language politics

‘When did we get a national language?’: Venkaiah Naidu criticised for calling Hindi ‘rashtra bhasha’

At an event, the Union minister had said it was ‘very unfortunate that we are obsessed with English’.

Union minister Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday came under fire from Opposition leaders after he said Hindi was India’s national language. “Hindi is our rashtra bhasha [national language], our identity. We should be proud of it,” Naidu said said at an event in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. “It’s very unfortunate that we are obsessed with English,” NDTV reported.

The information and broadcasting minister further said that the English language hindered the country’s progress, according to The Indian Express. “It is our misfortune that we give too much importance to English medium,” he said. “By learning English, we have developed an English mindset.”

Opposition leaders criticised his remarks and pointed out that there was no national language laid down in the Indian Constitution. Article 343 assigns both Hindi and English the status of official languages.

“Hindi is NOT our national language,” Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said on Twitter. “It is India’s most widely-spoken language and useful to know. But it cannot and should not be imposed on anyone...Please find a reference to rashtra bhasha in our Constitution? We have 23 recognised languages and twp official languages. No ‘national language!’”

Communist Party of India leader D Raja accused the Centre of trying to promote its “Hindutva agenda”. “I do not agree with Venkaiah Naidu and the government,” he told ANI on Sunday. “India is a diverse country with many languages. They are trying to impose Hindi as the national language.”

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said, “When did we [India] get a national language?”

Besides Opposition leaders, Naidu’s comments were also criticised by users on social media.

The Bharatiya Janata Party government has been accused of imposing Hindi on a number of occasions. Naidu had defended the Centre’s proposal to make it mandatory for lawmakers and Union ministers to deliver speeches in Hindi if they are familiar with the language. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s Friday announcement that passports will now be available in both Hindi and English has raised questions over the need for it.

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