There are issues which we tend to ignore until we face them personally. One such issue that I encountered after I moved to south India is the language issue. Generally we tend to ignore such kinds of issues but only after facing such issues, we realize how much we, as a Nation are losing from these problems. Language which could symbolizes nations and could regarded as identity of a nations is totally absent in India. And the repercussions of this problem are many, the most serious being the threat to our national unity. Imagine how can a person who doesn’t understand any language other than his mother tongue can understand the leaders’ speech when the national leaders are addressing to nation in other language e.g. a person who only understands Tamil language can participate in national affairs when the national leaders like Mr. Modi, Mr. Rahul, Mrs. Sushma etc. are speaking in Hindi language. Or how could large number of people of India could understand what Nehru spoke in his first speech after Independence when majority of Indians didn’t know English language. And isn’t it the duty of people of all regions of India to participate in matters of national importance. We can’t possibly imagine that these leaders would first need to learn all the local languages of India and then repeat every line of their speech in all different language so that people all over India understands what they are saying. Or every citizen of India must learn 21 languages to be able to talk to people of his own country. And how could any intelligent and sensible person justify this.
History of National Language in pre-Independent India
Several experts on India’s Constitution believe the nation’s founding fathers did, in fact, intend that Hindi would become the lingua franca of the country—the ‘link’ speech—but that language-based regional identities didn’t allow this to happen.
History of National Language in post-Independent India
Having gained independence from the British in 1947, the leaders of the new Indian nation recognized the opportunity to unite the many regions of India with a common, universal language. Mahatma Gandhi felt that this was essential to the emergence of India as a bona fide nation.
After Independence, India became a nation state, and it was intended that English would gradually be phased out as the language of administration. At first Hindi, the most widely spoken language, seemed the obvious choice, but following violent protests in 1963 in the state of Tamil Nadu against the imposition of Hindi as a national language, opinion remained divided.
Hindi ass the main language of more than 40 percent of the population. No single language other than Hindi could claim speakers among even 10 percent of the total population. Hindi was therefore made India’s official language in 1965. English, which was associated with British rule, was retained as an option for official use because non-Hindi states, particularly in Tamil Nadu, opposed the official use of Hindi.
The Indian constitution, in 1950, under Article 343 of the Constitution and the Official Languages Act declared Hindi in Devanagari script to be the official language of the union. Unless Parliament decided otherwise, the use of English for official purposes was to cease 15 years after the constitution came into effect, i.e., on 26 January 1965. The prospect of the changeover, however, led to much alarm in the non Hindi-speaking areas of India, especially states in South India. As a result, Parliament enacted the Official Languages Act, 1963, which provided for the continued use of English for official purposes along with Hindi, even after 1965.
The first major linguistic conflict, known as the Anti-Hindi agitations of Tamil Nadu took place in Tamil Nadu against the implementation of Hindi as the sole official language of India. Political analysts consider this as a major factor in bringing DMK to power and leading to the ousting and nearly total elimination of the Congress party in Tamil Nadu. Similar language based politics was also found in other Indian states such as Bengal, Maharashtra and in Karnataka. To express disapproval of the imposition of Hindi on its people, Maharashtra and Karnataka Governments made the state languages compulsory in educational institutions, thus reaping political mileage out of this anti-national issue.
The situation is complicated further by the special provisions made for the development of Hindi under Article 351 of the Constitution, which states: ‘It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule.’
Cabinet Minister Morarji Desai. Speaking to the press in Tirupati, Desai claimed that by learning Hindi the Tamil people would only increase their influence within India as a whole.
Kapil Sibal, India’s Union Minister for Human Resource Development, has indicated he believes in such primacy for Hindi, arguing that fluency in the language will help students from across the country integrate. ‘Our education system should change from MOTS (More of the Same) to HOTS (High Order Thinking Skills),’ he said in August. ‘We should create knowledge which will be used by other people. Now we are a recipient of knowledge and in the future we should produce the knowledge.’‘Now the lingua franca is English for professionals. When we become producers of knowledge then we can set our language as the lingua franca,’ he said.
