Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday – on the occasion of Hindi Diwas – pitched for the wider use of the language in the country and declared it to be “the basic basis of our cultural consciousness and national unity”.
Mr Shah also linked Hindi – the use of which is a delicate subject given India is home to a myriad languages and dialects, each with rich spoken and literary traditions – to the Modi government’s grand plans for an ‘atmanirbhar Bharat’, or ‘self-sufficient India’.
He said an ‘atmanirbhar Bharat’ meant being ‘atmanirbhar‘ with language, and that “progress of India is contained in co-ordination of mother tongue and official language”.
“On the occasion of Hindi Diwas, I urge all countrymen to take a pledge to progressively use Hindi, which is one of the official languages, with their mother tongue in basic works. The progress of India is contained in the co-ordination of mother tongue and official language,” a rough translation of Mr Shah’s Hindi tweet read.
“Being ‘atmanirbhar‘ is not just about producing within… we have to be ‘atmanirbhar‘ even with language,” he wrote, “… the basis of our cultural consciousness and national unity, Hindi is also a bridge between ancient civilisation and modern progress.”
Being ‘Atmanirbhar’ is not just about producing within the country, we’ve to be ‘Atmanirbhar’ even with languages. If PM can speak Hindi internationally, what are we embarrassed about? Gone are the days when speaking in Hindi was a matter of concern: Union Home Minister Amit Shah pic.twitter.com/pcyBigtiKA
— ANI (@ANI) September 14, 2021
Mr Shah also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for speaking in Hindi at global events and tweeted, “If PM can speak Hindi internationally, what are we embarrassed about? Gone are the days when speaking in Hindi was a matter of concern.”
“Under the leadership of Modiji we are continuously committed for the parallel development of Hindi and all Indian languages,” he added.
Mr Shah wasn’t the only high-profile government figure to bat for Hindi today; the Prime Minister and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh were among those to issue tweets.
आप सभी को हिन्दी दिवस की ढेरों बधाई। हिन्दी को एक सक्षम और समर्थ भाषा बनाने में अलग-अलग क्षेत्रों के लोगों ने उल्लेखनीय भूमिका निभाई है। यह आप सबके प्रयासों का ही परिणाम है कि वैश्विक मंच पर हिन्दी लगातार अपनी मजबूत पहचान बना रही है।
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 14, 2021
Over the years Hindi Diwas – celebrated September 14 – has become a thorny issue, with many states against what they see as the government’s imposition of the language. The government’s new education policy, which is being implemented from this year, was criticised for that reason.
In 2019 protests, particularly those from southern states, made headlines after the government’s education policy was criticised as forcing school children to learn Hindi. That was after Mr Shah tweeted Hindi was “a necessary common language… to become the mark of India’s identity globally”.
Last year Congress MP P Chidambaram tweeted wishes on Hindi Diwas, but also pointed out Tamil speakers (Mr Chidambaram is a native of Tamil Nadu) were also “legitimately proud” of their language.