother language is hindi, should not force to learn hindi. Even if any hindi speking person also, may not like to learn any other language.
      If hindi become official language and slowly other languages disappear.
      Now the major issue here is to eliminate illiteracy. Still there are many people do not know how to write thier own mother language. First we will educate them through mother languages.

  8. @ankur, yeah, that makes sense. English is kind of neutral. It’s not a “regional” language, whereas people in the south have a common notion that hindi is a regional language. probably yes…because it is used widely by the people only in north, central and western india. but it’s that about 40% of the country’s population? then why is it construed as regional?

    well right from the ’30s and ’40s, hindi was made a compulsory language in the south. then I think it was removed for sometime and then it came back again. SI language was never made compulsory in NI. Which one would you make compulsory -tamil/telugu/malayalam??! Then they have so many other versions of the same language. so, when a NI tries to follow a SI language, which one language should be try to understand?

    I haven’t yet gotten anything about anti hindi agitation in other states, notably, kerala.

  9. thanuj says:

    are you trying to gather attention with the north-south movie rift thing that is going on these days ?

    xD … better luck next time

  10. thanuj says:

    oh 🙂 if you really dont about know it .. m sorry

    … IBN live started it by comparing amitabh and rajni

    next :
    it has 1140 comments!

    after reading this , your post *looked* something like that , trying to gain hits …

    my personal opinion is that indeah is too huge to have one language as the official language … but it’ll be nice if we had a commen language to unify us all 🙂

    imho we shud use a Agglutinative language ( Japanese , turkish .. etc ) .. trust me they are cool … [ dont ask me why .. the explanation is a bit hifi 😦 ]… one good agglutinative lang. we have is punjabi

    ( .. tamiz tried to qualify their lang as one but their proposal was rejected by the majority of scholars )

    hmm im speaking totally from a linguistic point of view … i dont care abt politics …

  11. Wow..pretty interesting. Thank you for providing me with the link of that post. But frankly speaking, I don’t see any connection between my post and his. He talks about Rajni and I am talking about Anti Hindi Agitation. If you read at the bottom of my post, my main contention is that why can’t I find any material on Anti Hindi Agitation in Kerala.

    [my personal opinion is that indeah is too huge to have one language as the official language … but it’ll be nice if we had a commen language to unify us all ]

    We do have a common official language, which is English. Both of us are commenting in this language right now.

    [imho we shud use a Agglutinative language ( Japanese , turkish .. etc ) .. trust me they are cool … [ dont ask me why .. the explanation is a bit hifi ]… one good agglutinative lang. we have is punjabi ]

    Care to explain? how do we teach 1 bn. + people a new language when more than half of them don’t even know Hindi (which has been around since QUITE some time).

  12. Think far – 100 , 500 , 1000 and 5000 years from now , what will happen, can the far sighted person speculate. There is no such thing as anti-hindi ( its tamil nationalism ) – click here to read what Vajpayee says about this when he was around as it occurs ::

    Anti-Indian , Anti-Hindu , Anti-Islam and so and so – thats not the case , the tamils are fanatic Hindus , crazy about Indian culture legacy and tradition and esteemed very high in every values and qualities of and typical Indian far more then any northerns ever was. Tamil was classified as the first Indian Classical Language with this acknowledgement one must understand how ancient this language is and the community thats been using tamil been doing so for thousands of yers !!!! Its since the existence of dravidians

    No one is anti Hindi in TN, the seikos with narrow mind does this kinda interpretations – what TN community say is that they are not prepared to adopt Hindi as their national language in their daily life contrast to what they have been in linguistic legacy for thousands of years !!

  13. @Indian, I don’t like the way the politicians keep saying that all languages should be made “National Languages”. Why should the Constitution be amended to this effect when there is no Article for a National Language at all? Think about the problems it would create if every regional language were to be made a National Language.

    Yes, I understand that Tamil might have been made as the first Indian Classical Language and it is unjust to ask people in TN to adopt Hindi when they don’t even speak it. Very true.

    About the Anti Hindi Thing, that’s what I have seen most of these movements named as. Some call it Tamil Nationalism. Call it by whatever name, but the root cause for the movement will never change. The name of the movements will be twisted by the politicians to suit their political needs.

