At the beginning of the day, students at Arunodaya, a government senior secondary school in Itanagar, get busy learning Hindi after singing the national anthem. For most students here, Hindi is a favourite subject. Bordering China, Arunachal Pradesh has more than 26 major tribes and over 100 sub-tribes, many among whom love to learn and communicate in the national language.
The popularity of Hindi runs high among the young generation. A student of Hindi said, "We speak in Hindi a lot. Hindi is our national language. Since our childhood we have been speaking in Hindi. In fact, more than our local language, we converse in Hindi with our friends at school, and with our teachers. We use it a lot and we like it Sangio Yalik, a Hindi teacher, added, "In India, if Hindi language education is provided in all states and everyone learns the language, then there won't be any problems. It will be very good for us if we learn Hindi, as we can go to any part of the country and interact with people easily."
Hindi gained popularity in the region during the deployment of the army in the early 1960s. As the soldiers did not have porters during the war, they took the help of tribal villagers to carry both food and ammunition. Soon, the tribals started picking up Hindi from them. At present, Hindi has become the lingua-franca of several Arunachal tribes.
Manjeet Baruah, an expert, said, "From 1970s onwards, we see actual conscious policies, for example in terms of scholarships, in terms of awards, in terms of introducing the subject at the level of schools and colleges. So from 1970s, we can actually trace this conscious policy of promoting the language as part of a larger language integration programme. It needs certain time for a language programme to take effect. It needs a certain generation actually."
"We see the result by late 80s and 90s, where we see what happens when a whole generation grows up with a language. So, we can see that today among the northeastern states, the people in Arunachal are rather fluent in Hindi," he added. Arunachal is the only state outside the country's Hindi heartland to use the language in the assembly. The debates in the state assembly also take place in Hindi. The language has indeed become a binding force for the different tribes.