Hindi’s migrating footprint in India
NEW DELHI: Tamil Nadu is known for anti-Hindi agitations both before and after India’s independence. Yet, according to census data, Tamil Nadu recorded the highest increase in the number of people reporting Hindi as their mother tongue between 2001 and 2011, among all southern states, Gujarat and Maharashtra. This one statistic captures the phenomenon of India’s changing linguistic landscape, the result of migration for economic reasons.
Cultural barriers do not seemingly inhibit economic integration in India. The 2016-17 Economic Survey published by the ministry of finance contained estimates of migration in the 20-29 year age group between 2001 and 2011.
While states in the Hindispeaking belt, such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, had the highest net outflow of migrants, Tamil Nadu and Kerala recorded the highest migrant inflow during the period. The survey says that in absolute terms, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had a net migrant outflow of 5.83 million and 2.63 million people (in the 20-29 age-group) respectively, while Tamil Nadu saw the largest net inflow at 1 million.
Reading these numbers with per capita income level of states shows that inter-state migration in India primarily takes place from poor to rich states. These migration trends find a striking parallel in the changing composition of the languages spoken across states, according to the recently released language data from Census 2011. The percentage of people reporting Hindi as their mother tongue increased across 30 of 36 states and Union Territories in the period 20012011. The total population in the Hindi-speaking states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkand, Chattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi increased by a measure of 21% between 2001 and 2011. In the same period, the population reporting its mother tongue as Hindi in the major migrant destination states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat, increased by 45%. To be sure, the absolute share of Hindi speakers in these states is still very low compared to that of native language speakers. It needs to be underlined that a Tamil or a Gujarati person, who has picked up Hindi as a second or third language, will not show up in the data on persons with Hindi as their mother tongue.
Therefore, this statistic is a good indicator of persons from Hindi-speaking states moving to non-Hindi states.
In addition to the larger nationwide narrative, there are changes in linguistic composition observed within states that help understand flashpoints around identities regionally.
If we consider the case of Gujarat, in 21 of 26 districts (count in 2001), the percentage of people reporting Hindi as their mother tongue increased between 2001 and 2011; 23% of Surat’s population reported Hindi as their mother tongue in 2011, a nearly 10 percentage point increase from 2001.