A debate is going on about the invincibility of English as official language of the country, whereas Hindi was declared national link language and official language of the country on 14th September,1949 and the day was also declared as Hindi Day. From the day Republic was proclaimed,i.e.26th January,1950,Hindi and English were to continue as co-official languages till 26th January 1965, after which , Hindi was to become sole official language of the country. However, due to various factors, English continued co-official language of the country after 1965 as well, getting extension for every ten years from Parliament. Now no one even puts a question about it, whether there would be a time, when Hindi would be the sole official language of the nation. In the context of globalization and the increasing hegemony of English now in our social and administrative life, it seems to be almost impossible . It is as if ,Hindi has lost its cause for ever.
Ironically, a debate has taken place on language issue during freedom struggle also. In thirties, ’The People’, a weekly established by Lala Lajpat Rai from Lahore, ‘Modern Review’ ,edited by Ramanand Chatterjee from Kolkata, ‘Chand’, Hindi monthly from Allahabad, ‘Indian Social Reformer’,edited by K. Natrajan from Madras and so many other nationalist papers had participated in this debate . While ‘The People’ and ‘Chand’ had taken Mahatma Gandhi’s position to promote a mixed kind of Hindi or Hindostani as national link language of the country, Ramanand Chatterjee had pleaded for Hindi and English, both to be maintained as national link languages, K. Natrajan had opposed Hindi in whatever form as link language. Interestingly at that time , Tamil nationalist leaders like C. Rajgopalacharya and Periyar had supported Gandhi’s views and helped Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha in its efforts to promote and popularize Hindi in south India.
One should be clear about some basic facts about the concept of language itself. Language is in minimal and maximal form, is a means of human communication and with as much rationality, this is used, as much positive result it provides in bettering human communication. No one language in world is either backward of forward linguistically in strict sense. Some languages do have more rich literature, more rich vocabulary for covering the maximum areas of human communication. English, as language is richer on this count that it has developed common sense use , as well as academic use vocabulary in this regard. But that does not mean that other languages in world does not have either rich literature or rich vocabulary of various areas of human communication. Russian or even French, German and Spanish are perhaps richer than English in having rich creative literature. Apart from these languages, Japanese or Chinese etc. are no less richer in any area of human communication, including most advanced academic areas of science, medicine or engineering etc.
Colonialism has certainly affected the question of language in all the countries of Asia, Africa or other countries, where it had ruled for decades. The language of colonial masters, be it English, French, Portuguese, Spanish or Dutch was used in these countries, overriding the native languages, which were given a derogatory term of vernacular language by colonial masters. This affected the growth of these national languages of colonized countries, despite the fact that they had all the competence of expression and communication in any area of human communication, be it common day to day conduct or specialized forms, such as administration, advanced knowledge of any area or even creative literature. Can one say that Tamil or Bengali was in any manner less advanced , having rich tradition of classical and modern literature, than English? British colonial masters, for their own convenience, kept these languages away from vital areas of communication, such as administration, judiciary, medium of instruction at College or University level.
It is an irony that despite the development of Indian languages, as one of the major tasks of freedom struggle and post independence India, the language question still disturb Indian society. In pre Independence time, even in Tamilnadu, C.Rajgopalacharya, Periyar like national leaders joined Mahatma Gandhi for propagating Hindi as link language for inter state people’s communication, for no other reason than that it was spoken by the largest population of this multi-linguistic, multi-cultural nation and one Indian language was necessary as link between all the different language speakers of this vast country. This is as much necessary even today, perhaps even more necessary than yesterday. Reason being , in the age of the whole country expanding as single market, people need one or two languages as link communication between twenty plus Indian languages. My experience in my recent visit to Tamilnadu made me feel the need of it more acutely. In all other parts of the country, even in North-East, one is able to communicate with local people in broken or mixed Hindi, and of course, English has no use at that level, when you have to communicate with a rickshaw puller or a vegetable seller or a petty shopkeeper or talk to a petty official in an office. In Tamilnadu, I could not communicate with people at this level, there were difficulties in this communication , as there is no Tamilia Hindi like Mumbaiya or Hyderabadi or Kokatia Hindi. Other difficulty in Chennai like city was at all the important places, such as statues put on Marina Beach of Tamil heroes, except for one or two statues, no information was put in either English or Hindi for non-Tamil people. Even in a recent advertisement in ‘ the Hindu’, a half page ad. was published by Tamilnadu govt., only in Tamil. An English knowing non Tamilian reader is as much keen to know about the contents of this ad., as a Tamil knowing reader is.
In my view all Indian languages, which should include Indian English as well, as developed a distinct identity, despite its colonial legacy, should be treated at equal footing in all matters. However, following the sound principles of education, mother tongue should be the medium of instructions in school, through which a child learns much faster than any alien language, even if it is a sister Indian language. All Indian languages, be it Tamil, Hindi, Bengali or any else should be developed to the level of pertaining education in all subjects-from humanities to science, up to highest level i.e. research.
Time has perhaps come to review the three language formula, adopted by Govt. of India, at the time of independence. I think students should be taught three languages i.e.-mother tongue, Hindi and English at various stages of school education. This should be rather strictly implemented. Hindi and in the new circumstances developed after the advent of so-called globalization, English , have both become link languages of the nation. Though Hindi continues to be the more effective link language at the level of more than 80% population , but by now English knowing and even speaking middle class has also grown substantially and this group of people ,though smaller in number, is holding real administrative and political power.
It will create some problem in Hindi speaking ten states and some union territories, as they will be teaching only Hindi, as mother tongue and English. In three language formula, these states were supposed to teach one Indian language extra, such as any language of the south-Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Malayalam, or some eastern or western language like Bengali or Marathi. Formally some states did declare some of these languages as second language of the state , to be taught in schools. Haryana , at one stage has declared Telugu as its second language. Yet practically this scheme has failed in Hindi speaking states. Demands rose about neighboring languages to be declared as second language, such as Punjabi in Delhi, Himachal and Haryana and Urdu as second language in U.P. and Bihar. Many Hindi speaking states lost to southern states at the level of recruitments in higher posts like IAS etc. , because they neglected teaching of English, in which southern, eastern and western states performed better at competition level.
Over zealots of Hindi movement in sixties in Hindi speaking states created such fear psychosis in southern states, that even the friends of Hindi earlier such as C. Rajgopalacharya became its foes. The reaction in Tamilnadu was particularly strong , where the compulsory teaching of Hindi in schools was made optional, though in other three southern states-Kerala, Andhra and Karnataka, such hostile reaction did not come. That is why, Hindi can be used much easily for communication in these states, but not with that ease in Tamilnadu. By now, the situation has changed, many Hindi zealots have themselves converted into votaries of English, forgetting their earlier hostile actions for creating a mess on a sensitive issue like language, which can only be promoted with love and reason and not by force. Perhaps time has come for Tamilnadu also to bury the past and start treating Hindi as a sister language , necessary for wider communication, to treat it as link language only, by no means better or more powerful than Tamil.
In a lighter vain I thought in Chennai, that Tamilnadu, at this moment needs ‘Hindi and Helmet”, because despite Supreme Court orders, hardly any motorcyclist wears helmet in Chennai and Tamilnadu, though driving as fast as in Delhi, creating somewhat fear psychosis among peddlers and also putting the driver himself on risk. Is it asking too much ?