Not long after the Modi-government's diktat to government officials and bureaucrats to strictly use the Hindi language while communicating through official accounts or even on social media, it has now been said it was applicable only for Hindi-speaking states. The comment comes following a strong backlash from all quarters.
A circular issued by the Home Ministry on 27 May had asked all ministries, public sector undertakings and banks to give preference to Hindi over English on their social media accounts.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday defended the move by the Centre to promote Hindi, the government also made it clear that it did not have the intention of imposing Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states. It said that the entire controversy over the promotion of the Hindi language on social media was "wrong and unwarranted", reported PTI.
"Hindi is the national language and is the heart of the country. Priority to Hindi cannot be (construed as) an insult to English. The government's initiative for according priority to Hindi and regional languages is a welcome step," PTI quoted BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
On Thursday, the Home Ministry had tweeted – "The Home Ministry is of the view that all Indian languages are important. The Ministry is committed to promote all languages of the country."
The Centre's order erupted into a controversy in the last few days as it was criticized by leaders such as DMK head Karunanidhi as well as by Congress leader P Chidambaram.
"There will be a backlash in non-Hindi states. I think the government would be well advised to proceed with caution," Chidambaram was quoted telling the media.
Karunanidhi had reportedly said that the move would mean that non-Hindi speakers would be treated as "second-class citizens" in the country, while AIADMK Jayalalitha had said that the diktat went against the Official Languages Act.
However, while the central government faced opposition from many parties, which even termed the move an "Hindi imposition", it found some support in the Samajwadi Party, with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav saying that his party had always favoured speaking in Hindi and in Urdu.
BJP's ally Shiv Sena also backed the government's move. "PM Narendra Modi has given Hindi a place of pride. He also addressed Bhutan Parliament in Hindi," Shiv Sena said in its editorial mouthpiece Saamna.
However, apart from political parties, the decision on promoting Hindi language was widely criticized on social media, with the hashtag #HindiImposition trending on Twitter for a while.
Some of the tweets against Modi's decision read:
"Kind of ironic how a man who proclaims himself a nationalist now threatens #India 's unity. #HindiImposition"
"Dispel perception only English speakers are intelligent:BJP By creating perception that only Hindi speakers are acceptable? #HindiImposition"
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) also tweeted - "Modi govt's order is against the principle of linguistic equality & injustice to other national languages."