Indian government’s bid to make Hindi official UN language lacks local support

Television journalists report from the premises of India's Parliament in New Delhi, India, in this Feb. 13, 2014 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 January 2018

Indian government’s bid to make Hindi official UN language lacks local support

NEW DELHI: Opinions in India are divided over the government’s attempt to make Hindi an official language of the United Nations.
“The irony is that Hindi in India does not enjoy the status of a national language. It is not the language aspiring India wants to learn, yet the government wants to spend millions of dollars promoting it as the official language of the UN,” said Priyadarshan, a New Delhi-based Hindi novelist, critic and journalist.
Talking to Arab News, he said: “This is the by-product of the hyper-nationalism that has gripped the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ever since it has come to power.”
Last week Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told the lower house of Parliament that New Delhi is willing to spend $63 billion to make Hindi the official language of the UN.
“The government continues in its efforts in popularizing Hindi worldwide and for the acceptance of Hindi as one of the UN official languages,” Swaraj told the Parliament on Thursday.
She added: “It is not difficult to get the support of two-thirds of member nations. But when the issue of bearing the expenses comes, many small nations become hesitant, which has led to a big hurdle in making Hindi an official language of the UN.”
Opposition Congress Party leader and former junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor, however, questioned the rationale and the wisdom of such a move when Hindi in its home country “doesn’t enjoy the status of the national language.”
He also said that when a person from a non-Hindi-speaking region of India becomes prime minister of the country, “why should we force him to speak in Hindi at the UN?”
Priyadarshan calls it “an attempt to polarize the country in the name of language. You have 22 officially recognized languages in India and an attempt should be made to develop all rather than promote one at the cost of the other. That’s why I call it a futile and divisive exercise.”
Bangalore-based activist Srujana Deva said: “India is not Hindi, and Hindi is not India.”
A very strong opponent of the imposition of Hindi in South India, Deva told Arab News that “the move is at par with the BJP government’s attempt to portray the country as a Hindu nation, which is not true. New Delhi wants to propagate a false narrative that everybody in India speaks Hindi, which is false.”
He added: “Homogeneity is not our identity. We thrive in diversity and I feel that the government is trying to weaken us by tampering with our diverse linguistic and cultural heritage.”
Anand Raj, an academic based in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, said: “Hindi is the language which most of the people in the country know and understand, and what’s the harm if a language spoken by so many people is promoted as the official language of the UN?”
Priyadarshan said: “The larger agenda is that the Hindu right-wing party BJP wants to further entrench itself in the crucial Hindi-speaking states in northern and central India, which are electorally very crucial, and impose Hindi on the Southern and eastern India which are non-Hindi speaking regions.”
In 19 of the 29 states in India, Hindi does not enjoy the status of first language.
South India witnessed violent protests recently in reaction to the Hindi inscription and signage at national highways and public places.


NASA investigating first crime committed in space: report

Updated 7 min 41 sec ago

NASA investigating first crime committed in space: report

  • Astronaut Anne McClain is accused of improperly accessing her partner’s private financial records while aboard the International Space Station
  • McClain’s lawyer said the astronaut accessed the account only to monitor the couple’s combined finances

WASHINGTON: US space agency NASA is investigating what may be the first crime committed in outer space, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Astronaut Anne McClain is accused of identity theft and improperly accessing her estranged wife’s private financial records while on a sixth-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the Times said.
The astronaut’s spouse Summer Worden filed a complaint earlier this year with the Federal Trade Commission after learning McClain had accessed her bank account without permission, while Worden’s family filed another with NASA’s Office of Inspector General, according to the newspaper.
McClain’s lawyer said the astronaut had done nothing wrong and accessed the bank records while aboard the ISS in order to monitor the couple’s combined finances — something she had done over the course of their relationship, the Times reported.
NASA investigators have contacted both women, according to the newspaper.
McClain, who returned to Earth in June, gained fame for being one of two women picked for a historic all-female spacewalk, but NASA scrapped the planned walk in March due to a lack of well-fitting spacesuits, sparking accusations of sexism.
Worden said the FTC has not responded to the identity theft report, but that an investigator specializing in criminal cases with NASA’s Office of Inspector General has been looking into the accusation, according to the Times.