Culture versus Language
One of the often heard phrases when someone talk about adopting one language as a national language of India is that language represents culture and such step would destroy our culture! I believe that language and culture are two different things though often come together which makes it difficult to distinguish them. We can definitely preserve our culture in spite of adopting other language and also learning one more language beside our regional language would not ruin or destroy us or our culture. Culture defines our identity and language is used to express it. So changing the medium of expression would not change our identity which can be understood by even an ordinary person.
Disadvantages of not having one language
There are various areas where we are lagging only because of lack of national language like trade, education and research, areas of national security like military, jobs in multi domains, politics etc. The lack of national language acts as barrier for the progress of nation. Students avoid going to other places for education and research due to lack of understanding of local languages. People recruited to army have to first train in other language. Also there is difficulty to collaborate in various ideas in different spheres; non participation in national affairs and hesitancy to relocate in other parts of India. It is utter shameful for people of this nation as well as national leaders who instead of uniting the nation, are busy in dividing people by these degrading acts like making multiple languages as national languages of India besides other acts just as to rule over people by adopting the policy of divide and rule.
The various people who works for central government or Armies etc. always face the language problem when they move to other regions of India. They had to admit their children in local schools where they use their local languages, thus making it difficult for these new students to adjust in the changing environments. Also the families which are moved also faces these problems when they interact which local communities in their everyday life. All the people who are IAS, IPS etc. wouldn’t only face problems in living there but also when the people needs to bring their problem to these people as they wouldn’t be able to address problems of local people thus making the whole government machinery inefficient.
One other disadvantage is in the field of judiciary. In case some person has some problem in some part of country where he is not comfortable with the local language then how can he go to courts to seek justice where the people sitting in courts wouldn’t be knowing his language and he wouldn’t be knowing local language e.g. how can a person belonging to Gujarat whose regional language is Gujarati and who is somewhat comfortable with Hindi could go to courts in case of some happening when the system there neither understands Gujarati nor Hindi.
Either under pressure from many regional parties or with the intention to keep people divided in the name of language besides many other factors for vote-bank politics, the government has started a new “National Translation Mission” to make knowledge texts accessible, in all Indian languages listed in the VIII schedule of the Constitution, through translation, thus wasting taxpayer’s money in such stupid policies instead of utilizing the same money to spread one language in whole India thus ending the need of such policies at all.
In addition to above mentioned disadvantages there are numerous other disadvantages in technical field as well. If India adopts Hindi as national language then Hindi will become largest spoken language from its present fourth largest spoken language after Mandarin, English and Spanish thus giving numerous opportunities to software developers to make many applications which could address people of such large scale in addition of spreading technical knowledge and various other important information which is unreachable today mainly due to lack of understanding of English language. If you have so many users in one language then applications are bound to be build along with many other stuff like specialized keyboards in Hindi language besides many other technical instruments not available today. It would become immensely easier to teach people to use computers and the penetration of knowledge and various other services will undoubtedly increase manifold. The same technologies will give rise to many other R&D initiatives like NLP (natural language processing) giving ability to talk to computers in their known language besides other stuff. The opportunities are many but language is the barrier for them all as of now.
Who is benefited by multi language environment?
If we try to understand the intentions of leaders for multi-language policies then it will become apparent that these people definitely doesn’t want India to unite as this will challenge their supremacy. It has been seen several times after the independence of India that how some state leaders tried to make their state a separate state from India as that thing will give them unquestioned authority. Several different useless issues were given undue importance to advance their goals and one of such issue is definitely a separate language issue and showing to people that adopting other language is the threat to their identity. And unfortunately these kinds of efforts are often successful due to the nature of our system. The true leaders of our nation like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar patel etc. strongly advocated for a single national language for unification and it is the duty for the responsible citizens of this nation to remain united for the welfare of us all in order to keep avoiding what happened to us for the past 1000 years.
Advantages of one language
It doesn’t need much explanation that how our nation will be benefited from a single unified language in the domain of business, trade, research, job opportunities, tourism etc. Instead of losing our culture, we can spread our culture as people would be connected and would be able to express their cultural aspects to other which will definitely spread local culture from one place to another.
Glory in multi-language nation
We often sing our glory that our nation has more than 415 different dialects. But is it truly a matter of glory that the knowledge existing in one language can’t be understood by a person of other language? That the people of this nation of different states are not able to communicate to each other! We need to come out from this false sense of glory to the true sense of glory by adopting a single national language.
