“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx


Of Hindi and Hierarchy

On Hindi Divas ('Hindi Day'), home minister Amit Shah took to Twitter to repeat what the Sangh Parivar has been covertly or overtly peddling for many years: that Hindi language should be adopted by all Indians, it is the source of unity and identity of India. He further added that in any case it is the most spoken language in India, with 44% people already speaking it.

Typically, Shah failed to see the pitfall of the numbers he was quoting. If 44% speak Hindi then obviously the remaining 56% do not speak Hindi. Or, to be more precise, their mother tongue and their most used (primary) language is not Hindi. That being the case, how can Hindi become the thread of unity or the identity of India?

It does not matter to Shah that a staggering number of people - about 68 crore - do not speak Hindi in India. This includes 64.28 crore people who speak one of the 21 other Scheduled languages (i.e. those included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, along with Hindi) and another 3.98 crore people who speak 99 other non-Scheduled languages, as per Census 2011.   

There is already a storm of protest from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Telangana and other states on Shah's statement.   

As the table below shows, the 21 non-Hindi languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution are spoken by over 64 crore people, with many language speakers running into several crores each. Are they expected to adopt Hindi as their spoken language, and learn Hindi compulsorily - or even Sanskrit?  

Some may wonder if this is a storm in a tea-cup? Perhaps Shah is just saying that Hindi should be developed as a language that connects everybody?  

But Shah's antecedents do not allow such a charitable conclusion. Only a few months earlier, the draft New Education Policy had recommended that Hindi should be learnt by all students, causing another round of protests from various non-Hindi speaking peoples.   

But the history of seeing and believing that Hindi could be the language of unity goes much further back. In fact, it is embedded in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS) vision of a united Hindu Nation with one religion, one culture, and one language. In this conception, Sanskrit is seen as the mother of all languages. See, for example, what the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS had to say back in 1958:

The R.S.S. has looked upon all languages of Bharat as National. ……They have been equally sustained by Sanskrit- the Rashtra Bhasha par excellence. If now some difference has come to forefront it is due to a policy of deliberate neglect of Sanskrit that has been consistently followed. The Sabha considers the present situation detrimental to national unity and feels that the language policy be unequivocally restated and firmly implemented, thus dispelling all apprehensions of the people. Hindi, for some time past, has evolved as the common language of inter-provincial communication. It should be used as such for all official purposes. The regional languages should be used in their respective areas. As development of all languages is possible only on the basis of Sanskrit, instruction in it should be compulsorily imparted.   

[p.11-12 RSS Resolves 1950-2007; Suruchi Prakashan, New Delhi; 2007] (emphasis added)  

So, there you have it. They believe that Sanskrit is the origin of all Indian languages and that development of all languages is possible only by compulsorily teaching Sanskrit to everybody. It is not possible here to go into the reasons why and how Sanskrit became the language of ruling elite over history and hundreds of languages and dialects arose, adopted and spoken by millions over the course of centuries. But even linguistically, the conception is false: Indian languages today belong to various diverse linguistic groups, including 17 Dravidian languages, 14 Austro-Asiatic languages, 66 Tibeto-Burmese languages and one Semito-Hamitic language, besides those of the Indo-Aryan group linked to Sanskrit.  

Behind Shah's statement, and behind the Sangh Parivar's vision lies a belief that uniting the Hindu Nation is a difficult task given the plurality of languages, cultures, religions, customs and beliefs and, of course, castes, of the people of India. It can only be done by some kind of unifying force, which the RSS has been searching for ever since it was founded.   

That is why it keeps coming back to one language (Hindi/Sanskrit), one religion (Hindutva), and currently similar other products of this hegemonic vision like one flag, one law, etc. That's why Article 370 and 35A had to go. That's why Uniform Civil Code needs to be forced upon everybody. In fact, just after Independence, the RSS weekly, Organiser, had even rejected the Constitution and called for Manu Smriti to be adopted as India's Constitution!  

So, what Amit Shah is recommending is just the thin end of the wedge. It is part of a larger dream of regimentalising Indian society and destroying its cherished diversity. He may only suggest or recommend Hindi as a 'unifying' language, or the signifier of Indian identity today. What he really wants is a Hindu Nation defined by brahminical rules based on Manu Smriti, where religious minorities and other language speakers have no place    


