Saturday, Jul 02, 2022
Hindi Promotion

Efforts At Proselytising Hindi Abroad Have Fallen Flat Down The Ages

Efforts to promote Hindi overseas have been ongoing for decades. And both the UPA and NDA governments have strived to have the language adopted officially by the United Nations.

Coexistence, Light installation by Shilpa Gupta titled I Live Under Your Sky Too (2004-ongoing). Photo Credit: Shrutti Garg

Hindi may not be accepted as India’s official language by many non-Hindi-speaking states of the country, but successive Indian governments have spent time, money and energy to promote Hindi both at the United Nations in New York and across the world through its missions abroad.

When India won independence from the British, English was seen as the language of the colonisers and rejected by nationalists for its association with the former rulers. In 1950, when the Indian Constitution came into force, the idea was to replace English with Hindi over a period of 15 years. But it was much easier said than done, with the southern states putting up stiff resistance at the imposition of a north Indian language. However, both the NDA and the UPA had, over the years, pushed for the spread of Hindi abroad. The thrust on taking Hindi overseas was mainly to keep Indian culture alive in countries that have a sizeable proportion of Indians. These were the children of former indentured labourers in Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, as well as Trinidad and Tobago. Many of their forefathers were Hindi speakers, so New Delhi hoped to establish linkages with these communities through Hindi. Now with the Indian diaspora spread across the world, and speaking a variety of languages, it makes little sense to promote just one Indian language. However, what began in the early years continues despite the changing profile of Indians settled abroad.