A day after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in late May, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a curious memo to government officials making the use of Hindi compulsory on social media.
“It is ordered that government employees and officials of all ministries, departments, corporations or banks, who have made official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube or blogs, should use Hindi, or both Hindi and English, but give priority to Hindi,” the memo read.
A few days later, another circular announced that two civil servants who conduct most of their work in Hindi would receive awards of 2,000 rupees, or around $33, apiece.
The move has generated buzz in political circles here in India, where citizens speak more than 100 languages, and the government business is officially conducted in Hindi, English and 20 other tongues.
Hindi is spoken by about 40 percent of the population. It is preferred by members of the prime minister’s Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, which won a majority in India’s Parliament in May largely due to the support from the Hindi heartland. Many believe the party would not have won so much support if it wasn’t for the Hindi speaking belt. The BJP’s focus on Hindi also stems from its promotion of all things Bharatiya — or Indian — as opposed to things that are considered foreign, such as English.