Role of English language in India
Data from the 2005 India Human Development Survey shows that only 5 percent men and 3 per cent women are fluent in English. It would be greatly stupid on government’s part to impose such little used language on people of whole India when teachers of English language are so scarce and specially when the language is not even phonetic language (speak as you write like Devanagari script) otherwise which could have been learned through reading alone. Hindi is already used in most states at-least as their second language and undoubtedly it is far more spoken language in India whose teachers are abundant and which is phonetic too.
But beside the little use of English, the fact that the English is today’s language of science and technology in the whole world. Even if we replace English from all technological usage in India with Hindi still it will remain the language of science as it would be immensely difficult to translate all the scientific knowledge-base in Hindi language.
Role of Hindi language in India
According to government’s 2001 census data, the number of native speakers of Hindi language was 41% in 2001 besides many others speakers whose native language is not Hindi but still use Hindi as their second language like in states of Punjab Gujarat, Bengal etc.
If we go by logic, Hindi, being the most commonly used language, should be accorded the status of National language. When Hindi has already been accepted as the Official language, there shouldn’t be much problem in declaring it a national language as well. But under no circumstances, a regional language can be made the National language of India.
We can’t declare a foreign language as national language should relate to our culture and people. Why should we even consider English, which is after all a foreign language and a sad reminder of colonization of India.
Hindi is already a fourth highest spoken language of whole world and if we make it National language then it will become highest spoken language of whole world thus giving us great advantage at global scale due to its large number of users thus forcing people of other nations to learn Hindi in order to engage with India in trade, business, education etc.
Except science and technology, all other fields like history, social science, music, arts, commerce etc. doesn’t require English language to be taught. It should be made mandatory that all subjects except science and technology to be taught in National Language as that will not only be easy to implement by avoiding acute shortage of English teachers but also make people of different regions to transfer their knowledge with people of other regions.
Role of local languages in India
The importance of local languages can’t be underemphasized. Every region of this nation of Great past holds the treasure of knowledge found only in that language. Like Tamil Nadu has Thirukural, Sangam literature, Punjab has Bani of Guru’s as well as other philosophical material in Punjabi, Bihar’s previous language has whole Buddhist literature in Pali language etc. Thus we must endeavor in preserving our languages as our past knowledge is also associated with these languages and once these languages are extinct then the associated knowledge will also extinct which of-course is not in welfare of our society.
Plus the national language (in case it is different from local language) only needs to be learned for communication alone as the knowledge acquired from different sources in different languages results in same knowledge base. Thus “it will be much easier to learn to read in a language we already understand”. And literacy need not be relearned as additional languages are acquired. “Once you can read, you can read.”
Ways to bring one language to all
While we have everything with national identity like national emblem, national flag, national bird, national animal, national tree, national song etc. Then why we have failed to make one single language as our national language.
If the government takes a decision to make Hindi just as a qualification language for getting government job and not considering it for merit then nobody will raise an objection as it is already known to majority of population. And then it wouldn’t be long for every Indian to be familiar with it.
Case study of Indonesia
As I give the case study of Indonesia (taken from the paper “One land, one nation, one language: An analysis of Indonesia’s national language policy” written by Scott Paauw (2009)), you will find it to be very similar to that of India’s situation as of today.
Indonesia’s national language policy has been called a “miraculous success” (Woolard 2000), “a great success” (Bukhari 1996:19) and “perhaps even the most spectacular linguistic phenomenon of our age” (Alisjahbana 1962:1). Like India there were significant number of distinct ethnic groups, speaking an estimated 600 languages. The size and diversity of Indonesia’s population presented challenges for uniting the nation and developing a national language.
The need for such a choice in Indonesia became apparent in the first decades of the twentieth century, as a sense of nationalism grew.
Languages which emerged as possible official languages for the new nation were the language of the largest ethnic group, Javanese; and the historic lingua franca of the archipelago, Malay. The Malay language was the native language of less than 5% of the population at the time of independence of Indonesia.
Then new name of the language, Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) was introduced, and the question of which language would be the national language was settled with no debate. The second congress was where the Youth Pledge (Sumpah Pemuda) was proclaimed, which formed the basis for Indonesian nationalism. The Youth Pledge gave a new prestige to the Malay language, now called Indonesian. The pledge was:
We, the sons and daughters of Indonesia, declare that we belong to one nation, Indonesia. We, the sons and daughters of Indonesia, declare that we belong to one people, the Indonesian people. We, the sons and daughters of Indonesia, vow to uphold the nation’s language of unity, Indonesian.
