The unnecessary controversy over the use of Hindi by the government in official communications and social media revealed two essential truths about our country. The first is that, whatever the Hindi chauvinists might say, we don’t have one “national language” in India, but several. The second is that zealots have an unfortunate tendency to provoke a battle they will lose – at a time when they were quietly winning the war.
Hindi is the mother tongue of some 50% of our population; the percentage has been growing thanks to the spectacular failure of population control in much of North India. It is not, however, the mother tongue of the rest of us.
When Hindi speakers emotionally decry the use of an alien language imposed on the country by British colonialists and demand that Hindi be used because it speaks for “the soul of India”, or when they declare that “Hindi is our mother, English is a stranger”, they are missing the point twice over.