  14. sheeja says:

    A language is an emotional thing for a person.A language needn’t be thousand years old for somebody to love and respect it as his/her mothertongue. Anything that tries to takeover it’s position will be regarded as a threat. So it is natural for non-Hindi speakers to feel threatened by the raised status of Hindi. Just as I ndia doesnot have a national religion , so to speak, we don’t need a national language as well

  15. I agree with sheeja , while TN in south were against such implementation – in the north greater resistance were from the west Bengal and from Punjab. As in the early 80’s India tries to push harder on such social structure – thats when the Punjabi’s wanted their own nation Khalistan ( Pure land ) – it lead to bloodshed in the golden temple and the massacre of Indira Gandhi. India cant afford to go on a costly and damaging civil war – even if it tries it will not win but instead it will create suffering for all and sent India back to the stone age. I don’t think thats what the gov wants when its economic growth is at 8 % second only to china .

    Unlike socialist China , where one language , one culture and one tradition fits and works , the democratic India must embrace and proud of its extreme diversity in history civilization , language, legacy , religion and culture.

    India is like the European Union – each member nation is with its very own civilization , language , culture and tradition. eg: Italy with the great Roman civilization n Italian language , then Britain with its legacy of commonwealth imperialism and English, then you have France , Spain , Portugal , and so and so.

    Someone can wish for two sun to appear in the sky but one can never wish to synergies all member nation of EU in to one main stream of language culture and tradition. Thats the case with India too.

    There is no such thing as Indian language. There are more then a thousand living languages utilized in India by Indians and the Indian government has enacted the parliament ordinances to identify and acknowledge 22 languages as the official language of India. English is used as one of the major communicating language among Indians.

    kindly refer this resource link:

  16. @Khalistan, Thank you for your comment 🙂 I couldn’t agree more…you have explained all the issues so well by comparing India to the EU. I do think it’s a futile effort to get everyone to speak the same language. It will never happen.

    @Vijay, thank you for the links! 🙂 I will check them out.

  17. siv says:


    The central govt in Delhi has plans to wantonly ignore other languages and pave the way for their decline by sole use of Hindi and by the portrial of India to the outside world as Hindia.

    Except for some sentiments raised by Tamils, other language speakers are simply taking it for granted to accept Hindi as their officated mother tongue.

    Some examples of Hindian propoganda by both the Hindian central government and large MNCs:
    1>Gas books across India printed only in Hindi and English
    2>Air Hindia, Hindian Airlines, S(J)et(h) Airway etc having announcements only in English and Hindi.
    3>Hindi being compulsory in CBSE schools while Hindian can choose to skip the state language in favour of Sanskrit
    4>Lack of opportunity of native Tamils in the north leave alone North Indians to learn Tamil and other southern languages in their areas
    5>Tamil being portrayed with lude ‘comical’ roles in Hindian films
    6>Hindian railways train tickets skipping the state language
    7>Airports (like in Madras) hiring Hindians who cant speak Tamil/state language
    8>Hindian Railway and other Hindian institution websites restricted to only Hindi and English
    9>Hindian movies only being sent to the Oscars and other cultural events ignoring other languages
    10>Hindian bank passbooks skipping the state language
    11>ATMs of most banks (Citibank, Hindian Bank etc restricting to Hindi and English)
    12>Looking down on states of Tamil Nadu because of refusal to prescribe to “accept-Hindi-as-your-language” attitude
    13. The very use of the term “Regional language” to non-Hindi languages
    14. The use of Hindian stickers in trains and else portaying “speaking Hindi is nationalism” and other propoganda messages stating use of English or non-Hindi as not being nationalistic.
    15. The very absence of languages other than Hindi on the symbol of citizenship of the country– the passport

    The above is a part of a sinister policy create to transform India to simply Hindia or Hindistan.
    These remarks are taken as fascist…but you need to ask yourself whether the National Language policy of India itself isnt fascist.
    If you trace the history since independence regarding the use of language apart from Hindi, you can foretell the future plan for this fascist policy.

    This Hindian fascism should not make it a big mistake for India to be a lingual union. The last thing for the country is encouragement a colonial attitude by speakers of the “elevated” lingo.

    DMK, PMK and other Tamil traitors are happy with this scenario as they are in business with their Hindian masters who safeguarding the TN reservation policy, where several Hindi OBCs get reservation in TN while Tamil FCs are thrown out. Their vote bank has been assured by their Hindian masters.

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