The Dutch colonial administration saw the growing nationalism as a threat, and reacted by removing Malay as a regular subject from schools in Java in 1930, and throughout Indonesia in 1932 (Moeliono 1993:130).
Indonesian constitution, which states that Indonesian is the national language and that the vernaculars are guaranteed their right to existence and development.Through this, spread of Indonesian has not been viewed as a threat to the maintenance of the vernaculars (Nababan 1985:17).
One of the most important factors in the acceptance of Indonesian as a national language was its function as a language of unity, giving Indonesians a sense of identity and enlisting them in the process of building a new nation. The role of the Indonesian language has been inextricably linked with national development. In former president Suharto’s independence day speech in 1972, he said
“To own a national language entails the love for the national language… Cultivation of our national language… is moreover a part of our national building.” (Kentjono 1986:294)
The potential danger of ethnic divisions and conflicts occurring in such a large and diverse nation made it essential to bring the nation together through a shared sense of nationhood, and the Indonesian language was both the symbol and the vehicle of that unity.
Alisjahbana put it this way: “the more [the Indonesian people] learned to express themselves in Indonesian, the more conscious they became of the ties which linked them.”.
Indonesian has had a dual function in Indonesian society, as it is the language of national identity, and also the language of education, literacy, modernization and social mobility (Wright 2004:88).
No other national language in a post-colonial nation is used in as wide a range of domains as Indonesian, a feat made more impressive by the size and ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity of Indonesia.
Dardjowidjojo (1998) observed that compared to these other post-colonial nations such as India, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, “Indonesian is perhaps the only language that has achieved the status of a national language in its true sense”.
National language policy was to create a national identity and to facilitate national integration. Garvin said, “the standard language serves to unify a larger speech community in spite of dialect differences; it bestows prestige upon the speech community that has been able to develop one.”
Indonesia’s national language policy has been effective in uniting the nation, creating a strong national identity and promoting education and literacy throughout the nation.
One thing which I noticed from Indonesian example was that even Sanskrit language could be adopted and developed as National Language of India. And second that the national language not only serves to promote nationalism but also helps to spread feeling of oneness and make it easy to spread education and other government services to all people easily.
While the people are divided on various factors and are not even ready to share natural resources like water which nature has bestowed to us or fight for inclusion of some city in their state then we can imagine how difficult it would be to find unity in our country. But I find that it is not people but leaders who for the sake of ruling people incite passion in people with manipulated facts and make them fear for non-existing consequences thus making them fight with each other and sometimes making those consequences real. This is nothing but careful application of game theory and policy of divide and rule in political realm. First of all, we should try and change the mind set of our people to feel that we all are Indians belonging to one country irrespective of state we live in. We should have feeling of belonging to one India and not divided by the language or culture etc. The multi-language scenario described above is roadblock to the progress of this Nation and what use is of single nation when there are so many hurdles to relocate to other parts of India. It is indeed surprising to know that people are acting unknowingly to anti-national policies and if they introspect they will find that how wrong their stand is towards the issues created just for political advantages.
In today’s global scenario, the English language can’t be ignored due to its advantage in science and technology and at the same time national and regional languages are also must. In such a situation, the nation should bring three language policy (different from existing one) where a person belonging to a region where his native language is not Hindi would be required to learn English, Hindi and regional language and people at regions where regional language is Hindi are required to learn English, Hindi and Sanskrit. And the regional/Sanskrit and English languages are required only till a certain class after which English would be unnecessary if person is not pursuing science or technology. And this implementation should be made compulsory from the beginning of the admission to school itself.
During the past protests against Hindi language, fear was created in people’s mind that this policy would give unfair advantage to Hindi speakers (as if by giving disadvantage to all by adopting English language is better!). The argument could be weaken if government jobs would only require Hindi just as a qualification language in place of considering it in merit for jobs.
Thus certainly we should share and strive to call one language of India as our “National language”. Unfortunately but in truth the present scenario of India represents
“Diversity in Unity” rather than “Unity in Diversity”.