  • River in a 'Court of Law' - Legal issues pertaining to its personality
  • Syria: A Testament To International Moral Bankruptcy
  • When the State Sought to Muzzle Privacy, U-Turn Now Only to Accommodate SC Verdict
  • The Bull in A China Shop Wrecks Indian Economy
  • When Buddha Looks The Other Way: The Plight Of The Rohingya
  • A Fatal Blow to The Judiciary
  • The Dramatic Rise in Wealth Inequality
  • Wild And Baseless Speculations of Crisis in the CPI(M)
  • Budget 2018: Fantabulous Schemes With Not A Paisa Earmarked
  • Kasganj: Sankalp Foundation and the Politics of Hate
  • PM Modi Sounds the Election Bugle: Congress and Hindutva the Agenda for 2019 Polls
  • The US Game Plan in Syria
  • Both Nehru and Patel Were the Need of the Hour in 1947-48
  • The Battle of the Two Begums of Bangladesh
  • Why Bangladesh Matters
  • Kejriwal's Apology is Not What the Media Claims
  • Arrest of a '5-minute Dalits' Proves Why SC/ST Act Dilution Will Grossly Impact Real Dalits
  • The Dalits and the Law
  • Winners May Be Losers In Karnataka's Catch 22 Endgame
  • Jinnah and the BJP
  • Jawaharlal Nehru (Nov 14 1889- May 27, 1964): We Still Live In A House That Nehru Built
  • Implications of Trump-Kim Summit: Nuclear Pays!
  • Thomas Reuters Foundation Survey: Measuring Safety, Generating Outrage
  • What Are People Voting for?
  • Foreign Policy: A Double Whammy Awaits India
  • Changing Discourse
  • Assam: The Mythology of "Immigrants"
  • Imran Time is Here
  • 71 Years on, Forsty Relations Countinue
  • To Stop Climate Change, We Need to Open Bordera
  • Make Use of Bid to Postpone Provincial Elections
  • Cringing and Fuddled at 71
  • Ensuring Strident Voice Will Not Become Majority Voice
  • Nehru, Vajpayee and Modi
  • Religious Bias Okayed
  • The Oslo Accords: A Bloody Legacy of Betrayal
  • Crushing the Campus
  • Three Stories And Task of The Office Of Missing Person
  • Drama Over Indo-Pak Meeting
  • An ill Wind
  • Symbolic Actions Alone Are Insufficient For Long Term Change To Occur
  • If Democracy Subverts Itself
  • Returning Land to Civilians is a Promise That Needs Follow Up
  • Democracy In Crisis: What we Know and What we Don't
  • Reparations Office Can Bind The Nations Together
  • Implementation Challenges Facing The Ayushman Bharat Program
  • Subverting the Central Bank
  • Under the Yoke of New-Imperialism: A Fake War of Patriotism and Treason
  • India Joins the Club
  • The Third Phase
  • President is Best Situated to Resolve Political Crisis
  • No Country for Adventure: Challenges Extreme Sports Athletes Face in India
  • Setting A Perilous Political Precedent
  • What Rahul and Modi can do in the Next Four Months
  • Finding a Win-Win Solution to Break the Deadlock
  • Temple in the Age of Colliders
  • Four Parameters of a Political Solution at This Time
  • Resolve National Question With President's Support
  • Decapitating the Leadership
  • Four Takeaways From the 2018 Election
  • Science of Words
  • The Ace up Modi's Sleeve
  • The Government Must Not Deny The TNA
  • The Prolonged Wait For Justice And For Political Leadership
  • Endgame in Afghanistan
  • Pluralist Ethos is More Relevant to National Identity
  • A Concerned Citizen's Points For Inclusion in The Manifesto of Political Parties
  • In My Own Voice: Circle of Unreason
  • RBI To The Rescue of Modi Government - It's Election Time!
  • Say No to War
  • A terrifying Fallout
  • The Type of Leadership The Country Needs
  • Death Wish as Nationalism
  • Politics on Kashmir Need Not be About Optics Alone
  • Why an Urban Job Guarantee Scheme is Not a Bad Idea
  • National Security: The New in 'New Normal'
  • Re-Promulgating an Ordinance is a Fraud on the Constitution
  • Elections 2019: India at a Crossroads
  • Peace and Inclusive Development
  • NYAY Providing Basic Income Fulfills the Vision of Mahatma Gandhi and Changed Election Narrative Based on Basic Issues
  • Advani Should Blame Himself For Promoting Modi
  • Kashmir: Tracing the Degeneration of Mainstream Politics
  • Elections and the Issue of Civil Liberties
  • Jumlanomics:Chronicles of a Post-Truth Bharat
  • BJP: Hiding Failures, Targeting Nehru
  • A Mayawati Moment
  • Godse is a Synonym of Hindu Nationalism, Agenda of the RSS Combine!
  • Development Beyond Numbers
  • A Rational Approach to Countering Extremist Violence is Needed
  • In My Own Voice: Is This the Sprit of Democracy?
