Tuesday 22 September 2015

National and Official Language

  • Why in news?
    • Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi decided this month to direct his force to carry out all official work in Hindi — “our mother language as well as national language” 
    • Bassi’s boss, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, has advised government employees to sign their names in Hindi.
  • Do we have a national language?
    • NO
    • even though language was a sore issue in the Constituent Assembly debates, with the Hindi speakers insisting it may be made the ‘National Language’. Quite simply, it never was — and is not so now.
    • India does not have a ‘national’ language; it has 22 ‘official’ languages — Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu — listed in alphabetical order, and constituting the Eighth Schedule.
    • In case more affirmation is required, look no further than the Gujarat High Court — which made it clear in January 2010 that India did not have a national language. A PIL was filed by Suresh Kachhadia, wanting the court to ask the Centre to compulsorily tell all manufacturers to print product details in Hindi, as it was the national language. The court dismissed the petition, reiterating that Hindi was an official language along with 21 others, and not the national language.
    • there is very little “mother” language about Hindi for a speaker of Bengali or Telugu, the second and third most widely spoken languages in India.
  • Historical perspective
    • NEHRU:
      •  The first challenge was to have a workable official language for the Centre, so it was decreed that Hindi in the Devanagri script would be that, along with international numerals. And for 15 years at least, English would also be used. 
      • However, there were concerns about “creeping” Hindi-isation, and unsubtle attempts to impose Hindi by the numerically predominant North Indian political elite. 
      • The call of “One Nation, One Language, One Religion”, encapsulated in “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan”, resulted, in the 1960s, in deep anxieties and anti-Hindi riots, leading to self-immolations in the South, especially in Tamil Nadu. 
    • SHASTRI:
      • After Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri too tried to get de facto recognition for Hindi as the “national” language, but protests continued — and the fires had to be doused by making it clear that 
        • there would be several official languages, 
        • English would continue for until as long it was needed.
      • The Official Language Rules of 1976 underwent three amendments, and laid down how the Centre was to communicate with different states. So, there is a detailed prescription about how to write to states in 
        • “Region A” (Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and the Union Territories of Delhi and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands), 
        • “Region B” (Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab, and the UTs of Chandigarh, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and 
        • “Region C” (states and UTs other than all those mentioned above). However, Tamil Nadu is exempted from even this Act. 
    • 1990s:
      • Later winds of change, and a sense of comparative advantage vis-à-vis China in the world of outsourcing, made English a must-have to secure jobs in several states that were at the forefront of the anti-English agitation of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. 
        • The dying down of the anti-English sentiment was accompanied by the easing up of the anti-Hindi sentiment too, some argued.
  • Good Intro for an essay:
    • Money is a language most people easily understand these days. A currency note is a great source of information about language in India. Anybody nursing ideas about ‘one’ India, and that ‘one’ being just Hindi, should look at the number of languages denominations are listed in — there are at least 15 languages, all at par, and all as ‘official’ as official can be.
  • [Ref: Indian Express]


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