  • Prevention is The Best Migration Cure
  • The Rise of Hate
  • The Right Mantras for India's Change
  • Coming Home - Where Family Overpowers All
  • Easter Sunday Bombing Used to Create a Major Rift in Sri Lankan Society
  • Hacking Humanity
  • Environmental Rule of Law in India
  • Peace is a Word That West Has Taken From Afghans
  • Trump's War Games
  • Modi & States
  • Who is an 'Outsider' in West Bengal?
  • China on Maps
  • 19th Amendment Will Correct Itself at End of President's Current Term
  • Authoritarianism and the Crisis of Public Ethics in India
  • Presidential Candidate The People Want
  • Has India's Kashmir Cape Given Pakistan Reason for War?
  • Icons and Ideology of Religious Nationalism
  • Why NRC in Assam May Create Another Kashmir
  • Campaign to Abolish the Executive Presidency in Sri Lanka is a Red Herring
  • As US Tries to Isolate Iran, China Steps In
  • Of Hindi and Hierarchy
  • Why Sri Lankan Elections May Bring Far Reaching Change
  • What US Policy Tells Us About India's Growing 'Friendship' With It
  • Gandhian Philosophy is a Critique of Modernity and Power
  • Inner Party Democracy is Just as Important as Funding
  • India's Foreign Policy Has Dug Itself a Deep Hole
  • 'Broken Promises' and Politics of Hate': Is Political Autonomy The Way Forward For J&K?
  • The Ninth Betrayal: America Has Let Down Khurd, Yet Again
  • Who Benefits From The WhatsApp Hacking Case?: Pertinent Question Left Unanswered
  • State Elections Results Expose "Limits" of BJP's Nationalist Agenda
  • "Religious Belief" vs. "Rule of Law": Did SC's Ayodhya Verdict Legalise Building of a Theocratic State?
  • What Does Trump's "New Refugee Ban" Mean for America's Immigrants?
  • India Must Change Course as Rajapaksas Return on Sinhala Buddhist Wave
  • The Supreme Court's First Judgment Without an Author
  • Geopolitics in South Asia Renders Millions Stateless
  • "Shakespeare's Vision of the Improbale" Unfolds: Is Modi Today's Macbeth?
  • Sri Lanka Under Rajapaksa: Finding Areas of Mutual Agreement
  • "The Game of Religion is Played by Men": Women Speak From the Margins of Ayodhya Dispute
  • Telangana Ecounter- Failure of Local Police Poses Grave Danger to Democracy
  • The Changing Nature of War and Diplomacy
  • Sri Lanka: Government's Cooperation A "Temporary Phenomenon"?
  • The Role of Corruption in This Season of Revolts
  • New Citizenship Law to a "Brazenly Divisive Agenda"
  • Youth Agitation Against CAA Brings a Historic Generational Shift
  • "Digital Authoritarianism": With Internet Shutdowns Normalised, the Digital Space is Democracy's New Battleground
  • Sri Lanka: The Challenge of Development Amidst Devolution of Power
  • The Political Divides that Split India
  • 'Never Again': Echoes of Nazi Crimes Remain Alive 75 Years After Auschwitz
  • "Legacy of Mutual Suspicion" Plagues Opponents of the Modi Regime
  • "Toxic" India Sliding into an Environmental Abyss
  • Manufacturing Hate: From Anurag Thakur's 'Shoot the Traitors' to Pistol-Bearing Youth's 'Yeh lo Azaadi!'
  • Kejriwal Isn't Communal, But His Desire Not to be Seen Anti-Hindu May Prove Self-Defeating
  • Religion States Won't Oppose US-Taliban Deal
  • Lessons From Pathogens: Coronavirus, A wake Up Call?
  • The Geopolitics of the Covid 19 Pandemic
  • Cold War Begins As Nations Fued Over Coronavirus
  • India Fights Coronavirus...With Scriptures, Morals and Police
  • The Burden of COVID 19
  • Do Israeli Settelemnts in Occupies West Bank Constitute a War Crime ?
  • The Global Debate on COVID-19 Lockdown: Listen to Divergent Scientific Voices or Risk Manipulation by Big Businesses?
  • Sri Lanka's Easter Bombings And The Demand For Justice
  • How India Can Solve the "Catch-22 Situation" of Allowing Migrant Workers to Return Home
  • The Time for Universal Basic Income Has Arrived
  • COVID-19 Crisis Exposes Fatal Weaknesses of 'Strong' Leaders
  • The Pandemic Has Taught Us the Importance of Maintaining an Ecological Balance, Will we Remember IT?
  • The Muslim Elite Has Let Down the Muslim Poor
  • "There is Nothing Nationalist or Non-Nationalist in Reporting"
  • Why WHO Took 3 Months to Declare a Global Pandemic
  • A Political Lockdown That Silences Voices
  • The 'Relief Package' of Online Education May End up "Institutionalising Drop Outs"
  • Can Democracy Survive the Coronavirus?
  • As China Ups the Ante, This is What India Must do...